May 14, 2019

THE LAST WITCH TRIAL IN SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS: When do you figure the last witch trial in Salem, Massachusetts was held? 1693? 1695? Maybe as late as 1701?

Try 1878. That’s closer to our time than it is to the time of the original Salem witch trials. Just in case you ever doubted it, that’s evidence that really bad ideas come back over and over again.  Like socialism.

On this day in 1878, Lucretia Brown was given her first day in court against Daniel Spofford. Brown claimed that as a result of her adherence to the practices of Christian Science she had been cured of the spinal injury she had suffered as a child. But, she alleged, owing to the malicious intent of “mesmerist” Daniel Spofford, she had suffered a relapse. In other words, Spofford had intentionally destroyed her health by thinking malicious thoughts about her.

Like Brown, Spofford had been an early adherent to Christian Science. But he’d had a falling out with Mary Baker Eddy earlier in 1878. Some believe that Eddy was behind Brown’s lawsuit; others disagree. At this point, no one knows for sure.

What’s clear is that Eddy herself was a believer in what she called “malicious animal magnetism” or “MAM,” which was the ability to harm others using only one’s thoughts as a weapon. That’s what witches do, you know.

The newspapers of the day loved the story, especially the part about its being filed in (or rather very near) Salem.

Mercifully, the court did not have the same financial stake as the newspapers in keeping the story going. Brown’s lawsuit failed.

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