Witchcraft to Blame

On February 17th, 1831 William Clark attempted to murder his neighbor Elizabeth Gulliver. Clark the previous night went to her house yelling and asking for a kitchen woman, one who did not exist. Elizabeth Gulliver allowed Clark to search her kitchen, and even with the emptiness of the room in front of him verbally attacked Gulliver that she was lying. Clark finally left the house after Gulliver’s daughter made her way down the stairs and threatened him so that he might leave. The next night Clark returned, pistol in hand, and attempted a single shot at Elizabeth Gulliver, fleeing right after. Although he was not at his house the first time the police tried to find him, the following day they attempted a second time. Clark, pretending to be a woman was soon after arrested. The trial includes the testimonies of: Clark, Elizabeth Gulliver and her daughter, Alexander Shaw a neighbor down the street that witnessed Clark fleeing after he heard gunshots and Daniel Reardon the arresting officer, a psychiatrist doctor, his landord, as well as Clark’s sister. Clark complains over and over again about the voices of the past four years that have invaded his mind and thoughts, a result of witchcraft and sorcery. With the various testimonies, as well as Clark’s sister speaking out about his claim of being overwhelmed with witchcraft and a Doctor that said there was no normalcy in any interaction with Clark, the conclusion to the trial was clear. Clark was found not guilty on the ground of insanity.

Witchcraft always has the way of finding itself into the most insane of cases and usually being where the blame is laid when things go wrong. Even with the obvious mental instability that was shown by Clark, his environment was what led to Witchcraft having been the obvious catalyst for him acting anything but the norm, a scapegoat.

Superstitions are an overwhelming factor in the accusations of Witchcraft. True Ghost Story by Scaife, “Few things have influenced and controlled the destiny of man so largely as superstition. It has often become a part of his religion shaped his habits and governed his life.” Scaife shows how people accused of witchcraft were some what believed to have been steered away from their religion because their actions did not favor that of their religious being. Although Clarke himself was not accused of witchcraft, the superstition stemming from other accusations he was brought up around played an obvious factor. Looking at Ankarloo and Clarke’s historical survey, it states, “The opinion that rude people have of fairies, ghost and goblins and the power of witches’ was attributed in his Leviathan to ignorance of how to distinguish ‘dreams’ from ‘sense’.” In the Clarke case, being able to distinguish between being bewitched or just being insane. Although Clarke may have his accuses, at the end of the day insanity triumphed the disillusionment of witchcraft.


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