Salem Witch-Trials Show: Hysteria Then and Now

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, Sr. for Witchcraft, 1855. Oil on canvas. (Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes)
Barking kids, crazy ministers, and an overworked hangman: It’s all there at the Peabody Essex Museum.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I’ m a descendant of Giles Corey, the only American to be legally pressed to death. Not a great pick-up line, I know, and not cocktail-party chatter, but it does brighten a genealogy heavy on farmers, ministers, mechanics, and school teachers. Corey (1611–1692), a farmer, was accused of wizardry in Salem, Mass., in 1692.

Refusing to plead either guilty or not guilty, he was placed flat while heavy stones were piled on him, while his captors, the prosecutor, and cops in Salem expected him to say something responsive to the charge so a trial could follow. This was, at the time, a

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