Mathew Hopkins son of a vicar became known throughout history as the Witch-Finder General, and was responsible for a reign of terror throughout England, between 1644 and 1647, with his fellow Witch-Pricker John Sterne.
Hopkins first victim was Elizabeth Clarke, whose mother had been hanged as a witch. She was thrown into prison on the charge of witchcraft, and John Sterne interrogated her in an effort to extract a confession.
Found about her naked body were three teats, which should not be upon the body. She was then kept awake for three days and three nights until she finally confessed… She implicated Anne West, Rebecca West, Anne Leech, Helen Clarke and Elizabeth Gooding all condemned as witches.
Overnight, Hopkins the Witch-Finder General had created a lucrative career, as his services were called upon. His victims were often than not, the old, the poor and defenceless members of the community.
Torture was illegal in England, but Hopkins and Sterne took little notice of that … for they wanted confessions, by any means possible. His victims would be thrown into prison, stripped naked, beaten, starved and kept awake for days. If that wasn’t enough to obtain a confession of being a witch, the body would be pricked, looking for spots that didn’t bleed; the mark of the Devil. His favourite and favoured methods, was to bound them and throw them into the water, if they floated, they would be guilty.
By the spring of 1645, Hopkins had witnessed nineteen witches brought to trial and executed at Chelmsford by 17th July.
Hopkins and Sterne believed they were offering a service to many communities who called them in. During his time as a witch-hunter he was responsible for the execution of some 300 reported, convicted witches.