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IN THIS EPISODE: Stories of “wild men”–people who live ferally in nature as any wild animal would do–have been a part of our myths and legends since the dawn of civilization. But they don’t live just in ancient lore… according to the reports, they are being seen even today, despite the modern and technological world surrounding them. (Wild Men In The Hills) *** Witchcraft, torture, and a man selling his soul to Satan. Not exactly the kind of events you typically expect before a wedding. (The Devil’s Agent) *** In 1974 the Smurl family began a 15-year period of terror by an unknown entity. (The Smurl Family Tormentors)
MENTIONED LINKS AND EPISODES FROM THE CHAMBER OF COMMENTS…
“Children’s Blizzard”: http://weirddarkness.com/archives/4619
STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
“Wild Men In The Hills” by Sarah P. Young for Ancient Origins http://bit.ly/2BIiSwC and Micah Hanks for Mysterious Universe: http://bit.ly/2WmoIgY
“The Devil’s Agent” by Erik for The Paranormal Scholar: http://bit.ly/2Wh4hBL
“The Smurl Family Tormentors” by Jacob Shelton for Graveyard Shift: http://bit.ly/32PYAhl
Background music provided by EpidemicSound and AudioBlocks with paid license. Music by Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ) and Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) is also sometimes used with permission.
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
WILD MEN IN THE HILLS
Both Greek and Roman myths are filled with sexually voracious wild men. The satyr and faun are both wild men associated with fertility. Both the Greek god Pan and his Roman equivalent Faunus are depictions of the wild man figure and both are gods of nature and the wild – but also of fertility.
The Romans also described a Celtic figure called Dusios. They compared the pagan god to their god Faunus and the Greek god Pan but are careful to emphasize the savage nature of Dusios to differentiate between him and their own wild men. Dusios is not just a fertility god, he is described as impregnating both animals and women either by surprise or by force.
Historians believe these figures are all rooted in ancient legends from Neolithic cultures across modern day Europe and Russia. They point to the Slavic creature known as the Leshy which is described as a short humanoid forest guardian with a large bushy beard and a tail.
The Leshy is rumored to capture children and travelers if they do not respect his forest. Although some people have linked the Leshy and creatures like the satyr, the Leshy is not associated with fertility and is closer to our modern Big Foot legends than the Greco-Roman concepts of wild men.
There are many other examples of wild men in Eastern European and Russian mythologydating back many hundreds of years, and these range from benevolent figures who are protectors of the forests and mountains to sinister and demonic wild men who inflict harm on anyone who discovers them. The Ural region of Russia has a legend of the divnye lyudi who are beautiful wild people with the ability to tell the future, while the Kostroma Oblast region believe in the chort – a hideously grotesque looking wild man with a thin tail and cloven hooves who is inherently evil in nature and is considered to be a minion of Satan by Christians in the region (in folk tales, the chort often tries to trick people into selling their soul for trivial things.)
The legend of the wild man remained a part of European culture and sources from the 9th and 10th centuries. One Spanish source which describes the penance given for certain behaviors mentions the minor penalty faced by those who dressed up as wild men and took part in a dance which was a resurgence of earlier pagan practice. Around the same time, in the 9th century, Irish folklore describes how a pagan king is driven mad when he attacks a Catholic bishop, eventually transforming into a beast who roams the woods.
The Konungs Skuggsjá , an educational Norwegian text from the 13th century, describes a creature very similar to other descriptions of wild men. The text says the strange creature was like a human but with a great deal of coarse hair. It says the creature was captured in the woods in Ireland and that no one could tell if it understood human speech or not.
These accounts of wild men from the earlier medieval period are once again varied. There is the god-like wild man echoing Pan and Faunus, and the savage beast resembling a human like the Leshy. It is in this period that the earliest use of the wild man as a warning of the dangers of immorality survives, with the cautionary Irish tale warning that becoming a wild man is a fate anyone may suffer if they defy the church.
The wild man was now firmly rooted in folklore and the many roles he played were depicted in artwork throughout the later medieval period across Europe. The images all show a human with a thick pelt of hair and the figure appears in embroidery, carvings, paintings, statues, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and even on more obscure objects such as a bread mold.
Along with artwork, it is during the 14th century the term ‘ woodwose’ came into use as a way of describing a legendary wild man figure. The word is the origin of the modern surname ‘Woodhouse’, but its etymology is somewhat unclear – although ‘wood’ definitely refers to woods or forests, the suffix wose has several potential meanings. The two most likely translations of wose are ‘being’ and ‘forlorn or abandoned person’.
