paranormal · Witches

Helen Duncan, The Last Witch In Britain

Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan was a Scottish Medium who was born on the 25th of November 1897 in Callander, Perthshire, Scotland. She is famously known as the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.

Portrait_of_Helen_Duncan

Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan was born in 1897

During her early life at school, Helen would often scare many of her fellow pupils by revealing dire prophecies and often displaying hysterical behaviour. Upon leaving school she worked at the Royal Dundee Infirmary, and in 1916 she met and finally married her husband Henry Duncan, a cabinet maker and wounded war veteran. Henry was very supportive of Helen’s supposed supernatural talents, and in 1926 she took the next step in her spiritual development and moved from clairvoyance to mediumship.

Offering seances, Helen claimed she could summon the spirits of the deceased by spewing out ectoplasm from her mouth.

Helen_Duncan_fake_ectoplasm

In 1928 photographer Harvey Metcalfe attended a series of Duncan’s seances where it was proven that Helen was a fraud. In 1931, the London Spiritualist Alliance examined Duncan’s methods of spewing up ectoplasm. Tests revealed that the ectoplasm was nothing more than the white of an egg mixed with toilet paper.

In November 1941 during WW2, Duncan held a seance in Portsmouth, England. She claimed that the spirit of a lost sailor told her that HMS Barham had been sunk. The sinking of Barham was only revealed to relatives of the casualties and it wasn’t disclosed to the public until late January 1942, and because of this the Navy started to take a genuine interest in her work, until everything was later proven to be fake and she was finally arrested.

In 1944, Duncan was one of the last people to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which made falsely claiming to conjure up spirits a crime. Sentenced to nine months in prison.

Once released in 1945, Duncan promised to stop conducting seances, but she was arrested again whilst performing one in 1956. She died at her home in Edinburgh on the 6th of December, 1956, aged 59 years.

Since her death descendants and supporters of Duncan have campaigned on several occasions to have her totally pardoned of all her Witchcraft crimes and charges. Scottish Parliament have continuously rejected these petitions most recently in 2001, 2008, and 2012.

There is even a website maintained by Duncan supporters who are still fighting for her full pardon, you can view the site here.

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