Giles Corey: An Iron Man Who Was a Victim of the Salem Witch Hysteria

There’s nothing like a little hysteria to get one’s heart pumping. Lately, we’ve seen people in our country who’ve been whipped into frenzies by the following things: the belief that Sharia law could be instituted in the United States, the proposed building of a Muslim cultural center not far from Ground Zero, and stories about Americans being beheaded in the Arizona desert. All this modern-day hysteria got me to thinking about the Salem witch trials, which took place here in my state more than three hundred years ago. It gave me the idea to write about Giles Corey. Corey was an elderly Massachusetts man who was accused of being a witch in March of 1692.

Here’s a poem by an unknown author that summarizes the story of Giles Corey:

THE MAN OF IRON

Giles Corey was a wizard strong, a stubborn wretch was he;
And fit was he to hang on high upon the locust tree.

So, when before the Magistrates for trial he did come,
He would no true confession make, but was completely dumb.

“Giles Corey,” said the Magistrate, “What hast thou here to plead
To those who now accuse thy sould of crime and horrid deed?”

Giles Corey he said not a word, no single word spoke he.
“Giles Corey,” said the Magistrate, “We’ll press it out of thee.”

They got them then a heavy beam, then laid it on his breast;
They loaded it with heavy stones, and hard upon him pressed.

“More weight,” now said this wretched man. “More weight!” again he cried;
And he did no confession make, but wickedly he died.

Giles Corey refused to stand trial. He believed there was no possibility that he would be found not guilty. Corey was not hanged. His punishment was different from the punishment of those found guilty in their witchcraft trials. “Because Giles stood mute, he was given the dreaded sentence of peine forte et dure even though this procedure had been determined to be illegal by the government of Massachusetts.” In September of 1692, Corey was crushed to death under the weight of heavy stones—while his neighbors watched. “Robert Calef, in his report of the event, added a gruesome detail: Giles’s ‘tongue being prest out of his mouth, the Sheriff with his cane forced it in again, when he was dying.’”

You can read more about Giles Corey in the sources I linked to below.

I’m hoping that calmer heads will prevail in our country in the 21st century.

Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Sources:

Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692

34 thoughts on “Giles Corey: An Iron Man Who Was a Victim of the Salem Witch Hysteria

  1. Elaine M., Thanks again for the original posting, and the additional information. (I’ll try to remember to avoid Salem in October — it sounds awful. 🙂 )

  2. anon nurse,

    The witch trials actually took place in Danvers–which was known as Salem Village at the time of the witch hysteria.

    “The events which led to the Witch Trials actually occurred in what is now the town of Danvers, then a parish of Salem Town, known as Salem Village. Launching the hysteria was the bizarre, seemingly inexplicable behavior of two young girls; the daughter, Betty, and the niece, Abigail Williams, of the Salem Village minister, Reverend Samuel Parris.”
    http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml

  3. anon nurse,

    The witch trials actually took place in Danvers–which was known as Salem Village at the time of the witch hysteria.

    “The events which led to the Witch Trials actually occurred in what is now the town of Danvers, then a parish of Salem Town, known as Salem Village. Launching the hysteria was the bizarre, seemingly inexplicable behavior of two young girls; the daughter, Betty, and the niece, Abigail Williams, of the Salem Village minister, Reverend Samuel Parris.”
    http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml

    Laurie Cabot—The Official Witch of Salem
    http://www.lauriecabot.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurie_Cabot

  4. anon nurse,

    Salem celebrates her “bewitching” history every year with a month-long series of events in October called Haunted Happenings. I try to stay away from Salem at that time of year. Mobs of people come from all over the country for Haunted Happenings.

    http://www.hauntedhappenings.org/

    **********
    The witch trials actually took place in Danvers–which was known as Salem Village at the time of the witch hysteria.

    “The events which led to the Witch Trials actually occurred in what is now the town of Danvers, then a parish of Salem Town, known as Salem Village. Launching the hysteria was the bizarre, seemingly inexplicable behavior of two young girls; the daughter, Betty, and the niece, Abigail Williams, of the Salem Village minister, Reverend Samuel Parris.”
    http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml

    Laurie Cabot—The Official Witch of salem
    http://www.lauriecabot.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurie_Cabot

  5. Gyges

    Oh, thanks. I thought he was referring to the last century. My mistake. I still think he’s giving nationalism’s evil short shrift.

  6. Buckeye,

    No, I think he’s saying that religion has a few dozen millennium head start on nationalism when it comes to doing evil.

  7. Something akin to witch hunting is still with us, but the modern day “hunters” employ high tech tools and operate covertly.

    (Thanks for this posting, Elaine.)

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