This medieval wild man was described in sources such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a hairy beast like person, and the woodwose appears in artwork of the time as a bestial and vicious creature – though just like the Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh , this wild man can be tamed by the right person (usually a pure and virtuous young woman).
The medieval European concept of a wild man drew on earlier sources, including the Roman faun, but the woodwose was also based on accounts written by ancient historians who documented creatures which were believed to be wild men.
One such source for legends like the woodwose is the Greek explorer Hanno, who travelled to the western coast of Africa in the 5th century BC. Hanno described an island filled with hairy savages – predominantly female – known by the locals as gorilla (now known to be gorillas) and another source is the historian Pliny the Elder, who described another race of savage human-like creatures in India (now known to be gibbons).
The accounts of these creatures were passed down over time and contributed to myths and legends of wild men living free in the forests. It was not until 1902 that the mountain gorilla was finally confirmed to be real and not just a local legend with no basis in reality. For people in medieval Europe the descriptions of creatures like this, which had been exaggerated and passed on to people who had never seen them, must have been evidence that creatures like the woodwose really were roaming the forests, even if it was only in far off lands.
Rumored encounters with wild men have resulted in myths, legends, and artwork – and in one case, the founding of a town. According to local legend, the German town of Wildemann was founded by miners in 1592.
The miners claimed to have seen a gigantic wild man by the shore of the river Innerste. The wild man was swinging a fir tree as a club to defend his giant female companion from the strange men as they attempted to capture him and take him to show the local earl. They claim they were successful, but the wild man died on the journey to the earl.
When they returned to the spot, he had been, they found a rich deposit of ore and the town was founded and named in his honor. In a further tribute, the coat of arms for Wildemann bears the image of a wild man, which was also a symbol for miners in Renaissance Germany and appears on a number of other coats of arms.
We know today that the condition hypertrichosis is a condition causing excess hair growth over the entire face and body. During the heyday of the freakshow in the 19th and early 20th centuries a number of people with hypertrichosis made a living as performers, where they were described as wild men and were showcased as having both animal and human traits.
In 1537, Pedro Gonzales was born in Tenerife, Spain. As a Renaissance man with hypertrichosis, he became known as a wild man, or “man of the woods” and by the end of his life he had become quite famous. Gonzales became known as Petrus Gonsalvus and he was presented at just ten years of age as a gift to King Henry II of France.
Henry saw Pedro as a novelty and chose to educate him as a nobleman rather than treating him as an animal. He was taught a broad range of subjects including Latin and was better educated than some of the members of the aristocracy. While he lived at court in Paris for 40 years, he spent some time at the court of Margaret of Parma, who was regent of the Netherlands. It was here he met his wife, Lady Catherine.
Just like many other wild men before him, Gonzales was the inspiration for a new folk tale. His relationship with Lady Catherine is believed by many to be the inspiration for the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast . While Petrus was given special attention by King Henry and his wife, he was still considered a wild man by many of his contemporaries and they did not believe he was fully human.
But his story is just one of hundreds and the wild man is a concept which appears time after time throughout cultures worldwide. From the earliest surviving written legend, Epic of Gilgamesh , to theories about Big Foot and other wild men today, there is something about the figure of a being which is both human and animal which fascinates us.
The legends and folklore surrounding wild men has always been dichotomic. The wild man is representative of what humans would be without civilization. For some that is cautionary – without civilization the wild man is a dangerous savage who kidnaps children or attacks innocent people. For others, the wild man is a romantic concept.
In our known earliest contribution to literary fiction, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the eponymous hero is first confronted, and then befriended by the wild man Enkidu, who becomes his closest friend and ally.
Enkidu is a central figure in the epic, in which he is described as an uncivilized savage who was raised by animals and lived with herds and game in the wild. He is the embodiment of the natural world and is the opposite of the cultured and eloquent hero Gilgamesh.
Unlike many other wild men, in other legends, Enkidu is able to be tamed. He is taught the ways of the civilized world by a prostitute, Shamhat, after spending seven days enjoying her company which resulted in the animals rejecting him when they sensed her human scent on him.
He becomes a loyal companion to Gilgamesh and his tragic death deeply affects the cultured hero, inspiring him to seek out immortality so he does not suffer the same fate. The fact a wild man plays such an important role in a tale as ancient as the Epic of Gilgamesh shows how inspiring the idea has always been to us.
