Monday, April 6, 2015

Giles Corey’s Ghost and Curse

Corey and his wife.
Giles Corey and his wife along with 25 other people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts by a group of young girls in 1692.

Corey, born in England in 1611, was a wealthy farmer who lived with his wife five miles southwest of Salem in what is today Peabody.

Corey’s accusers were three young girls, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis, they along with two other girls had implicated most of the victims in the Salem Witch Trials.
Ann Putnam during trial.

Giles and his wife Martha were members of the Salem Town church where they were a part of a group of members who did not want Reverend Samuel Parris appointed the minister of this church in 1689.

Rev. Samuel Parris
Ironically, Abigail Williams was Parris’s 11-year old niece and one ringleader of the girls involved in the accusations. Putnam was the other leader.

Corey was brought before the local magistrates, he refused to enter a plea so he was thrown in jail.

On September 9th his wife was sentenced to die along with five others.

At his trial the girls stated he was “in league with the devil.” Corey refused to enter a plea because he knew the law stated he could not be tried, condemned, and executed until he stated he was either innocent or guilty.

Historians believe that he was avoiding this because he knew he was going to be found guilty which meant his land would be confiscated. He wanted it turned over to his heirs. He and Martha had 3 children from previous marriages.

Since he stayed mute, the court decided that a confession should be forced out of him. Corey was ordered to undergo peine forte et dure or pressing.

On September 19th he was dragged, naked to an open field where he was placed on a board that had been put in a shallow pit. Another board was placed on top of him.

Heavy stones and bricks were placed on top of him. For three days he endured this torturous pain, all the time remaining silent.

On September 22nd the end was near. Corey’s mouth was dry with thirst and his face was swallow and red. George Corwin, whose ghost is mentioned in another post here, was the Essex County sheriff at the time.

He knelt on the ground next to Corey having seen his lips move. He felt that Corey was about to relent but instead Corey uttered these now famous words, “More weight!”

With his dying breath Corey called out. “I curse you, sheriff, and I curse all of Salem.” That same day Martha was hanged with eight other people.

The witch trial executions stopped after this. Salem's townspeople realized shortly after Corey's pressing that all the girl’s testimony had been lies.

Nineteen people were hanged, four or five others died in prison waiting for their trials or executions. And Corey died under stones.

This torturous death resulted in his ghost haunting the Howard Street Cemetery today. It is believed he also haunts the Joshua Ward House in Salem--more information about this is in the link above.

Stone that marks where
Corey was pressed.
This cemetery did not open until 1801 but it was on this land where Corey was pressed in a pit. It is believed his body is buried here as well.

Several witnesses have stated they have seen his apparition floating among the tombstones. Others state they have felt his clammy hands touch them.

As for the curse, George Corwin, the sheriff died of a heart attack. Other Essex County sheriffs suffered from heart conditions as well. Several over the years reported seeing Corey’s ghost in their bedrooms.

Those who reported this sight stated they felt a strong pressure on their chests that didn’t go away until Corey’s ghost disappeared.

There is also a legend that states when Corey’s ghost appears he acts as a harbinger. It is said people saw his ghost just before the June 25, 1914 Great Salem Fire that destroyed most of the city.

Some believe Corey’s curse caused this fire.

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