On the morning of October 29th, 1485, dignitaries began to assemble in the great meeting room of Innsbruck’s town hall. They included Cristan Turner, licentiate in the decretals and the special representative of Georg Golser, bishop of Brixen, Master Paul Wann, doctor of theology and canon law, Sigismund Saumer, also a licentiate in the decretals, three brothers of the Dominican Order, a pair of notaries, and the inquisitor, Henry Institoris. They were there to witness the interrogation of Helena Scheuberin, who, along with thirteen others, was suspected of practicing witchcraft. Scheuberin would have been familiar to at least some of these men: an Innsbruck native, she had been married for eight years to Sebastian Scheuber, a prosperous burger. She was also an aggressive, independent woman who was not afraid to speak her mind, a trait which on this occasion had landed her in serious trouble. From the formal charges against her, we learn that not long after the inquisitor had first arrived in Innsbruck with the stated intention of bringing witches to justice, she had passed him in the street, spat, and said publicly, “Fie on you, you bad monk, may the falling evil take you.”


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Malleus Maleficarum 1486