|Pressing to Death. From Richard Verstegen, Theatrum Crudelitatum Haereticorum (1587).|
Pressing to death with weights or stones, also known as peine forte et dure, was the punishment inflicted on Giles Cory for refusing to plead guilty or innocent in 1692. This form of torture was actually illegal in Massachusetts after 1641 but used against Cory for "standing mute." Under English law at the time, a trial could not proceed unless the accused placed himself "on God and Country." According to tradition, eighty-year-old Cory only said, "more weight" when asked how he pleaded. Robert Calef, a contemporary, relates how as Cory was dying after two days of having stones piled on him in the field beside Salem jail, "in pressing, his tongue being pressed out of his mouth, the sheriff with his cane forced it in again." In showing his contempt for the court and its proceedings, Giles Cory died a gruesome death but brought further attention to the unfair use of spectral evidence and to the overall madness of the witchcraft trials of 1692.
|(courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)||close window|