The Bewitching of Anne Gunter

Category: Witchcraft
Last Updated: 28 May 2020
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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter details the life of a young girl who claimed to be possessed by witches. She was not in fact possessed, and according to her at her trial, her father forced her to act as she was. Her father Brian Gunter had a long history of problems with one of the women who was accused, Elizabeth Gregory. The other women Agnes Pepwell was chosen because she was rumored to be a witch, and it would add credibility to the accusation. The problem between Brian Gunter and Elizabeth Gregory began at a football match in the town of North Moreton.

It was a form of what is now called soccer, but was much rougher. It was many times viewed as just an excuse for two villages to get in a huge brawl. People were known to die from injuries related to this extreme form of physical activity. It was very hard to reconstruct what happened on the day of the football match in North Moreton. Brian Gunter was a spectator and two of Elizabeth Gregory's sons were playing in the game. A fight broke out between two men, one of them a Gregory. Gunter got in the middle of it and tried to break it up, at this point Richard Gregory and his brother John turned on Gunter.

In the middle of the melee Gunter pulled out his dagger and killed both brothers. The Gregory's tried to get Gunter tried for murder, but it never came to trial, possibly because Gunter was powerful in his area. The bad blood between the two families now existed, setting the stage for Anne Gunter to accuse Elizabeth Gregory of witchcraft. Anne Gunter first had symptoms of hysteria in the summer of 1604. It was not thought to be demonic, until months later when the fits became significantly worse. The Gunter's had people come in and look at Anne, and in time she was diagnosed by many with being possessed.

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The actions that Anne Gunter testified too, as to come of as being possessed are extremely disturbing. Her father read the Warboy's book on witchcraft and made her imitate many of the signs of being a witch. She was drugged, to induce vomit and also was given drugs to quell pain. She was given a green mixture, which would throw her into deep rages then a very strong dullness. During the dullness when visitors were there pins were stuck into her body to show her lack of feeling. This was a sign to show that she was possessed. When the visitors would leave she could not life her arms and the pain would be unbearable.

Anne testified that she have even stronger fits of torture when the accused would come near the house. She would be told they were near and act accordingly. It was a very detailed operation involving Brian Gi??nter's sister and her husband. Anne would be given pins to vomit and sneeze due to the fact that letting go of foreign objects out of your body was a strong sign of being afflicted. She claims she put herself through all these horrible things because she was afraid of her father and he always threatened her, although it might have something to do with her craving attention.

The family also sent for good witches who could help cure the affliction. This helped fro awhile, but Anne became bewitched again and the symptoms started up again. The family also tried a number of remedies that were popular at the time. The family burned Elizabeth Gregory's hair in an attempt to help Anne recover, also moving her to different places, but nothing provided permanent relief. It is hard to give one reason why witchcraft became so prevalent during this time period. Reasons that have been given are the reformation, and Catholics trying to counter that reformation.

It can also be seen as Christianity still trying to root out traditional beliefs of people, which included magic and mysticism. It was also not like society just had witchcraft, as a strange belief. It was part of a much wider belief in ghosts, fairies, fortune telling and astrology. The reformation had helped create a new focus on the devil and all his works and this also added to the witchcraft craze. It is also amazing how people of the time would go along with the person being a witch. They in turn would make up things about the accused witch, like they say Agnes Pepwell turn a cat into a black rat.

Witchcraft gave people the ability to blame things on other people and to harm them considerably. It can be compared to being accused of rape, even if you didn't do it and are proved innocent, you will still have that stigma attached to you. It was many times pure bad luck that you were accused and the consequences could be deadly. After the trial of Anne Gunter, witchcraft trials were less frequent then in other parts of Europe. Convictions were also more rare then in other countries. One reason was the alleged witches were tried by the assize courts.

The judges in these courts were senior judges who were high up in the social hierarchy of England. They were not allowed to be from the area they were trying so they were distanced from the local issues and bias. In many parts of Europe the trials were presided over by local courts and judges who brought their own biases and thoughts into the trial. The English courts also differed in the fact that they did not use torture as a means of bringing out confessions, where in other places witches would confess, due to the pain inflicted. The end result for the Gunter's is hard to definitively answer.

Brian Gunter was brought before the Star Chamber not to face the charges of fabricating the witchcraft of his daughter but to answer to an assault charge years later. He died in 1628 with no mention of Anne in his will. Anne was most likely married, but it is hard to say to exactly who. One possibility is a man with the surname Ashely, or another man John Hartgill. The records of the times are very hard to interpret and if she did indeed marry Hartgill she would have been 16 years his senior, which would have been extremely rare even today.

The historian who researched this book had to go to great lengths to gather information. He had to put together bits and pieces of historical accounts for everything to come together. The book does a good job of showing you how witches were treated in England and to what lengths people would go to, to accuse someone else. The author used church records, court records, and personal diaries, all first hand accounts. He then used historical background to help put everything together for the reader. What the village was like, the population and how trials were done.

The book showed how easily people could be accused of witchcraft and it also shows the mob mentality that existed in this time period. One thing that is really disturbing is the lack of conscience shown by people. The people who accused the women of witchcraft, obviously new it wasn't true, yet Anne Gunter showed no remorse for putting these women through this harrowing experience. Her only concern when confessing was of her own pain. One of the problems with this book is the fact that the historian many times did not have much to work with. He in turn would interpret a document to the best of his ability.

Many times this would end up being a conjecture, and not a sure fact. History many times has to be looked at like that, but many of his inferences may have been off. There was almost a shadow of doubt over every part of the book. One thing that is interesting is that how high profile this case was. The King became involved, and the case received a lot of attention. That shows that even with all the publicity how hard it was to reconstruct this case. It would be even harder to ever show what happened in other cases, with less prominent members of society involved.

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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter. (2017, Aug 21). Retrieved from

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