Real Historical Witches' Houses and Cottages
Fairy Tale Versus Reality
Often when a witch's house is depicted in a movie or book it looks a certain way. We either see small cottages made of candy or ramshackle cabins hidden deep in the woods surrounded by magical gardens. These depictions are elaborate and are there to tickle our fantasies and imagination. The reality is, historically speaking, houses that still stand today that are said to have been real witches' houses usually look much different than we might imagine. That being said, you might find reality is even more intriguing than fiction.
In this article, we will examine some of the houses today that are historically connected to accused or acclaimed witches from the past and present. Hold onto your heads and don't eat any of the candy.
Biddy Early's Cottage
Biddy Early was a wise woman who lived in Ireland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. While some accused her of being a "witch", most of the local townsfolk who knew her considered her to be benevolent or what they might have called a cunning woman or wise woman. She was said to have worked with the wee folk (fairies) in order to heal peoples' ailments or aid them in finding lost items. She also gave business and love advice to those who came seeking it. She was said to never have charged anyone money but took whatever they gave her in exchange for her services.
Her cottage still standing on Dromore Hill in Kilbarron today. In 2011, the owner of the property put it up for sale for seventy-five thousand pounds in hopes that someone would purchase it and renovate it specifically as a museum - to uphold the history of Biddy Early and her connection to Irish folklore. Unfortunately, the cottage has yet to be renovated and still remains in ruin. However, people still visit her cottage by a gorgeous path in the woods, and if you are to visit and go inside, there are little altars of offerings left for Biddy Early. Stones, crystals, pennies, and blue bottles (which are a part of Biddy's magical legacy).
To read more about Biddy Early, click here.
Rose Hall, Jamaica
Legend has it that a woman named Annie Palmer lived at Rose Hall in Jamaica and that she was a witch. She was said to have been born in Haiti to parents from England and Ireland, but when they died she was adopted by her nanny and taught the ways of witchcraft. She moved to Rose Hall, Jamaica and married a man named John Palmer, but eventually she killed him along with other subsequent husbands. Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, was also said to have murdered her servants and used them in her diabolical magic.
Rose Hall is said to be haunted by the spirit of Annie Palmer, the White Witch; however, historians claim this story was made up many years ago and that no witch ever really existed at Rose Hall. Paranormal investigators say otherwise. I guess it all depends on what you choose to believe.
Aleister Crowley, called by some the most wicked man on earth, lived in the Boleskine House in Scotland in the early-mid twentieth century. Aleister was also a magician or sorcerer and established his own religion known as Thelema. He purchased Boleskine House in 1899 and said it was the perfect place in which to conduct a ritual from the Book of Abramelin. The ritual involved calling up and binding demons in order to summon one's guardian angel. Crowley stated the house had all the elements needed to be the place for the lengthy months-long ritual.
During and after Crowley's ritual at Boleskine House, people complained of many strange goings-on. One of the caretakers of Boleskine lost two of his children while working there. It was speculated that Crowley had summoned the demons for the ritual but was unable to bind or eradicate them from the property so they were able to torment those who came near the house. Many locals avoided going anywhere near the house for years saying it was haunted or cursed.
In the seventies, long after Crowley had sold the mansion, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame purchased the house. He believed it would be the perfect place to write music. Sources say Page spent a total of six weeks in the house. More recently Boleskine House suffered extensive damage from a fire.
While Crowley might not be called a "witch" per se, he was an occultist and a magician/sorcerer and so Boleskine House has been included here.
The Pendle Witches' Cottage
In the early seventeenth century in Lancashire, England the belief in witchcraft ran rampant. One particularly famous set of witch trials is referred to as the Pendle Witch Trials and involved the trying of twenty people. A little girl was involved in the trials of the Pendle Witches, and more than one of the accused witches "confessed" to having made pacts with the devil and using familiar spirits in exacting their evil wills upon others.
In 2011, while digging in the area of Pendle Hill, engineers unearthed a cottage they believed and claimed was a "witch's cottage". Apparently there were some cat remains found buried in a wall, so they jumped to conclusions and stated it must have been a witch's house. Possibly one of the famous Pendle Witch's houses. After the discovery of this "witch's cottage", many strange things happened to the people involved including sickness and strains of bad fortune.
No real evidence to back up these claims has ever been presented to the public, so this is all mere speculation and "jumping to conclusions". It was more popular than some might think for people in the seventeenth century to practice some form of folk magic, including the burial of skeletons within one's home.
The actual place that should be called the Pendle Witches' house is the Malkin Tower, the site of the alleged witches' meetings. Unfortunately, the Malkin Tower has been gone for many years and the location is unknown. The only sources we have claim it was located somewhere in the "Pendle Forest".
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The "Witch House" in Salem
If you ever visit Salem, MA, you might be inclined to visit the famous Witch House. As it is named the Witch House, you might think a witch or multiple witches once lived here. In fact, that is incorrect. It acquired its name because the judge of the infamous Salem Witch Trials by the name of Jonathan Corwin lived there in the sixteen hundreds. Some claim the legal proceedings were heard in this house, and this is why it is so named. However, historians deny this and say no trials or proceedings were ever carried out in Corwin's house during the Witch Trials.
Interestingly, Corwin resigned after the execution of Bridget Bishop, and soon afterward his own mother-in-law was accused of witchcraft. She was never charged, however her accuser (her servant Mercy Short) confessed to witchcraft and served some time behind bars.
Today the Witch House of Salem is a museum and is visited by thousands of tourists each year. It is the one surviving link to the Salem Witch Trials still standing.
Watch the Documentary on the Pendle Witch Trials
© 2016 Nicole Canfield