According to the Indo-Asian News Service, 4000 people were killed by witchcraft in the UK, Ireland and Australia between 1999-2003. My first thought on reading the article was that this rate – 1000 witchy deaths per year – seemed rather high, so I thought I’d do some analysis.
For the sake of comparison, I’m assuming that the deaths are spread evenly between the three countries by population, meaning the UK sees 720 witchy deaths a year. I’m also assuming that all witchy deaths are inflicted via injury and poisoning, since a witch who merely inflicted death by natural causes would be not only tedious but hard to detect.
The National Statistics Office says that the total number of deaths inflicted by accidental or deliberate injury or poisoning in 1998 (the most recent year with full data available) was 62,670, or 1.04 deaths per 1000 people. So witchy deaths make up barely 1.1% of the total pool: already, it seems more plausible…
Out of these deaths, 3614 were from suicide. If it counts as a legitimate witchy death when a witch induces you to top yourself, we seem to have an entirely plausible scenario here: only 20% of suicide deaths are witch-induced, which is surely lower than the number of suicides that entirely perplex the perpetrator/victim’s friends and family. “But he had everything to live for”, they say. Indeed he did – until he was killed by a witch.
However, I imagine the National Statistics Officers know better than to be fooled by the agents of darkness; I’m sure ‘suicide’ scenes are regularly inspected for telltale signs of dark magik. But there are some other promising areas where these witchy deaths could go instead.
For one, the higher homicide rate in the second half of the 20th century (from 1900-1950, the annual average was 243; from 1951-1998, the average was 323) is highly likely to be due to witchery: laws against witchcraft were repealed in 1951, and the death rate rose almost immediately. What better example could their be of the terrible toll on the British people of misguided post-war do-gooding? However, these 80 deaths a year barely account for a tenth of the full witchy death toll.
No, the majority of those killed by powers unknown are accounted for under a special code that could almost have been devised for the purpose: ‘injury undetermined whether accidentally or purposely inflicted’. 1933 unfortunates met their end this way in 1998 – and it seems highly likely that 640 of them were victims of witchcraft.
The remaining 1293 will have been killed by diverse causes including but not limited to warlocks, wolverines, orcs, dragons, and being dragged directly to hell by Satan’s agents.
I’m sure my readers agree that the only possible solution to this terrible witch problem is to reintroduce proper, proportionate punishment. As CS Lewis says, “if anyone deserved the death penalty, then [it’s] these filthy quislings…”
(thanks to Josh Chafetz for info on witchy laws).