17 Signs That You'd Qualify as a Witch in 1692

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Getty Images

Discover whether you are guilty of maleficium and/or would have been accused of practicing witchcraft according to the laws and evidence used during the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

1. You are female

Are you a woman of any kind? If so, you are probably one of the devil’s many hellbrides. Since the medieval period, “an aspect of the female has been associated with the witch.” For thousands of years, people have believed women to be more susceptible to sins than men, and sinning is a clear indication of devil worship. In Salem, 13 women and five men were convicted of practicing witchcraft, though historically the numbers dramatically favor accused women over men.

2. You are poor/cannot support yourself financially

The poor, homeless, and those forced to rely on the community for support were among the most vulnerable and often accused of witchcraft. Sarah Good, hanged in 1692, was extremely disliked and distrusted by neighbors because she wandered from house to house begging for food.

3. You are rich/financially independent

If you’re a grown woman living this life without any additional support, you probably also have a jar of eye of newt in your pantry. Any indication that a woman could live without the help or supervision of a man raised alarm. She would likely have been isolated from the community—until, of course, she was arrested and put on trial. Between 1620 and 1725, women without brothers or sons to share their inheritance comprised 89 percent of the women executed for witchcraft in New England.

4. You have one or more female friends

A note to all popular teens and the cast of Sex and the City: A group of women congregating without a male chaperone was deemed a “coven meeting to worship the Devil.” Ladies be communing with flirty cosmos and the devil.

5. You have had an argument with one or more of your female friends

Infamous witchfinders like Matthew Hopkins and John Searne inspired such terror in the community that it didn’t take long for women to accuse other women of witchcraft as a way of deflecting their own indictments. According to author Elizabeth Reis, “women were more likely than men to be convinced of this complicity with the devil, and given such convictions about themselves, they could more easily imagine that other women were equally damned.”

Take the case of Rachel Clinton: “Women of worth and quality accused [her] of hunching them with her elbow” when she walked by them at church. Rachel, herself a former woman of “worth and quality,” had a mentally disturbed mother and a late-in-life marriage that caused her to slip to the bottom rung of the class system. Add to that some finger-wagging biddies screaming about an elbow jab and, double double toil and trouble, Rebecca was convicted of witchcraft.

6. You have had an argument or disagreement with someone

The important thing to remember is that anyone could accuse anyone. And they did. If you found yourself accused of practicing witchcraft of any kind by any kind of person, you might as well have been seen flying naked over the moon on a broomstick made out of a cursed lover’s ears.

7. You are very old

Older women, both married and unmarried, were extremely susceptible to accusations. Rebecca Nurse was a 70-year-old invalid when she was accused by disputing neighbors. At 71, she became the oldest woman tried, convicted, and put to death for being a witch.

8. You are very young

Dorothy Goode was only 4 years old when she confessed to being a witch (simultaneously implicating her mother, Sarah, who was hanged in 1692). Dorothy was imprisoned for nine months before her release. The experience left her permanently insane.

9. You are a midwife

Put simply by writer Joel Southern, a midwife’s “age, social and marital status, autonomy, pagan influences, secret knowledge of herbs and most importantly, the vilification of her profession as unclean and demeaning served to demonize the midwife. In short, the midwife represented everything the Church feared.”

10. You are married with too many children

You have an unnaturally fertile womb that can only be the result of a dark magic. Add to that a young couple nearby having a difficult time conceiving, and you are almost certainly stealing would-be babies from them. Because you are a witch.

11. You are married with too few (or no) children

The devil cursed your unholy womb with infertility. Plus, if your neighbors and their six children are suffering in any way, they almost certainly believe the jealous crone living next to them has hexed their home.

12. You have exhibited “stubborn,” “strange,” or “forward behavior"

Let loose any kind of sass or backtalk and ye be a witch, probably. Again, in the trial of Rachel Clinton, her accusers solidified the case against her with the following: “Did she not show the character of an embittered, meddlesome, demanding woman—perhaps in short, the character of a witch? Did she not scold, rail, threaten and fight?”

