Most of us have some eyebrow-raising stories in our family history. But actor Zachary Levi has the kind of stuff in his lineage that Hollywood dramas are made of--literally.
Levi recently appeared on the NBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? and discovered a truly shocking detail about his 10-times great-grandmother.
She was accused of being a witch in 1692, the year of the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
To say Levi was shocked by the revelation is an understatement.
See his reaction below.
Levi, the star of the DC Comics Shazam!film series and the 2000s dramedy Chuck, found out about his 10-times great grandmother Elizabeth Clawson with the help of Colorado State University history professor Ann Little.
Clawson lived in Fairfield, Connecticut not Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the notorious trials that inspired Arthur Miller's play The Crucible and its several film adaptations.
But Connecticut was the site of the only other known "outbreak" of witchcraft at the time, and Clawson was sent to trial, where she would have been executed if found guilty by a process called "ducking."
Ducking involved binding the accused's hands and feet and throwing them into water to see if they sank or floated. It was believed that pure Christians would sink, but witches would float.
Clawson floated—as all human beings would at first. Levi was shocked and heartbroken to learn the news.
He told Little:
"To find out that my 10-times great-grandmother was essentially accused of being a witch is just so mind-blowing and also, like, troubling and sad and surreal..."
"I would imagine she was scared and angry and confused. I can imagine being in this spot, being surrounded by a bunch of people that you thought were your friends."
Luckily, Clawson was acquitted after her husband submitted a petition with 76 signatures attesting to her innocence—a gravely dangerous move at the time that could have resulted in his own conviction for witchcraft by association.
On Twitter, Levi's fans were as shocked by the story as he was.
In the end, Levi said he found the story uplifting, because most of the men in his lineage have been abusive and struggled with alcoholism. Clawson's husband presents a deviation from that norm that Levi found great comfort.
"It's very uplifting to have an example of a man within my lineage, my 10-times great-grandfather, who had that kind of courage and the love of his wife, and was quite, you know, essentially willing to die, if that's what it came to."
"It's empowering, and I'm grateful to know that that lives within me in my DNA."
Levi's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? aired on Sunday and is available for streaming.