Colonial American martyr (1612-1692). He was an uneducated but prosperous farmer who lived with his wife Martha a little outside of Salem village in Massachusetts. He was known throughout the area for his hot temper and for his tendency to argue with and threaten his neighbors. He also had a criminal record -- mostly for stealing food and tobacco. John Proctor believed that he'd set fire to his house once, but could never find any proof.

During the Salem Witch Trials, when Corey was 80 years old, Martha -- a very religious and outspoken woman, who'd been against the trials from the very beginning -- began questioning whether the girls accusing people of being witches were just making stories up. Unsurprisingly, she was soon accused by the girls of being a witch. While she was being questioned by John Hathorne, the girls claimed she was using her powers to bite, scratch, and strangle them, and Ann Putnam claimed that she had seen Martha praying to Satan. Based on the girls' testimony, Martha was jailed.

Giles, of course, knew that his wife was innocent, so he began speaking against the girls whose testimony was putting so many people in jail. And lo and behold, he was also subsequently accused of practicing witchcraft. Putnam and the other girls claimed that Giles sent his spirit out to torment them. After he was interrogated, he sat in prison with his wife for five months awaiting his trial.

By the time Corey's case went before a grand jury in September, almost a dozen witnesses had been conjured up, with Elizabeth and Alice Booth declaring that he had presided over an unholy sacrament for over 50 witches, and Putnam and Mercy Lewis calling him "a dreadful wizard." Knowing that the trials were inherently unfair and he was almost certain to be convicted and executed, Corey refused to stand for trial. Refusing to stand for trial meant he'd be able to avoid conviction and thus pass his farm on to his sons-in-law, rather than having the state take it over. However, the penalty for refusing to stand for trial was severe -- death by pressing by heavy stones.

On September 19th, Corey was stripped naked, and a board was placed upon his chest. Large rocks and stones were piled onto the board, which began to slowly crush him. He demanded more weight be piled onto the board -- rather than the gesture of defiance that this has been romanticized as, this was more likely a practical concern: with more weight, death would come -- and the torture be ended -- more quickly. Nevertheless, it took Corey two days to die. He was buried in an unmarked grave on Gallows Hill. Martha Corey was hanged on September 22nd.

Giles Corey was the only person in Massachusetts -- probably in the entire continent -- to be executed by pressing, and his death helped build more public opposition to the witch trials.

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