Ann Kaserin

Ann Kaserin and her husband Georg Kaser kept an inn in Eichstatt, Germany, in the early 17th century. Eichstatt was hit by a Witch craze, one of the worst that Germany experienced. During it, several condemned Witches stated that they had seen Ann at a sabbat, making love to a demon. Ann was accused by twelve different Witches over nine years -- and yet the courts never arrested her. We're not sure why the courts were so lenient. Ann and Georg were wealthy; perhaps they had friends at the court or bribed some of the officials.

Around 1629, Ann and Georg moved to Rennertshofen hoping to avoid the dangers of Eichstatt. However in March, 1629, Ann was arrested on charges of Witchcraft and taken to Neuburg for trial. Guards searched her house for signs or implements of Witchcraft, but discovered nothing.

At Neuburg, Ann was first kept chained to a wall. Georg got permission to bring her a bed, and with it, a letter. "If you are guilty, O my Treasure," he wrote, "confess it. But if you are not guilty, you have a holy authority, by which you may demand God's grace and with which we may console our small children." He then told Ann how much he missed her, and how badly the house was falling apart now that he and the kids were on their own.

On March 19, Ann appeared before the court for the first time. She swore she wasn't a Witch, though she admitted that she knew she'd been named by condemned Witches. That was the reason that she and Georg had fled Eichstatt. The court warned her that she would be tortured if she did not confess, but Ann maintained her innocence.

Two days later, she was summoned a second time. Again, she affirmed her innocence, and the court handed her over to the executioner for torture. First came the thumbscrews. Ann endured this, insisting that the accusations against her came from hatred. People were jealous of her because she had money and fine dresses.

When the thumbscrews failed to break the woman, the executioner brought out the strappado. The strappado was a simple but hideously effective torture. The Witch's arms were tied behind her back. A rope was fastened around her wrists and run through a loop on the ceiling. Then the executioner hauled the Witch up into the air, twisting her shoulder blades painfully, and frequently dislocated one or both shoulders. Many courts increased the torments by tying weights to the Witch's ankles, or by dropping them and jerking them back into the air.

Ann was lifted in the strappado. And after hanging for fifteen minutes, arms wrenched behind her, she broke. The charges against her were true, she said. She had three pots of flying ointment and when she wished to go to a sabbat, she anointed a fork with these ointments and promptly flew away. She swore she never harmed a human being, but admitted that she had slept with demons and prayed to Satan. Guards again searched her house. This time they found a small pot with a hard, dry, black substance in it. But there was no sign of the "Witch-fork" that Ann claimed she flew with. Questioned and tortured a second time, Ann named several other Witches.

At this point, the court summoned Georg and asked him about his wife's habits. Georg said that Ann was a good, hard-working woman and a devout Christian. She took Communion every other week and frequently spent half the day in church. But he did admit that for seven years his wife had been very melancholy. (How could she not be? Again and again in those years, she was accused of Witchcraft. Again and again she saw Witches burned, and knew that only the greatest of luck kept her from that very same fate.) Ann, Georg said, handled her fears like a good Christian: she prayed and fasted and wept until she could wash her hands in her tears. For seven years she avoided all weddings and festivities, hoping that God would see her fervor and spare her. The court thanked him for his testimony, and dismissed him.

Meanwhile, they decided that Ann's confession wasn't sincere: she hadn't admitted to any murders, nor had she implicated "enough" of her fellow Witches. She was tortured again until she accused her maid and admitted that she had murdered one of her own children with a magick salve. Guards search her home again, looking for the deadly ointment, but all they found was an empty pot.

Seeing nothing before her except slow torture and painful death, Ann attempted to commit suicide. She mixed her own urine and feces in a bowl and ate it, hoping it would poison her. All it did was make her violently ill. The court, however, believed that Ann must be trying to hide information. Suicide was of the Devil, they said. The only reason Satan would encourage a Witch to kill herself was to prevent her from giving a full confession. And so Ann was tortured a fourth time, most severely. She was hoisted in the strappado and her legs were crushed in iron boots. The broken woman confessed further. She had killed a peasant. She brought hail to destroy the crops. She knew many Witches. She had seen the Devil, and he had the feet of a goose.

Finally, the court was satisfied and they sent two priests to hear Ann's final confession before execution. And here, Ann made a terrible error. She was a good Catholic, you see, and couldn't bring herself to lie to her confessor. So when the priest urged her to repent of her Witchcraft, Ann told him that she was innocent. She had only confessed to avoid torture, she told the priest, and she asked him to absolve her for the sin of lying to the court. Instead, the priest reported her words to the judges.

Enraged, the court subjected Ann to a fifth bout of torture, more terrible than any of the others. Ann told them everything they wished to hear and affirmed that her earlier confession had indeed been true. But as they let her down from the strappado for the final time, the Witch made one last request, a plea that struck her judges as odd enough to note in their records. Please, she begged them, do not burn any of the people I named. Ann said she no longer cared if she lived or died; she only prayed God that she would be the last person burned in the land.

On September 20, 1629, Ann Kaserin was beheaded and her lifeless body burned at the stake. Goodwife Muller, an elderly woman accused of Witchcraft, was moved into Ann's cell before she was even dead.

Ann's trial is summarized in Henry Lea's _Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft_, pp. 1137-1140.

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