GILES COREY
 
 
 
     Giles Corey was an 80 year old farmer who lived with his wife Martha about 5-6 miles from Salem Village. Both were very interested in the afflictions, accusations and examinations of the witchcraft hysteria taking place in Salem Village. Although Martha was a firm believer in the existence of witches, she became quite suspicious of the proceedings and began to speak openly against the accusers.

     On Saturday March 19, 1692, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Martha Corey. The following Monday, Martha Corey was arrested and brought to Ingersoll's Tavern for an examination. For some reason, Giles, Martha's husband, made a deposition against her. Realizing that he made a serious error, he tried to recant his deposition. In turn, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Giles Corey on April 19, 1692 (the same day that Bridget Bishop and 2 others were arrested).

     Several days later, Abigail Hobbs confessed to being a witch and named Giles and Martha Corey fellow witches of that "infernal congregation". The Corey's were ordered to be held in jail until dates could be set for their trials. It was determined that their trials would take place in during the month of September. On September 19, 1692, Giles Corey was taken from the jail in Salem and led to a location adjacent to the Court House.

     Because Giles would not enter a plea, he was ordered to undergo the ancient punishment of "peine forte et dure" (strong and hard punishment). Under this punishment, a prisoner would have a board placed atop his chest whereupon heavier and heavier rocks or weights would be placed until the prisoner either entered a plea or was crushed to death.

     Giles Corey, while undergoing this torture, still refused to enter a plea. Eventually, the weight upon his chest became too much to bear. His last and only words to the sheriff and the authorities attending the punishment were "more weight". Complying with Giles, more weight was added until his chest gave way and he expired. Giles Corey is the only recorded person in North American history to have been legally pressed to death.

     On September 21, Martha Corey and six others were taken from jail and brought to Gallows Hill and hanged. These seven prisoners were the last to be executed by order of the court.
 

 

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