Let's See Those Places and Artifacts Dedicated to The History of Witches

Movies, books, and Halloween costumes helped to craft the comical images we conjure when we hear the word, witch. However, from the 15th through 18th centuries, being called a witch was anything but a laughing matter. Throughout this period thousands of seemingly normal people were put on trial and often executed for this reason. Historians continue to ponder over this bizarre period of history, as dozens of artifacts and places have immortalized these bizarre happenings.


In the small town of Oudewater, Netherlands sits an innocuous-looking brick building, very similar to others around town. Inside this 17th-century weigh house, scales were used to weigh crops, livestock, and accused witches. If the accused weighed a certain amount (often on rigged scales) they were found guilty. Just outside the entrance to the Edinburgh Castle sits a small fountain accompanied by a plaque. The plaque commemorates the more than 4,000 people executed across Scotland during the satanic panic that was swept across Europe. It’s believed more people were put to death at the site of the well than anywhere else in Scotland. In Salem, Massachusettes, site of the most infamous witch trials, one building still remains with ties to that history. The Witch House belonged to Jonathan Corwin, a local leader and magistrate who sent 19 accused witches to the gallows. These are just a few of the places and artifacts that harken back to a time where mass hysteria hurled entire societies into chaos. A history that should never be forgotten.

In the thread below, tell us about some of the places or things dedicated to the history of witches and the witch hunts that you found unforgettable. Where is it located and what was it used for? What’s the history behind the place or object? Be sure to include any pictures you might have as well, and drop in your Instagram handle. Your response and photo may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura.

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Oddly enough, my husband and my father-in-law took me to visit the Hexenturm (German for Witch Tower) that was recently restored and opened to the public in my husband’s German hometown over the weekend.
My husband is from a small town called Frankenberg just outside of Frankfurt. I was told this particular tower was a portion of the old city fortification wall, and that it is where they took women who were reported to be witches to be burned.


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Shout-out to the Medieval Crime Museum of beautiful Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It offers modern visitors a glimpse into the theological and social mindsets of Middle Ages folk and appals them with its uncompromising dedication to detailing the punishment and torture methods of times past.

It is awful, upsetting and awesome.

With regards to witchcraft, I freaked out so much to see original copies of Malleus Maleficarum on display. (Note: I studied demonology for a little bit at university and have a personal connection to this kind of dark material.) I recommend a trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for anyone interested in the treatment of witches and ‘criminals’. Come for the fairytale picture book scenery; stay for the atrocious torture instruments…

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In Breisach am Rhein, Germany the Hexenturm is gone but there is a small replica of it. The section with wheels was how they transported the witches to and from the tower.

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The rural town of Adams, Tennessee is the home of the legend of the Bell Witch– one of the most famous hauntings in Southern folklore.

Between 1817 and 1821, the frontier-settling Bell family reported being tortured by the nightly sounds of gnawing, gurgling, and pounding in their home. Eventually the disembodied spirit got physical, and started ripping the blankets from the children’s beds, and escalating to the point of slapping, pinching, and pulling the hair of the youngest daughter, Betsy. The spirit eventually developed a voice, and communicated with the Bells and others. Upon the death of the patriarch, John, the spirit reportedly gleefully took credit for his murder.

There are several locations in Adams related to the legend, with perhaps the most famous being the Bell Witch Cave, which is open for tours during the summer months. The old Bell School, which now serves as the Adams Town Hall and community gathering place, has a one-room museum with several artifacts pertaining to the history of Adams, and several items and articles related to the legend and the Bell family. Nearby the old schoolhouse is the Bellwood Cemetery, which is the resting place of many of the members of the Bell family and their descendants.

Every October, Adams hosts the Bell Witch Fall Festival, which includes showings of a play based on the legend and features local actors. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend one of the showings of the play! As I drove into Adams, the weather was drizzly and foggy, which really set the mood. Several barns were smoking out tobacco, which you could smell from the road and was really cool to see. The play was also held in an outdoor pavilion, which added to the atmosphere. It was so special to witness the play within sight of the Bell family cemetery and the former Bell land-- it was the perfect way to kick off Halloween!

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photo at Wikipedia File:Hexenturm Frankenberg.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

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Wow! I believe you got to see something IRL that I had dreamt of seeing so often in my youth. I was a freak for horror stories, witchcraft, anything supernatural. I have learned there is a reason they’re called the Dark Arts, and the Maleficarum has been spoken of in so many books! Thank you for sharing!

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90 years ago, there was a sensational murder in York County, PA - across the river from where I live. It involved powwowing (not related to Native Americans) which is a PA Dutch (German) form of folk magic used to treat illnesses and other conditions. Powwowing was very common and was used by many of the Pennsylvania Dutch to treat themselves and their children. It was a form of white magic. The Amish, however, disavowed it.

The story of powwowing and the murders is far too long to repeat here, but the best article I found about it is that the website Americanhauntingsink.com. The “Hex Murder” happened in 1928, but for another 6 years other murders were attributed to powwowing. At the time there was also a practice called hexerei… which was black magic. Both forms of folk healing involved a book called “The Long Lost Friend”, a book of spells, charms and incantations that was used by powwowers and practitioners of black magic as well.

Today, those spells and incantations in the book sound very strange. I actually have a copy of the book but I’m not sure where it is. My son has it in PDF form so if anyone wants to read it, send me your email address and I will send it to you.

The hex murder was covered by newspapers all across the country including the New York Times. The murderers were convicted and sent to jail. All three of them were eventually paroled and lived uneventful lives.

These murders set off a series of investigations of other murders that were blamed on powwowing. They resulted many practitioners of powwowing being charged with practicing medicine without a license.

But unknown to or ignored by authorities, powwowing continued for many years. When I was a teenager there was a powwower named Clair Frank who lived not far from me and actually had a sign in front of his house. He continued to do powwowing well into the 1970s.

Fascinating subject, not known very well outside of the PA Dutch area. I hope you have time to go to the website and read the long article about powwowing and the hex murders.

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