017 - The Witchfinder General

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Dr. Gerard
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017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Dr. Gerard » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:11 am

The Miskatonic University Department of History presents: The Witchfinder General

Dr. Gerard:

The witch trials of Arkham and nearby Salem are widely known among students of occult folklore. Dozens were sent to their deaths just a few miles from this campus. But in England nearly a half-century before, hundreds of women went to the gallows for allegedly practicing the dark arts. One prolific witch hunter, Mathew Hopkins, waged a two-year campaign that sent more than 300 women to their deaths. Particularly in Essex and Suffolk counties, that history has left a permanent mark in local legends. History Department graduate student Ben Wenham is on the trail of the Witchfinder General – he reports on his research from the field, in Boxted, England.

Mr. Wenham:

Even here in the peaceful village of Boxted, we did not escape the ravages of the British witch trials. It shocks me no end that so many in the modern age, when asked of Witch trials, think first of Salem, Massachusetts. They seem unaware of the horrors of the 1640’s, and the bloody work of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General.

Boxted enters the tale thanks Elizabeth Potter, known always a Betty in local folk lore. Accounts agree that she lived in a cottage along the boxted straight road, that leads from the heart of roman Colchester almost due north through the village of Myland to Boxted Cross. Contemporary accounts also point to her having been responsible for the curing the daughter of a local merchant, with some retellings claiming that Betty was richly rewarded for her efforts.

Here demise seems to have come about as a result of an incident in which it is claimed she bewitched a team of horses pulling a wagon of wheat from Rivers Hall. Records show that she was hung by a mob, lead by the son of the Squire of Rivers Hall, on the October 21st.

However, that is not the end of the story, for: enter Mathew Hopkins. While the truth of events are perhaps lost to history, it appears that Hopkins had been on his way to Boxted to try Betty Potter himself. Some recountings of the tale speak of her hanging being in defiance of Hopkins wishes. However, upon his arrival, Hopkins quickly acted to claim betty potters body and this is where the strangest part of the tale begins. Hopkins reported witnessing Betty’s body descending from the noose without aid, and vanishing into thin air leaving behind her cloths.

Most educated locals dismiss both Hopkins’ account and the supposed reasons for her execution, believing it more likely that her death was a result of Catholic beliefs, however many people in Boxted and nearby villages hold that Betty Potter haunts the wooded dip in the road where she was hung, and their are those who yet live who claim to have sighted the spirit of Betty Potter swinging from that tree.

Most troublingly, the accepted version of the story does little to explain why locals dragged Betty to be hung in the dead of night, when Hopkins was soon to arrive? Why was Hopkins so eager to acquire her body and why put about a story of the bodies disappearance? What happened to Betty’s body? And why is it, that across the border in Suffolk, it is claimed that Hopkins himself, is also unquiet in his grave.
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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Zombieneighbours » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:47 pm

This was a lot of fun to do, I am glad it came out okay.

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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Keeper Dan » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:35 am

You sounded awesome. Great work!
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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:22 pm

It was a pleasure to work with you, Ben, and to get your story "on the air" as the first MU History Field Trip. Your excellent writing, history insight and professionalism are most appreciated.

You dropped a whole tackle box of great plot hooks in this segment. Hopkins would be a brilliant NPC for a Colonial-era campaign on either side of The Pond, no? And given his knowledge of witchcraft (and probably the Mythos), it seems likely that he could wind up with some kind of unnatural longevity or stasis that would allow him to pop up in later eras of the game. During the English Civil War, if you needed to find a whole lot of sacrifices to offer some Mythos abomination -- what better way than to accuse 300 women of witchcraft? He must have been in a hurry, since he did all of that in only two years!

He could also easily pop up simply as a tome author -- his how-to manual "The Discovery of Witches" had a direct impact on early witch hunts in New England. Project Gutenberg doesn't have a scanned copy that I can find, but the full text is available HERE. One could easily paste some of the text into a word file, grab one of the awesome old-fashioned fonts from HPLHS, and print a few prop pages out of the book -- perhaps with hand-written annotations from the man himself, or from Governor John Winthrop, who kicked off the first wave of witch executions from 1648-1663, long before the Salem incidents.
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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Zombieneighbours » Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:14 pm

Not sure about the professionalism bit, but I'll take the rest.

My biggest regret with the whole thing, is how much had to be left out. Their is a lot more to Hopkin's story, such as his professional fear-mungering and the bounty paid for dead witches by parliament(if memory serves). Then their is the more general stories of the Essex witch trials as a whole(29 men ad woman hung in a single day at Hopkins behest in Chelmsford.) However, the history department section is of such a length that I really had to focus on Betty Potter, the story I know best.

My personal Mythos twist on it all actually works best in a Delta Green/Pisces.

Specifically by painting Potters as a "Shape changing, extra dimensional Reptilian"(ala David Ike ), her disappearance being her leaving our dimension. In this interpriation, the SCEDRs are Dimensional Shamblers. perhapes hopkins was in fact mildly talented sorcerer, who used magic and dimensional shamblers to spread fear of witchcraft, which in turn he would quell.

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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:27 pm

Zombieneighbours wrote:My personal Mythos twist on it all actually works best in a Delta Green/Pisces.

Specifically by painting Potters as a "Shape changing, extra dimensional Reptilian"(ala David Ike ), her disappearance being her leaving our dimension. In this interpriation, the SCEDRs are Dimensional Shamblers. perhapes hopkins was in fact mildly talented sorcerer, who used magic and dimensional shamblers to spread fear of witchcraft, which in turn he would quell.
Shut up and write that scenario so I can run it!

(But please also make David Ike into a worshiper of Yig.)
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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Zombieneighbours » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:09 am

I have NaNoWriMo, and two scenarios I need to finish writing up, before I start anything new, but the second I get time, I will see what I can do.

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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Dr. Gerard » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:16 am

Much respect for your NaNoWriMo efforts. I'm a 50k winner from 2008, but I haven't been able to get back to it since. Hope you've had an excellent Day 1!
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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Zombieneighbours » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:44 am

Day one = 1690 words. I am building up a buffer today, and over the weekend, If I can.

My writing speed is about a quarter most peoples however, thanks to pretty crippling dyslexia. As a result, 1666 is an unrealistic target for me(unless it is basicially all I do in a day when I can knock out more). I am aiming to get about 25,000 this month, and another 25,000 next month.

I am sort of cheating, in that the NaNoWriMo project serves to purposes. It is both my first serious attempt at a large peice of fiction, and a way for me to flesh out the Humanistic fantasy setting I have had stewing in my mind for the best part of six years.

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Re: 017 - The Witchfinder General

Post by Logar » Sun Apr 21, 2013 10:47 pm

This is off topic sort of but I can't help it. Every time I see the heading Witchfinder General, I think of this one specific book: has anyone ever read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman? I keep thinking of the character Newton Pulsifer (Did ye say LUCIFER???!!!) who joins this one old lonely guy who is supposed to the last remnant of the Witchfinder army. He's like the Witchfinder sergeant or something. Just thought I'd share. :)

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