Aberdeen, along with the rest of Europe at that time, conducted a ‘witch hunt’ in the years of 1596 and 1597, and, 70 cases in total were taken to trail. If found guilty the accused would end in tragic deaths. After 1703, witchcraft was no longer considered to be a criminal offence and no further cases are recorded from Aberdeen after this date.
Janet Wishart was considered a witch leader. She was convicted on 18 counts of witchcraft and burnt at the stake. Her son Thomas Leyis was also considered to be “master of the convent” and was strangled at the stake and then burnt to ashes after also being convicted of witchcraft.
Those accused of witchcraft were suspected and guilty of 'witchcraft, sorcery and other diabolical and detestable practices'. The trials were held in the Tolbooth on Union Street.
Another woman, Margaret Fraser, was also suspected of witchcraft in 1636 but managed to flee from the Tolbooth. It was reported later that she in fact died.
Over the past few months, Aberdeen City Libraries staff have been researching archives for this display to shine a new light on important aspects of Aberdeen’s history that people may not know about.
The exhibition can be viewed at the Central Library.