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