Throwback Thursday: The Final Round of the Salem Witch Trials
On this day 324 years ago, the last eight victims of the Salem witch trials were put to death.
They were hanged September 22, 1692, rounding out the total number of victims to 20. The hysteria began earlier in the same year when a group of teenage girls appeared to be possessed by the devil—they convulsed, they barked, and they hallucinated—leading them to accuse older women in the village of witchcraft.
A wave of fear swept over Salem, and soon enough, the first accused witch was hanged. A 60-year-old woman named Bridget Bishop was led to the gallows on June 10, 1692. More would face the same fate, that is, until the end of September, when the general public seemed to realize the bizarrely absurd nature of the trials.
The last witches to be hanged were a group of older women and one man who had married an older widow. Their names were recorded as Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Mary Eastey, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Willmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker.
Martha Corey was the wife of Giles Corey, a man who was also accused of witchcraft. Rather than deciding to plead innocent or guilty, he kept silent and was pressed to death. The practice of pressing was meant to extract a plea from a person headed for trial, but instead, Corey allowed immensely heavy piles of stones to crush him to death so he would not have to recognize the legitimacy of his case. The nature of his death also allowed for his estate to be passed on to his sons-in-law, rather than be confiscated after his hanging. Corey died after two days of suffering on September 18—four days before Martha Corey would be hanged.
During her trial, Martha Corey was said to have told her examiners not to believe the convulsing teenagers and “all that these distracted children say.” At the time, a woman in the courtroom threw a shoe at Corey’s head.
The memorial markers for each victim of the Salem witch trials, including the Coreys, can be found in the Salem Witch Trial Memorial on Liberty Street in Salem.