Sheriff Corwin’s reign of torture ended abruptly a few years after Salem Witch Trials. He died at the age of only thirty of an unexpected heart attack. Some people believe his death was caused by a curse placed on him by Giles Corey. Corey had been accused of witchcraft and refused to plead innocent or guilty and without a plea being entered his trial could not proceed. Corey believed refusing to plead could stall his trial and he would be able to wait out the Witch Hysteria and eventually walk free. Sheriff Corwin was not about to let that happen.
To force Corey to confess Corwin employed a particularly cruel form of torture called pressing. Corey was dragged from the dungeons to an adjacent field. A pit was dug (some say Corey was forced to dig his own grave), Corey was thrown down into the earth and a board was placed upon his body. For a period of days heavy stones were slammed on top of the board slowly crushing him, as the days wore on Corey was repeatedly asked how he pleaded, innocent or guilty. He never said a word, so a frustrated Corwin continued to weigh him down with heavier and heavier stones. When it was clear Giles Corey was about to expire Corwin asked him for the final time how he pleaded. Defiant to the end Corey spat out the phrase “add more weight!” An enraged Corwin heaved a massive rock onto Corey’s crushed body. As Giles Corey’s body perished it is said that with his last breath he groaned out “damn you Sheriff Corwin, I curse you and all of Salem!” Corwin died just a few short years later. He had not exhibited any signs of ill health before his demise. Perhaps despite not actually having been a witch Giles Corey’s curse had the power to kill. Corwin’s earthly life was finished, but his problems were not over.
After his death Corwin’s body could not be buried in a proper cemetery. One of the victims of the Witch Hysteria who had had his property confiscated by Corwin put a lien on his Corpse. The remains could not be interred correctly until Phillip English got his money back! But not burying George Corwin in the graveyard suited the Corwin family just fine. They feared that if he were put in the earth his corpse would be dug up and desecrated by angry relatives of his many victims. The only safe place they had to stow his fast putrifying body was the basement. Eventually Corwin did end up in graveyard, six feet under, but the rumor still persists that his corpse in walled up in the basement of the Joshua Ward House, the stately historic home that was built on his land. A home that is said to still be haunted by Corwin’s spirit as well as the tortured souls of his victims.
According to now deceased former Salem Sheriff Robert Cahill’s books Ghostly Haunts and it’s follow up volume Haunted Happenings The Joshua Ward House is not only haunted by the wicked spirit of Corwin, it is occupied by another ghost as well, a hideous female apparition that has been titled The Lady In Black. The Lady In Black is seen to have a distorted face, long, unkempt black hair, and a tattered, old fashioned black dress. It is speculated that she may have been a victim of Corwin’s torture. Perhaps he killed her on his property.
Cahill recounts how in the early 1980s the home was being used as the office for a real estate firm and during an otherwise uneventful photo session a photographer was taking employee pictures when he came to a young woman named Julie he accidentally captured one of the most unexplainable and terrifying ghost images of all time. When the photograph was developed Julie was nowhere to be seen, superimposed on top of her was the image of an imposing, gruesome featured woman all in black! It is an outrageous image that is considered one of the best, most irrefutable examples of a spirit caught on film of all time. Of course, it is always wise to be skeptical when investigating claims of the paranormal. Spellbound Tours and the Spellbound researchers take great pride in their professionalism and ability to weed out hoaxes or natural phenomena that might create a convincing false image. Yet the Lady In Black picture stands up to all tests. The photograph shows no signs of tampering, the people involved in its genesis are unimpeachable. Various theories have been thrown tested to explain away The Lady In Black picture, but none have succeeded. The staunchest skeptics eventually give in and admit it is a spirit, or at the very least is conventionally unexplainable.
Former employees at the Joshua Ward House will recount tales of how they would be sitting in their offices alone, working after hours. They say that even when they knew for a fact they were alone the home felt occupied. They would catch a sideways look in the hall and see a shadowy figure glide past, shaking it off they went back to work, only to later look up from their computers and see the Lady In Black glaring right into their eyes, mere inches from their face! While The Joshua Ward House is beautiful many visitors, even those entirely unaware of its history, have reported feeling very ill at ease, even in a brightly lit room they feel a gloom and sadness, like the house wants to convey to them its dark secrets.
In the recent past the Joshua Ward House was occupied by a publishing company that was very amenable to paranormal investors. Today it is home to a boutique hotel that does not take kindly to nigh tours showing up on their doorstep hunting for ghosts. It used to be one of the top spots on our nightly Spellbound Voodoo, Vampires, and Ghosts tour, but now they try to conceal the haunted history. Despite the hotel’s reluctance to embrace the supernatural the historic Joshua Ward House is worth seeking out. After your Spellbound Tour you may even want to book a room and see if you can survive a night with Sheriff Corwin.