Thursday 30 Oct, 2014

Salem Ghost Story: The Curse of Giles Corey

Some believe Giles Corey haunts Salem to this day. (photo: Christine Zenino)

Some believe Giles Corey haunts Salem to this day. (photo: Christine Zenino)

Halloween brings scary fun to every city and town across America, but no place sets the spooky mood quite like Salem, Massachusetts.

Salem, of course, was the site of the infamous witch trials in the late 1600s, the effects of which still linger more than 300 years later. And we don’t just mean the cultural and political impact.

We’re talking about ghosts.

Most of the suspected witches of Salem were women, but one man who was victimized by the hysteria is thought to haunt Salem to this day. His name is Giles Corey.

Corey was a farmer from Salem Village, and by all accounts he was a mean and violent man, one who’d had run-ins with the law throughout his life. In 1692, after his wife was accused of witchcraft, Corey was accused as well—at the ripe old age of 80.

When Corey refused to plea one way or the other (a common legal tactic at the time), the local sheriff tried to pry it out of him through torture. For three long days in a field near the Howard Street Burying Ground, the sheriff placed a board on Corey’s chest and piled on one heavy stone after another. Corey never did give the sheriff the satisfaction of making a plea, but he did have the strength to cry out: “Damn you! I curse you and Salem!”

Corey died on September 19, and rumors spread that his ghost was seen lingering around the Howard Street Burying Ground. Meanwhile, just four years later, the sheriff who’d tortured him died of a heart attack at just 30 years old.

To this day, locals in Salem believe Corey’s ghost haunts the area around the Howard Street Cemetery, as it’s now known. He tends to appear more often before and after terrible events. In fact, just before the Great Salem Fire of 1914, a ghostly figure of an old man was seen floating through the cemetery. The fire started near Gallows Hill, where Corey’s wife and 18 others were hanged during the 1692 witch hunt.

Howard Street Cemetery and Gallows Hill are just two of the spooky spots you can see on EF Explore America’s student trips to Boston. IF YOU DARE…

Happy Halloween!