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  • Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches October 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    mccormick murder by witchcraft

    In 1968 Donald McCormick published  Murder by Witchcraft (Arrow Books), it was one of about forty books that he wrote (under his own name or that of ‘Richard Deacon’) and it was, like many, perhaps all of the others, shot through with falsehoods and lies. Beach has examined Donald’s porkies on Jack the Ripper and on Madoc elsewhere.

    Murder by Witchcraft was an investigation of the murder, in 1945, of Charles Walton at Lower Quinton: there is an attempt on Wikipedia to give some background to what happened to this unfortunate man. DM argued in his book that Walton had been killed as a witchcraft sacrifice. DM was not, it should be noted, original in this. Robert Fabian had investigated the killing and then suggested a witchcraft angle in his Fabian of the Yard in 1950: this is apparently the first time that the allegation emerged in print.

    The purpose of this note is not to argue about whether Charles Walton was or was not killed by a coven: the short answer is ‘of course, not’. It is rather to look again at Donald McCormick’s way of working and to warn off anyone who should be unlucky enough to pick up Murder: or much more likely come across a reference in authoritative guides, guides that have accidentally given DM a veneer of seriousness.

    Some examples: Rosemary Guiley in her Encyclopedia of Witches quotes DM (361) in her entry on Charles Walton. Ronald Hutton in his excellent The Triumph of the Moon looks at DM’s description of Margaret Murray in the village. References have trickled down from works like these: or worse still ‘facts’ from the book have been recycled without any reference to DM, a bottle of poison losing its label. A fine example of this is DM’s claims over Margaret Murray. In 1950 the famous ‘witch’ professor disguised herself as an artist and went to visit the killing place and talked to the locals. She discovered there that the villagers were hiding evidence of the witch coven and she also connected witch murders with others, including the deaths and sexual abuse of children.

    Now part of this evidence is to be taken very seriously as it appeared in an interview in the Birmingham Post 2 Sept 1950. But the details from the private meeting (ha!) between Murray and McCormick are more suspect. So obviously we have to separate out the interview in a Birmingham newspapr, for which we at least have evidence, and the meeting that was almost certainly invented. NO, Innocent one! You have fallen into the McCormick trap! Yes, you should dismiss the meeting between Murray and McCormick, but, in fact, the interview does not exist either. Ronald Hutton notes in his book ‘I have been unable to find [the interview] in that issue [of the newspaper]; the date may have been misprinted in his book, or the copy which I obtained may have been incomplete’ (445).

    In fact, Ronald Hutton’s fine historical nose was twitching: perhaps a good historian should be defined as one who smells something fishy when reading McCormick’s works. RH is defensive while discussing the passage and writes afterwards that ‘the only reason for caution in accepting it is the lack of corroborative evidence’, which sounds like a polite exclamation mark for the discerning reader. But even if DM is berated, his ‘evidence’ lives on. Few writers on Charles Walton respect DM. But the idea that Margaret Murray pronounced on Charles Walton is quoted by friends and foes alike. In fact, the only evidence that Murray even knew the name ‘Charles Walton’ seems to be a made up article in a Midlands newspaper.

    The key to understanding Margaret Murray’s presence in DM’s book is her death date: 1963. In other words she was not around to complain when Murder by Witchcraft came out three years later. DM was able, then, as he had done in countless other fields, to weave a good story from truth and invention. (Note that the famous Bella in the Witch Elm case depends on his evidence in this book too: many other posts many other days.) The only way to deal with DM is go after him book by book. Each work needs a page somewhere on the internet: (i) demolishing his credibility; (ii) pointing to the myths invented by the book; and (iii) briefly tracing where these myths have got us to. Here are three of Beach’s favourite external discussions. Donald, you should be ashamed of yourself!

    Ian Fleming



    Other McCormick lies: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com