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The Curse Of Giles Corey

Salem, Massachusetts
By Robin Wright

The Salem Witch Trials will always hold a spooky part in our national hearts, but as the years go by, many have come to the conclusion that the hysteria that struck Salem Town and Salem Village (now Danvers) was more about greed than the supernatural. The accused often had trouble with their neighbors regarding property rights, livestock, and general issues of jealousy. However, the tale of Giles Coreyâ??s death and the legacy left for the areaâ??s law enforcement is a tale of greed with a liberal helping of the supernatural.

Giles Corey was one of six men who died during the trials that ran from May through October of 1692. He was the only one tortured; the rest were either hung or died in jail. Implicated by Abigail Hobbs, the Coreyâ??s were brought to Ingersollâ??s Tavern to be examined. Giles, who was in his 80â??s at the time, had at first encouraged an accusation against his wife, Martha. Later he tried to recant when he realized just how ugly and disturbing the trials had become.

It is also believed he realized that his home, land, and all other wealth were in great danger. The sketchy laws of the time supposedly decreed that anyone found guilty of witchcraft would lose all of their holdings, leaving nothing for those who stood to inherit. Once Giles himself had been accused, he knew that pleading innocent would not only lead to his death, but would most likely lead to conviction anyway. To save his holdings for his family (two sons-in-law) to inherit, Corey refused to plea neither guilty nor innocent. In this strange legal twist his recently land could not be awarded back to the colony after his death, no matter how he died.

Although many speculated that Corey refused to stand for trial and place an appropriate plea because of what would happen to his land, it seems he may have done it out of sheer rebellion. According to some sources, neither Massachusetts law nor English law would insist on such forfeitureâ??the true danger came from the greedy wrangling of the sheriff himself. It appears that Coreyâ??s less than popular stance in Salem society had caused him to create a will deeding his property to his sons-in-law, William Cleeves and John Moulton, even before his arrest. Perhaps he knew something was coming or perhaps a previous run-in with the law had caused him to grow wary. Regardless, heirs were legally able to retain lands that otherwise would have been forfeit in Massachusetts at the time due to certain criminal dealings.

The solution to Coreyâ??s refusal to submit to the court and offer a plea, as perceived by Sheriff George Corwin, the son of Witch Trials magistrate Jonathan Corwin, was to torture him until he did plea. Corwin had been profiting from the Salem Witch Trials, as it was he who was in charge of confiscating property and dividing it among the leaders of Salem. The court ordered Corey a sentence of â??peine forte et dureâ? even though this torture was illegal in the Massachusetts colony. In all of US history, Giles Corey is the only person who was pressed to death by the order of a court. Sheriff Corwin himself watched as Giles Corey was slowly crushed to death in a field just outside old Salem Jail, a field that is now known as Howard Cemetery.

A board was placed upon the old manâ??s chest and slowly loaded with more and more heavy fieldstones. According to tradition, it took him two days to die beneath the weighted board.

Folklore has it that Corey repeated, â??More weight!â? when asked to plea. However, there are also tales that Corey actually cursed Sheriff Corwin and the whole of Salem with his dying breath. Buried in an unmarked grave on Gallows Hill, it seems that this curse may have actually been quite effective.

According to local historian and former sheriff of Essex County, Robert Cahill, each and every sheriff starting with George Corwin to himself had either died in office or was forced into early retirement due to a heart or blood ailment. Corwin died of a heart attack in 1696; Cahill left his post after his own heart attack much more recently.

The curse goes beyond the sheriffâ??s post, however. Whenever a tragedy befalls Salem, people claim to see Giles Coreyâ??s ghost soon after. Could it be that he makes occasional appearances to savoring the suffering of Salemâ??and the fruits of his curse? Giles Coreyâ??s spirit was supposedly seen even before his death by accuser Anne Putnam who claimed his spectre visited her, trying to entice her into writing in â??the Devilâ??s book.â?

20 comments on this haunted house. Share your story »


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phillip says:

May 12, 2009, 10:37 am

i think that every haunt has its truths and its lies and that every one of the haunts deserves a special place in history.

