Face of 18th-century 'Witch' Who Was Buried Under a Huge Stone to Stop Her Haunting Locals Reconstructed by Scientists

The face of an 18th-century Scottish woman accused of being a witch has been reconstructed by experts.

Lilias Adie—who lived in the village of Torryburn—was jailed in her sixties after confessing to her alleged crimes, which included supposedly having sex with Satan. She later died in prison in 1704 before she could be burned at the stake, possibly as the result of suicide.

Forensic artist Christopher Rynn from the University of Dundee in Scotland has now recreated her face for a BBC program. He used a state-of-the-art 3D virtual modeling software, basing the look on old photographs of Adie's skull.

"When the reconstruction is up to the skin layer, it's a bit like meeting somebody and they begin to remind you of people you know, as you're tweaking the facial expression and adding photographic textures," Rynn said in a statement.

"There was nothing in Lilias' story that suggested to me that nowadays she would be considered as anything other than a victim of horrible circumstances, so I saw no reason to pull the face into an unpleasant or mean expression and she ended up having quite a kind face, quite naturally."

The BBC team say that the reconstructed face is probably the only accurate likeness of a Scottish "witch," given that the majority were burned at the stake. This practice tends to destroy the skeleton, including the skull, thus making it impossible to reconstruct the face.

"It was a truly eerie moment when the face of Lilias suddenly appeared," BBC presenter Susan Morrison said. "Here was the face of a woman you could have a chat with, though knowing her story it was a wee bit difficult to look her in the eye."

After her death, locals buried Adie on a nearby beach underneath a large stone, likely in the belief that this would stop her coming back to haunt them.

Researchers later excavated the remains in the 19th century and the skull was sent to be kept at St. Andrews University Museum, although it was eventually stolen in the subsequent century. Before thieves ran away with it, however, staff managed to take several photos of the skull, which Rynn used for his reconstruction.

Historical records show that Adie had likely been in poor health before her death, and also that she did not reveal the names of others during interrogations by her accusers.

"I think she was a very clever and inventive person. The point of the interrogation and its cruelties was to get names," program historian Louise Yeoman said in a statement. "Lilias said that she couldn't give the names of other women at the witches' gatherings as they were masked like gentlewomen."

"She only gave names which were already known and kept up coming up with good reasons for not identifying other women for this horrendous treatment—despite the fact it would probably mean there was no let-up for her," Yeoman said. "It's sad to think her neighbors expected some terrifying monster when she was actually an innocent person who'd suffered terribly. The only thing that's monstrous here is the miscarriage of justice."

witch face reconstruction
The reconstruction of Lilias Adie's face University of Dundee
Face of 18th-century 'Witch' Who Was Buried Under a Huge Stone to Stop Her Haunting Locals Reconstructed by Scientists | Tech & Science