It's a sure-fire recipe for a mischief potion: start with a drought. Add some superstitious farmers. Spice with a visiting spiritualist, and voila: madness and magic.
In Janesville, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1930, the farmers were frightened. Their cows were running dry. Crops dwindled. The apple crop failed. The weather was an obvious cause--a long dry spell had devastated the area. But the farmers of Leyden Township searched for spiritual answers, so they called in a spiritualist.
Herman Engelhardt of nearby Rockford, Illinois, came to town and conducted a seance. And the spirit world provided the answer: the culprit was an ally of the devil named Henry Dorn.
Mr. Dorn, an innocuous 64-year-old man who lived nearby with his sister, was clearly the one who'd been casting spells of sickness, along with his colleague in Satanry, William Kluxmeyer, who was casting spells over hogs and cattle. This was no light accusation in Wisconsin. Just two years before, a farmer and his wife living near Ladysmith learned that their neighbor had bewitched their cattle and cursed their children, and the farmer shot and killed his evil neighbor. So old Mr. Dorn got off lightly when he was merely driven out of the area.
But Mr. Dorn complained of his ill treatment and declared that he was innocent of the charge of wizardry, so the authorities came to investigate the evil genius. Not Mr. Dorn, but the spiritualist. During a two-day John Doe hearing, the Rock County assistant district attorney investigated the doings of Mr. Engelhardt and issued a warrant for the spiritualist's arrest. They didn't expect him to be extradicted from Illinois, they said; "we just want to keep him out of Wisconsin. As far as we're concerned, he can produce all the wizards he wishes if he keeps them out of this state."
And thus Wisconsin was officially declared wizard-free.
"Warrant is Out for Spiritualist's Arrest," Ironwood (Michigan) Daily Globe, Oct. 10, 1930.
"They Believe in Witchcraft," Reno Evening Gazette, Oct. 10, 1930.
"Life in Asylum for LadySmith Murderer," Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Nov. 13, 1928.