Neither, we are afraid, is there much reason to doubt that some of the most horrible of their conceptions were founded on facts which were but too real ; that the cunning and the depraved contrived to turn the ecstasies and the fears of these poor wretches to their own purposes; in short, that frauds similar to those which Boccaccio has painted in his novel of the angel Gabriel, were occasionally played off upon the deluded victims. Without entering further on a topic which is rather of a delicate kind, the reader will have an idea of our meaning who recollects the disclosures that took place in the noted French case of Father Girard and La Cadière.
Much has been said as to the wonderful coincidences to be found in the evidence of the accused when examined separately, the minuteness of their details, and the general harmony of the infernal narratives, as collected from the witch trials of different countries. But the truth is that this assertion must in the first place be received with great limitations; for in many cases, where, accepting the assertions of Sprenger and the rest as true, we should suppose the coincidence to be complete, the original confessions which still exist prove that the resemblance was merely general, and that there were radical and irreconcileable differences in the details of the evidence. Inasfar as the assertion is really true, one simple explanation goes far to account for the phenomenon ;-" Insanire parent certa ratione modoque." The general notions of the devil and his demeanour, the rites of the infernal sabbath, etc. being once fixed, the visions which crossed the minds of the unfortunate wretches accused soon assumed a pretty determinate and invariable form ; so that, even if left to tell their own story, there would have been the closest resemblance between the narratives of different persons. But this was not all. In almost every case the confessions were merely the echo of questions put by the inquisitors, all of which again were founded on the demonological creed of the c Malleus/ One set of questions is put to all the witches, and the answers, being almost always simple affirmatives, necessarily correspond. Hence it is amusing enough to observe how different were the results, when the process of investigation fell into the hands of persons to whom Sprenger's manual was unknown. In the Lind-heim trials in 1633, to which we have already alluded, the inquisitor happened to be an old soldier, who had witnessed several campaigns in the Thirty Years War, and who, instead of troubling his head about Incubi, Succubi, and the other favourite subjects of inquiry with the disciples of the Hammer, was onlv anxious to ascertain who was the queen of the infernal spirits, the general, officers, corporals, etc., to all of which he received answers as distinct and satisfactory as any that are recorded for our instruction in the chronicles of Bodinus or Delrio.
* Dapper (Beschreibung von Amsterdam, p. 150) describes her as a melancholy or hypochondriac girl. She was burned however as usual. These rhyming or alliterative charms are of very remote antiquity. Cato, in his treatise on Husbandry, recommends the following formulary for a sprain or fracture : " Huat Hanat, Huat Ista, Pista Sista, Domiabo Damnaustra," or " Mot as Vta, Daries Dardaries, Astataries Dissunapiter".