Tuesday, October 25, 2016

HGB Ep. 158 - Witches in America

Moment in Oddity - Crewless Blimp Falls From Sky
Suggested by listener Zoe Zimmerman

During World War II, the United States Navy used blimps to help patrol the coastlines. The main objective was to find submarines. One of these blimps was the L-8 that had been stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco. It left Treasure Island on the morning of August 16th in 1942 with a crew of two men, Lt. Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams. Around 11:30am, people in Daly City, California noticed that the blimp was sagging and descending. The blimp landed on a rooftop and then drifted some more until it became tangled in power lines. It finally smashed into the ground, bending the propellers and smashing the engines, which leaked gasoline onto the street. Police and fire crews rushed to the scene. They found everything in perfect order in the gondola. The lifeboat and parachutes were stowed. A cap still rested on the control panel. The only thing missing was the crew. Searchers were sent out to find the men. They searched everywhere. A couple of fishermen were found who witnessed the blimp descend to an altitude of 300, circle and oil slick and then rise again without dropping any depth charges. They saw nothing leave the blimp, including humans. The pilots had radioed earlier in the day, “Am investigating suspicious oil slick—stand by.” It was the last message sent by the crew. They were never found and declared dead a year later.The disppearance remains to this day one of history's mysteries, and certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Japanese Kamikazes Used For First Time

On this day, October 25th, in 1944, the first Japanese Kamikazes were used. Kamikaze attacks were suicide attacks by military pilots. The tactic was simple. Crash an aircraft into an important target. The pilots were in effect killing themsleves. The first time the Japanese incorporated these kinds of attacks into their strategy was during World War II at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In the Japanese culture, it was honorable to die this way. To be defeated was shameful and the Japanese had been losing air dominance. On October 25th, Seki led five A6M Zeros, escorted by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, to an area where several US carriers were located. Fifty-five other Kamikaze pilots joined them and began the assault. By the end of the day, seven carriers and forty other ships had been hit. Five were sunk, twenty-three were heavily damaged and twelve moderately damaged.

Witches in America (Suggested by Molly Farquhar, research assistance from Kristen Calderon)

Many people are aware of the Salem Witch Trials in America. And while these trials and these alledged witches get most of the attention, these were not the only people accused of witchcraft. It is generally understood that these people were not really practicing witchcraft, but that does not mean that there were not really witches in America. Witchcraft has long been practiced in America and Wicca is an accepted religious practice in our modern era. On this episode, we are going to explore other witch hunts and discuss some possible real witches, including the Bell Witch of Tennessee. Join us as we explore witches in America.

Blue Laws were enacted in the colonies of New England in the 1600s making witchcraft illegal. These laws stated, "If any man or woman be a witch—that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit—they shall be put to death.” Before Salem, Massachusetts conducted its infamous witch hunt, Hartford, Connecticut had its own witch hunt in 1662. The first woman to be accused of witchcraft in that hunt was Goodwife Ayres. But even before this, in 1647, Alice Young of Windsor, Conneticut was sent to the gallows for alledgedly following the customs of witchcraft. She was hanged in Hartford. We don't know specifics of the trial and accusations against Alice, but she was due to inherit a bunch of land from her dead husband and an epidemic had seized the area, making many people ill. She more than likely was not a witch.  In 1650, a servant named Mary Johnson was hanged for witchcraft. She had been accused of stealing and by the time officials were done torturing her, she had confessed to adultery, murdering a child and familiarity with the Devil. The last charge stuck. John and Joan Carsington were found guily of familiarity with the Devil and executed in 1651. Goodwife Bassett and Goodwife Knapp of Fairfield, Connecticut, were hanged 1651 and 1653 respectively, and Lydia Gilbert of Windsor was hanged in 1654.

In 1662, Elizabeth Kelly was an eight-year-old girl who had been out with her neighbor, Goodwife. The day after she returned home, Elizabeth took ill and nobody could figure out what had happened to her. Prior to her death, Elizabeth yelled out, “Father! Father! Help me, help me! Goodwife Ayres is upon me. She chokes me. She kneels on my belly. She will break my bowels. She pinches me. She will make me black and blue.” After Elizabeth died, Hartford caught witch hunt fever and neighbors began accusing each other of witchcraft. Ayers managed to flee and was not hanged.  Four others would be hanged, Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith, Mary Sanford and Mary Barnes. If anything good came out of this epsiode, it was that the laws were changed, so that a person accused of withcraft had to have at least two accusers, rather than just the one that was intitally required when these laws were established.

