The Witch Trails Revisted: Descendants of Giles Corey

Eighty-one-year-old Giles Corey was an accused witch, the only victim of the Salem witch hysteria to have been pressed to death. For two days, his tormentors piled heavy stones on top of his supine body, demanding that he confess to consorting with the devil. Corey wasn’t an idiot, though–he knew a confession wouldn’t save him. Each time he was commanded to enter a plea, his response was: “More weight!” Apart from that, he was silent, despite the extreme pain caused by this form of torture. So, yeah: it’s safe to say that Giles Corey was kind of a bad-ass.

Giles Corey memorial, Salem

This is his memorial in downtown Salem. The first thing you probably noticed is all the pennies–it’s some kind of Massachusetts thing. I’ve seen coins stacked on grave markers in Boston, too. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be an offering, a request for protection, or a general symbol of well wishes. Regardless, Giles Corey’s memorial had more pennies than anyone else’s.

It also had this:

Dear Great Grandpa Corey

Call me a sap, but this made me cry the most macho of macho tears. I’m not religious. I don’t believe that Giles Corey is up in heaven, looking down on his memorial and thinking, “Man, nice flowers.” But there’s something sweet and humanizing about the gesture, nevertheless. The dead aren’t truly gone until they’re forgotten, and it’s nice to know that–at least in the hearts of his descendants–Giles Corey lives on.


4 thoughts on “The Witch Trails Revisted: Descendants of Giles Corey

  1. Linda

    From what I’ve heard, coins on a headstone are a sign of letting other visitors and the deceased know that the deceased is remembered in life. I don’t know for sure if this is true, but I would like to think it is.

  2. Clayton Davis

    I am Clayton Davis from Shelby, Montana. I am 61 years old and Giles and Martha Corey are my great-grandparents (x-8). They were both murdered during the Salem Witch Trials. My grandmother was hanged and her last request was to be able to pray before her death. This is a terrible chapter in American history, but I am proud to be direct descendants of these two people. I hope all Americans learn this story and the real truth behind what hysteria can do to innocent people. Thanks for your efforts to recognize my grandfather!

    1. joannalesher Post author

      Such an honor to hear from you, Clayton. Thank you so much for commenting. Your pride is well-placed. Martha and Giles Corey were indeed incredible people, and the way in which they faced their tragic end, with fortitude and strength of mind, should serve as an example to us all.


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