Arizona January 26, 2017
Most People Don’t Know A Witch Trial Took Place Right Here In Arizona
What images come to mind when you think of witches? Perhaps misty evenings, black cats, green skin, and a hooked nose? What about where witches live? It seems that in American history, witches tend to be remembered only in Salem, Massachusetts. However, did you know Arizona had its own small witch trial? That’s right and it even happened in the not-too-distant past.
First, let’s confront the fact that this witch trial took place not in a tiny, podunk town on the fringes of Arizona but in the middle of a bustling city: Tucson.
On the north side of town, at Flowing Wells High School, to be exact.
The events began with students at the high school attending a guest lecture about folklore, which happened to include a brief discussion about witches and their perceived appearances.
According to the lecturer, Dr. Byrd Granger, witches had physical attributes that looked more like Samantha from
Bewitched than the Wicked Witch of the West. It was also especially similar to one particular teacher at Flowing Wells.
This teacher right here. Ann Stewart was an English instructor at the high school with strikingly similar similarities with the description: blond hair, a widow’s peak, a pointed left ear, and a penchant for wearing bright green.
It was something that embarrassed her for a moment and that her
students teased her about
for. While Stewart didn’t deny she was a witch, she also didn’t admit if she was, stating that, “I like to get the kids involved…we delve into early American folklore and witchcraft. It was good fun and it stimulated them.”
At the end of the school year, Stewart gave a folklore presentation to future freshman while dressed as a witch. When those students returned as freshmen in the fall, many of them continued the playful witch-teasing but it soon grew out of hand as it grew into rumors that Stewart was indeed a member of the occult and even encouraging students to learn about witchcraft. It's possible that parents also became concerned but newspapers of the time make no mention of this.
By the end of that fall semester, Stewart was suspended from her teaching position for allegedly teaching witchcraft and telling students she was a witch, which school officials claimed damaged psychologically damaged the students.
There were a handful of other charges related to her teaching topics and influence on students and fellow teachers but the witchcraft charge is the one that really stuck. This made national news and even led to Stewart becoming isolated from the community; friends and neighbors dropped their associations and she even started receiving anonymous letters accusing her of being a witch.
By March 1971, just four months after her suspension, Stewart was fired from the school after a final hearing.
Stewart, however, filed a lawsuit against the school board and the judge sided in her case. She was ordered to be re-hired by the district at the end of the year. It seems like the school board did not get the memo, though; by February 1972 Stewart
still had yet to be re-hired by the district
and the witch label started to follow her into a new profession as a real estate agent.
Unfortunately, her story ends there. There are no other papers that report updates if Stewart was ever able to regain a teaching position, how her real estate career worked out, or how long it took for the community to forget her supposed witchy ways.
That was pretty crazy, huh? What other strange events do you know of that have taken place here in Arizona?
If you want to read about another little-known event in Arizona history, I would suggest reading about the Camp Grant Massacre in
This Place In Arizona Has A Dark And Evil History That Will Never Be Forgotten.