Northern Ireland

Ireland's last witch trial brought to life in graphic novel

The project was led by Dr Andrew Sneddon and Dr Victoria McCollum
The project was led by Dr Andrew Sneddon and Dr Victoria McCollum

IRELAND’S last witch trial has been brought to life in a new graphic novel by a team of academics and students from Ulster University.

It recalls the 18th century story of the Islandmagee witches when eight women and one man were accused of demonically possessing and magically tormenting a young girl.

The events of 1711 were to be Ireland’s last witch trial - a significant social, political and religious moment in history.

But now the UU team, led by Dr Andrew Sneddon and Dr Victoria McCollum, have turned the story into a novel format, with an accompanying interactive website, video game, original score and virtual reality experience.

The project, illustrated by Derry artist David Campbell, aims to bring historical events to a wider audience, using techniques spanning UU's expertise in history, game design, cinematic arts, music, drama and interactive media.

It aims to bring "an important part of Ireland’s cultural heritage to life while also commemorating the eight women and one man accused of witchcraft".

Dr Sneddon said: "There are many reasons why Mary Dunbar accused the Islandmagee witches of bewitching and demonically possessing her: medical, psychological or fabrication.

"Our project brings her accusations - and their impact on the accused graphically to life, reminding us of the original origin of the term 'witch hunt'."

Dr McCollum added that the novel "showcases the importance of visual arts and how it complements the understanding, commemorating and recording of historical events".

"We decided that a visual verbal format could enrich the public’s understanding of individuals weighed down and destroyed by the past: the graphic novel is well placed to open our eyes to erased chapters from our past," she said.