Skip to main content

Robert Hikkes and John Cans of Norfolk


In 1465, Robert Hikkes and John Cans of Norfolk were arrested for using witchcraft to aide in treasure-hunting. Court documents say that the two men cast a spell and summoned a spiritum aerialem (also known as an air spirit). It was alleged that this so-called air spirit pointed out a direction for the two men to look, and they did find over 100 shillings amid a hidden trove of treasure. 

Robert and John told their confessors that they made a pact with the demonic spirit, promising to give it a sacrifice of a "Christian man" in exchange for its help. However, they didn't go through with their end of the deal. Instead, John Cans and Robert Hikkes slaughtered a rooster and gave it a "Christian name," in order to trick the spirit. Documents from the era do not elaborate on what name they gave the rooster.

The court found both men guilty of using witchcraft -- but they also convicted them of unlawfully taking goods as treasure without regard to "royal ownership." In other words, this was the court's way of telling the men that any randomly buried or hidden goods were property of the King of England, and they were thieves for finding and taking ownership of it. Both men were executed for their crimes by impaling.

Genealogy of Robert Hikkes and John Cans

Robert Hikkes did exist and was executed for his involvement in witchcraft during the mid 15th century. However, his name can be found on no other documents from the era at this time. It is unknown if he had a spouse or children at the time of his execution, and therefore it impossible to trace his lineage.

The same can be said for John Cans. He is named in no other documents from the era, having only been named once in the witchcraft trial involving himself and Robert Hikkes. He had no known natural children, and therefore it is impossible (at this time) to trace his lineage.


Devil: In Tudor and Stuart England;Darren Oldridge; 2011


Popular posts from this blog

Sir Robert Tresilian: The Secret Witch of King's Bench

Sir Robert Tresilian was a chief justice of the King's Bench in England during the late 1300s. During the height of his life he was a wealthy banker, lawman and fierce loyalist to King Richard II. He was notably executed due to his allegiance to the abdicated king, and his involvement in conflicts with the Lords Appellant. However, few know that his execution was carried out in a particularly violent way due to a discovery made after his conviction in court. It turned out, to the surprise of the King's Bench, Sir Robert was a witch . On February 19, 1388, Sir Robert Tresilian was led to the Tower of London by armed guards to be executed by hanging -- a standard mode of execution, which was usually quick and efficient. However, once he was knelt before his captors, Tresilian is said to have uttered a brazen confession as his final words. “While I carry a certain something around me, I am not able to die.”  This piqued the suspicion of those around him, and he was immediately he

Grace Sherwood of Colonial Virginia

Grace Sherwood is a name that many Americans haven't heard -- outside the state of Virginia, at least. That's because, when most people think about witchcraft in early American history, they more-often-than-not think of the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in 1692. However, there were quite a few other isolated witch trials throughout the United States following the iconic Salem Trials -- some of which ended in the deaths of the accused. Grace Sherwood escaped death, but she was convicted and imprisoned in the year 1706. She spent eight years in jail for practicing witchcraft, before she was ultimately released. She died at the age of 80, on her property in Princess Anne County, Virginia.  Prior to her 1706 conviction, Grace Sherwood was accused of witchcraft multiple times. First, she was accused of causing a bull's death by use of supernatural enchantment. This 1697 case ended in a dismissal, but she was again accused the following year by her neighbors, who accused h

Marigje Arriens: The Mysterious Genealogy of a Dutch Witch

Marigje Arriens is noted as among the last woman to be executed for witchcraft in Holland (although this is a highly contested "fact"). She was, at one point in her life, a respected practitioner of medicine during the 1500s, before she was executed in 1591. Little is actually recorded of this woman, considering she continues such an historic place in the history of witch trials. Even though she was a noted medical practitioner, she fell from grace when she was allegedly accused of bewitching a child. It's also been written that a so-called "unsatisfied customer" accused her of witchcraft. At any rate, she was executed by strangulation, and then her body was burned -- as was the custom way of "disposing of witches" in Holland at the time.  The genealogy of Marigje Arriens is incredibly vague and difficult to trace -- and nothing is written about a husband or children. However, This woman lived into her 70s -- which makes it highly likely that she marri