13. You have a mole, birthmark, or third nipple

Any of these found on the body could be interpreted as the Devil’s mark. This is also where the witch’s familiar—usually a dog, cat, or snake—would attach itself to her to drink her blood. The accused were completely rid of their body hair until some kind of marking was found. Now imagine a tiny puppy guzzling from Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark.

14. Butter or milk has spoiled in your fridge

Several testimonials during the Salem Trials mention spoiled dairy products in connection with the accused. Be honest about the condition of your fridge before you continue.

15. You have had sex out of wedlock

Throw yourself directly into a blue hellfire if this one applies to you. In 1651, Alice Lake of Dorchester was tried as a witch for having “played the harlot, and being with Child.” Her guilt was so intense that she eventually confessed to convening with the devil “through the commission of her sin.” She was hanged that same year.

16. You have attempted to predict the identity of your future husband

Ever daydreamed about your soulmate? Written his name in cursive in your notebook? Then, like Tituba, a slave woman living in Salem, your activities could be construed as witchcraft. Tituba encouraged young girls to predict the identities of their future husbands and became the first woman in Salem accused of practicing the craft. And thanks to dreamy succubi like you, she won’t be the last.

17. You have broken virtually any rule in the Bible and thus entered into a pact with the devil

Here are a handful of rules the Puritans observed. Breaking any could lead to a witchcraft accusation:
-The strict observance of Sabbath, "the training day of military discipline.” This includes no fire, no trading, no traveling, and something called “new showbread In the holy place.” That last one is punishable by death.
-No adultery
-No leading people to other Gods by prophecy or dreams
-No getting raped
-No planting more than one type of seed in a field
-No touching a pig carcass
-No wearing clothing made of more than one kind of cloth or fabric
-No round haircuts
-No braided hair
-And definitely no suffering a witch to live

Did you do any of these things? Then congratulations, you are guilty of practicing witchcraft. You are hellbound, and will likely be hanged, burned, or left to rot in a filthy prison until you die. May the dark shadows cloak you in their wretched embrace. Hail Satan.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock unless otherwise noted.

How Did 6 Feet Become the Standard Grave Depth?

iStock
iStock

It all started with the plague: The origins of “six feet under” come from a 1665 outbreak in England. As the disease swept the country, the mayor of London literally laid down the law about how to deal with the bodies to avoid further infections. Among his specifications—made in “Orders Conceived and Published by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, Concerning the Infection of the Plague”—was that “all the graves shall be at least six feet deep.”

The law eventually fell out of favor both in England and its colonies. Modern American burial laws vary from state to state, though many states simply require a minimum of 18 inches of soil on top of the casket or burial vault (or two feet of soil if the body is not enclosed in anything). Given an 18-inch dirt buffer and the height of the average casket (which appears to be approximately 30 inches), a grave as shallow as four feet would be fine.

A typical modern burial involves a body pumped full of chemical preservatives sealed inside a sturdy metal casket, which is itself sealed inside a steel or cement burial vault. It’s less of a hospitable environment for microbes than the grave used to be. For untypical burials, though—where the body isn’t embalmed, a vault isn’t used, or the casket is wood instead of metal or is foregone entirely—even these less strict burial standards provide a measure of safety and comfort. Without any protection, and subjected to a few years of soil erosion, the bones of the dearly departed could inconveniently and unexpectedly surface or get too close to the living, scaring people and acting as disease vectors. The minimum depth helps keep the dead down where they belong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This article originally appeared in 2012.

11 Famous People Who Once Had Paper Routes

fillyfolly, iStock
fillyfolly, iStock

As publications evolve, so do their methods of distribution. Between the rise of suburbs and the fall of afternoon daily newspapers, many countries teemed with youthful paperboys and papergirls. But thanks to shifting trends, most print media deliverers are now adults. This year, October 13 is International Newspaper Carrier Day, and we're taking a look at some of the most influential people who’ve ever worked a paper route, including a vice president, an astronaut, a supermodel, and the star of Risky Business. "Read all about 'em!"

