More About George Corwin House/Joshua Ward House

Within his duties as High Sheriff, George Corwin also oversaw the gruesome death of Giles Corey. After refusing to comply with court procedure, Giles Corey was condemned to peine forte et dure. This extreme measure entailed laying the 81 year old Corey on his back, and piling heavier and heavier weights on a plank across his body. According to some reports, when Corey’s tongue lolled out of his mouth as a result of the weight on his chest, Corwin callously used his walking stick to poke the tongue back in – a disturbing image. Given the shocking nature of his demise, as time has gone on a legend has grown surrounding Corey’s death. This tale claims with his last breath Giles Corey cursed Sheriff Corwin and the town of Salem. There is no evidence to suggest Corey ever uttered these words, but this has become a popular legend surrounding the Sheriff.

 

Another myth surrounding George Corwin involves Philip English, the wealthiest merchant in Salem, who, along with his wife Mary, was accused of witchcraft. English’s wealth was such that he was able to  flee to New York City, where he remained until the witchcraft accusations passed. Upon his return to Salem, he discovered that George Corwin (along with some of English’s own neighbors) had confiscated his belongings – from his home, warehouses, wharves, and shop. Furious at the degradation of his life’s work, English sued Corwin repeatedly, for years, in an effort to regain his property. Ultimately, Corwin died before English had obtained any satisfaction from his legal efforts. In a wild and desperate measure, English went so far as to threaten to steal Corwin’s corpse and hold it for ransom. While most scholars believe this theft did not actually happen, legends grew. This tale is often retold, claiming that English DID snatch the body, or that Corwin was buried in his own basement for years, for fear he would be stolen from his grave. In truth, Corwin was interred in the Broad Street Cemetery.

 

Additional note: There are numerous myths around George Corwin, including the idea that he tortured prisoners in his basement, and that he, or his victims, haunt the site to this day. There is no evidence to substantiate the claim that Corwin was torturing prisoners, nor that this was taking place within his own home. However, today popular tradition maintains that the Joshua Ward House is the most haunted house in Salem.