Bridget Cleary was burned as a witch in Clonnel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. In 1894. By her husband.

Cleary's husband, Michael, was obsessed with the idea that his wife had been abducted by fairies and that the current Bridget was, in fact, a changeling.

This suspicion caused Michael Cleary and some of Bridget's other relations to torture her in an effort to uncover the "truth". She was held over the kitchen fire in the belief that setting fire to someone would induce the faries to re-exchange the changeling for the kidnapped "real" individual.

Bridget's screams and insistance that she was not a changeling or a witch convinced all present except Michael. They removed her from the fire immediately.

The next night, while peacefully having a conversation with Bridget, Bridget's father and a neighbor's brother, Michael threw Bridget to the floor and began forcing food into her mouth. Michael believed that fairies would not eat human food. When the guests began to assist Bridget, Michael held a hot fire poker to her mouth and refused to let anyone present leave until the fairies returned his real wife.

After a few minutes of argument, Michael poured lamp oil over Bridget and set her on fire.

The neighbor's brother described the scene like this: She lay writhing and burning in the hearth, and the house was full of smoke and smell...she turned to me and screamed out, "Oh Han, Han".... When I came down Bridget was still lying on the hearth, smoldering and dead. Her legs were blackened and contracted with the fire.... Michale (sic) Cleary screamed out, "She is burning now, but God knows I did not mean to do it. I may thank Jack Dunne for all of it."

Michael's evidence that she was a fairy changeling? She "appeared two inches taller" and was "more refined".

Michael Cleary was convicted (along with six others) of manslaughter and sentenced to twenty years hard labor.


Information thanks to Shantell Powell.

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