This one is close to my heart. I was a student at the University of Szeged for 5 years, so I had the chance to see the Witches’ Island almost every day. I was never brave to cross the bridge and go there, though.
Szeged is 300 km from the village where I was living at that time, so I could go home every week or even less often – during the exam period, I stayed there for two months without travelling home once. Szeged is a beautiful city and walking by the river to uni every day was the most special experience in my life.
Every day, I walked through the area of the city where the witches used to live and looking at the other side of the river Tisza, I saw the forest area called the Witches’ Island. Even from a distance, it made me very uneasy and it has a very unpleasant vibe. When I was in year 2 of university, we had a course on witchcraft, during which we discussed the Salem witch trials in detail, read all the contemporary court documents, watched photos of torture devices, etc. and as true citizens of Szeged, we had to discuss the Szeged witch trials.
Here’s the story of the Witches’ Island.
The witch trials of Szeged took place in 1728.
More than 300 people were questioned. One of the accused was a midwife who was said to ride cats and broomsticks.
According to the reports, the “captain” of the witches was 82-year-old Daniel Rózsa, former mayor of Szeged. The witches – men and women – had Sabbaths even several hundred kilometres away from Szeged. Novices walked around a goat, kissed his bottom ten times and the goat turned into a man for women or a woman for men. They were also accused of collecting the rain in fabric kerchiefs and selling it to the Turks.
14 people were sentenced to death: 12 were burnt at the stake at a place called Witches’ Island. Four people were burnt on each stake, and their skins were burnt into each other. Three women drowned during the trial by water but their bodies were burnt at the stake anyway. Legend has it that the screams of the victims can still be heard on Witches’ Island.