Thirty years before, a similar instance of the progress of the epidemic had taken place at Lille, in the hospital founded by the pious enthusiast Antoinette Bourignon. On entering the schoolroom one day, she imagined that she saw a number of little black children, with wings, flying about the heads of the girls ; and not liking the colour or appearance of these visitors, she warned her pupils to be on their guard. Shortly before this, a girl who had run away from the institution in consequence of being confined for some misdemeanour of which she had been guilty, being interrogated how she had contrived to escape, and not liking probably to disclose the truth, had maintained that she had been liberated by the devil, to whose service she had devoted herself from a child. Nothing more was wanting in that age of diablerie to turn the heads of the poor children ; in the course of six months almost all the girls in the hospital, amounting to more than fifty, had confessed themselves confirmed witches, and admitted the usual intercourse with the devil, the midnight meetings, dances, banquets, etc., which form the staple of the narrative of the time. Their ideal banquets seem to have been on a more liberal scale however than those of the poor Mora witches ; probably because many of the pupils had been accustomed to better fare in a populous and wealthy town in Flanders, than the others in a poor village in Sweden. Exorcisms and prayers of all kinds followed this astounding disclosure. The Capuchins and Jesuits quarrelled, the Capuchins implicitly believing the reality of the possession, the Jesuits doubting it. The parents of the culprit now turned the tables upon poor Bourignon, by accusing her of having bewitched them ; and at last the pious theosophist, after an examination before the Council, was glad to seek safety in flight ; having thus obtained a clearer notion than she formerly possessed of the kingdom of Satan, with regard to which she had entertained and published as many strange fancies as the Bishop of Benevento; and having been taught by her own experience the danger of tampering with youthful minds, in which the train of superstition had been so long laid, that it only required a spark from her overheated brain to kindle it into a flame.
It would appear too that physical causes, and in particular nervous affections of a singular kind, had about this time mingled with and increased the delusion which had taken its rise in these superstitious conceptions of the devil and his influence. During the very year (1669) in which the children at Mora were suffering under convulsions and fainting fits, those in the Orphan Hospital at Hoorn, in Holland, were labouring under a malady exactly similar j but though the phenomena were attributed to diabolical agency, the suspicions of the public fortunately were not directed to any individual in particular. Another instance of the e kind had taken place about a century before in the Orphan Hospital at Amsterdam, of which a particular accoimt is given in Dapper's history of that city, where the number of children supposed to be bewitched amounted to about seventy, and where the evil was attributed to some unhappy old women, before whose houses the affected urchins, when led out into the streets, had been more than usually clamorous. Such also appears to have been the primary cause of the tragedies in New England in 1699; of the demoniac exhibitions at Loudon, which were made a pretext for the murder of the obnoxious Grandier ; of the strange incidents which occurred so late as 1749 in the convent of Unter-zell at Wurtzburg ; and of most of the other more remarkable cases of supposed possession. The mysterious principle of sympathy, operating in weak minds, will in fact be found to be at the root of most of the singular phenomena in the history of witchcraft. No wonder then that after the experience of a century, the judges, and even the ignorant public themselves, came at last to suspect that, however the principle might apply to other crimes, the confession of the criminal was not, in cases of witchcraft, the best evidence of the fact. In the New England cases, says Mr. Calef (April 25, 1693), "one was tried that confessed; but they were now so well taught what weight to lay upon confessions, that the jury brought her in not guilty, although she confessed she was".