Personal Experiences with Witch Hysteria

Personal Accusations

I have often wondered why I have such an intense interest in the history of witch trials. Although it seems obvious in retrospect, I finally realized it was because of the discrimination and false accusations I lived through during my junior and senior high school years.

During those years (approximately 1986-1990), a mini witch-craze occurred, centering on the residents of the small back-woods area where I lived. I have been accused of the following sins and abilities:

  • Being a vampire.
  • Being a witch.
  • Being a Satanist.
  • Sacrificing goats to the new moon.
  • Planning the sacrifice of a blonde, blue-eyed virgin.
  • Planning the sacrifice of my younger sister.
  • Being part of a conspiracy to subvert Christianity.
  • Hatred of my nation.
  • The eating of "unclean" foods.
  • Offering prayers to the Devil.
  • While taking one of my dairy goats to drink at a stream, I was accused of preparing it for sacrifice.
  • (My personal favorite) Being able to metamorphose, at will, into a large poisonous spider.

For these imagined sins, I was harassed on a daily basis. It was not unusual for me to come home with a black eye or a blood-crusted shirt. I was punched, tripped, beaten, sworn at, and preached at. Sharp objects were forced up my nose. I received threatening phone calls very late at night, or very early in the morning. My school-books were stolen. Currently, I am being e-mailed by someone who believes I ascribe to Satanic Bibles. Never, however, was I in fear of losing my life. This is where I was far more fortunate than those unlucky persons who were executed for the imagined crime of witchcraft throughout history.

My next-door neighbors were accused of witchcraft, as well. The following article appeared in the local newspaper (The Daily Gleaner):

Signs Trigger Rumors of Satanic Meetings

By Archie Nadon

A University of New Brunswick professor, who used a Greek letter on cardboard signs to direct fellow faculty members and students to his house in Dorn Ridge for a barbeque, later found that he had triggered off a flurry of rumors and fear in his community that he was hosting satanic meetings.

Dr. David Likely of the Department of Psychology at UNB used the Greek letter 'Psi,' a three pronged figure, on his homemade signs because the letter has long been recognized as a symbol of psychology. However, some area residents unfamiliar with the symbol misinterpreted it as a 'pitch-fork' or an 'inverted cross' and began circulating rumors.

Within a week of his barbeque his group was rumored to have been wearing white robes and desecrating graves, abducting dogs, sacrificing cats and of prowling around looking for a blonde, blue-eyed virgin for a Halloween blood-bath.

"Never, ever in my life did I think they would come to such conclusions," said Mr. Likely, still astonished at the misunderstanding. "I though when I was putting up the signs that maybe people would wonder what they meant, but I never thought it would come to this."

Dr. Likely said that there have been phone threats and some face-to-face confrontations. In fact, some of the threats were serious enough that the local fire chief advised Dr. Likely to be on the look-out for arsonists. The professor's home is at the end of a long, twisting dirt road where he lives with his wife and children.

When he realized the extent of the rumors and fear that had been generated, he tried to defuse the situation by sending a letter or explanation to his neighbors and the local school. In it he made it clear that the symbol 'psi' was not satanic and that nothing more than 'hot dogs and hamburgers' were sacrificed.

Faculty members who were at the afternoon barbeque were amazed at the local reaction. One man who asked not to be identified shook his head and laughed. He said, "There were no white sheets, there were no dogs killed. Actually, we played volleyball and 'Win, Lose or Draw'. It was pretty ordinary."

Residents of Dorn Ridge who know Dr. Likely personally though the whole thing was ridiculous. Ted Dunphy, a neighbor, said that when he heard the rumors, "I though it was all just a bunch of foolishness because I know Dr. Likely. His daughter baby-sits for us."

Another neighbor, Glenna Phillips, who actually drove by the Likely home while the barbeque was on said, "I couldn't believe that a little thing like that could go so far. I drove by. I didn't see any white sheets."

And David Edmondsun who at one time lived across the road from Dr. Likely, could not stop laughing over the situation. "He's no devil," he said. "I know the guy and he's no different than anybody else."

