Friday, 16 September 2016

Review: American Witches: A Broomstick Tour

I've read quite a few books about the history of witchcraft, but none as entertaining as American Witches: A Broomstick Tour Through Four Centuries.

As the title suggests, it is about the history of witchcraft in America, from the early Europeans who travelled there to settle up to witchcraft beliefs stirred up by The Blair Witch Project. In fact, Eduardo Sánchez, co-director of the witchy horror movie that convinced a lot of people it was real, endorsed this new book as, “A LOT of wicked fun!”

But  as well as being engaging to read, it is also very informative. If you want to learn about what witches were accused of doing across the pond (and even while crossing the pond), this book will tell you.

The press release I was sent about American Witches said:
Witches are a fascinating part of pop culture. Audiences love being spooked time and again by movies like Hocus Pocus, The Blair Witch Project, and this year’s The Witch, and they always come back for more! But beware: the history of American witches is way weirder than you ever imagined.
From bewitched pigs hell-bent on revenge to gruesome twentieth-century murders, American Witches: A Broomstick Tour through Four Centuries (Skyhorse Publishing, August 2016) by Susan Fair reveals the peculiar incidents of witchcraft that have long been swept under the rug as bizarre side notes to history.
On a tour through four centuries of American witchcraft that’s both whimsical and startling, we’ll encounter seventeenth-century children flying around inside their New England home “like geese.” We’ll meet a father-son tag team of pious Puritans who embarked on a mission that involved undressing young ladies and overseeing hangings. And on the eve of the Civil War, we’ll accompany a reporter as he dons a dress and goes searching for witches in New York City’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
Entertainingly readable and rich in specifics known to few, American Witches casts a flickering torchlight into many scary corners of American history.
The press release started with a question as the header: "Think You Know All There Is to Know about Witches?"

Well, actually, I know quite a bit, but I admit I did learn a thing or two. In particular, I was fascinated by the chapter on 19th century New York journalist Mortimer Thomson, who wrote an investigation of witchcraft under the pen name of Q.K Philander Doesticks. He wanted to expose the city's fortune-tellers, which he called The Witches of New York. Despite his misogynistic and condescending attitude to the poor women eking out a living in New York's tenements, they had the last laugh as their predictions regarding the tragedies in his love life turned out to be correct.

American Witches is by Susan Fair, who has written for TAPS ParaMagazine, Cryptomundo, the Rumpus and works at the Boonsboro Museum of History, which houses relics of weird history, including a witch’s spell book.

Links and previous related posts
American Witches: A Broomstick Tour Through Four Centuries

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