These weren't the only cases of witchcraft accusations being thrown around for political reasons. Occasionally, the shaman or witch doctor of a Native American tribe has been considered a witch. This witch story comes out of Dublin, Ohio. There was a Wyandot chief named Shatehyarona who most knew as Leatherlips. He was an elder of his tribe and was accused by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh of practicing witchcraft. Leatherlips own brother Roundhead called for the execution of his brother. The real reason for the accusations were more than likely because Leatherlips wouldn't unite with Tecumseh and turn against the white people. Instead, Leatherlips was befriending them and selling land to them, including William Henry Harrison. He was put to death by the tomahawk. They say he haunts Dublin and curses the annual golf tournament with rain. It is believed that the golf course was built over his death and burial site.

There was another Native American population caught up in a witch hunt. These were the Witches of Abiquiu. This outbreak occurred in New Mexico between 1756 and 1766. The Genizaro land grant of Abiquiu was the crown jewel of Governor Velez Cachupin's plan to achieve peace between the natives and the early New Mexican colonists. Part of this peace plan was not forcing the Genizaro to convert to Christianity. They retained their religious ceremonies. The religious leader there was Father Juan Jose Toledo and he didn't like the plan. He claimed that the natives had bewitched the Governor. The Franciscan Father takes on the role as exorcist and many leaders of the native population were accused of being possessed. In the end, the Governor is able to separate out the leaders and bring calm. At the heart of this craze is much of what happened in the witchcraft hunts of the past. There was fear and a desire to take over the land. And the fact that there was no Devil in the native beliefs makes it hard to believe that these people would have made pacts with the Devil.

We all understand that none of these people actually practiced witchcraft. Many were caught up in a hysteria that was very deadly. Does that mean that there were no witches in America? Of course not. Witchcraft has been practised throughout the world in many forms for centuries. Let's look at some of the more famous witches in America.

The River Witch of Marietta - Nellie Noll was a woman living in Marietta, Pennsylvania in 1928 in a home along Front Street. Everyone referred to her as the "River Witch." Nearby was Rehmeyer Hollow, named for the man who lived there, Nelson Rehmeyer. The property soon came to be known as Hex Hollow. This area was rife with magical practices and superstition. Rehmeyer was a practitioner of a type of folk magic known as Pow Wow. It was mainly practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch and was thought by some to be a type of witchcraft even though many practitioners claimed to be Christian and the Bible is used in Pow Wow. Whether it is technically witchcraft or not, one of the reasons for doing Pow Wow is to put hexes on people. The River Witch managed to convince Rehmeyer's neighbor, John Blymire, that a hex had been placed on him by Rehmeyer. She told Blymire that the only way to break the hex was to get a lock of the Pow Wow man's hair and steal his hex book. He then had to burn the spell book and bury the ashes with the hair. Blymire got the help of two teenagers who he convinced were hexed as well. Things went horribly wrong and the teenagers ended up murdering Rehmeyer. The trial that followed was a sensation and the Philadelphia Record called the trial “the weirdest and most curiously fascinating in the history of modern jurisprudence.” The River Witch never faced any punishment for her involvement. And by another twist of synchronocity, if you would like to know more about this infamous crime, Erik Rivenes at Most Notorious just produced an episode on the murder of Nelson Rehmeyer.

Bell Witch -  The Bell Witch is an entity that tormented a Tennessee pioneer family by the name of Bell. This haunting took place  between 1817 and 1821.  But many believe that the hauntings related to this witch continue to the present day. The Bell Family was headed by John. It was his daughter Betsy who was first attacked by the entity that would come to be known as the Bell Witch. She was tormented by being physically attacked and then the house started experience things that could be equated to hauntings. There was knocking on the walls and disembodied voices. The entire family experienced all of these unexplained events, but they told no one. It was not long before neighbors started experiencing them as well. Eventually, the witch identified herself as someone named Kate and she promised to kill John Bell. And eventually it seemed that she did. To help explain more about this story and to share the hauntings that have resulted and continue, we are joined by one of the foremost experts on the Bell Witch, Pat Fitzhugh. He has written two books on the subject and appeared on numerous paranormal shows.

The religion of Wicca was formally founded in the 1950s in Great Britain. Members worship the goddess and nature. They promise to do no harm when practicing their magical rites. There are hundreds of thousands of Wiccans in the United States. And don't call male Wiccan practitioners Warlocks. This is highly offensive because the term warlock is meant to refer to a person who has been locked out of a coven. This is usually done to an individual who has betrayed the coven or used magic for ill gain. So there really are such things as witches, but they are not the witches of lore that have green skin, wear black pointed hats and fly around on brooms.

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