There has been a wealth of scholarly interpretation applied to the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, which in many ways is representative of humankind’s dualistic relationship between civilization and nature itself. We have risen above the chaotic and predatory ways of the animal kingdom (or so we think), but we never truly escape being animals ourselves, at least in some sense.
This is perhaps never more apparent than in instances where humans purportedly leave society in order to revert to a feral mode of existence, and hence the trope of the “wild man” in literature persists in order to remind us that we are but a few steps–or perhaps merely one unplanned stumble–from returning to the ways of our ancestors. The fact that some of us might choose to do it is at once fascinating to us, and equally unsettling.
I have the same fascination with stories of alleged “wild people” myself, and having grown up in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in Western North Carolina, it isn’t uncommon to occasionally hear stories about people living “off the grid” and subsisting naturally in remote parts of the American woodland.
One story along these (a particular favorite as far as alleged “feral human” reports go) was told by Jeff Holland, one of the authors of the book Weird Kentucky, who described a very unusual encounter he had near Cloudsplitter Rock, Kentucky, in 1990:
*****“The author encountered, face to face in the wilderness near Cloudsplitter Rock, an adult (thirties) caucasian male, walking in the woods naked but covered with mud, leaves, and vines, which were matted into his hair and beard as well, giving him an almost absurd “Swamp Thing” appearance. He walked with a hunched, apelike gait. He spotted me moments after I spotted him, and we stared at each other for what at the time felt like an eternity; finally he turned and fled. His eyes seemed to show some intelligence but he was still extremely animal-like and seemingly unable to speak. I made no effort to follow him. The similarities between this case and the one above are striking. I have collected similar stories from locals in Slade about old ‘Mountain Men’ and hippies who have lost their minds living deep in the mountains and revert to an animal-like state.”*****
It stands to reason that “naturists” or other outdoor enthusiasts might begin to take their wilderness experiences a bit too seriously, and that such a thing could explain an incident like the one Holland describes here. It’s an interesting story nonetheless, and it bears some similarity to similar reports of people who appear to have taken to living ferally in National Parks and other remote areas of wilderness.
Another story–albeit a tragic one–that has long held my attention in this regard has to do with the disappearance of Dennis Lloyd Martin, a young boy who vanished while camping with his family on Father’s Day weekend near the Cades Cove Wilderness in 1969. A tremendous search effort that attempted to locate the missing boy yielded no results, apart from some strange conjectures: in particular, there was testimony provided by a Mr. Harold Key of Knoxville, Tennessee, who along with his family claimed that they had seen an odd “rough looking” man who appeared to be carrying something over his shoulder approximately nine miles from where Dennis went missing, and on the same day of his disappearance.
Years later, Dwight McCarter recounted this episode in his book Lost! A Ranger’s Journal of Search and Rescue, which featured published diaries he kept while the search effort had been underway. He lamented the fact that there hadn’t been more interest shown in various aspects of the disappearance, and the “rough looking” man seen by the Key family near the Rowan’s Creek trailhead that day had been one of them. McCarter later told researcher David Paulides that he had known of “wild men” living in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park around that time, and by this he explicitly meant people living “off the grid,” noting that one a member of the Park Ranger staff had been attacked by one of these men the previous year.
In response to a video I posted online a number of years ago that recounted some aspects of the Martin disappearance, a man named Tony Stansell recently commented on the interpretation that people living ferally in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the time might have played a factor in Martin’s disappearance. “My family is from the Georgia/South Carolina side of the Appalachian mountains, Stansell said. “I have heard all of my life that there are wild people in the mountains.”
“There are people [whose] families have been there for centuries and they don’t want to be part of society. And they know the area very well. This is a culture that, particularly earlier in the 1900’s where moonshiners were everywhere, especially during prohibition. Those kinds of people have no regard for civilization and don’t like intruders,” Stansell wrote.
“There are also wild men who are criminals or escaped convicts that have lived in those woods for years and don’t want to be found. Some members of my family that have been in law enforcement have told tales about the ‘wild men’ that live there and the police know of them, but finding them is impossible.”
Of course, part of the reason that people who choose to live on the fringes of civilization are able to remain so well-hidden has to do with the fact that the areas where they reside (like the remote corners of the Appalachian Mountains) are indeed very isolated regions. Thick forest growth and inaccessibility due to topographical features are only part of what makes the Appalachian Mountains so daunting; add to this the potential for inclement climate (mostly during the winter months), and dangers presented by wildlife and other natural threats year-round.
