8. Georg Scherer (1540 – 1605)
Georg Scherer was a Catholic Orator, who was the main reason behind an event that came to be known as the Plainacher Witch Affair of 1583, in Vienna, Austria. The Alleged witch was a 70-year-old woman, named Elisabeth “Elsa” Plainacher. The reason behind her accusation was her raising her granddaughter, Anna. Anna eventually moved out on her own and began experiencing strange seizures (most likely epilepsy). Scherer believed it to be a curse and using his form of “interrogation,” convinced Anna that she had been cursed. Anna’s belief eventually led to Elsa, herself, getting questioned. After a long “interrogation” on Elsa, through various forms of torture, she too admitted guilt for cursing her granddaughter. Through much convincing she was eventually burned at the stake for her “crimes” on September 28, 1583.
7. Roger Nowell
Roger Nowell was the local magistrate during the Pendle Hill Witch Trials, arguably the most famous witch trials in English History, which began the methods and precedents for future witch trials. Nowell used witch hunting to gain favor with King James and serve it as a warning to other witches. The entire trial was documented by Thomas Potts in his book, “The Wonderful Discoveries of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster.”
6. Sebastien Michelis
Michelis was a French inquisitor and writer of several works, which focused on demons and witchcraft. His most popular case was the “Aix-en-Provence Possessions” in which a young girl claimed to have been possessed by a priest, Father Louis Gaufridy. Throughout the possession the girl claimed that she was possessed by the demon, Beelzebub. Gaufridy was eventually arrested, confessed to his crimes, and was tortured and burnt at Aix-en-Provence on April 11, 1611.
5. Pierre de Lancre (1553 – 1631)
Pierre de Lancre was a French judge and author of three books about witchcraft. Pierre’s biggest claim to fame was the witch-hunt he conducted at Labourd in 1609. In his time in Labourd, he used his power as judge, and his power appointed to him by King Henry IV, to sentence and torture several accused witches.
4. Matthew Hopkins (1620 – 1647)
Hopkins was believed to be an unsuccessful lawyer and turned to witch hunting as a source of easy income, however, not much is known about him. Hopkins employed various methods of torture to make the accused confess. His favorite method was a practice known as “ducking” in which the accused was dunked in water; if they floated and avoided water they were a witch, if they sank and drowned then they were not. Hopkins legacy was a major impact on forcing confessions during the Salem Witch Trials.
3. Balthasar von Dernbach (1548 – 1606)
Balthasar was born into a relatively wealthy family, in modern-day Germany. When his father died, in 1560, Balthasar, then 12, was forced to live in Fulda Monastery. He eventually became prince-abbot, but with this power he exercised his feelings of counterreformation against Protestantism. This thought was strongly opposed, resulting in his eventual abdication. In 1602, Balthasar regained power and focused his frustrations and anger on who he believed to be witches, launching one of the largest witch-hunts in history.
2. Nicholas Remy (1530 – 1616)
Remy was a French magistrate and lawyer known for a witch Trial he conducted between 1582 – 1592. Remy’s fascination and anger towards witches started when his son was killed in a street accident, which he believed was due to a begger putting a curse on his family. Remy eventually wrote a book, called Daemonolatreiae libri tres (“demonolatry”) which replaced the most famous witch hunting book at the time, the Malleus Maleficarum. Remy is believed to have killed over 900 witches but all records have not survived history to verify.
1. Peter Binsfeld (1540 – 1598)
Binsfeld was a German Bishop and Theologian who is primarily known for his writings. One of his most famous works is De confessionibus maleficorum et sagarum (Of the Confessions of Warlocks and Witches) which has been translated into several languages. The book describes how to properly identify and torture witches. Binsfeld also published a list of demons which he associated with the seven deadly sins, in 1589:Lucifer (pride), Mammon (greed), Asmodeus (lust), Leviathan (envy),Beelzebub (gluttony), Satan (wrath) and Belphegor (sloth). Binsfeld, and his mentor, Johann von Schonenberg, was the main influence behind the Trier witch Trials, which tried, convicted, and executed several of the accused, some estimates are over 1,000.