Witness to Witchcraft

Many paperbacks churned out to capitalize on the “Satanic Panic” of the 1960s and 1970s (as opposed to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s) share similar formats. Some proclaim themselves to be hidden looks into the occult counterculture. Many of these works play up the sex, drugs, and violence that lurks just out of sight of respectable people. Others are collections of anecdotal information and shoddy research, reprinting material—often with additional sensationalism added—designed to titillate, horrify, and entertain the reader in exchange for the 75 cents they spent on the book.

Witness to Witchcraft by Charles Lefebure (Ace Publishing Corporation, 1970) is one of the latter types. It is essentially a collection of essays and anecdotes pertaining to black magic, witchcraft, and Voodoo, many of which are attributed to insiders into the occult world (but like many of the hexploitation paperbacks, offer no way to verify the information these knowledgeable insiders possess—or even if they actually exist). Each essay or anecdotes runs around six to 12 pages, with a few longer pieces thrown in whenever Lefebure can find or create enough material to pad out a subject.

The book’s table of contents informs us we can expect to find information on such matters as “The Evil Powers that Surround Us,” a brief and broad overview on black magic and Satanism in the UK; “The Witches of the Basques,” which is exactly what is says on the tin and is one of the better essays in the book; “Their Faith is the Old Religion,” which is about modern witchcraft in Britain featuring interviews with practicing witches; “Australia’s Satanic Temple,” an article on Dorothy Warden, Australia’s premiere Satanist (whom I can find no mention of anywhere on the internet); plus the usual run of essays examining Voodoo, African religion, and Mexican witches steeped in the usual blend of the era’s racism under titles like “The Crocodile Man,” “The  Bruja’s Dead Doll,” and “Witches Go To War”—all of which emphasize the “otherness” of religious practices in non-European cultures. One of the remaining essays, “The Witch of Kilkenny” reads more like an abandoned short story than anything possessing journalistic integrity.

Much like the witnesses Lefebure gains his information from, I can’t find any information on the writer online aside from the titles he penned, all of which are in the same hexploitation genre and include The Blood Cults and Daughters of the Devil in addition to Witness to Witchcraft, and seem to be the same “essays and anecdotes” format. Lefebure might exist or might be an Ace book pen name, but, given the quality of the Witness to Witchcraft (even the cover is bland for a hexploitation paperback), it’s frankly not worth the effort of tracking down the truth. Why put any more effort into this book than Lefebure did, after all?

Despite the cover blurb with proclaims “Incredible true stories of Witchcraft, sex rituals, and macabre Black Magic murders—and people who have a pact with the Devil”, Witness to Witchcraft is pretty humdrum. As noted above, the essay on Basque witches is the most informative one, largely because it provides some folklore about black magic and Satanism I’ve not seen elsewhere. For example, among the Basques, it’s believed that is someone makes a pact with the Devil, Lucifer gives that person a mark which appears as the spot in the shape of a toad in the individual’s eye. However, one good chapter does not a book make and all the information and entertainment to be found within Witness to Witchcraft’s pages can be found in other, better hexploitation paperbacks. Seek those out instead.

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