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Eerie ‘witch bottles’ found along Gulf of Mexico leave one researcher’s wife scared

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Superstitious beachcombers who spot glass glinting along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico ought to exercise caution – “witch bottles” intended to entomb malevolent spirits are popping up along the coast, one researcher said. 

On a 60-mile stretch of beach near Corpus Christi, Texas, monitored by the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, eight of the curious artifacts have washed up onshore since 2017, per researcher Jace Tunnell. 

Tunnell pulled the most recent bottle, filled with vegetation, on Nov. 15 – gooseneck barnacles that had clustered on the green glass indicated that the bottle had been floating for quite a while, the researcher said. 

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“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?”

Instead, the researcher has reserved a sunlit section of his back fence to display his occult finds – “my wife says I can bring shells inside, but no spell bottles.”

The bottles – which may be filled with a variety of items, including hair, herbs, local plants, nails or even bodily fluids – have traditionally been observed in the modern-day United Kingdom. 

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Witch bottle recovered by Harte Research Institute of the Gulf of Mexico researcher Jace Tunnell

A “witch bottle” recovered along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 15 by Jace Tunnell, a Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies researcher. (Jace Tunnell)

There, nearly 200 have been recovered by unnerved contractors and homeowners hidden in walls or buried underground, per the McGill University Office of Science and Society. 

“Back in the 16th and 17th centuries there was a powerful belief in witches and their ability to cause illness by casting a spell,” the society reports.

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Jace Tunnell's collection of "witch bottles"

Tunnell keeps his collection of eight bottles recovered over the past six years on a fence in his backyard – he said his wife won’t let him bring them inside. (Jace Tunnell)

“But the evil spells could be fended off by trapping them in a ‘witch bottle,’ which if properly prepared, could actually 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.”

Bottles that contained metal items like nails may be buried by the hearth to “energize the nails into breaking a witch’s spell,” the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research said in a statement when a similar item was found buried in Virginia. 

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Researcher Joan Garland with a "witch bottle"

Joan Garland, another researcher with the institute, can be seen holding a mysterious bottle. (Jace Tunnell)

Others might be buried on the corner of a property, or in some traditions, a dung pile. 

Less than a dozen remnants of the practice have been discovered in the U.S., per William & Mary. 

In a YouTube video discussing his growing collection, Tunnell said some spell casters may throw their bottles into the ocean. However, he told Fox News Digital, it is unclear whether the bottles were swept into a river and then the ocean by rainwater. 

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Witch bottle found along the Gulf of Mexico

According to the McGill University Office for Science and Society, the most common items found in “witch bottles” are nails and human urine. But in Tunnell’s experience, the bottles he’s found are primarily filled with vegetation. (Jace Tunnell)

“When it comes to manmade debris, it’s about telling people if you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up,” Tunnell said of the impetus for the Harte Institute’s beachcombing YouTube series, launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna to raise awareness about what is washing up on the shores of the Gulf. 

“A lot of the stuff we find, even if it’s way inland, gets into the nearest waterway if it rains. Where does that go? The ocean,” Tunnell said. 

Witch bottle found in Gulf of Mexico

The “witch bottles” are thought to contain malevolent spirits or trap “harmful intentions directed at their owners,” Tunnell said. (Jace Tunnell)

Among other items found along the Gulf of Mexico’s beaches and shown to the channel’s viewers in over 180 episodes and counting are an abandoned drone, a lost lifepod, lost ship supplies and about 30 messages in bottles. 

Although Tunnell and other researchers can often get some idea of where washed-up objects float in from based on weather and tide patterns, it’s anyone’s guess where the spell bottles originate from – Tunnell doesn’t suspect they were made in the U.S. 

Some of the bottles, he told Fox News Digital, come in distinct, “real thin yellow vinegar bottles” manufactured in Haiti that often “have sea turtle bites in them” when they arrive onshore.

Witch bottle

It is unclear whether spell casters throw the bottles into the ocean, or whether rainwater carries them from inland. (Jace Tunnell)

“But that’s just sort of a guess, that they’re coming from somewhere in the Carribean or South America,” Tunnell conceded.

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So, what should you do if you stumble across a “witch bottle” yourself? 

Whether you take it home or leave it on the beach, per the Museum of London Archeology – and whether it is to leave spirits contained or to avoid any potential biohazards inside – you should really leave the stopper corked.  


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