‘Witch Bottles’ Keep Washing Ashore on the Texas Coast

For a beachcomber, life takes place between one random encounter and the next. Imagine if the next time you spotted glinting glass in the sand, you were that close to unleashing the occult wrath of a 17th-century crone.

That’s why one Texas researcher won’t uncork the mysterious bottles he’s been finding along the Gulf of Mexico.

Jace Tunnell, of the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, reported that he’s recovered about a half dozen “witch bottles” along the institute’s 100-kilometer coastline property since 2017.

Tunnell says that most of the bottles contain vegetation. The bottles also include concoctions of rusted nails, needles, human hair, and — sometimes — human urine. Consensus holds that they constitute archaic charms against the influence of witches. They appeared prolifically in the 16th and 17th centuries in the UK, where a supernatural worldview was especially popular. Ailing people who suspected themselves bewitched used them as a defense against their paranormal assailants.

“The evil spells could be fended off by trapping them in a ‘witch bottle,’ which if properly prepared, could reflect the spell itself while also tormenting the witch, leaving the witch with no option but to remove the spell, allowing the victim to recover,” according to the McGill University Office of Science and Society.

So although Tunnell encounters and collects the talismans, he observes a policy against breaching them. It’s not usually possible to determine their origin. Aside from a few distinct examples using vinegar bottles made in Haiti, they could have washed up from anywhere in the world.

a woman holding a barnacle-covered bottle filled with some stringy brown substance

Joan Garland, another researcher at the Harte Institute. Photo: Tunnell


“I don’t get creeped out by them, but I’m also not going to open them,” Tunnell told Fox News Digital. “I mean, they’re supposed to have spells and stuff in them — why take the chance?”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.