Remember how you could once easily protect your crops by burning the local witch at the stake? Remember knowing that you were surely safe from the Black Death because you had a lucky charm that guaranteed your continued good health? Of course you don't - no one believes in the supernatural to that extent anymore, right? Well... actually, some do.
In fact, there are people all over the world who meet that description. People who trust their charms, who are convinced their neighbors are wielding black magic, and who think witches and sorcerers are real. A lot of them spend all day watching paranormal reality shows. Read on to learn about some of the supernatural beliefs that still hold sway in today's modern world - and the shocking, avoidable deaths they still cause. Or if you like some of the more realistic paranormal entertainment, take a look at our ranked list of paranormal reality shows.
Man Shot Dead While Trying Out a Bulletproof Spell Amulet
In fall of 2011, Yisa Anifowose of Nigeria acquired an amulet that he believed rendered him bulletproof. Trusting in the charm's magical powers, he asked a friend, John Taju, to shoot at him, believing that the bullets, under the charm's spell, would fall harmlessly away.
"I want you to shoot me as hard as you can."
So like any good friend, John Taju, who has only ever been able to afford one basket for all his eggs, decided to shoot his friend, during this trial run of the amulet, in the chest. Not the foot. Not some part of the upper arm. But the chest. This killed him instantly.
Unfortunately, something must have been wrong with the amulet because somehow the charm was not able to overcome the laws of physics when the bullet hit Anifowose and, surprisingly, killed him.
Even though he fired at Anifowose's request, Taju was arrested afterwards, citing "he told me so" as a poor defense for murder in the first degree.
Unfortunately for both Anifowose and Taju, they hadn't heard of the Ghanaian man who was killed in 2001 when the concoction of herbs a witchdoctor had given him to make him bulletproof failed to stop the test bullet a friend shot at him. Obviously it will take more than a few deaths to deter belief in bulletproof charms, because sometimes it's just kind of hard to accept something so awesome doesn't exist. Kind of like how you still try and move things with your mind every now and then.
But even believers admit there are a lot of fakes on the market and any accidents that have happened while trying to prove that such a thing as a bullet proof spell exists have been attributed to the "unreliable market".
So follow the advice of one believer who suggested that before relying on such a charm for protection, test it on an animal first. Which his actually pretty good advice unless that animal runs away with your amulet/herb/spell.
Woman Runs Out of Money to Give to Chain Letter Senders, Dies
If you truly believe you are dealing with supernatural forces, realizing you won't be able to keep them happy must be a terrifying prospect... which is fine if you live in a tribal culture and that's how you were raised. But c'mon, really? Chain letters? In England?
Most of us throw chain letters in the trash (although at this point, most of us should keep any we get and put them in a museum as relics for a time before spam email forwards), but one superstitious woman in England believed she had to send in the money being requested in the chain letter or risk being exposed to the evil spirits that the chain letters were warding off.
"What? Oh, like, I dunno, $700 should do it."
She got into some pretty bad financial trouble when she was unable to keep up with the monthly "bills" to keep these evil spirits at bay.
When she couldn't come up with the needed funds one month, Rejoice Chishava committed suicide, something the coroner attributed at least in part to Chishava being conned by the "witches" who were contacting her.
The coroner called the witches committing these cons "garbage". He told her husband later "These people were talking witchcraft and your wife was being conned by them. The people who did this were very cruel."
The coroner then, warned people with financial problems to "seek financial guidance from citizens advice rather than from individuals claiming to be witches."
Thank you, friend. Always helpful to bear in mind.
Driven to Suicide by Fake Witches
Invincibility Amulet Sale Causes Stampede Deaths
Another place where charms are popular is Thailand. Jatukam Ramathep amulets were particularly popular in 2007, when some Buddhists relied on them for protection whilst living in Muslim-dominated areas. The amulet was supposed to keep its wearer safe from any violent attack, an unfortunate possibility for the minority Buddhists there - a peaceful people who others like to beat up.
At one point during that year, a desperate crowd of 10,000 people had camped out overnight so as to be able to buy the popular charms the next morning - which means that charms that make you impervious to violence are just a little less popular than iPhones.
On the morning the amulets went on sale, the crowd got out of control and stampeded over a 50-year-old woman, who would have been safer staying at home instead of rushing out to buy a magical charm. Of course, the poor woman was killed before she was able to purchase an amulet, so believers can continue to think that had she gotten her hands on one earlier, by maybe getting in line a few hours before she did, she would've been just fine.
