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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Essex

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Myths and Legends
Witch-finder witch?

A twist in the tale

Although much of his life is a well-recorded, open book, Hopkins' demise is a mystery. One account, by William Andrews a 19th Century writer on Essex folklore, argues that Hopkins was accused of being a witch himself. Andrews asserts that Hopkins was charged with stealing a book containing a list of all the witches in England, which he purportedly obtained by means of sorcery. Hopkins declared his innocence, but an angry crowd forced him to undergo his own "swimming" trial. Some accounts say he drowned, while others say he floated and was condemned and hanged. However, no records of his trial exist.

According to local legend, Hopkins' ghost is said to haunt Mistley Pond.
Mistley Pond
Hopkins has been "seen" at Mistley Pond - his spirit outlasts his victims
© Courtesy of Stephen Ablett
An apparition wearing 17th Century garments is apparently seen roving the locality, particularly on Friday nights near to the Witches Sabbats.

History recounts that Hopkins was both a reviled and exalted figure at one time – depending on which side of the devil opinion lay. He and other witch hunters of the era were able to carry out their work with relative impunity within the vacuum of authority that existed during the English Civil War 1639 - 1660.

Historians theorise that soon after control was reinstated, the witch hunts and trials largely halted. Others feel that witchcraft simply became too old hat for the intelligentsia of the early Enlightenment to countenance, and that they were known to deride such obsolete nonsense so as to reassure themselves of their own intellectual superiority.

But witchcraft executions came to an end, with the last one recorded in Exeter, when Alicia Molland met her death in March 1684.

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Your comments

1 Roger Olive from Harwich - 13 January 2004
"The White Horse Inn, in Mistley is another place where Hopkins' ghost or figure in 17th Century dress has been seen. Investgating there once, the landlady told myself & a friend that the pub dog and staff had refused to go to a particular room to the back of the pub on the 1st floor - the pool room. We went there, my friend in 17th Century fancy dress, and me with a camera to see what all the fuss was about. After shooting most of a reel of film, game of pool & a pint we left, with no obvious ghostly experience. Yet, when the film was developed (by myself - being a freelance photographer at the time) the negatives were all fogged, and not in my professional opinion could this be attributed to faulty camera equipment or a duff batch of film as a couple of photo's I'd taken of the pub before we went in came out fine. Unfortunately, no images could be made out in the fog, and I've never had the opportunity to go back. - A mystery for 'Most Haunted' perhaps."

2 Emma Bumstead from Mistley - 6 January 2004
"I was told that he went and terrified the family of the witches who diedin Mistley "

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Witchfinder General - the film
Religion and Ethics - Paganism
Teen witches
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