Two Lancashire Witches
William Harrison Ainsworth's 1849 novel, The Lancashire Witches
Decades before the Salem Witch Trials, Lancashire, England had a similar trial where twelve innocent people near Pendle Hill were accused of murdering other citizens with their witchcraft. All but two were tried in August of 1612—nine women and two men and ten ended up being executed by public hangings. In looking at the culture and history of the trial the accused witches lived in an area of Lancashire which was considered to be wild, lawless and lax when it came to sexuality and other moral issues. The Pendle Witches were accused of selling their souls to evil spirits or devils in return for the powers to kill or maim anyone they wished. In truth, people tended not to attend church in Pendle Hill and remnants of paganism thrived.
Tales of the Pendle Witches have their embellishments but it does appear a number of the witch’s practices in the arts of the cunning folk, meaning they used divination, healed the sick and perhaps cast spells or charms. The Lancashire witchcraft trials centered around two local families led by two elderly women by the names of Chattox and Demdike. Locals had considered these two women to have been witches or “cunning folk” for years and were the subjects of a number of rumors concerning their use of the “black arts.” In reality, the Lancashire witches likely told fortunes, assisted at births, used herbal remedies and other charms and by most would have been considered both ignorant and superstitious.
However, their witchcraft was looked upon more seriously when Alizon Device, the niece of Demdike, was accused of putting a curse upon an itinerant tailor who refused to sell her pins. It was believed Alizon wanted the pins for her poppet dolls.
Soon after the argument the tailor was struck down by a stroke and it was thought the girl’s curse was to blame. Alizon was brought up on witchcraft charges and she later confessed that the Devil would enter her at night and suck out her blood out through her toes leaving her “stark mad.” In this confession, the girl implicated both Chattox and Demdike. The three were all imprisoned in a nearby castle and the witch hunt promptly began. Soon seven more “witches” were caught, including Alice Nutter, a genteel woman who had never broken the law from nearby Roughlee Hall.
Already advanced in age, Demdike died in prison. The others were tried and found guilty of witchcraft. The judge hesitated to put the convicted witches to death and in saying, he was “moved by the ruin of so many poor creatures at one time.” But because the public demanded it, the Pendle Witches were hanged on Lancaster Moor. The tomb of Alice Nutter can still be seen in St. Mary’s Churchyard.
Pendle Hill was an area of Lancashire where Catholicism still held strong and it’s possible the witch hysteria too was inspired by King James, who was anti-Catholic and had written a book in 1597 called Daemonologiewhich was published in 1597. At that time Catholics were accused by Protestants of killing infant children and being in league with the Devil. In his book King James approves and supports the practice of witch hunting. King James wrote in his forward "The fearful abounding, at this time and in this country of these detestable slaves of the devil, the witches (...) hath moved me to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (...) to resolve the doubting (...) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished."
The witch trial was covered in a book called The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, written by a man named Thomas Potts who was the clerk for Lancaster Assizes. Potts asked to write an account of the trial by the judges and it was completed on November 16, 1612. The book became very popular and set a precedent upon how witches should be treated and no doubt became the inspiration for part of the Salem Witch Trials in American decades later.
It comes as no surprise that the area would be haunted when considering the unjust nature of the witch killings as well as other tragedies in the area. In a field outside of Pendle Hill the ghost of a young girl has been seen weeping— many say it is for her love, thought to be a soldier who never returned. In a local gift shop called “Witches Galore” the owner, Maureen Stopforth, has claimed to feel unseen presences on the premise. She once witnessed a female form standing against the wall on the adjoining property. When an elderly woman passed away next door to the shop, her daughter mentioned to Stopforth, that her mother’s “visitor” had finally called her. The woman later explained her mother had been seeing the sorrowful apparition of a girl drifting across the upper rooms of the house that seemed to be connected to the property where the “Witches Galore” shop stood. In the Pendle Hill area where the witches were hung, visitors experience feelings of terror, dread and that of being choked by unseen hands.
To this day Pendle Hill is considered to be intensely haunted with both positive and negative spirits, appearing on such television shows as the Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted.
About Susan Sheppard
Not only is Susan Sheppard the creator of the
Parkersburg Ghost Tours, she is also
well respected for her abilities as a psychic
medium. She has worked as psychic and a spiritualist
medium since age fourteen and as a paranormal
investigator for the last decade. This came
about when her friends overheard a well-known
psychic tell Susan that she, too, had "the
gift" and should use her special abilities
to help others. This was no surprise to Susan's
family who had witnessed her uncanny abilities
since early childhood.
