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Witchcraft in Illinois – Author Preview

A preview of my new book Witchcraft in Illinois: A Cultural History.

Witchcraft in Illinois Teaser Video

Witchcraft in Illinois is Now Available!

After over seven years of writing, editing, and researching, my book on the history of witchcraft in Illinois is finally available on Amazon.com (coming soon to a store near you)! It is 192 pages with 37 rarely-seen images.

Although Illinois saw no dramatic witch trials, witchcraft has been a part of Illinois history and culture from French exploration to the present day.

On the Illinois frontier, pioneers pressed silver dimes into musket balls to ward off witches, while farmers dutifully erected fence posts according to phases of the moon.

In 1904, the quiet town of Quincy was shocked to learn of Bessie Bement’s suicide, after the young woman sought help from a witch doctor to break a hex.

In turn-of-the-century Chicago, Lauron William de Laurence’s occult publishing house churned out manuals for performing bizarre rituals intended to attract love and exact revenge.

For the first time in print, Michael Kleen presents the full story of the Prairie State’s dalliance with the dark arts.

With a foreword by Owen Davies, Professor of Social History, University of Hertfordshire. Author of America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft after Salem (2013).

The paperback sells for $21.99 and the Kindle edition sells for $12.99. Order today!

Witchcraft in Illinois Available Sept 18

Just a few days remain before my new book Witchcraft in Illinois: A Cultural History officially goes on sale Monday, September 18. The paperback sells for $21.99 and the Kindle edition sells for $12.99. I don’t have a copy to show you yet, but the interior is beautifully designed, with 37 rarely-seen images.

Here are the ten most interesting highlights from the book:

  • This is the first and only book to examine the subject of witchcraft in Illinois.
  • It fills a large gap in the understanding of witchcraft as it relates to Illinois history.
  • It examines little-known or forgotten episodes and events in Illinois history.
  • It contains primary sources that have never been seen in print.
  • It reveals the truth behind Illinois’ oldest tale of witchcraft—the execution of two French slaves in 1779.
  • It shows the connection between witch beliefs in Illinois and those in early modern Europe.
  • It shows how witch beliefs have always been a part of Illinois history, from the frontier to the present day.
  • It shows how witch beliefs proliferated in both rural areas and cities like Chicago and its suburbs.
  • It examines not simply cases of witchcraft, but also superstitions and beliefs about witches and folk magic.
  • It reveals the startling fact that witch doctors practiced alongside modern medicine in Illinois well into the 1920s.

You can still Pre-order the book before September 18th.

Witchcraft in Illinois Available for Pre-Order

After over seven years of writing, editing, and researching, my book on the history of witchcraft in Illinois is finally available for preorder on Amazon.com!

Although Illinois saw no dramatic witch trials, witchcraft has been a part of Illinois history and culture from French exploration to the present day.

On the Illinois frontier, pioneers pressed silver dimes into musket balls to ward off witches, while farmers dutifully erected fence posts according to phases of the moon.

In 1904, the quiet town of Quincy was shocked to learn of Bessie Bement’s suicide, after the young woman sought help from a witch doctor to break a hex.

In turn-of-the-century Chicago, Lauron William de Laurence’s occult publishing house churned out manuals for performing bizarre rituals intended to attract love and exact revenge.

For the first time in print, Michael Kleen presents the full story of the Prairie State’s dalliance with the dark arts.

With a foreword by Owen Davies, Professor of Social History, University of Hertfordshire. Author of America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft after Salem (2013).

Witchcraft in Illinois: A Cultural History will be released by The History Press on September 18. Pre-order today!

The Great Cat Massacre and other Episodes in French Cultural History

In The Great Cat Massacre: and other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984), historian Robert Darton attempted to reconstruct and understand the mental world of early modern French peasants through their folktales. He began with the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” as told around firesides in peasant cottages during long winter evenings in eighteenth-century France. It’s a little different than the version you may have been told. The story went as follows:

A young girl was instructed to bring some milk and bread to her grandmother’s house. While walking down a path through the woods, a wolf stopped her and asked her where she was going. She told him, and the wolf took off down a second path. The wolf, “arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her nightclothes and waited in bed…”

When the young girl arrived, the wolf (disguised as her grandmother) offered her meat and wine from the pantry. “So the little girl ate what she was offered; and as she did, a little cat said, ‘Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!’ Then the wolf said, ‘Undress and get into bed with me.’”

After a prolonged scene in which the young girl is instructed to undress and toss her clothes into the fire, the conclusion proceeds in the now familiar manner until, at the very end, the wolf eats the girl. No hunter comes to her rescue in the original version.

The version as we know it today, according to Darton, was taken by the Grimm brothers from Charles Perrault, a popular writer at the turn of the seventeenth century, who changed the stories to suit the tastes of the Paris elites. The ending we are familiar with, in which the hunter rescues Little Red and kills the wolf, was added by Jeannette Hassenpflug, the Grimm’s neighbor, from a popular German story “The Wolf and the Kids.”

Through an examination of folktales like “Little Red Riding Hood”, Darton hoped to unlock the mentalité of the French peasant during that time period. “Folktales are historical documents,” he argued. “They have evolved over many centuries and have taken different turns in different cultural traditions… they suggest that mentalités themselves have changed. We can appreciate the distance between our mental world and that of our ancestors if we imagine lulling a child of our own to sleep with the primitive peasant version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’”

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