“I don’t think people realize how isolated some of those areas are,” Stansell added. “And someone familiar with the area could get through the woods quickly and stealthy.” Stansell pointed out that in the case of Dennis Martin, the boy’s father jogged the Appalachian Trail looking for his son, while his father (Dennis’s grandfather) walked to a Ranger Station to get help, rounding out to a total of four hours.
“Anyone that may have gotten [Dennis] would have been deep in the woods by then. There are caves and pits. It’s very sad, but it is definitely a good warning not to get yourself into a situation where you could be helpless.
“For many people who grew up near Appalachia, in the foothills, you know better than to get too deep in the woods. It’s is a very different world out there. And I agree with the narrator here. No need to imagine goblins and ghouls, mankind is capable of doing far more sinister things.”
The unresolved status of stories like the Dennis Martin case–and the speculations that build around them–have helped help maintain their status as fodder for online curiosity seekers over the years. The first and most obvious problem with this is that with the passage of time and distance, many of us forget that these are heartbreaking “cold cases,” and that the lives of countless families have been greatly affected by such things.
Another that comes to mind, however, is that solution to such cases is often far simpler than most would expect. Retired Park Ranger Dwight McCarter (whom we referenced earlier) has shared his opinion over the years that Dennis probably became lost and/or disoriented, and could have died of hypothermia while attempting to seek shelter from a storm that moved into the area shortly after he vanished. Such a scenario would greatly reduce the mystery and intrigue surrounding the case… but if we’re being logical, it is also probably the most likely solution to the child’s disappearance.
There is also the chance–chance though it may be–that Martin might have been kidnapped. There is no direct evidence for this, but the anecdotal story of Harold Key’s observation of the “rough looking man” has caused McCarter, and many others over the years, to wonder.
Which, of course, brings us back to one of the most frightening prospects in our world today: that the real monsters can be seen on every city street, or near any park or playground. You could meet them walking along a river, or on a hiking trail in the world’s most remote corners… or they might live as close as the apartment right next door.
They are, in other words, the “monsters” that walk on two legs… and they are by far the most formidable and dangerous monsters that exist in our modern world.
Beginning in 1974, the Smurl family went through one of the worst hauntings ever that lasted 15 years. For an intense two-year period, the family was subject to a series of physical assaults perpetrated, allegedly, by a mysterious demon and a horde of ghosts. The haunting affected everyone in the Smurl family — even the dog had a run in with one of the angry ghosts. Out of all the families that have claim to be haunted over the years, the Smurls claimed to deal with some of the most aggressive entities of the 20st century, these ghosts lasted for a great part of their lives.
The haunting became so bad that the Catholic Church got involved in an attempt to exorcise the demon. Even after the Smurls called in demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, they still weren’t able to rid themselves of the horrible creatures that seemed set on ripping their family apart, and they ultimately lived with remnants of the haunting for the next 15 years, even after the most vicious attacks seemed to simmer. In the 1990s, the Warrens’ experiences trying to rid the Smurls of their hauntings were turned into a made-for-TV movie called, appropriately, The Haunted.
The Smurl family haunting facts include everything from ghosts attacking children to the demonologists who tried to stop them. The question remains as to whether there truly were evil forces at work, and whether the demonologists held any sway over the atrocities the Smurls experienced.
In 1974, Jack and Janet Smurl moved out of their flood-damaged home and into a West Pittson, Pennsylvania duplex that’s been lovingly described by all sources as a “fixer-upper.” Jack, Janet and their kids lived on one side of the duplex while Jack’s parents, John and Mary, lived on the other. It didn’t take long for the haunting to start.
The first instances of their ghostly visitors were benign. A tool would go missing, a stain on the wall would seep through the paint, nothing too scary. But then kitchen appliances started to go up in flames even when they weren’t plugged in – and then there was the smell. The odor wafted through the house at random intervals and was absolutely stifling. During his investigation Ed Warren described the smell as something akin to “rotting flesh.”
Shortly after the haunting began, Mary suffered a heart attack and the family began to struggle to pay bills. It seemed that the haunting was taking a toll on more than the family’s living space.
One of the creepiest ways in which the haunting manifested was the sound of it: moans and blood-curdling screams ripped through the house at all hours of the day and night. Many of the chilling sounds reportedly took on the voices of the Smurl family, a particularly cruel way to haunt the family. It wasn’t just the Smurls who heard the ghostly sounds; allegedly their neighbors claimed to hear screams coming from inside the house when no one was home.
As the weeks went on the haunting increased from sounds to floating black creatures and shadow people. Self-taught, self-proclaimed demonologist Ed Warren later claimed that he saw “…a mucous-like, smoky-type substance” that began to whirl and materialize “on the mirror, spelling out filthy obscenities, telling me in no uncertain terms to get out of the house.”
