Philip Almond, The Witches of Warboys (I.B. Taurus, 2008)
On a foggy November day in 1589, when one of the five daughters of Robert and Elizabeth Throckmorton suddenly fell sick, no one in the small English village of Warboys could have predicted the terrifying events that would follow. Or envisaged that four years later, in April 1593, the Throckmortons' neighbours Alice, Agnes and John Samuel, would be dragged before a country court on charges of sorcery, enchantment and murder. There is no more dramatic story in the annals of English witchcraft than that of the witches of Warboys. Yet, despite a rich and colourful cast of characters, and a potent mixture of tension and pathos to match anything in the later Salem witch trials, it has never before been told in full. At one level, the story of Warboys features a conflict about honour and truth between two families in a close-knit Elizabethan village. At another level, the tale concerns a wider struggle between local gentry and yeomanry. But at the heart of the narrative coils a dark account of possession by demons, of malevolent spirits, of trust broken and of children accursed.
What really happened in Warboys in the late sixteenth century, to drive this unremarkable rural community into such frenzy? Philip Almond leads us into a half-forgotten world of horror and crime, of victims and victimisers, of spectres, sex with the devil and 'scratching' the witch: a macabre and dangerous world where nothing is as it seems, where evil begets evil, and where innocence is betrayed.
"The Witches of Warboys is one of those rare scholarly works that press impeccable research into the service of a thumping good read. Eschewing the usual ornate postmodern theories of Renaissance daemonomania, Philip C. Almond articulates the Warboys tragedy with passion, compassion, and exquisite erudition. The result is the single best witch-craze narrative to appear in over a generation." – James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder
[A] fascinating view into the roots of [a] collective phenomenon." – Bob Rickard, Fortean Times