Her West Virginia childhood might have some
bearing on her interest in the paranormal. Sheppard
is "Black Dutch," meaning she is descended
from the less than 850 Shawnee Indians who remained
east of the Mississippi River after the other
Shawnee (during the "Trial of Tears"
removal) were forced onto reservations out west
in the 1830s. Susan, along with others in the
Friend family, is a direct descendent of Shawnee
Chief Big Thunder through his daughter, Bright
Lightning, whose name was anglicized to "Anna
Susan grew up just a few hills away from the
first sighting of the famous West Virginia Mothman.
It was during this time that Sheppard’s
family home underwent a great deal of paranormal
activity sparking her interest in the unknown
while tapping into her natural psychic talents.
However, Sheppard has had direct communications
with spirits of her Native American ancestors
since around age four when she met the ghosts
of two Indian braves on the hillside above her
grandparent's house in broad daylight. Though
very small, she understood the braves to be
both her ancestors and her guides. Ms. Sheppard’s
adolescence was spent partly doing psychic readings
along with school work and sometimes working
with local law enforcement on missing person
cases. She later grew up with the aspirations
of becoming a published author and an artist,
both of which she achieved. Sheppard has authored
a number of popular books which are sold worldwide
and has continued with her art in many venues.
Her poetry alone has won many prestigious awards.
Susan has never strayed from her interests
in the spirit world and has continued to work
in the field as a medium, as well as a practicing
astrologer. In the last few years she has worked
primarily as a psychic medium and a paranormal
investigator on various ghost hunts and investigations.
She also leads séances, does clearings
and performs platform style readings before
the public for which she is the most famous
in her area.
Susan was featured on the ABC Family Channel’s
popular show “Scariest Places on Earth”
as a psychic medium at the Shawnee Amusement
Park in Bluefield, West Virginia. She has previously
taught “Be Your Own Psychic” classes
at the Self-Health & Awareness Center and
continues appear before audiences and live television
as a psychic medium.
Department of Paranormal Studies - Susan Sheppard
IMU ~ International Metaphysical University
Dean of Paranormal Studies and IMU teacher Susan Sheppard is just as at ease delving into the lore of the West Virginia Mothman, Men in Black and haunted places as she is with the ideas of paranormal fairies, advanced astrology and early Christian Gnosticism. Most people in her hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia view Susan as “the woman in the cape,” the one who gives horoscopes and psychic readings on live television. More intimate friends know Susan is really a powerful psychic medium, an award-winning poet and a unique artist.
is on the cutting edge of understanding metaphysics from an energetic and spiritual perspective. Our instructors, programs and courses are highly unique. The teachers at IMU are recognized authorities in their chosen fields internationally.
Our teachers have a passion for their work and it shows. They are individuals who are already successful in their life’s work with a willingness to share this knowledge with their students.
We also have courses at IMU that are offered nowhere else, such as How to Start Your Own Ghost Tour, Metaphysical Publishing, the study and practice relating to ancient earthworks and shamanism, Energy Healing, Divination, the Men in Black, and a number of others unique classes.
Susan has worked as a psychic since age 14 and as a psychic medium for the past 15 years. For the last thirteen years Susan has been leading the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, which has been voted #9 most popular in the nation by the Haunted America Tours in News Orleans. Ms. Sheppard is an annual speaker at the West Virginia Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia where her talk is usually based on the Indrid Cold angle of the Mothman story.
Susan Sheppard has authored and published several books including The Phoenix Cards, voted the #1 most unique oracle on Amazon.com, The Astrological Guide to Seduction & Romance a Book-of-the-Month Club Selection, A Witch’s Runes, The Gallows Tree: A Mothman’s Tale and Cry of the Banshee: History & Hauntings from West Virginia and the Ohio Valley.
Her other notable publications include former horoscope columnist for Seventeen Magazine, as contributor to Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac and other new age periodicals. Her astrological articles have been published in the top astrology magazines including The Best of Dell Horoscope, which featured one of her articles as one of the best in the last fifty years.
Susan has appeared on the television shows as a psychic medium “Scariest Places on Earth,” “Creepy Canada,” “Mystery Hunters” and others as well as a number of radio shows. She is seen monthly on live television giving psychic and astrological readings where she remains the shows’ most popular guest to date.
As a psychic and a ghost hunter, Susan has conducted a number of paranormal investigations at places such as Waverly Hills, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Moundsville Penitentiary, Shawnee Amusement Park, Van Winkle Mansion, Blennerhassett Island, Silver Run Tunnel, Fort Boreman Hill, a Civil war look-out and pest house, Twin City Opera Houses, Sumner School and a number of other haunted areas.
Susan Sheppard is a native West Virginian and a proud member of the Eastern Band Shawnee Nation. She was the recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from West Virginia Arts & Humanities and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Poetry Prize. Her poppet dolls, based on the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo are sold in the gift shop at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Susan’s forthcoming book based on worldwide legends and lore, as well as the science of ghosts and hauntings is entitled “Psychics Guide to the Spirit World.”