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Publisher's Summary

For centuries in Europe, innocent men and women were murdered for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. This was a mass delusion and moral panic, driven by pious superstition and a deadly commitment to religious conformity. In Witch: A Tale of Terror, best-selling author Sam Harris introduces and reads from Charles Mackay's beloved book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

Public Domain (P)2016 Sam Harris

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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more Sam, please

What made the experience of listening to Witch: A Tale of Terror the most enjoyable?

Sam's choices from the text, and delightful reading.

Any additional comments?

I'd like to encourage Sam to do more short audiobooks like this where he excerpts some of his favorite books, does a preface, and then reads selections. I'd buy them all.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Interesting and informative

If you could sum up Witch: A Tale of Terror in three words, what would they be?

Shocking and horrifying

What was one of the most memorable moments of Witch: A Tale of Terror?

Covers in grim detail a dark and superstitious era in Europe that happened from the 12th to late into the 17th century.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

What really surprised me was that the crusaders were charged for witch craft, and later Joan of Arc. Along with the inhumanly way self-proclaimed morale people treated those accused of a non-crime. Along with the ways they used a "holy" book to justify their cruelty.

Any additional comments?

It's an informative book to listen to and Sam Harris does a great job imparting the information in the book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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An uncomfortable reminder of the power of belief

This well-produced audiobook is introduced and read by author & neuroscientist, Sam Harris, who is also host of the very popular 'Waking Up' podcast. Harris' experience as a podcast host, reader of the audiobook versions of several of his own books and leading light across a diverse field of important public conversations and debates shines through in his measured yet compelling reading.

The subject material concerns the 'Witch Mania' of Early Modern Europe, as described by Charles Mackay in his seminal 1841 book, 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds'. The quality of Mackay's writing is excellent and the detailed picture he paints of this extraordinarily tragic (and often gruesome) period (which for Mackay - and even, to some extent, for us now - was relatively recent) conveys in almost palpable terms the ability of individuals and societies to drive themselves into an ever-deeper ditch of terrible suffering when the wheels of their beliefs (which drive their behaviour and much of their experience of the world) run-off the rails of reason.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Couldn't stop listening!!!

Well written, well read, overall - great work!

I think it is very important to keep these accounts of suffering in the name of superstition available to our society, in an effort to rid our species of these atrocities in the future.

Once again, Sam Harris has produced an account of factual evidence that so clearly demonstrates the power of belief.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting short listen

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed that a lot of this was taken from actual newspaper articles, journals, and letters. I like the way people wrote back then and it makes the book that much more credible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting content, but no analysis or conclusion

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

There really was no ending. Sam just stopped talking. It didn't feel like there was any closing thoughts.

Any additional comments?

There was definitely a missed opportunity here, perhaps in an epilogue by Sam himself, to analyze the "witch-hunt" mentality, and those aspects of religion that not only allowed it blaze uncontrollably just a couple centuries ago, to the exact same credulities that are not only alive, but thriving today. Indeed, that is what the entire focus of this book SHOULD HAVE BEEN. The history of the witch-hunts was interesting, but are there lessons learned from the past that can help us now? With the "witch-hunts" that are STILL GOING ON TODAY? Perhaps not, but this book has greatly missed it potential by forgoing the attempt.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Unconscionable Christianity - Burning Women

Sam Harris found this and reads it to illustrate a point - how presumably good people do the most terrible things in the name of their religious beliefs. Shocking, mortifying, stomach-turning, and more relevant than ever in these theocratic times. Five stars on every count.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting. Perfectly narrated by Sam Harris

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book is funny in parts but overall the context and content of the stories of witch hunt in Europe are fantastically tragic. The elaborate voice of Sam Harris is perfect for this absurd tale of superstition.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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People Are Frightening

The cruelty that humans have endured is beyond depressing. We've come along way, but this book shows what humans are capable of. The recent support for Donald Trump is baffling, but less so after listening to this book. Reason is not always the strongest impulse.
The story gets a bit repetitive as it documents many cases of bizarre barbaric stupidity. I’m not sure how much Harris edited the language, but the writing is great, and Harris is well-suited to read it.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Amazing

I did not realize the extent to which people were arbitrarily murdered as ' witches '

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  • Lee
  • 04-05-17

Well read and well worth a listen

Sam Harris provides a superb narration of a recap of the witch hunts in Europe, as written by Charles Mackay.

If you've a passing interest in the history of witch craft or the hysteria surrounding it, this book prides a short by instructive introduction to the history and facts of the time

It is well worth a listen, and while short, actually pretty well formed as a tight introduction.

Very good - and Sam Harris is a great narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • chris
  • 03-23-17

brilliant, horrifying

had to listen in two sittings because it's heavy stuff, hilarious and depressing in equal parts! brilliantly read

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-10-17

Witch

The title says it all. A fantastic exploration of humankinds superstitious madness and malice. excellent

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  • Robert Rawlins
  • 06-10-17

Interesting history lesson

A really interesting history lesson on a topic I knew very little about, if not for for certain Monty Python sketches.

Only real drawback for me was.that it didn't draw any relevant comparisons to modern day behaviour, or properly explore the phycology behind the phenomenon.

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  • Kieron
  • 03-23-17

Very good

Interesting historical narrative. Well narrated by Sam Harris. Hope to hear more of this kind of audio book in the future.

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  • Alfredo
  • 03-15-17

not bad but not what I was expecting

I didn't do a thorough research on the contents of this book and thought it was going to be more like a reflection on the subject and analogies with the present, which is what I was mistakenly expecting. It's's more like a very descriptive encyclopedia of the horrors of witch-hunts. in that sense I can't give a relevant review as I'm not fond of the subject

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  • TheAtheist
  • 03-14-17

Great read.

Hard to listen to, the descriptions sometimes, but another great choice, by the Jedi of Philosophy, Sam Harris.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-26-17

Terrifying. 0_0

Incredible to hear about these events in such detail. Couldn't stop listening. Highly recommend it

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  • fabio boschetti
  • 02-25-17

Fascinating, incredible, yet all true.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely, a brilliant example of how bad ideas and confusion can lead to terrible consequences.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Witch: A Tale of Terror?

The abundant use of torture, and the confidence in its efficacy.

What about Sam Harris’s performance did you like?

Sam Harris is a delightful voice to have in one's ear.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, it is concise and consumable.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-25-17

A sobering reminder of superstitions' violent ends

In this sobering reminder of dark days in Western culture's past, Sam Harris need not point out the obvious parallels that have crept back into the Western culture of today, the continued barbarity in many countries and cultures still ruled by religious dogma and superstition, and their violent consequences.

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  • Nicholas Clements
  • 01-20-17

Incredible....our species is so stupid!

Would you consider the audio edition of Witch: A Tale of Terror to be better than the print version?

Yes

What was one of the most memorable moments of Witch: A Tale of Terror?

The two Jesuit priests

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes

Any additional comments?

It's as if it was written in 2017. So forward-thinking for the 1840s. Harris is a masterful narrator. <br/><br/>