Walton, Charles (1871-1945)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
On Wednesday, February 14, 1945, Charles Walton was ritually murdered by having a pitchfork driven through his throat into the ground and a cross slashed into his torso with a bill-hook. This became known as "The Witchcraft Murder," even though there was no direct evidence that it was related to Witchcraft. It was thoroughly investigated by the then-famous "Fabian of the Yard," Detective Superintendent Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard, but the murder was never solved.
Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, is not far from Stratford-on-Avon and only two miles away from the ancient Rollright Stones. Walton was a casual laborer in the village who kept very much to himself, living alone with his niece Edith. He had a reputation as a Hedge Witch, able to foresee the future and talk to the birds and animals. He was also reputed to have a team of walking toads (natterjacks) that could pull a miniature plow.
On Wednesday, February 14—St. Valentine's Day and the eve of the Feast of the Lupercal on the Roman calender, as well as the date on which the Druids allegedly performed their sacrifices—Walton took his bill-hook and went to trim hedgerows on Meon Hill for a local farmer. The farmer claimed that he had seen Walton hard at work around midday, but Walton did not return home that evening. When his niece and the farmer went in search of him, they found his body lying under a willow tree. A pitchfork had been driven through his throat with tremendous force, embedding six or eight inches into the ground. The bill-hook had been used to carve a large cross on Walton's upper body and then stabbed into his ribs.
Legend has it that, as a boy, Walton saw a large black dog on Meon Hill for three nights in a row. On the third night the dog changed into a headless woman, and the following morning Walton's sister died. This incident made a deep impression on Walton, and from then on he became very much a recluse. At the time of the murder, a large black dog was found hanging from a tree, not far from Walton's body. Detective Fabian later saw another large black dog being chased by a farmhand, but when he queried the farmhand the man denied any knowledge of the animal. Shortly afterward a police car ran over a black dog.
Despite taking four thousand statements and examining twenty-nine pieces of clothing as well as hair and blood samples, Scotland Yard was unable to find a suspect. The villagers were not forthcoming with information, and it was obvious that Walton was not well-liked. Some speculated that he was a witch, or into black magic, and that he was responsible for the poor crops in the area. Because of the large walking (not hopping) toads that Walton kept, some people drew parallels with the case of Issobel Gowdie, one of the Auldearne Scottish Witches who, in
1662, spoke of having toads (or "Paddokis") draw a plow, a magical charm believed to bring about the failure of crops.
Walton's murder seemed to copy another murder that took place seventy years before, in 1875, less than two miles from Lower Quinton. In this case a mentally retarded man named John Haywood accused an old woman, Ann Tenant, of bewitching him; he killed her, pinning her to the ground with a pitchfork through her throat and carving a cross on her chest with a bill-hook.
A folk belief said that bleeding a witch so that the blood seeped into the ground would neutralize any evil he or she had done. This seems to have been the intent in Charles Walton's death. No one was ever charged in the crime, and the murder remains unsolved.