Potts’s Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster (1845)

This is a nineteenth-century reprint, with additional introduction by James Crossley, of Thomas Potts' The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, first published in 1613. Potts' text, commissioned by the court at the time, is an account of a series of English witch trials that took place on 18th and 19th August 1612, commonly known as the Lancashire witch trials. Of the twenty women and men accused of consorting with the dark side — including the Pendle witches and the Samlesbury witches — eleven were found guilty and hanged (with one dying in jail), another was sentenced to stand in the pillory, and the rest were let go.

The accusations of witchery all began in mid-March of that year when a pedlar from Halifax named John Law had a frightening encounter with a poor young woman, Alizon Device, in a field near Colne. He refused her request for pins and there was a brief argument during which he was seized by a fit that left him with "his head … drawn awry, his eyes and face deformed, his speech not well to be understood; his thighs and legs stark lame." We can now recognize this as a stroke, perhaps triggered by the stressful encounter. Alizon Device was sent for and surprised all by confessing to the bewitching of John Law and then begged for forgiveness.