Saturday, October 7, 2023

Witches in Duluth? The Devil you say...

Written By Jim Heffernan for the DuluthNewsTribune/10-7-23

You hear a lot about witch hunts these days. Yikes! Scary!


Haven’t we got enough to worry about without adding witches to our daily concerns like famine, war, conquest and death (see Bible)? But there they are. Even in politics. Especially in politics.


Witches have been around for a long time. I remember a few who were teaching school when I was a young pupil, but they didn’t have pointy noses or wear wide-brimmed black hats or fly around on brooms. Well, one of them might have.


It seems strange to be hearing about witch hunts in the 21st century. Back in the late 17th century it was not at all healthy for a woman to be suspected of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, as history buffs will tell you. (Side note: One of the great perils of writing for publication is spelling Massachusetts.)


But if there are going to be witch hunts today, shouldn’t there be some governmental rules regulating them? You shouldn’t be able to just go out and hunt them without a license. And should there be a season, like deer season or duck season or partridge season (a.k.a. ruffled grouse)? You’d think so. Would buck-feverish archers in Duluth and Superior want to hunt witches with bows and arrows? Put that thought in your quiver, Cupid.


But hold it right there!


A quick check of Google will tell you there are still hard-working loyal Americans (aren’t we all?), both women and men, practicing actual witchcraft. These are followers of the various pagan religions, perfectly harmless believers in the occult and black magic and stuff like that.


The devil you say? I know it is hard for believers in traditional religions to also believe that others in our midst might actually embrace such things.



What I’ve been wondering is, are there followers of witchcraft right here in Duluth?


Duluth has at least one of everything, I wrote in a column years ago, citing the city’s then only tattoo parlor, a little shop at the time on First Street downtown. Now there must be a dozen, tattoos no longer principally being the result of drunken forays into towns near military installations by armed services personnel in the lower ranks.


But I digress. We weren’t discussing tattoos, but rather witch hunts and witches. Still, how the devil are you supposed to identify any witches in our midst? Well, maybe the devil himself knows.


Satan and witchcraft seem to go hand in glove. So I called him up on a special “hot” line.


“Hey Satan,” I said when he answered from a fiery place called “hell.”


“Call me Mephistopheles,” he asserted.


“Cripes, that’s harder to spell than Massachusetts,” I complained.


“So it is.”


“Listen, Beelzebub, I’d sell my soul to the devil to find a witch or two in Duluth to see if they’re scared with all the witch hunts we keep hearing about on television these days,” I asserted rather forcefully.


The devil was not pleased at being called by one of his other names, but he let it pass because it’s pretty hard to spell too. Still, he was ill-inclined to accept my Faustian bargain. (Note: Faustian bargains, in which certain individuals offer to sell their souls to the devil in exchange for various things, like a date with Helen of Troy, have fallen out of style in recent years, replaced by other temptations like legal marijuana.)


In declining to accept my Faustian bargain, he said, “I don’t want your measly soul, pal, and I don’t keep track of witches in towns. I have other fish to fry, which is pretty easy to do down here.”


“Like what?” I inquired.


“Don’t you know there’s another American election coming up next year? I had a great time in the last election,” said the devil before abruptly hanging up, declaring he had to get back into “the details,” where he spends much of his time


Heavens to Lucifer, too bad he ended the call. I was going to compliment him on his excellent chocolate cake — that’d be devil’s food — and scrumptious “deviled” hard-boiled eggs, and also wish him a happy Halloween. The poor demon hasn’t got that many holidays he can celebrate.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

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