During the Salem Witch Trials, Giles Corey was crushed to death with rocks for refusing to enter a plea for the accusations of witchcraft made against him.
Old Burying Point Cemetery in Salem
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial honors the memories of 20 individuals who were executed for witchcraft in 1692. The memorial is shaded by black locust trees, the type of trees believed to have been used to hang the victims hanged from.
But one man in particular suffered a far more gruesome fate.
Giles Corey was an 81-year-old man who was accused of witchcraft after defending his wife Martha against similar accusations.
According to a girl named Mercy Lewis, the apparition of Corey had been tormenting her. “I veryly believe in my heart that Giles Cory is a dreadfull wizzard,” she stated in her deposition, “for sence he had ben in prison he or his apperance has com and most greviously tormented me.”
In court, Corey refused to enter a plea, neither guilty nor innocent, to the charges.
“Standing mute,” as it was called, was punishable by pressing – being slowly crushed by an increasingly larger pile of rocks until the accused decided to cooperate with the court.
Charged with extracting a plea, Sheriff George Corwin lead Corey to a pit beside the jail, where he was stripped naked and made to lie down in the hole. A board was placed on top of him, and six men slowly piled large stones onto the board over the next three days.
Each time the sheriff returned and demanded Corey’s plea, the old man simply told him, “More weight.”
“In the pressing, Giles Corey’s tongue was pressed out of his mouth,” A witness by the name of Robert Calef later said. “The Sheriff, with his cane, forced it in again.”
Just before the weight of the rocks finally crushed the last breath of life out of him, Corey was said to have cried out to Corwin, “Damn you. I curse you and Salem!”
Giles died beneath the weight of the rocks.
Martha was hanged for being a witch three days later during the final round of executions on September 22, 1692.
Stone dedicated to Giles Corey at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial