In 1604, 20-year-old Anne Gunter was bewitched: she foamed at the mouth, contorted wildly in her bedchamber, went into trances. Her garters and bodices were perpetually unlacing themselves. Her signature symptom was to vomit pins and "she voided some pins downwards as well by her water or otherwise." Somewhat suspiciously, the three women accused of bewitching her were related to two men killed by her father during a rowdy football match years earlier. As Anne's case became ever more celebrated, a number of Oxford dons and other notables weighed in with their opinions, providing us with an extraordinary record of the case. After the three witches were tried and acquitted, Anne's father appealed directly to King James I, a noted witchhunter. The case was re-opened and the ensuing trial in the Star Chamber - with over 50 witnesses - revealed all.
"The Bewitching of Anne Gunther" is a compelling true crime story investigated in all its intricacies for the first time in 400 years. Like Steven Ozment's "The Burgermeister's Daughter," it's a tale of controlling fathers, willful daughters, nosy neighbors, power relations between peasants and aristocrats, and village life in early modern Europe. Above all, it's the highly engaging account of one woman's experience of the greatly misunderstood phenomenon of witchcraft.
"The author, James Sharpe, is also a scholar of witchcraft, and as a storyteller more deliberate than fluent. What impresses us as most surreal in his account of this case is not the Gunter family psychodrama, miserable as the ordeal must have been for poor Anne, but the scrupulous care that the wisest minds of the age took to distinguish real cases of witchcraft from imaginary ones."
"An extraordinary case...Professor Sharpe, in this illuminating narrative, has given Anne Gunter her due moment of fame...extremely interesting and readable."
-Antonia Fraser, "The London Times