Giles Corey was an 81-year-old farmer who lived in Salem Village. He moved to Salem in 1658 from Northhampton, England, in 1621. His first wife Margaret died after they moved to Salem Village. In 1664 he was remarried to Mary Brite, and they farmed the land.
In 1675 Corey caught his farmhand Jacob Goodale stealing apples. Corey beat Goodale to death with a stick. The town officials came up with a fee as restitution for Goodale's death instead of sending Corey, a devoted churchgoer, to jail.
However, some community members did not agree with the punishment and saw him as someone who took the law into his own hands. Some believed this was his undoing, seeing that he bribed his way to freedom in 1676.
In 1684 Mary died, and in 1690 Giles remarried Martha Panon. At this point, many saw him as a changed man with his new wife, both church members. When the Salem Witch trials began, Corey and Martha were among the first to witness the trials.
However, shortly after, Martha started questioning the validity of the allegations and did not want Corey to attend the trials. Because Martha persuaded her husband not to go to the trials, the people of Salem thought she was a witch. Martha also had an illegitimate son, which did not help her innocence.
The girls accused of witchcraft began to mimic Martha and then claimed that she was manipulating and bewitching them. Finally, on March 21, 1692, Martha was charged with witchcraft and brought into custody. At that point, Giles betrayed his wife and testified against her, stating that his cat and ox suddenly fell ill and thought it was due to Martha's witchcraft. April 18, 1692, he was also arrested and accused of witchcraft.
Giles Corey's trial began on April 19, 1692, however, he refused to speak or enter a plea. Corey knew either way; his fate was sealed; It was at this point they enforced peine fort et dure, a French law that means ¨a long and hard punishment¨.
Corey was stripped and forced to the ground, where a large board was placed on top of him. Then large stones were slowly added on top of him. The purpose was to coerce a plea or obtain a confession.
It lasted 3 days; however, Corey used a tactic that was called ¨standing mute¨. Again, Corey refused to enter a plea, and when a person was ¨standing silent, ¨ they were tortured until a plea was entered or they died. Again, Corey refused to confess, and his only words were more weight, more weight.
Giles Corey was the only accused witch to use this tactic, and he was tortured for three days until he died on September 19, 1692. By Corey choosing to stand mute, his land was not taken from him; if he had entered a plea, he would have to forfeit all of his property, leaving his family with nothing. So instead, he deeded his land to his two sons-in-law while in jail.
The myth of the curse of Corey Giles claims that his ghostly apparition haunts Howard Street Cemetery. The legend states that the white ghost appears before something terrible happens. In 1914, his ghost appeared before the Great Salem Fire, 1978, before sheriff Robert Cahill suffered a rare blood disorder, heart attack, and stroke in the same year. Two previous sheriffs also suffered from blood disorders or heart-related incidents while Sheriff.