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A History of Witch-Hunts

This article is more than 14 years old.

We have fun with witches. Tonight, for Halloween, hordes of little trick-or-treat witches will be ringing doorbells for candy. Harry Potter made Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry a bestselling playground of childhood imagination.

But human history is also a history of no-joke witch-hunting. Of outcasts and eccentrics and unlucky neighbors hounded down and dunked and burned and boiled.

From ancient Rome, to feudal Europe, to the Salem witch trials — and much more recently.

This hour, On Point: America’s top witchcraft historian on the dark history of witch-hunting.

You can join the conversation. Do you know how deep this story goes? Are we done obsessing with black magic and sorcery? Or still ready — one way or another — to hunt witches?Guests:

John Demos, professor of history at Yale University. His new book is "The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World." He is also the author of "Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England."

Read an excerpt from "The Enemy Within."

This program aired on October 31, 2008.


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