The Joshua Ward House; by Kayla Schroeder-Kessler
By Kayla Schroeder-Kessler
On Salem, Massachusetts’ Front Street sits a boutique inn with a past befitting the history of the small town. The Joshua Ward house, currently the Merchant Inn, was once the last waterfront property before the area was filled in and the city built up around it. In 1784, a wealthy merchant named Joshua Ward built his dream house on the waterfront. However, the place he chose is the same spot where, 100 years earlier, High Sheriff George “The Strangler” Corwin took the lives of 19 men and women he believed to be witches. Corwin was even buried under the property following his death.
George Corwin was sheriff during the witch trials and was responsible for getting a plea from anyone who was accused of witchcraft. The accused had two options: they could plead guilty and name other witches to stay alive, or plead not guilty and be hung for their crimes. In an attempt to get a guilty plea from people, Corwin interrogated them in a jail cell located in the cellar of his home. Corwin’s interrogations involved a myriad of cruel tortures, some concocted by him. Individuals who did not die during the tortures were hung, and one was even pressed to death with stones.
Giles Corey, the one individual who was accused of being a warlock, was the only person pressed to death. Corey tried using the hidden third option for the accused—“standing mute”—thus not entering a plea and halting his trial. This aggravated Corwin. Corey was said to have survived the torture so long that Corwin resorted to stoning to try and get a plea. On the day of his pressing, Corey was brought to an open field behind the jail and made to strip before the onlookers. He was then laid into a shallow hole and a large board placed on his chest. Stones were slowly added over the next three days and Corey still refused to plea. Corwin became so frustrated that he even stood on the board and stared down at Corey, adding his body weight to the stones. Corey was not phased; it is said he cursed the Sheriff and his successors before delivering his last words,“More weight”. He died on September 19, 1692 and still lies in an unmarked grave near the old jail.
It is possible that Corey did have some magic within him because on April 12, 1696, Corwin died of a heart attack. He was 30. Originally, Corwin was buried under the basement where he committed his heinous acts, but he was later buried in a cemetery. Since that time, all traceable sheriffs have died or become inflicted with a blood disease, heart problems, or suffered strokes while in office. In 1991 the Sheriff’s office was moved to a neighboring town, which seemed to break the curse.
Corey is also believed to be one of the ghosts that haunt the Joshua Ward House, along with High Sheriff George Corwin and an unknown female ghost. In 1981, an employee of Carson Realty, who at the time occupied the house, was photographing his staff. He snapped a photograph of staff member Julie Tremblay using a Polaroid camera.
When the image came through, they did not get a photo of Julie Tremblay.
This unknown woman is thought to be one of the people Corwin tortured. These three ghosts are credited with a myriad of occurrences at the Joshua Ward house. Individuals at the house have told stories of cold spots, doors shutting, lights turning off, trash cans being tipped over, books falling from shelves, candles being deformed, and even the feeling of being strangled by hands. Occurrences over several years have given the Joshua Ward House a reputation as being one of the most haunted buildings in the area, and remember, you can rent a room for the night.
Joshua Ward House – HauntedHouses.com. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/ma/joshua-ward-house.htm
The Curse of Giles Corey. (2018, August 29). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from http://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-curse-of-giles-corey/
T. (1970, January 01). The Witch of the Joshua Ward House. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from http://theresashauntedhistoryofthetri-state.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-witch-of-joshua-ward -house.html