Salem Witch Trial Hysteria and the Courageous Stance of Giles Corey

In Spring of 1692, a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, accused others in their village of practicing witchcraft, unleashing a hysteria that caused the deaths of at least 24 people. Most of the deaths were caused by hanging, or occurred in prison, but the case of Giles Corey, who was accused of colluding with the devil, was different.

During the famed Salem Witch Trials, Giles Corey refused to submit to the lunacy of the Salem show trials. Knowing that making a plea would result in his estate and possessions being forfeited to the government, instead of being passed on to his children, he declined to plead either guilty or not guilty. Giles was subsequently subjected to the brutal practice of pressing, a technique used to force a plea out of him. He died during the process, but in full possession of his estate, which was passed on to his two sons-in-law, in accordance with his will.

The Salem Witch trials were gripped by hysteria

The Salem Witch Trials are an example of mass hysteria. “The witch no. 1” lithograph by Joseph E. Baker, ca. 1837 to 1914. (Public domain)

The events that led to the Salem witch trials began with two young girls—nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams. In January of 1692, Parris and Williams began having fits the involved uncontrollable outbursts of screaming and violent contortions. A local doctor diagnosed the girls with “bewitchment,” and soon other young girls in the area began exhibiting the same symptoms.

The girls accused three women of bewitching…

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