The creature (or creatures) haunting the Smurl family were hell-bent on ripping the family apart. The worst indignity suffered by both Jack and Janet were separate sexual assaults that happened numerous times. First, Janet claimed she was woken up in the middle of the night by an unknown figure sexually assaulting her. Then Jack claimed that while he was watching a baseball game in the living room he was also assaulted in the same way by a succubus. He later claimed that while he attempted to say the rosary the creature dragged him around his room.
During the 15-year haunting no one in the Smurl family made it out of the haunting without being harmed. One of the daughters was sliced open by a flying wall fixture, and the family’s German Shepherd was thrown against the wall. Janet claims that she was grabbed by the creature before being hurled across her living room. On another occasion an invisible entity bit Jack in the face and threw another one of their daughters down a set of stairs.
A skeptic’s view of this situation says that all of these attacks are similar to those of domestic violence. It’s completely that the Smurls were in the middle of a turbulent marriage and that they covered their screaming matches and physical altercations with an interesting ghost story — but nothing like this has ever been verified.
As with all hauntings in the ’70s and ’80s, the Warrens — yes, they of the Amityville Horror — finally worked their way into the story. Supposedly, the Smurls were reluctant about calling the Warrens because they were worried about drawing unwanted attention on themselves. After the investigation, Warren said, “The Smurls are truly a family coming under a visual attack. The ghost, devil, demon – or whatever you call it – is in that home.”
Ed Warren claimed that on his very first night in the home he experienced a major cold spot and saw a shadow person. He explained: “I did not have to wait moments when the very thing I felt was a drop in temperature of at least 30-some degrees. Then, a dark mass formed about three feet in front of me.”
After the appearance of the shadow person Ed Warren claimed that that something in the home began throwing things around the house, including the mattress in the master bedroom.
Judging from the amount of stories that came out of the Smurl haunting it seems like there wasn’t a day that went by without something creepy happening. Janet Smurl claimed that while she was in the kitchen one evening the house grew cold and she felt a hideous presence. That’s when a black, human shaped form appeared in her kitchen. It had no face, but it was more tangible than a shadow. The shape passed through her wall and appeared to Mary on the other side of the duplex.
Whatever was haunting the Smurls, it absolutely hated religious iconography. One night the Warrens tried to draw out one of the entities with a group prayer they got more than they bargained. In the middle of th prayer something began screeching, “you filthy bastard, get out of this house!” Then the house started shaking and two female ghosts that looked to be from colonial America era slunk through the house.
This was the only time that the appearances of the colonial ghosts were recorded but it’s possible that one of these two was the succubus that had assaulted Jack while he watched a baseball game.
Try as they might, the Smurls couldn’t shake the ghosts that made their every waking moment total hell. Even though priests from the Scranton branch of the Roman Catholic Church blessed the home and formed multiple exorcisms on the house the family continued to experience pure terror. Despite priests saying that they saw “no harmful activity while on the property,” Janet claims that the demons were able to avoid their Catholic banishment by moving back and forth between the two sides of the duplex.
After 15 years of being harassed by invisible entities the Smurls finally moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. There are no reports as to whether or not they ever experienced another haunting.
After an in depth investigation of the Smurl home the Warrens were able to pin down exactly what was assaulting the family, more or less. Lorraine Warren, a clairvoyant, claimed that there were definitely four entities roaming the duplex. The first was an elderly woman who mostly kept to herself. There was also an older man who died in the home, which is oddly similar to the Enfield haunting – a case that the Warrens also investigated. Lorraine said that the violence that the family experienced came from the ghost of a young woman and a demon who was able to control the other entities.
Even though the Warrens claim that the Smurl family was haunted by a gang of ghosts lead by a demon, there’s another explanation for the nearly two decades of terror — a mass hallucination. Apparently in 1983, Jack Smurl went under the knife for complications stemming from a case of meningitis he’d had as a child. Smurl said that the doctors were trying to “remove water” from his brain. It’s possible that Jack had a brain tumor and that’s why he was experiencing such violent attacks, but the Warrens’ stories don’t really corroborate this.
Professor Paul Kurtz of State University of New York at Buffalo believes that the haunting started with Smurl’s brain impairment and that the rest of the family followed suit. It’s possible that the family fell under the delusion through which Jack Smurl was living, but that doesn’t explain why they would follow along with his bonkers behavior for more than a decade.