1. WALT DISNEY

American animator and producer Walt Disney in 1946.
Keystone, Getty Images

"When I was 9, my brother Roy and I were already businessmen," Walt Disney reminisced of his childhood. In July 1911, their father, Elias, acquired a sizable newspaper delivery route from the Kansas City Star. Although this route officially belonged to Roy, Elias took charge of its operation. Together, Walt, Roy, and Elias Disney were responsible for delivering the Star's afternoon and Sunday editions to over 600 customers. And that was only part of the Disney trio's workload: Every morning, they'd dole out around 700 copies of the Kansas City Times.

Disney kept distributing KC newspapers until he was 15 years old. To hit all the houses on his itinerary before school started, the animator-to-be would wake up at 3:30 a.m. and usually work until 6 a.m. He'd then retrace his steps after classes ended. "During the winter months," Disney noted, "it was always dark and bitter cold [in the morning] … many times, I had to plow through three feet of freshly fallen snow, breaking my own path as I went.”

2. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Martin Luther King, Jr talking with someone.
Reg Lancaster, Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Growing up, King earned spending money by working as a paperboy for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He landed the gig with some help from his father and frequently used his newspaper funds to purchase books. At age 13, the future Civil Rights hero became the youngest person to assistant manage one of the AJC's delivery stations. Four years later, King—then a sophomore—wrote a passionate letter to the editor of the same publication condemning the historic mistreatment of African Americans. His father would subsequently write that he had "no intimation of [King, Jr.'s] developing greatness" until the publication of said letter, "which received widespread and favorable comment."

3. JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden giving a speech.
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

America's 47th vice president used a childhood paper route to hone his people skills—and work on his speech mechanics. Biden had a noticeable stutter as a boy (some classmates in a prep school Latin course took to calling him "Joe Impedimenta"). In 1955, his family relocated to Mayfield, Delaware, and Biden got himself a paper route shortly thereafter. The job presented him with a lingual challenge at first. "I lived in dread of Saturday mornings when I had to go collect [money] from people I was just getting to know," Biden has said. To make small talk with his assigned subscribers go smoothly, young Biden "learned to anticipate the conversation to come." Then he'd rehearse some sentences that might prove useful in the discussion.

"My next-door neighbor was a big Yankees fan, and I'd always check the Yankee box score, because I knew he'd ask, and I knew I'd have to say something [about the team] without making a fool of myself," Biden recalled in his autobiography. "I had played out the entire conversation before he opened his front door."

4. EARL "THE PEARL" MONROE

Former professional basketball player Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe in 2015.
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990, Monroe was a prolific scorer who spent 13 seasons in the NBA and helped the New York Knicks win their most recent world championship in 1973. (His number, 15, has been retired by the team and now hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden.) A native Philadelphian, Monroe entered the newspaper carrier game with some parental help. "In junior high, I had a paper route that my mother [Rose] and I built up until it was profitable," wrote Monroe in his autobiography. On deliveries, the teen would often be accompanied by his mom. "[She] did everything to help me when I was growing up," Monroe said. "She really didn't want me being out there by myself."

5. KATHY IRELAND

Model Kathy Ireland at a fashion show in 2018.
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for AHA

Kathy Ireland was one of the most recognizable supermodels of the 1980s, posing for Sports Illustrated on several occasions before launching what turned into a global licensing company valued at $2 billion. Her success in the business world was foreshadowed by a historic newspaper-delivering stint. Ireland was raised in Santa Barbara, California, where—at age 4—she used to sell hand-painted rocks. When she was about 10, an advertisement calling for new paperboys appeared in one of the local newspapers. "Are you the boy for the job?" it asked. Young Ireland responded by writing a pointed letter to the editor. "No, I'm not the boy for the job, I'm the girl for the job, and I can do it just as well as any boy," she declared. "I think I deserve a chance." And she got one: Ireland became Santa Barbara's first-ever papergirl. By the time she retired from that gig, the budding mogul had made 120,000 newspaper deliveries and was voted her district's carrier of the year for three consecutive years.

