It was certainly a job ad with a difference: "Must be able to cackle. Must not be allergic to cats."

The owners of the popular Wookey Hole tourist attraction in southwest England weren't after any ordinary applicant - they were in desperate need of a new witch.

The hunt began after Jane Brenner decided to pack her broomstick after six years as the resident witch who taught visitors about magic at the ancient caves near Bath.

Ads for her $125,000-a-year job brought interest from throughout the world, and more than 2300 application forms were sent out.

The names of more than 230 mothers-in-law were put forward, and hundreds of men put their hands up for the job despite being more warlock than witch.

Eventually, more than 300 witches - many sporting trademark black flowing robes, pointy hats and big noses - made the short list and descended on Wookey on Tuesday to weave their magic before a three-member selection panel.

Like job interviews for mere mortals, each had to pass a tough checklist to demonstrate they were the right witch for the job.

As well as having an excellent cackle, the witches had to be fond of cats, willing to stay overnight in Wookey Hole's caves, and have a sound knowledge of witchcraft.

"We didn't want anyone who would scare the children," Ms Brenner says. "We wanted a good witch to meet and greet people and act as an ambassador for the attraction. This isn't just a cushy job."

The selection panel spent hours interviewing the wannabe witches, who included teachers, a photographer, an aromatherapist, a journalist, tattooist and cheesemaker. Eventually they settled on the glamorous Carla Calamity, or Carole Bohanan as she is known in the mortal world.

"I am going to be a great witch," the former real estate agent said after dazzling the panel with her sparkly stilettos.

"All it takes is a little bit of magic and a little pizzazz."

Local legend has it that the first witch to live at Wookey Hole was an old woman who had only a dog and goats for company.

Some believe she was turned to stone by a holy water-wielding monk, Father Bernard, who was sent by the Abbot of Glastonbury to investigate complaints about her.

Others say King Arthur killed her because locals believed she cast spells on them.

Whatever the truth, Carla Calamity will be hoping for a more welcome reaction to her arrival.

Further information: Wookey Hole is on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills near Wells in Somerset.

The complex is online at wookey.co.uk

- AAP