The writing of “The Old Woman and the Conjurors” began as a result of a complete co-incidence. The author, whilst researching for a friend, discovered a story in an adjacent newspaper column containing familiar names and places. It described an attack on an old woman in a Devonshire village who was suspected of being a witch. This woman turned out to be the author’s ancestor, and the subsequent investigation into her story led to the uncovering of a veritable pandemic of “witch scratching” and even murder of mostly elderly women during the period studied. The figure of the village “conjuror”, a West Country term for somebody who could remove the Evil Eye, loomed large behind the scenes along with odd connections to non-conformist and millennial religious groups. The enigmatic Exeter prophetess Joanna Southcott and her followers make an appearance along with the Leeds witch, and murderess, Mary Bateman. The long-held belief that, by drawing blood from a witch, one could negate her power was also behind the famous murder of Ann Tennant, in the Warwickshire village of Long Compton in 1875, a deed that was influenced by a cunning man who was one of the “water doctors” of Northamptonshire. This book examines the lives of these curious and often eccentric characters, their families, beliefs, clients and unfortunate victims, in an effort to shed a little more light on the more recent history of belief in the supernatural.
The author is based in Bristol, UK and has studied extensively the occult history of that region, and has presented talks on the subject for local groups. He has had other writings published in Cauldron Magazine and Scarlet Imprint anthology Mandragora and was a veteran performer with a Wiltshire group of Mummers for many years.