28th January 1914

Guernsey’s last witch trial takes place

Belief in witches was still so strong in Guernsey, as late as 1914, that one woman – Aimee Lake – found herself before the court charged with witchcraft. She was accused not only of fortune telling and reading tea leaves, but of putting a mortal curse on one of her neighbours.

Lake, who frequently told fortunes and interpreted the dreams of anyone who came to her for insight, never made any charge for her services (donations were accepted). She did charge for remedies, like magic powders to be burnt or buried in the client’s garden to ward off evil spirits, which had led to a few complaints. However, it was only when she spooked Mrs Houtin, a farmer from St Martin, that things came to a head.

Extortion or witchcraft?

Houtin claimed that Lake had put a curse on her, demanding £3 by the end of January. Lake had said that if payment wasn’t received by then, Houtin would die. Naturally, Houtin was in a state, and having complained to both a priest and the harbourmaster at St Sampson, she was reluctant to open her door to the police for fear of who might have been knocking.

Lake initially denied a charge of extortion – until the police found several charms and powders buried in her own garden. Then the witnesses started to talk. One had seen her reading cards, one seen her burning powder and another told to wear a ring to ward off spells.

The powders she dispensed turned out to be baking powder, ground rice and corn starch, but that was not sufficient to see her let off with a warning.

It’s unlikely that such a case would ever come to trial today, and even if it did the charge would be one of menacing and extortion, not witchcraft. But this was 1914, and despite the powders being harmless, Lake was convicted as a witch and sentenced to serve eight days in prison. The court, led by Bailiff William Carey, lamented its inability to send her away for longer.

 

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Other events that occured in January

Alderney elects its first president 1st
Guille and Alles open their library 2nd
Guernsey bans smoking in public places 3rd
Guernsey Press registers its domain 4th
Guernsey Zoo is sold as a going concern 5th
Guernsey opens its wartime files
Guernsey Police moves to its new headquarters 6th
Guernsey Fisher makes its maiden voyage 7th
Work begins on the Val des Terres 8th
A hotel porter goes on trial for murder 9th
Guernsey Police Service appoints its first inspector 10th
Royal theft inquiry heads to Guernsey 11th
Channel Express Airways plane crashes on Guernsey 12th
Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, is born 13th
Channel Television disappears 14th
Benefactor Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx dies 15th
MV Prosperity is wrecked at Perelle 16th
Guernsey’s Royal Court sits for the first time 17th
Doctor Who travels to Guernsey 18th
Channel 4 gameshow Treasure Hunt comes to Guernsey 19th
Hanois Lighthouse is cut off by the weather 20th
Guernsey-built prototype plane crashes 21st
Guernsey Steam Tramway stops running 22nd
Radiant Med sinks with loss of life 23rd
Guernsey wins gold at the Commonwealth Games 24th
Sark is awarded Dark-Sky status 25th
Guernsey passengers are battered by storms 26th
Sir Isaac Newton has his say on a mysterious Guernsey invention 27th
Guernsey’s last witch trial takes place 28th
Guernsey poet George Métivier is born 29th
The States of Guernsey proposes a new airport 30th
Guernsey lifeboat performs a chemical tanker rescue 31st