KC says:

August 2, 2009, 9:42 am

i think that just when a place is old and abandoned doesnt mean its haunted.i =t has to have a story behind it for me

melody says:

September 17, 2009, 11:50 am

well salem was always surrounded by witch and ghost stories just becuz of sum witch trails many people belive in the trails and sum dont sum stuff happens and ifit happened and u dont belive it its still their no matter wat so u have to face one day or another

Brittany says:

September 19, 2009, 10:55 am

My aunt researched our familys background and it turned out that we were actually related to one of the judges of the witch trials, and when i found that out i decided to do a little investigating of my own (my husband being from MA was a huge help) and this story is true, my hubby took me to salem in 2006, it was during october, not quite halloween yet tho, and everywhere i wentt he either had someone telling this story or there was a book about it. Im a true believer that when you die, if you die in a tragic way you do come back for revenge of some sort, you could put a curse on someone or haunt them yourself

sam says:

October 17, 2009, 4:00 am

I read about the trials I do believe there is something about giles corey he was the only one who did not get hanged if you read past documents before his death he did have a run in with the law and he did murder a man named jacob there just something about him that made me want to learn more . (not only cause he was killed differntly).

Brittany AAA. says:

February 2, 2010, 1:42 pm

Giles Coreyyy is awesome

Big Bad Ben says:

February 2, 2010, 1:44 pm

wahtts upp?

sammi says:

June 15, 2010, 10:08 am

Dear “Linda Love”;
Good for you. But no one really cares.

MR intence says:

August 11, 2010, 11:51 pm

i think that every one says things that are some times really stuped but can and some times are true i have had no dealing with the dead but i can say this with no guilt that there is nothing after death its zip your done that is very hard for some poeple to take in but it true.

MR intence says:

August 11, 2010, 11:53 pm

i think that every one says things that are some times really stuped but can and some times are true i have had no dealing with the dead but i can say this with no guilt that there is nothing after death its zip your done that is very hard for some poeple to take in but it true all poeple are diffrent and all poeple are wrong there is no right there is only being and not being.

MR intence says:

August 11, 2010, 11:55 pm

yo sorry bout before typed same thing i say be who ya wana be but with no faith faith is not good

MstrMsn says:

October 3, 2010, 8:32 am

Faith is not inherently bad, in fact, it is quite good. Certain beliefs and belief systems, on the other hand ARE bad. To say that faith is not good, means you do not trust, as you cannot trust anyone that you do not have faith in. See the difference? If not, I feel sorry for you.

Now, as for what happens after you die, nobody knows. You may be right, you may also be wrong, like I said, nobody knows.

The Salem Witch Trials were and will always be a blemish on Massachusetts history. People used others’ susperstitions and fears to get what they wanted. Take the real story of The Crucible, where a handful of girls were accused of being witches. Absolutely no proof. Some of the men making the claim had affairs with these girls, and when they were found out, the men cliamed that they were “bewitched”. Now, hundreds of years later, we hear stories of how they actually were witches, and cast spells… All without anything to back up that claim.

New England, especially Salem, has a history full of ghost and witch stories. In almost every story, there is fact, just as there is fiction. And when that fiction is exposed, does it really make that story any less fascinating?

Charles J. Arrigo says:

October 3, 2010, 5:56 pm

â??The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutralityâ?
Dante Alighieri

It is as applicable to those in 1692,
as it is today pursuant to (current) Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll.

Maria says:

October 24, 2010, 5:51 pm

I love this era of history and the book “The Crucible”, which was about the Salem Witch Trials.
I don’t know if he haunts the place, but the happenings of how he died are true.

Scott says:

November 5, 2010, 12:21 pm

I am a descendant of Giles Corey and have taken interest lately in learning more about this “curse”. I heard about it years ago, but recently decided to understand more about what really happened back then.

Dan Bristol says:

December 16, 2010, 11:14 am

The REAL witches of Salem were the people who did the accusing; who stood by drooling as innocent people were persecuted or executed. The sad thing is that this demonic judgementality persists in many communities today. It’s part of human nature, I guess: to point and shriek “YOU! YOU’RE THE REASON WE’RE SO UNHAPPY!” It’s always easier than getting up off your behind and building your own life, isn’t it? Salem went a step further: they tried to build the superstructure of their happiness with a mortar composed of the flesh and blood of innocent people. Having been there, I can verify to you that something wicked lingers there, and it has nothing to do with witchcraft.

vampi says:

December 21, 2010, 12:54 pm

this some scary stuff

anthony ward says:

March 2, 2011, 12:17 pm

it is amazing what you can read about my family but we have different storys that have been passed to use over the years so some of this is right and some not.

anthony ward says:

March 2, 2011, 12:28 pm

oh and my 6th great grandfathers did kill a guy but you might want to look the reason why up befor you take judgment. and ill be going to salem to visit and see what question i can answer

Alleyin says:

January 26, 2015, 2:00 pm

It is patently unfair to the memory of all of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials that these tales of curses by the victims is perpetrated. The victims were never witches. To keep saying that they are causing any bad events is to keep persecuting the innocent. You continue the myths and superstitions that caused the Salem witch trials in the first place. If you continue, then you are nearly as guilty as those who killed these innocent people.

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