The Curse of Giles Corey
The Salem Witch Trials will always hold a spooky part in our national hearts, but as the years go by, many have come to the conclusion that the hysteria that struck Salem Town and Salem Village (now Danvers) was more about greed than the supernatural. The accused often had trouble with their neighbors regarding property rights, livestock, and general issues of jealousy. However, the tale of Giles Corey’s death and the legacy left for the area’s law enforcement is a tale of greed with a liberal helping of the supernatural.
Giles Corey was one of six men who died during the trials that ran from May through October of 1692. He was the only one tortured; the rest were either hung or died in jail. Implicated by Abigail Hobbs, the Corey’s were brought to Ingersoll’s Tavern to be examined. Giles, who was in his 80’s at the time, had at first encouraged an accusation against his wife, Martha. Later he tried to recant when he realized just how ugly and disturbing the trials had become.
It is also believed he realized that his home, land, and all other wealth were in great danger. The sketchy laws of the time supposedly decreed that anyone found guilty of witchcraft would lose all of their holdings, leaving nothing for those who stood to inherit. Once Giles himself had been accused, he knew that pleading innocent would not only lead to his death, but would most likely lead to conviction anyway. To save his holdings for his family (two sons-in-law) to inherit, Corey refused to plea neither guilty nor innocent. In this strange legal twist his recently land could not be awarded back to the colony after his death, no matter how he died.
Although many speculated that Corey refused to stand for trial and place an appropriate plea because of what would happen to his land, it seems he may have done it out of sheer rebellion. According to some sources, neither Massachusetts law nor English law would insist on such forfeiture—the true danger came from the greedy wrangling of the sheriff himself. It appears that Corey’s less than popular stance in Salem society had caused him to create a will deeding his property to his sons-in-law, William Cleeves and John Moulton, even before his arrest. Perhaps he knew something was coming or perhaps a previous run-in with the law had caused him to grow wary. Regardless, heirs were legally able to retain lands that otherwise would have been forfeit in Massachusetts at the time due to certain criminal dealings.
The solution to Corey’s refusal to submit to the court and offer a plea, as perceived by Sheriff George Corwin, the son of Witch Trials magistrate Jonathan Corwin, was to torture him until he did plea. Corwin had been profiting from the Salem Witch Trials, as it was he who was in charge of confiscating property and dividing it among the leaders of Salem. The court ordered Corey a sentence of “peine forte et dure” even though this torture was illegal in the Massachusetts colony. In all of US history, Giles Corey is the only person who was pressed to death by the order of a court. Sheriff Corwin himself watched as Giles Corey was slowly crushed to death in a field just outside old Salem Jail, a field that is now known as Howard Cemetery.
A board was placed upon the old man’s chest and slowly loaded with more and more heavy fieldstones. According to tradition, it took him two days to die beneath the weighted board.
Folklore has it that Corey repeated, “More weight!” when asked to plea. However, there are also tales that Corey actually cursed Sheriff Corwin and the whole of Salem with his dying breath. Buried in an unmarked grave on Gallows Hill, it seems that this curse may have actually been quite effective.
According to local historian and former sheriff of Essex County, Robert Cahill, each and every sheriff starting with George Corwin to himself had either died in office or was forced into early retirement due to a heart or blood ailment. Corwin died of a heart attack in 1696; Cahill left his post after his own heart attack much more recently.
The curse goes beyond the sheriff’s post, however. Whenever a tragedy befalls Salem, people claim to see Giles Corey’s ghost soon after. Could it be that he makes occasional appearances to savoring the suffering of Salem—and the fruits of his curse? Giles Corey’s spirit was supposedly seen even before his death by accuser Anne Putnam who claimed his spectre visited her, trying to entice her into writing in “the Devil’s book.”
Nazi UFOs, Roswell and Mengele’s alien children
Back in 1947, a group of mutant Russian children, horribly deformed by the death camp doctor Josef Mengele, crashed their reverse-engineered Nazi flying saucer into the desert near the town of Roswell in New Mexico. The idea was Joseph Stalin’s, and it came to him after reading reports of Orson Welles’s radio broadcast, in 1938, of the sci-fi story War of the Worlds which caused widespread panic in the US.
Stalin’s idea was to see if he could spook the Americans using a REAL flying saucer piloted by ‘aliens’. So his people got hold of an experimental disc-shaped aircraft that had been built by the Germans in the War. They also persuaded the captured Dr Mengele to carry on with his grotesque experiments – to create a cadre of odd-looking humans that would make the Americans believe they were under extra-terrestrial attack. And after realising that everyone did indeed believe it was aliens, the CIA was happy to go along with this story as it helped divert attention to what the Americans were REALLY up to.
Bonkers? Probably. This is the latest theory to ‘explain’ the ‘Roswell Incident’, the lynchpin of UFO lore. So it wasn’t aliens after all, says American Journalist Annie Jacobsen, who has written an entertaining (and otherwise plausible) history of Area 51, the secret military testing ground in Nevada just up the road from Roswell.
That’s the problem with conspiracy theories; like penicillin-resistant superbugs, they constantly mutate and evolve, resisting all sensible efforts to kill them off. I do not think space aliens landed in Roswell in 1947, but I think I am more prepared to believe they did than the Mengele-Nazi-Flying saucer story. It perhaps falls into the category of ‘so extraordinary it might just be true’ but somehow I doubt it.
It is now 64 years since the ‘invention’ of the UFO, and three weeks ago we celebrated World UFO Day to mark the anniversaries not only of the Roswell Incident but also the famous sighting of crescent-shaped craft skipping through the air ‘like a stone skimming on water’ by pilot Kenneth Arnold, who was flying over Mt Rainier near Seattle.
Since then interest in UFOs has waxed and waned. It reached a high point sometime in the late 1970s, when I remember a UFO-spotting appearing almost nightly on the TV news. Then it dropped off a bit, to be revived dramatically by the advent of the television series ‘The X Files’, a drama which millions seemingly have mistaken for a documentary. Interest seems to be growing again - a few weeks ago someone spotted a triad of mysterious lights over the BBC in London.
Why do so many people believe in UFOs, specifically that we are being visited by beings from another planet/dimension/time, when the evidence is so thin? It is an odd phenomenon, and needs explaining.
For what it is worth I think that although the Nazi-saucer idea is bonkers, Ms Jacobsen is certainly on to something when it comes to deliberate disinformation. It has long been a pet theory of mine that the UFO craze has been deliberately stoked by the security agencies in the US (and elsewhere) as a smokescreen to throw spies and the simply curious off the scent of secret military experiments being performed in Area 51 and elsewhere.
We know that some pretty amazing kit has developed over the years, from the SR-71 spyplane that could cruise at THREE times the speed of sound, to the high-altitude U-2, stealth bombers and fighters (some of which look very flying-saucer like) and a new breed of unmanned robot spyplanes and drone attack aircraft that are in action over the skies of Afghanistan.
The problem with testing top-secret aeroplanes, even if you have 5000 square miles of remote, top-secret desert in which to do so, is that inevitably someone will spot them. So what better than a cover-story – aliens! – to throw people off the scent. It is interesting that immediately after Roswell the authorities did little to dissuade people that it was indeed a flying saucer that had crashed; hardly the behaviour one would expect if the Grand Conspiracists are right. If Roswell was a cover-up, it must rank as the worst cover up in history. Google ‘Roswell’ and you get 41million hits – that’s more even than you get for ‘Princess Diana’. If this is supposed to be a secret, someone should tell the men in black. And sack them forthwith.