By Evelyn Goble Steen

By the 1600s, witches were no longer just ugly old women. Beautiful young women were singled out as witches as well. Beauty and youth were considered clever disguises for witches to don. "In 1629, a nineteen-year-old girl, Barbara Gobel, was burned at the stake; the executioner's list describes her as 'the fairest maid in Wurzburg.' Not far off, another young woman who went to the stake was called the 'fairest and the purest maiden in all Cologne.'"

Many of us have Cory/Corey ancestors. (Stephen (5) Goble married Rhoda Cory, daughter of Abraham and Francis Cory and a direct descendant of John Cory, 1637 immigrant to America.) There were at least 2 incidents of Cory witch executions. Giles Corey was pressed to death at Salem, New England, on 19 September 1692. His wife Martha Corey was executed at Salem, New England, on 22 September 1692.

On 18 April Giles Cory was accused of witchcraft by John Putnam, Jr. and Ezekiel Cheever. On 19 April 1692 he was examined in Salem Village and on 19 September he was pressed to death under an old torture known as peine forte et dure, an ancient English procedure designed to force recalcitrant prisoners either to enter a plea (so their trials might proceed) or to die. Brown describes him as "Eighty-year-old Giles Corey, husband of the imprisoned Martha, was a powerful brute of a man and feared by many in the Village. Seventeen years before he had brutally murdered a servant (Jacob Goodale) on his farm and ever since had tangled repeatedly with the law." Hansen tells us "Giles Corey had been ready very ready to testify against his wife, Martha, and to speak out against her out of court as well as in; he had told several people that he knew things that 'do his wife's business.' Now he was admirably, if belatedly, protesting her innocence as well as his own. But he did it stupidly; he denied having said things which witnesses had heard him say and thus was several times caught lying. Since lying was a serious matter in Puritan Massachusetts and perjury is a serious matter in any age, Giles Corey must have made a very bad impression."

Both Giles and Martha were excommunicated by their respective churches (Giles was a member of the Salem First Church and Martha of the Salem Village Church. Martha's excommunication was revoked in 1703 but Giles not until nine years later, on 2 March 1712.

Brown describes his death: "He was taken to a Salem field and there staked to the ground. A large wooden plank was placed over him. Upon it were piled stones one at a time. The authorities intended to change his mind with force. Tradition has it that Corey pleaded only for "more weight" so that he might die swiftly. 'In pressing,' a contemporary wrote, 'his Tongue being prest out of his Mouth, the Sheriff (George Corwin) with his Cane forced it in again, when he was dying.' His was a horrible death. Corey endured this punishment for two days before expiring."

Robert E. Cahill, former Essex County Sheriff and Keeper of the Salem Jail wrote that just before he died, Giles cried out at Sheriff Corwin, "Damn you. I curse you and Salem!" According to Cahill, all the High Sheriffs of Essex County before him, including Corwin, either died in office from heart problems, or retired with an ailment of the blood. He, himself, suffered a rare blood disease, heart attack, and stroke, in 1978, after writing his piece, and was forced to retire as Sheriff of the County, and as Master Keeper of the Salem Jail.


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