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Witch trials and gothic horror!

On Thursday 25th April, horror author William Hussey visited The Priory Academy LSST and gave students an insight into the roots of horror writing and the gothic tradition, as well as leading some creative writing workshops.


He staged a mock witch trial with Year 8 in which he played the part of the historical witch finder Matthew Hopkins and some students played the ignorant accusers and the unfortunate accused individual. We learned that in the 17th century the person suspected of practising witchcraft would have undergone horrible tests, and whether they confessed or not were equally unlikely to survive the process. When the audience was invited to vote on the victim’s guilt or innocence, we were asked to put ourselves in the place of superstitious 17th century country folk so most people condemned him. The few who found him innocent were told by the witch finder that they, and their families, would now be under investigation. You really couldn’t win with these witch trials!


Year 10 were treated to a fascinating talk on gothic literature and how novels like ‘The Castle of Otranto’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and ‘Dracula’ chimed with readers’ fear and uncertainty about new ideas and scientific discoveries, particularly Darwin’s theory of evolution, and new social and health problems caused by the industrial revolution. At the end of the talk, some brave volunteers came up on stage and put on silly wigs and disguises to play the parts of Count Dracula and Van Helsing in a quiz to test how well people had been listening.


Author visits always give us something to think about, inspire some creative writing and hopefully will send some students to the Library in search of some of these gothic novels to borrow!