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Darcy, Brian (d. 1587), witch-hunter, was probably born in Essex, the son of Thomas Darcy of Tolleshunt Darcy, and his second wife, Elizabeth Bedingfield, daughter of John Haydon of Baconsthorpe, Norfolk. Thomas was a lesser member of the family of the barons Darcy of Chiche...

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Dighton, William (1717–1769), excise officer and murder victim, was born in 1717, though further details of his family and early life are unknown. His first post was in Gloucester in 1741; thereafter he worked in Evesham, Worcestershire, and Woodstock, Oxfordshire. By 1758 Dighton...

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Matthew Hopkins (d. 1647) by unknown engraver, pubd 1647 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hopkins, Matthew (d. 1647), witch-finder, was the son of James Hopkins (d. 1634?), vicar of Wenham in Suffolk. His collaborator John Stearne described Matthew as 'the son of a godly minister' (Stearne, 61). James's will, proved in 1634, mentions six children, only two of whom (...

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Parker, William, thirteenth Baron Morley and fifth or first Baron Monteagle (1574/5–1622), discoverer of the Gunpowder Plot, was the son and heir of Edward Parker, twelfth Baron Morley (1551?–1618), and Elizabeth (d. 1585), regarded by contemporaries as suo jure Baroness Monteagle, daughter of ...

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William Parker, thirteenth Baron Morley and fifth or first Baron Monteagle (1574/55–1622) attrib. John de Critz the elder, c. 1615 The Berger Collection at the Denver Art Museum, TL-17738, © Denver Art Museum 2004

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Pinkerton, Allan (1819–1884), private detective, was born on 21 July 1819 in a tenement flat in Muirhead Street, the Gorbals, Glasgow, eldest son of William Pinkerton (1767–1827/1828?), a former hand-loom weaver who worked in Glasgow city gaol, and Isabella McQueen (1779?–1854), a spinning-mill worker. He had three brothers, four elder half-brothers, and three elder half-sisters. Although christened by a Baptist minister in the ...

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Robinson, Edmund (b. 1622x4, d. in or after 1677), witch accuser, was the son of Edmund Robinson (also known as Edmund Rough, alias Robinson), a mason or waller of Wheatley Lane in the chapelry of Newchurch in Pendle, Lancashire. His mother's name is not known; she was alive in 1634 and, he acknowledged, had brought him up to spin wool and fetch home her cattle....

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Salem witches and their accusers (act. 1692), were the participants in a witch panic that gripped Essex county, Massachusetts, in 1692. The witch hysteria began in Salem village but then spread rapidly throughout the region. The core group of accusers consisted of girls and young women in ...

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Shaw, Christian (b. c. 1685, d. in or after 1737), witch accuser and thread manufacturer, was the daughter of the laird of Bargarran, Renfrewshire, whose first name is unrecorded. According to a contemporary account (A True Narrative), when she was eleven years old she began to experience alarming symptoms, not only suffering mysterious fits, during which her body became as stiff as a board, her belly swelled, and her eyes rolled back into her head, but also vomiting balls of hair, pins, and hot embers. She had hallucinations too. The devil himself reportedly appeared before her and to the amazement of all beholders she engaged in complicated theological arguments with him, citing biblical texts with surprising accuracy. She also had lengthy discussions with a series of invisible tormentors whom she described as witches. They nipped and bit her, she said, pointing to the marks they had left. Questioned as to their identity, she named various local men and women, and this was to have catastrophic consequences....

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Topcliffe, Richard (1531–1604), interrogator and torturer, was born on 14 November 1531, the eldest son of Robert Topcliffe of Somerby, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Margaret, daughter of Thomas, third Baron Burgh of Gainsborough. Orphaned at twelve, Topcliffe's wardship was granted to his uncle ...

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Wyre, Raymond Keith [Ray] (1951–2008), probation officer and sexual crime consultant, was born at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Bournemouth, on 2 November 1951, the younger son of Derrick Claude Wyre (b. 1925), a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy (later a stores manager for a textiles firm, and later still a jeweller), and his wife, ...