The Salem Witch Trials were a blight on the "New World." Over 20 innocent people were put to the gallows because they had been charged and convicted of witchcraft. Looking back now we know what these were ridiculous charges, but at the time they did not have the scientific knowledge that we have now.
But before the Witch Trials in America, there was Matthew "Witch-Finder General" Hopkins, in jolly old England. Hopkins named himself the defacto "Witchfinder General" and made it his life's mission to purge England of the witches plaguing the country, all in the name of religion.
At least in Salem, the crimes purported against the people who were exectued were motivated by ignorance and fear, whereas Hopkins was fueled by greed. He was well paid for his antics across England. If we want to get literal, Hopkins can be considered Britain's first serial killer.
At the time, England was plagued by famine, disease, poverty and death, and all of this was attributed to be the work of the Devil. Hopkins, who was what we would now call a "religious fanatic", wanted to rid the world of witches and all those who would challenge God's will.
Hopkins made "witch-finding" his life's mission...
Because Hopkins had studied to become a lawyer, he knew that torture was against the laws of the England, but that didn't stop him from using torture as a way to identify "witches".
He would start his "interrogations" by subjecting these women to sleep deprivation. This would often go on for days, and while they were kept awake they would not be allowed to eat. Falling asleep during this would mean being woken up and made to march around while being screamed at. I don't know about you, but if I were forced to stay awake and starve, I would tell someone anything they wanted to hear regardless of if it was true or not just to stop the torment.
Hopkins would determine if someone was a witch by stripping them naked and shaving their body completely bare of hair. He would then inspect their bodies for any "unnatural" marks. These could include, scars, moles, freckles or birthmarks. You can understand why he thought so many women were witches, we all have at least one of these marks on our bodies.
Things started to change for Hopkins when he accursed 70-year-old John Lowes of being a witch. He was a minister, and not all that liked by his congregants, but no one suspected him to be a witch. He tortured a false confession from Lowes, who was later hanged for witchcraft. People began doubting Hopkins so he retired from witch hunting, a very wealthy man.
When it was all said and done, he had killed an estimated 112 people over two years in his role of Witchfinder General.
Should Hopkins be considered a serial killer among the ranks of the depraved who have come after him?