2001: Mona Fandey, witch doctor

6 comments November 2nd, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2001, former pop singer and shaman Mona Fandey was hanged with two accomplices at Kajang Prison outside Kuala Lumpur, closing the noose on one of the world’s weirdest and most sensational recent crimes.

Aging B-list pop crooner Maznah Ismail — “Mona Fandey” was her stage name — had transitioned to a gig as a high-rent spiritualist and healer, known locally as a bomoh.

In that capacity, she and hubby Mohd Affandi Abdul Rahman landed a politician with more money than sense. After collecting a bunch of cash from him, they got him to lie down with his eyes closed as part of a ritual that was supposed to make money fall from the skies. Instead, the couple’s assistant Juraimi Hussin chopped off his head, and Mona went on a shopping spree.

The effect of the grisly celebrity murder was heightened by Mona’s cheery demeanor throughout the trial and thereafter, as if a murderess’ notoriety was the pinnacle she never achieved as an entertainer.

She and her husband maintained an unsettling placidity about their demise to the very end. Some sources say she uttered the mysterious remark, “I will never die” just before her hanging. (Others have everyone silent.)

The end of the three killers was hardly the end of such a headline-grabbing case in the public memory. Her cell is becoming a protected “heritage site”, and her story has been treated on screens both small and silver.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Artists,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Entertainers,Execution,Famous Last Words,Hanged,Infamous,Malaysia,Murder,Pelf,Popular Culture,Ripped from the Headlines,Women

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1577: Soulmother of Kussnacht

1 comment November 18th, 2007 Headsman

On an uncertain date in November of 1577, a popular medium whose given name is lost to history was burned to death in a lakeside town for claiming to speak with the dead.

The Soulmother of Kussnacht ran a successful enterprise channeling spirits for those who survived them. Though her persecution by a Church ill-disposed to “wise women” seems a given in retrospect, she evidently ran this business openly for well over a decade, and was at least once before brought to the attention of authorities who found her harmless.


Kussnacht as seen in an old postcard. Image reproduced with permission.

Historian Carlo Ginzburg locates Die Seelenmutter within the cosmos of pre-Christian “shamanism” that persisted in Christendom under varying degrees of toleration. In Ginzburg’s Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, which chronicles the Inquisition’s crackdown on a sect of northern Italian occultists, the contemporaneous execution of the Soulmother is both barometer and precedent for Rome’s rising intolerance of heresy.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,God,Heresy,History,Known But To God,Public Executions,The Supernatural,Uncertain Dates,Witchcraft,Women

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