Scientists recreate the face of an accused Scottish witch

Just about everyone knows what the Salem Witch Trials, held in Salem, Massachusetts, during the 1690s were. Although at that time, Connecticut was “winding down” it’s persecution of “known” witches, Salem is known for its intensive history of putting women accused as being “witches” to death. Worse, those responsible for the Salem Witch Trials sentenced these women to death in a manner that made it impossible for them to prove their innocence without dying a horrible death – they were burned alive. After hundreds of years, we can finally see the face of one woman put to death known as Lilias Aldie.

Colloquially known as “Witch City,” Salem. Connecticut, in which those who were accused of practicing witchcraft were put to death, it is now home to tourists, especially during Halloween. Halloween is the holiday during which Salem officials accused women of and later punished for practicing witchcraft. As a result, became a major venue for activity during Halloween that year. The anticipation each October had a “significant track record of witch trials and executions, and “was already winding down its half-century of persecution.

Just recently, experts identified the 18th-century woman from Scotland as the:

“…[Only] Colonial American place other than Salem with a significant track record of witch trials and executions.”

scottish witch face
Image via YouTube Video

According to the legend, by the time the Salem witch trials happened in March of 1692 in Connecticut, they were already winding down their half-century of persecution in Hartford.

At the time, John and Bethia Kelly mourned their eight-year-old daughter, who is said to have been “fine just days before when she returned home with a neighbor.” This neighbor was later identified as Goodwife Ayres.

Bethia’s parents took her death hard. According to the report, Bethia’s parents said that Ayres choked her, among other actions she allegedly took against the child.

Fast forward to more recent times and Scottish officials who want to determine what exactly happened to Adie and her missing skull. Researchers determined that those who were declared as witches were actually “innocent victims.” The Scottish officials say they want to divert energy and time from the “fun witch” most often associated with Halloween and direct it instead to teaching the “historic gender bias” that has been, “in the name of witch hunting.”

Recently identified as Scottish, Lilias Adie lived in Torryburn, and allegedly confessed to crimes such as “having sex with Satan.”

In all, records show that about 3,500 Scottish women were accused of being witches and executed between 1560 and 1727. While those are the “official” numbers, researchers believe that “as many as 6,000 were killed [in Scotland.]”

Scottish witch skull
Image via YouTube Video

According to the report, Adie:

“…died in prison in 1704 before she could be burned at the stake, possibly as the result of suicide.”

Adie was “in her sixties” at the time of her death. Locals were so worried that she’d reanimate that they buried her remains underneath a stone so she couldn’t rise again. Nevertheless, curio hunters exhumed her skeleton in 1852 and Adie’s skull eventually found its way to St. Andrew’s Museum.   But it later disappeared in 1904 – as did Adie’s remains — but not before researchers at the museum got detailed photos of the skull.

Christopher Rynn, a forensic artist from the University of Dundee, Scotland, used modern technology to take those skull photographs and recreate Adie’s face at the University of Dundee, Scotland. He used “state-of-the-art 3D virtual modeling software,” to give life to the photos, reconstructing “up to the skin layer.” According to the report:

“When the reconstruction is up to the skin layer, it’s a bit like meeting somebody and they begin to remind you of people you know, as you’re tweaking the facial expression and adding photographic textures.”

Rynn said that Adie’s history gave way to the thought that she was a “victim of horrible circumstances,” but the science eventually led to him to constructing her to “have quite a kind face.”

Usually, it’s practically impossible to unearth the identities of those who were burned at the stake, since fire ruins a persons’ skeleton beyond recognition. But Adie’s face is a bit different, as Rynn was able to use the photographs he found that were taken before thieves stole the skull from the St. Andrews University Museum to reconstruct Adie’s skull.

adie muscle layer
Image via YouTube Video

The team exhuming Adie’s remains wants the public and history to move on from the accusations – especially those that stem from Scotland – as an “injustice served upon them.”

As a result of the research, Louise Teoman, from the Scotland Time Travels radio show on the BBC, asked whether researchers could make a “digital reconstruction” of the skull simply from pictures. Rynn was able to make it happen using virtual 3D sculptures and forensic facial reconstructions. Rynn said of the reconstruction that because nothing in Adie’s story indicated she was anything other than a “victim of horrible circumstances,” he had no reason to create her face as angry. In fact, he noted, the had “quite a kind face, quite naturally.”

Nevertheless, local scientists and residents buried Adie “underneath a large stone,” hoping that she wouldn’t come back to “haunt them.”

adie witch face reconstructed
Image via YouTube Video

During questioning, Adie reportedly didn’t expose anyone who may have been “guilty” of witchcraft. According to historian Louise Yeoman:

“Lilias said that she couldn’t give the names of other women at the witches’ gatherings as they were masked like gentlewomen.”

Of those Adie did report, the names were familiar to most of the townsfolk, meaning that those named would be treated the same as she was – either as witches or  as “monsters.” According to reports, Adie confessed to being a witch, but only after she was deprived of sleep and “treated roughly.”

About 3,500 women were executed in the late 1500s to early 1800s, but after they burned, many of them were declared innocent of the charges, including Adie.

Watch how the scientists reconstructed Adie’s face here:

Featured Image via YouTube Video


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