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Helen Duncan: Britain's Last Official Witch.

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posted on Sep, 1 2005 @ 04:41 AM
Many might assume that Britain's last official witch was found guilty long ago at a time when ignorance and prejudice was prevalent. That is far from the truth. Britains last witch was convicted in the middle of the 20th century in 1944 and her name was Helen Ducan and below is a brief summary of her story.

Helen Duncan was born in Callender (Scotland) on the 25th November 1897. Married to a man who had been disabled during WWI and with six children she topped up her meagre wages from a local bleach factory by working as a medium.

She was renowned as a medium able to materialise spirits during seances with ecto-plasm which spewed from her mouth. By the time the WWII had begun she had travelled across the country giving seances. By 1941 she had settled in Britains great military sea port, Portsmouth.

At her later trial for Witchcraft many testamonials were give in her defence (more details can be found at the official Helen Duncan website a link for which is provided below). The most famous incident concerns the events surrounding the sinking of HMS Barham in 1943. She informed an audience about the sinking of the warship before the news had even been released to the public. The spirit of a sailor appeared, announcing that he had just gone down on a vessel called the Barham. The Barham was not officially declared lost until several months later.

This and other incidents drew the attention of the authorities and on the 19th January 1944, one of Helen’s séances was raided and she and 3 members of her audience were arrested and she was charged under the 1735 Witchcraft Act.

Many suspect that with the planning of the D-Day landings nearing it's conclusion she was simply considered a security risk. The jury found Helen Duncan guilty under the terms of the old Witchcraft Act and she was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment, giving Helen Duncan the dubious honour of being Britains last official and convicted witch.

During her time at Holloway women's prison she received many visitors including, it is alleged, Winston Churchill himself (no records exist of such meetings). Many have suggested that Churchill had sympathies with the occult and it was he that in 1951 on his re-election as Prime Minister repealed the 1735 Witchcraft Act and replaced it with the Fraudulent Mediums Act. A formal act of parliament three years later officially recognised spiritualism as a religion.

Helen Duncan continued working as a medium after a break imediately after her release. She died on December 6th 1956 a few weeks after another police raid.

posted on Sep, 1 2005 @ 10:01 AM
Nice post.

I was actually impressed that the last conviction was so long ago. There have been cases in my home state of Queensland, here in Australia, of people being arrested under 'witchcraft' laws within the last decade or so.

Under Section 432 of the Criminal Code, mediums and fortune tellers could be convicted of a criminal offence for offering their services in exchange for money. To counter this, tarot card readers or mediums would tell their customers that their services were "for entertainment purposes only".

The idea behind the Section was to prevent naive people being hoodwinked by shysters and frauds, but people who believed that their practices were a legitimate expression of their religious beliefs were also prosecuted. The Section was repealed October 10, 2000 (Pagan Awareness Network Inc, Australia).

[edit on 1/9/05 by Jeremiah25]


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