Without exception those who know Dr. Likely personally said he was a normal, likable man but among those that don't know him, doubt still remains. In neighboring Burtt's Corner one woman, who asked not to be named said, "I don't know what to believe." She said she's seen the letter of explanation but she doesn't know Dr. Likely personally, "I know him to see him, but I just don't know what to believe."

She said she didn't see any of the signs but someone had drawn a picture of one for her. The drawing showed the symbol as being a three-pronged pitch-fork.

And in Zealand, a community even further away, many residents were not convinced at all of the psychology professor's innocence. One woman who wanted to remain anonymous said, "That letter is just a cover-up. He's just covering up his tracks."

Another woman who also wouldn't give her name said, "Why can't that sort of thing happen in New Brunswick. We never though we'd have drug wars but look at this Columbian thing. I have children and I worry about them, nowadays. You have to keep your eyes open. You can't ignore the goings on anymore."

An RCMP spokesman said they also take these matters seriously. The investigated three complaints concerning the incident but could find absolutely no foundation to the rumors.

"We checked it out," he said, "and we were convinced that nothing was going on."

Dr. Likely is a native New Brunswicker and has been a respected member of the UNB faculty for 18 years. He has owned the property in Dorn Ridge in the Keswick area for 10 years and has summered there for nine. In February of this year his family moved into a new home built on the property.

What Wasn't Mentioned in the Article

Throughout the preceding newspaper article, references were made to "white sheets." This is an interesting aspect that was not covered in the article. Here's where the sheets came from: The community of Dorn Ridge has a small church that is not controlled by the major religions of the area (Baptist and United Pentecostal). On the week of the barbeque, a funeral was held at this local church (Anglican, I do believe). The priests wore white robes while attending the funeral.

Because of the rumors of witchcraft and Satanism, many people were driving out to gawk at the alleged witches. While driving by, some of these people witnessed the funeral. Not being familiar with the white clerical robes, a new belief surfaced.

Some people went to great lengths to prove the Satanic goings-on in my area. One of my school-mates and neighbors went so far as to kill a cat and crucify it upside-down on his door. He did this to add to the furor, but later admitted to having done it himself.

My own "best friend" believed my neighbors, family, and I were devil-worshipers. I told her that I had been horse-back riding the night of the barbeque, and that I had ridden by my neighbor's house. I had seen nothing weird going on. She said that I was under a spell, and that the real goings-on were hidden from me. When I tried to tell her I wasn't a witch, she said that I was entranced and unable to see the truth of my own evil-doings. She told me to repent and to accept God as my Savior. I told her she was delusional.

Accusations Made of Friends and Family

Wherever I live, I can see the traces of a bridled hysteria. A couple of months ago, a friend of mine was interrogated by a police officer. The police had been called in because of reports of Satanic activities. People had been seen entering my friend's home on various weekends with money, briefcases, and something called "Magic Cards." These people were then seen pairing off on the floor, and staring intently at these "Magic Cards."

If you know what "Magic Cards" are, I'll bet you're already laughing and shaking your head. For those of you who don't, here's what was going on: Magic is a card game, a game of strategy and luck. My friend hosted regular tournaments where players pitted their skill against each other. At the time, my friend owned little furniture, and players played on the floor rather than on tables.

When my friend had shown the police officer the game, and had explained how it was played, the police officer left, assured that nothing Satanic was going on.

Here's a story about my sister. When she was in high school, she was accused of witchcraft and Satanism. (Now, the school she attended isn't some little hidden-away school. It is the largest school in the British Commonwealth, with over 3,000 students.) My sister is one of those people who, through a fluke of genetics, has dark hair and skin with only one pigmentation over albinism. She tended to wear a lot of black clothing and silver jewelry. One day, she was standing at her locker when the vice-principal and one of his teacher's-pets walked by. The "pet" said, "She's a Satanist." And just like that, the principal told her that she and her kind were not welcome in his school.

And that can be how easily a witch-hunt is started.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License