Susan Willis Fletcher

Susan Fletcher was indicted for using sorcery and witchcraft in order to deceive Juliette Hart-Davies and steal her jewelry with intent to sell it. The intro into this trial starts with the arresting officer giving his account of what happened. As far as I can tell, the only evidence that was ever brought up was the accusation by Ms Hart-Davies. The officer said that after getting a list of presumed missing pieces of jewelry, he got a warrant to go and search Susan’s home. When approached by the cop and told about her charges, Susan laughed. She ended up telling him that she did have jewelry similar to what was on the list but that she hadn’t stolen anything. The cop went and retrieved the jewelry from Susan’s home and he says, and I quote, “I did not compare the Jewelry with the list, I did not have the list in my possession.” He goes on to talk about how the woman who made the claim which got Susan arrested just checked all the Jewelry on her list, at least he ‘thinks so’.

The trial moves on and the two parties become more clear, Susan Fletcher, her husband John, and their friend Morton are all being charged with deception and fraud; however only Susan is currently in custody. The woman making the claim is Ms Hart-Davies. The basic lay out of what happened here is that Hart-Davies claims that her things were stolen from her shop during the night. The Fletchers were charged because it was known that they were going to be staying near there, and Hart-Davies had claimed to have seen her wearing the pearls she stole. The chargers of using sorcery were dropped because there was no evidence, however Susan was found guilty of all the charges of theft, deception, and conspiracy. The reasoning was strongly based on the hear say from Hart-Davies as well as the Jewelry found in her apartment.

This trial took place around the 1880’s and I feel as if this is large part of why the defendant was not found guilty of sorcery. Throughout the trial, it really doesn’t get touched on because it didn’t seem as if anyone believed that aspect of the trial. I think this quote from Ankarloo and Clark help exemplify why that is, “Interlocking advances in knowledge, science, technology and industry were boosting public confidence in the human capacity to know the natural and social order and hence to control it.” It seems as if though they too thought that as people progressed their beliefs and understanding of the world, things like sorcery and witchcraft would cease to be a common belief. I think it is important to note that pretty much every bit of belief in witchcraft is based on superstition which as we advance our knowledge in science and technology, I feel like our need to use superstition as a crutch of understand will diminish, and with it, all the outrageous beliefs that are commonplace in todays world. There is no doubt that superstition has played a large role so far, like Scaife says here in his True Ghost Story, “Few things have influenced and controlled the destiny of man  so largely as superstition.” Though I agree, as we can see with the later trials, and now in todays world, superstition on a large level is starting to fall apart.


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