You snooze you lose?
Sorcerer Killed During Overenthusiastic Spell Casting
One 71-year-old believer in black magic found that there are forces beyond his control - gravity.
A sorcerer in Sri Lanka was performing a centuries old ritual that would harness evil forces for a customer of his. He decided to use his full force while completing a part of the spell which called for him stomping on a coconut. As he did this with all his 71-year-old might, he lost balance and ended up impaled on the trident he was wielding, a symbol of Hindu gods.
Apparently he was also drunk at the time, which may have been why he lost his balance. Or it may have been a dark and powerful spell that the magician couldn't overcome.
Too Much Spirit Kills Sorcerer
Supernatural Gurus Killed Due to Poor Results
Have you ever thought of how difficult it must be to keep a small occult business going? Maybe if you watched a lot of "Buffy," you have. Most of us haven't. It actually takes quite a bit. I mean, when's the last time a Spencer's Gifts around you opened?
Besides dealing with the unknown powers of the universe, you have customers who expect the impossible (and customers who are not afraid to act on their displeasure should the impossible fail to materialize).
One 65-year-old witch doctor in India learned this lesson the hard way when two elderly clients and their neighbors, upset that their mental health problems hadn't been healed as the magician had promised, spirited him away from his house and beat him to death in a public park.
There's also a woman in America who can relate how upset those clients got. Tanya Nelson killed her psychic when he failed to produce a love spell that would reunite Nelson with her ex-boyfriend.
Nelson got a hitman to help her commit the crime by promising to get him gay lovers. Which is awesome. I wonder what the conversion rate of gay lovers to murders is.
Disgruntled Followers Kill Witch Doctor
Modern-Day Witch Burning, Killing
The Salem Witch Trials are part of history, but belief in witchcraft lives on all over the world, and purported witches are still being hunted and burned by their families, friends and neighbors - despite how awesome all the Harry Potter books were.
Many Papua New Guineans have been tortured and killed after being accused of witchcraft; Papua New Guinea officially acknowledges magic under its 1976 Sorcery Act. Let that sink in for a moment: 1976. Sorcery Act.
At least the Sorcery Act only condemns practitioners to two years in jail; people who have acted outside the law have burned accused witches alive.
Women in some parts of India may be dragged from their homes and killed if they're accused of witchcraft. Villagers claim they are directed by divine powers to bring down witches - kind of like George W. Bush, only on a slightly smaller scale.
Some pastors in Nigeria claim the same right of divine retribution when they accuse children of witchcraft. The accused are usually tortured and then driven out of their homes, and they may be drowned, buried alive or stabbed to death. The belief that witches are everywhere encompasses the animal kingdom: this spring, a mob in South Africa killed and burned a monkey for witchcraft.
In a real effort to protect and to serve, police officers there helped bring the "witch-monkey" down by shooting at it, therefore saving the world.
Monkey Killed for Being Witch
Indian Villagers Kill Witch
Children Killed as Witches
Suspected Witch Burned Alive
Witch Hunts in Papua New Guinea
The Search for Big Foot
This is how most horror movies start. This, and not my lack of math skills/intellect, is why I will never be a part of a group of traveling scientists.
A team of scientists were coming back from a search for Big Foot in China's Hubei province in 1996 when an accident claimed the life of one of them. Yu Gong was driving the team's truck when it ran into a farmer's tractor.
Although Big Foot is technically not directly responsible for this death, if Yu had not believed he should be out searching for the creature, the accident would never have occurred. At the time the Xinhua news agency called it China's first casualty in the search for the creature. A great loss for science, indeed.
In Ethiopia, if a child is declared to be "mingi," meaning cursed, its life will be sacrificed to stop the cursed child from bringing evil into its village - meaning name calling has a much, much more dire consequence there.
A child might be starved to death or tossed into a crocodile-infested river.
Although the Ethiopian government and aid groups are trying to stop the practice, it's ingrained in the cultural life of many villages, who believe that if they do not get rid of the mingi, rain might stop falling and their cattle will die - which is really pretty brutal. All my parents ever accused me of was ruining their sex lives.
So for now, many people continue to sentence the cursed to death rather than risk the consequences.
Tide Turning against Killing Cursed Infants?