6. ALAN BEAN

Former astronaut Alan Bean signs his photo in 2006.
David Livingston, Getty Images

As the lunar module pilot of NASA's Apollo 12 mission, the late Alan Bean became the fourth person to walk on the moon in 1969. He also spent 59 days orbiting Earth during a 1973 Skylab excursion and had a celebrated artistic career as well. A Texan by birth, Bean spent much of his youth delivering papers for his hometown Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "My first route was in the early mornings," Bean recalled. "Every day was the same. I pulled myself out of my warm bed and pedaled up and down the dark streets on my bicycle, loaded with folded-up newspapers. It was a lonely job, too—it seemed as if there were no one else in the whole world." Poignant words coming from an astronaut …

7. BOB HOPE

Bob Hope playing golf in England, circa 1965.
Keystone, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Long before he became synonymous with Hollywood road comedies, Leslie Townes "Bob" Hope was helping to support his family as a Cleveland paperboy. He later returned to the job while struggling to break into the entertainment industry. "At 8, I had a paper route. At 12, I worked in my brother's butcher shop. At 18, I was out on the road singing and dancing and at 19, I was back on my paper route," Hope wryly noted.

Selling newspapers from street corners was another revenue stream for the aspiring performer. While working at his stand on 102nd Street in Cleveland, Hope managed to brush shoulders with the highest of high-rollers. "I had one regular customer whose name I didn't know; all I knew was that he snapped his face open and shut like a wrinkled old coin purse," explained the comedian. One day, the mystery patron needed change for a dime, so Hope ran across the street to procure some pennies from a local department store. According to Hope, "When I came back, my customer said, 'Young man, I’m going to give you some advice. If you want to succeed in business, trust nobody. Never give credit and always keep the change on hand. That way, you won't miss any customers while you're going for it."

A few moments later, a passing inspector came up to the stand and asked, "Do you know who that man was?" "No," replied Hope. "He's only the richest man in the world,'" announced the inspector. "That's John D. Rockefeller, Senior."

8. JAMES A. MICHENER

James Michener wearing a flower necklace.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The author of over 40 books which together sold upwards of 75 million copies, Michener is best remembered for Tales of the South Pacific. Inspired by his service in the United States Navy, the novel won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize and was later adapted into the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. But long before his travels, a young Michener was an enthusiastic paperboy from seventh through twelfth grade. Working in his childhood home of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Michener distributed various Philadelphia-based newspapers along five different routes. "I can still remember the residents of certain entire streets that I had served the longest," he wrote in 1992. "My paper routes gave me an insight into the complexity of life in a small town that not many boys acquired."

9. TOM CRUISE

Tom Cruise leaning against a wall.
Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

Raised in a less-than-affluent household, Cruise turned to newspaper-carrying as a means of picking up extra cash. (He also raked lawns and put in some time at an ice cream parlor.) "When I was 13," the actor told Sports Illustrated, "I had a paper route and paid $50 for my first go-cart, $75 for my first motorcycle." To help meet his delivery schedule, Cruise enlisted the aid of his younger sister, Cass. "I always told her I'd pay her back. I bought her a car after Risky Business."

10. WARREN BUFFETT

Warren Buffett giving a talk.
Paul Morigi, Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc

He's the third-richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $91.5 billion, and Buffett's remarkable investment acumen has earned the Nebraskan the nickname "Oracle of Omaha." But the self-made billionaire got his start distributing newspapers on behalf of the Washington Post and other publications. "You had to deliver [them] every day, including Christmas Day," Buffett has said, adding that on Christmas morning, his "family would have to wait until I had done my paper route" before the festivities could start. At age 14, Buffett filed his first tax return, which reported that in 1944 he'd earned the equivalent of $8221 in modern U.S. dollars. And, given the nature of his job, the youngster knew he was able to write off the cost of his watch and various bicycle repairs as business expenses.

11. DAVID LYNCH

David Lynch seated in a large yellow chair.
TIZIANA FABI, AFP/Getty Images

Auteur director David Lynch was so low on personal funds during the production of Eraserhead (1977) that he needed a couple of side hustles to make ends meet. In addition to working a part-time plumbing job, Lynch delivered copies of The Wall Street Journal. "I built three sheds in my back yard during that period," he claims. "They were made out of wood I found on my paper route. My route took me through two different trash areas. On trash nights, my route would take two hours instead of one because I stopped and sorted through the garbage." Hey, everyone needs a hobby.

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