Profs and Pints is blowing into the Windy City

with great talks at the   

Cambria Hotel - Chicago Loop - Theatre District

32 W. Randolph Street


Keep an eye out for its expansion to other venues in and around Chicago and get your name on the metro Chicago mailing list using the online form below.

Profs and Pints looks forward to staging more fantastic talks in Chicago in 2020. Check back here for details. Venues interested in hosting Profs and Pints events, and people interested in becoming Profs and Pints speakers or hosts, should email

“What Sparked Witch Burnings,” a look at the origins of Europe and North America's witch trials, with Richard Kieckhefer, professor of religious studies and history at Northwestern University and author of European Witch Trials and Magic in the Middle Ages.

6 pm Friday, October 18th at the Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop - Theatre District 

Most Americans associate witch hunts with the Salem witch trials of early 1690s colonial Massachusetts, in which more than 200 people were accused, 19 ended up being executed, and several others died in jail or during interrogation. What happened in Salem, however, was not an American invention. Instead, it came about from the importation of witch hysteria from Europe, where witch persecution had started nearly a century and a half before. The Salem trials actually marked the beginning in of the end of witch trials, by calling attention to the hazards of using “spectral evidence” and creating distrust of the judicial proceedings involved.

Come join Professor Richard Kieckhefer of Northwestern University, a scholar of the late Middle Ages and leading authority on the history of witchcraft and magic, for a fascinating look at how Europe’s witch persecution began.

To get at the question of how to define a “witch trial,” he’ll look at three of the earliest cases, including the 1440 trial of Gilles de Rais, a French baron accused of conjuring demons and convicted of murdering multiple children. He’ll also look at the factors that played a role in the rapid spread of witch hunts, including the use of torture and other inquisitorial procedures to extract false convictions, the emergence of a new mythology of witchcraft and associated fears that everyday quarrels could be linked to a pervasive conspiracies and cosmic threat, and a heavy emphasis by religious and municipal leaders on reform.

Professor Kieckhefer won’t be conjuring his statements up out of nowhere. He is the author of European Witch Trials: Their Foundations in Popular and Learned Culture, 1300-1500; Magic in the Middle Ages; Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century; and Hazards of the Dark Arts: Advice for Medieval Princes on Witchcraft and Magic. You'll be enchanted by the experience of listening to him. The talk, at the Cambria Hotel & Suites Chicago Loop - Theatre District, is being staged as part of a collaborative between Profs and Pints and the Cambria Hotels brand intended to expand access to higher learning in Chicago and other cities.

Tickets are $12 and must be purchased online and in advance.

The 1585 execution of three witches in Baden, Switzerland. (Illustration by Johann Jakob Wick.)

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Profs and Pints talks represent a great way to introduce young people to various academic fields. Please note, however, that all talks are delivered on an adult level and may feature mature content. Unless otherwise stated in event descriptions, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

A note from Profs and Pints CEO Peter Schmidt about diversity among presenters:

In my recruitment of speakers I am committed to diversity in all of its forms, including gender, race, and ideological orientation. I encourage any college faculty member interested in being featured by Profs and Pints to click this link for important background on the lectures and workshops that Profs and Pints offers and to email for additional information on how to apply.

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