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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Hopkins, Matthew (?-1647) In 1645 this English Puritan lawyer of Manningtree, Essex, took the well-paid title of “Witch-Finder General.” He toured England in the company of a team of assistants who were charged with searching the bodies of suspected witches for Devil's marks that indicated their involvement with Satan. He was spectacularly successful at his work and became responsible for the execution of a large number of accused persons during the brief year he served in the position. Estimates vary from about sixty to several hundred persons who perished at his hands.
      However, his atrocious and senseless brutality finally stirred up enough opposition that the office was called into question and finally abolished.
      Though the titillating legend has it that Hopkins himself was accused of being a witch, was subjected to one of his own tests, failed, and was hanged, he actually died peacefully at his home at Manningtree, near Ipswich.
      A writer of the day said of his career:

      Nothing can place the credulity of the English nation on the subject of witchcraft in a more striking point of view, than the history of Matthew Hopkins.

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