EDINBURGH : Tucked around a corner facing Edinburgh Castle is a modest memorial to accused witches, so unobtrusive that most tourists walk right past on their way to the larger attraction.

Made in 1894, the Witches' Well is the only such such remembrance in town. A plaque shows the profiles of two women, one angry, one mild, and a snake circling them both. Beneath is a small basin that holds a few flowers.

Its size and tone belie what the University of Edinburgh recently demonstrated in a startling project published last month - that Scotland was the focus of an extensive witch-hunting craze from 1550 to 1750.

Its new interactive mapshows for the first time the scale of the panic, when the authorities targeted more than 3,000 people throughout the country, from the largest cities to the most remote  and sparsely populated islands.

The accused were teachers, nurses, domestic workers, tailors, farmers, ministers, coal-miners, mostly female but also male, indicted by men and women alike.

They were imprisoned, tortured with brutal creativity, and in many cases executed. The intensity of the panic rose and fell more than once over these 200 years and, according to scholars, coincided with personal grievances and the state's insistence that all citizens actively promote God's will. And then it stopped.

The map which first appeared in The Scotsman, allows users to geo-locate the accused witches, to see who they were and where they lived. It's a treatment that goes beyond typical data analysis and offers a visceral sense of horror at the number of people affected.

Emma Carroll, a geology and physical geography undergraduate student, spent three months this year researching that information as the project's data and visualization intern. She drew on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, a project that ended in 2003 but still holds a vast amount of data, and other historical resources to pinpoint where each person lived.

''I was quite surprised by the number of accused witches in Edinburgh and West Lothian - there was an extremely high amount of cases in that area,'' Ms. Carroll said.

Things have changed Today, practically anyone, at least in the West, can casually self-identify as a witch. But the terror the two-century long hunt inflicted on people was widespread and very real.

Agnes Hucheon, for example, was found ''half-guilty'' of wirtchcraft in 1505. Her punishment was public humiliation :
She was stripped to the waist, placed in a cart and forced to confess while being driven around town on market day.

Then she was locked in branks, an iron restraint for the face with a sharp gag. Janet Cornfoot was blamed more than a century later for causing a teenager's illness. In 1705 a mob of angry men beat her unconscious and left her for dead; the authorities then revived her so they could crush her to death under a door covered with stones.

Consider living with the knowledge that you could be next.

''People were afraid, and because of this overwhelming female majority, it was probably the women mainly who were afraid,'' said Julian Goodare, a history professor at the University of Edinburgh, the author of ''The European Witch-Hunt'', and co-creator of the witchcraft survey. ''In the most intense periods, it could be just about any woman. And they knew it could be just about any woman.''

The honor and serving of the operational research on Witches and Witchcraft, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Whitney Curry Wimbish.


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