THE DEVIL’S AGENT
In 1589, King James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, was due to marry Princess Anne of Denmark. As the princess sailed to Scotland, fierce storms raged and forced her and her company to find shelter in Norway.
Although James and Anne were eventually wed, the tempest was blamed on malevolent witches, who were said to want to thwart their royal union. Thus, both in Denmark and Scotland, large scale inquisitions were instigated against suspected sorcerers for two years, with King James himself supervising some of the tortures and examinations that occurred. History would come to remember this inquisition as the North Berwick witch trials. They ran for two years and implicated over seventy people. Amongst those said to be witches, was Doctor John Fian.
Fian, who went by the alias Cunningham, was discovered with the aid of another, Gillis Duncan, who confessed to the authorities that he was a fellow practitioner.
At first Fian said nothing at all. The inquisitors then began the customary torture, starting with one of their milder punishments, which involved thrashing Fian’s head about with a rope around it. After that, he started to talk. Yet, he provided no coherent confession that satisfied his tormentors. Thus, a torture method known as the “boots”, which King James described as “the most severe and cruel paine in the world,” was employed.
Whilst there are many variants of the “boots” torture to have been used and recorded around the world, they all seem to agree on a singular principle: the inflicting of excruciating pain to the lower legs, either by crushing the bones therin or by searing the flesh off them with boiling water.
Still, Fian was resolute – he would not confess to witchcraft. This prompted a further examination of his body, where it was found that two pine needles had been placed under his tongue. Supposedly, this was a spell cast to prevent him from confessing under torture. With the needles removed, Fian confessed to everything.
He stated that his soul belonged to the devil, after having made a covenant with him long ago. It was by serving him that Fian had gained his powers of witchcraft. It was recorded that amongst his powers was the ability to bewitch a gentleman and send him into fits of lunacy.
One man, who supposedly suffered in this manner, was brought before the King’s presence on 24th December 1590. What the man allegedly did under Fian’s command is described in King James’ own book, Daemonologie.
*****“[…] suddenly he gave a great screech and fell into a madness, sometime bending himself, and sometime capring [gesticulating] so directly up, that his head did touch the ceiling of the Chamber, to the great admiration of his Majesty and others then present.”*****
When the man was finally worn out by his supposed bewitchment, it took an hour for him to come to his senses and be brought back before the King, only to admit to having no memory of the event.
Fian continued to tell other tales of his nefarious witchcraft, which were verified by witnesses in the court. Supposedly, Fian had attempted to enchant the girl with a spell of seduction. When the spell backfired, after being sabotaged by the girl’s mother (who was also a witch), Fian ended up seducing a cow instead. Records state that inhabitants of the town confessed to having seen this cow follow Fian wherever he wen
Eventually, Fian promised to recant his evil ways. He testified that the devil had come to visit him the night before with a white wand in his hand, trying to persuade him to keep his vow and serve him. Fian said that he castigated the arch-fiend, telling him, “I utterly forsake thee.”
The devil then supposedly broke the white wand and said, “That once ere thou die thou shall bee mine.”
Soon after this, Fian managed to steal the keys from his jailer and escape. His freedom did not last long, for the king’s men soon caught up with the supposed malefactor and detained him. John Fian then endured more horrendous tortures. This time, however, he confessed to nothing, even after his feet were completely pulverized.
*****“His nails vpon all his fingers were ruined and pulled off with an instrument called in Scottish a Turkas, which in England wee call a pair of pincers, and under every nayle there was thrust in two needels ouer euen up to the heads. At all which tormentes notwithstanding the Doctor neuer shronke anie whit, neither woulde he then confesse it the sooner for all the tortures inflicted vpon him. Then was hee with all conuenient speed, by commandement, conuaied againe to the torment of the bootes, wherein hee continued a long time, and did abide so many blowes in them, that his legges were crushte and beaten togeather as small as might bee, and the bones and flesh so brused, that the bloud and marrowe spouted forth in great abundance, whereby they were made unseruiceable for euer. And notwithstanding al these grieuous paines and cruell torments hee would not confesse aniething, so deepely had the deuill entered into his heart, that hee vtterly denied all that which he had before auouched, and woulde saie nothing.”*****
When the inquisition felt nothing else could be gained from their examination, Fian was put to death.
Later, King James would become more sceptical of the purported abilities of witchcraft. Speaking of witch trials in a letter to his son, Henry, James expressed that, whilst he believed some witches existed, many “miracles now-a-days prove but illusions, and ye may see by this how wary judges should be in trusting accusations”