If I were to ask you about witches in history, I bet one of the first things that comes to mind is the Salem Witch Trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Nineteen were found guilty and hanged (14 women and five men), one man was crushed to death for refusing to plead, and five others died in jail.
But have you ever heard of the Pendle Witch Trials? In the Summer of 1612, 70 years before Salem, in the remote region of Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England, a dozen people—Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alice Gray, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Nutter, Jennet Preston, Anne Redferne, Elizabeth Southerns, and Anne Whittle—were accused of witchcraft. (Most were just herbalists, midwives, or just plain odd ducks.) Although Alice Gray was discharged without trial, the others were charged with the murders of ten people via witchcraft. Elizabeth Southerns died in prison, and Jennet Preston was convicted and hanged at York in July 1612. The remaining nine, along with accused witches from Salmesbury—Ellen Brierley, Jennet Brierley, and Jane Southworth, who were charged with child murder and cannibalism; Margaret Pearson, who was facing her third trial for witchcraft, this time for killing a horse; and Isobel Robey of Windle, who was accused of using witchcraft to cause sickness—were tried at Lancaster Assizes. Margaret Pearson, a woman of some means, was sentenced to four days in the pillory, while the other Salmesbury accused were acquitted. However, the accused from Pendle did not fare as well. They were convicted and hanged in August 1612.