Event Title

SS4 -- Witch or Myth? The Last Case of Witchcraft in the U.S.

Location

URC Greatroom

Start Date

8-4-2022 10:30 AM

End Date

8-4-2022 12:15 PM

Description

Was an elderly woman from the upstate of South Carolina the last to be accused of and put on trial for witchcraft in the United States? In this paper, we investigate claims from an old letter sent to the president of South Carolina College to determine whether or not Barbara Powers was truly accused of witchcraft during a criminal trial. After thoroughly investigating census data, court records, marriage records, and other historical data in the named counties and those surrounding them, we were unable to determine conclusively if the trial was real or fabricated. Despite not knowing if the case occurred or not, we explore the historical context of the United States and specifically upstate South Carolina in and around 1813. The purpose of this study is to identify factors which may have prompted a witchcraft trial or provide reasons as to why a respected attorney would want to fabricate a story of witchcraft. This paper also includes an analysis of moral panics, including the causes and ramifications of historical and contemporary moral panics. Ultimately, we conclude that moral panics, such as those that lead to accusations of witchcraft, continue to shape our perceptions of the world.

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Apr 8th, 10:30 AM Apr 8th, 12:15 PM

SS4 -- Witch or Myth? The Last Case of Witchcraft in the U.S.

URC Greatroom

Was an elderly woman from the upstate of South Carolina the last to be accused of and put on trial for witchcraft in the United States? In this paper, we investigate claims from an old letter sent to the president of South Carolina College to determine whether or not Barbara Powers was truly accused of witchcraft during a criminal trial. After thoroughly investigating census data, court records, marriage records, and other historical data in the named counties and those surrounding them, we were unable to determine conclusively if the trial was real or fabricated. Despite not knowing if the case occurred or not, we explore the historical context of the United States and specifically upstate South Carolina in and around 1813. The purpose of this study is to identify factors which may have prompted a witchcraft trial or provide reasons as to why a respected attorney would want to fabricate a story of witchcraft. This paper also includes an analysis of moral panics, including the causes and ramifications of historical and contemporary moral panics. Ultimately, we conclude that moral panics, such as those that lead to accusations of witchcraft, continue to shape our perceptions of the world.