There is a fungus which grows on cereals, particularly Rye and more particularly in damp and warm weather conditions.
It feeds on the host grain, turning it black and spur-shaped.
Chemically related to LSD, it can produce similar effects in the body once ingested - hallucinations, convulsions and a sense that the skin is being pricked all over (this is due to reduced blood flow).
The parasitic fungus is called Ergot.

Those suffering from bewitchement, in the infamous Salem Witch Trials and in England in previous years, exhibited all these symptoms and research strongly suggests that they were in fact victims of Ergot Poisoning.

At that time, even those doctors who were sceptical of Witchcraft, were left with no alternative other than to assume the writhing hallucinating victims were possessed.
There is, however a body of evidence to suggest otherwise:

  • Adults, children and animals (mainly dogs and cows) in Salem were affected by the symptoms.
  • This is consistent with the cause being in the food source.
  • The inhabitants of Salem ate Rye, which is the most likely host for Ergot.
  • The Rye crop in the year before the outbreak of Witchcraft was grown in exactly the right conditions to encourage Ergot, and the crop, which the effected inhabitants ate, was grown in Marshland.
  • The people of Salem carried out a test - soaking a piece of bread in a suspected witch's urine and feeding it to a dog. The dog became possessed - seemingly due to the Witches bodily fluids - but it would have been more likely due to the contaminated bread.

So, the protestations of innocence of those who were persecuted, and ultimately executed for Witchcraft, are likely to have been quite true. Their "victims" were not possessed at all, just tripping.

Events with striking similarity to the Salem Witch Trials have occured periodically throughout history.

In a bog in England, a preserved body was found. The victim was a middle-aged man. His throat was slashed from ear to ear, and his skull was cracked wide open. In his stomach were high contents of Ergot, and grain. Update: It is theorized that this man got ergot poisoning, and showed all the symptoms, causing his midievel companions to kill him, for fear the the devil had consumed his body.

Early in the century, in France a town was rocked by a stange illness. Footage from the village, recorded by scientists from all over Europe, shows one victim of this illness convulsing so strongly that to grown men had to hold her down. One woman claimed to have been chased by bears and snakes in her room. She leapt from her hospital window, only to survive, and die later of poison. One first hand account from a young woman: "There's a snake in my bed!" She also claimed to have seen tigers, and bears, and her walls dripped with blood.

In another first hand account, a dog was fed a piece of bread. Not long afterward, the dog began "running in ever-widening circles. And bent to the ground and gnashed at rocks. And this caused it to break it's teeth, and it kept gnashing at rocks. And it died, blood caked around it's mouth." At the Salem Trials, a piece of bread was fed to a dog, and the dog reacted in the same way. That dog spawned the Witch Trials. The illness in the town in France was traced back to a bakery, and the bread sold there had been contaminated with Ergot.

Everything accounted in France, early in the century, exactly parallels all accounts from the Salem Witch Trials.

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