Magic

An illustration from Newes From Scotland (1591), a pamphlet that publicized ongoing witch trials in North Berwick, Scotland, across Europe. Groups of accused women are depicted brewing spells to thwart James VI's ship (upper left), and a local schoolmaster is shown taking notes from the devil. 

Scotland Considers Pardon for Thousands of Accused 'Witches'

Advocates are calling on leaders to exonerate the thousands of women and men targeted in witch hunts during the 16th through 18th centuries

Finds unveiled in 2021 included a wooden falcon that originally belonged to doomed queen Anne Boleyn, an intact ancient chicken egg and a dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Cool Finds

Ninety-Nine Fascinating Finds Revealed in 2021

The year's most exciting discoveries include a Viking "piggy bank," a lost Native American settlement and a secret passageway hidden behind a bookshelf

Houdini exposed fake Spiritualist practices by having himself photographed with the "ghost" of Abraham Lincoln.

For Harry Houdini, Séances and Spiritualism Were Just an Illusion

The magician spent years campaigning against fraudulent psychics, even lobbying Congress to ban fortune-telling in D.C.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Examination of a Witch, 1853

History of Now

Reckoning With—and Reclaiming—the Salem Witch Trials

A new exhibition unites 17th-century artifacts with contemporary artists' responses to the mass hysteria event

The tablet depicts a male ghost being led back to the afterlife, curator Irving Finkel says.

Cool Finds

3,500-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet May Contain Earliest Known Depiction of a Ghost

A curator at the British Museum details the spooky find in a new book

Dee may have bought the mirror in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) in the 1580s.

Obsidian 'Spirit Mirror' Used by Elizabeth I's Court Astrologer Has Aztec Origins

Tudor polymath John Dee used the artifact in his attempts to communicate with angels and apparitions

The pages were disposed of as scrap and pasted into an unrelated book.

 

Cool Finds

Rediscovered Medieval Manuscript Offers New Twist on Arthurian Legend

The 13th-century pages, found by chance at a British library, show a different side of Merlin, the magician who advised Camelot's king

Johnson is the only convicted Salem "witch" who has not yet received an official pardon.

History of Now

This Eighth-Grade Class Wants to Clear the Name of an Accused Salem 'Witch'

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was sentenced to death in 1693 but escaped execution after receiving a reprieve from Massachusetts' governor

The study's authors argue that the individual may have been highly regarded due to their nonbinary status or “because they already had a distinctive or secured position in the community for other reasons; for example, by belonging to a relatively wealthy and well-connected family.”

New Research

Mysterious Iron Age Burial May Hold Remains of Elite Nonbinary Person

The Finnish grave's occupant likely had Klinefelter syndrome, meaning they were born with an extra copy of the X chromosome

A new analysis of a ceramic jar discovered in Athens suggest its owners placed the curse ahead of a lawsuit.

Ancient Athenians Used a Jar Filled With Chicken Bones to Curse Their Enemies

The object's owners inscribed the names of at least 55 intended victims on its surface

An engraving from German zoologist Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen Der Natur, a 1904 book that celebrated the symmetry of nature

From Books Bound in Human Skin to Occult Texts, These Are Literature's Most Macabre, Surprising and Curious Creations

A new tome takes readers into collector Edward Brooke-Hitching's "madman's library"

Albrecht Dürer, Heksen (Witches), 1497 (left) and Albrecht Dürer, De fire hekse (The Four Witches), 1497 (right)

The Little-Known Story of 16th- to 18th-Century Nordic Witch Trials

An art exhibition in Copenhagen and a museum in Ribe revisit witchcraft's legacy in Denmark and neighboring countries

David Copperfield has sold more tickets than any other solo performer in history.

How Harry Houdini and David Copperfield's Jewish Heritage Shaped Their Craft

The illusionists join Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Spielberg in the National Museum of American Jewish History's hall of fame

A probable witches' mark found at the site of the abandoned St. Mary's church in Buckinghamshire, England

Cool Finds

Eerie Witches' Marks Found Among Ruins of Medieval English Church

Archaeologists in Stoke Mandeville found carvings probably designed to ward off evil spirits

Enroll in Hogwarts classes, find out which house you belong in, and listen to the audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Education During Coronavirus

Hear Daniel Radcliffe Read the First Chapter of 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

The actor is one of 17 celebrities slated to participate in newly announced read-alongs of the series' first book

Strobridge Lithographing Company,
Kellar and His Perplexing Cabinet Mysteries, 1894. Purchase, funds graciously donated by La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso.

The Amazing Poster Art From the 'Golden Age' of Magic

An exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario shows how magicians enticed audiences with advertisements of levitations, decapitations and other deceptions

Witch bottles, or talismans designed to ward off evil spirits, were more commonly employed across the pond in the United Kingdom.

Cool Finds

Suspected 'Witch Bottle' Full of Nails Found in Virginia

Archaeologists unearthed the blue glass bottle near the hearth of a small fort used during the Civil War

The 78-card deck didn't actually make it into the James Bond film Live and Let Die.

See Surreal Tarot Cards Designed by Salvador Dalí for a James Bond Movie

The spooky deck features images of classic art and Christian symbolism with a signature Dalí twist

Contractors found a witch bottle similar to the one pictured here while demolishing a former inn's chimney.

Cool Finds

'Witch Bottle' Filled With Teeth, Pins and Mysterious Liquid Discovered in English Chimney

The charms were designed to ward off witches, but new research suggests they had medical uses as well

This inverted cross was likely carved on the inn's hearth stone in hopes of discouraging witches from flying down the chimney

Cool Finds

Archaeologists Find Shot Glass Shards, Anti-Witch Carving at Centuries-Old Scottish Pub

At the time of its construction, the Wilkhouse Inn was considered a "statement of modernity and affluence"

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