Drawing of Martha Corey with her persecutors.
1619 or 1620|
New England (now part of United States)
September 22, 1692 (aged 72)|
Salem Village, Province of Massachusetts Bay
|Cause of death||Execution by hanging|
|Monuments||Salem Witch Trials Memorial (1992), Proctor's Ledge Memorial (2017)|
|Residence||Salem Village, Province of Massachusetts Bay|
|Known for||Convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials|
Henry Rich (1677–unknown)|
Giles Corey (1690–1692; his death)
The community was surprised to see Corey accused, as she was known for her piety and dedicated church attendance. She had never shown support for the witch trials, since she did not believe witches or warlocks existed. She was outspoken in her belief that the accusers were lying, and upon hearing this, two young girls Ann Putnam Jr. and Mercy Lewis promptly accused her of witchcraft.
She was unaware of the level of paranoia in the village, and when she went to trial, she was simply truthful about her innocence and never doubted she would be exonerated. As the girls testified against her during examination, Corey asked the judge not to believe the rantings of hysterical children. The girls began mimicking her movements as if they were being controlled by her. Mercy Lewis called out, "There's a man he whispered in her ear." John Hathorne asked Lewis if the man was Satan, then shortly Ann Putnam Jr. cried out that Martha Corey had a yellow bird sucking on her hand, which was enough evidence to persuade the jury of her guilt. She was hanged on September 22, 1692. She was 72 years old.
Her husband, Giles, defended her against the allegations, and in due time he was also accused of witchcraft himself. He refused to undergo a trial and was executed by pressing, a slow crushing death under a pile of stones. The main reason usually cited for his refusal to be tried or to say yea or nay was to keep his estate from being confiscated from his heirs. When the sheriff asked how he would plead, he responded only by asking for more weight. He died on September 19, 1692, three days before his wife Martha was hanged. Since he had not been convicted, his estate passed, in accordance with his last will and testament, to those of his children who had maintained that he was innocent.
In popular culture
Corey and her husband are both characters in the Arthur Miller play The Crucible (although Martha is only heard off-stage). In the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of Miller's play, she was depicted (on-screen) by Jeanne Fusier-Gir and Mary Pat Gleason, respectively.
- Enders A. Robinson. The Devil Discovered: Salem Witchcraft 1692. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, IL, 2001 (1991), p. 271
- Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 2 vv., v. 1 p. 190, v. 2 pp. 38–42, 43–55, 111, 324, 458, 507.
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