Honors Student Explores the Frightening History of Witchcraft and Sleep Disorders

The unknown often brings about a sense of fear: And 500 years ago people awoken by nighttime terrors and intense physical pain sometimes led to accusations of witchcraft as family and community members struggled to explain the symptoms of the afflicted.

In this episode of Speaking of … College of Charleston, CofC’s official podcast, junior Francesca Gibson, a double-major in history and psychology, and Jason Coy, chair of the Department of History whose expertise includes the history of witch-hunts, talk about documented experiences of bewitchment in the 16th and 17th centuries. With funding through a Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grant, Gibson and Coy explored a time in history when people believed in and feared witchcraft. Their research closely examines this fascinating period through the lens of history and psychology. It was a time when someone – usually a woman – could be accused of witchery and then sentenced to death based on the testimony of a member of the community. Digging deep into a myriad of archived sources, like court testimonies, their research reveals the power of the mind to cause sleep disorders, nighttime terrors and physical pain.

Hear all about Francesca Gibson’s spell-binding research project on an episode of the Speaking Of…College of Charleston podcast, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any future stories from around campus.

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