Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

Recent personal events have me thinking about stuff, like how many witches were burned to death during the Salem Witch trials of 1962? None. It was in 1692, dummy. Okay, how many witches were burned to death in Salem in 1692? The smartasses in the room smugly state that they were all hanged. The actual right answer, though, is that no witches were executed because there is no such thing as witches, idiot. Nineteen mostly innocent people were hanged, probably to death, by their virtuous neigbors for the crime of using the wrong pronoun when addressing Mrs. Primm in public. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne—same first name, no relation—were accused by Elizabeth Hubbard of openly mocking Reverend Parris, saying of him that he is “a misshapen dwarf, retarded in both stature and perspicacity.” One guy, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea of guilty or not. He said, that in his opinion, the whole thing was politically motivated, a made up Instant Pot of excrement and lies. He was definitely on to something.

Whoever came up with the idea of pressing someone for a reason? In case you are not sure, pressing is a form of torture in which the subject is pressed beneath an increasingly heavy load of stones.

The Prisoner is laid in a low dark Room in the Prison, all naked but his Privy Members, his Back upon the bare Ground his Arms and Legs stretched with Cords, and fasten'd to the several Quarters of the Room. This done, he has a great Weight of Iron and Stone laid upon him.

Igor, J. (1365). A Compendium of Modern Torture Techniques (3rd ed., Vol. 2)

The story of Giles Corey’s death says that the process took three days and his dying last words were, “more weight.” It’s difficult to imagine lying naked on the floor covered with a weighted sheet of plywood for three days. It would get pretty cold and uncomfortable after a just a few hours, and I have a hard time doing fun things for three days, let alone being tortured to death. Positional asphyxia usually doesn’t take that long to kill a person, either. If you don’t believe me, ask Anton Yelchin. Something is off about the three days story.

Perhaps, there might have been a dimensional scaling issue with the pictures of the weight in the torturer’s instruction manual. There was a drawing of some objects sitting atop the plywood (invented in 1865) the indicated size of which was 8. The jailers engaged in intense arguments over the units: Bags or Sarplers? With 28 Tods to the Sarpler, how many Stones would that be? After threading through the complex calculus proved too much for them, they concluded they would cover the nude Giles with a sheet of wood and scatter a bucket or two of loose gravel on the whole horrible thing and see what happens. After two days and a similar number of nights, boredom set in upon poor nude Giles, such that by the third day he figured he should say something to move the process along, because, among other reasons, his members were getting cold. More weight was just him goading the noodle armed puritans into getting some badly needed exercise by suggesting they bring in substantially bigger rocks than the puny river stones they were using.

Personally, and this suggestion could be controversial, I imagine that the worst part about being pressed to death would be not being able to sit up once in a while to, you know, scratch your nose and burp. Well, OK, I guess the death thing is pretty bad, too. At least they let you keep your privy members covered. If it’s not against the rules, I’d cover mine with a hydraulic jack, or something else to aid with the lifting. Possibly a clergyman.

Recent sciency-esque studies have posited that the people of Salem may have been a little crazy. No kidding? If you wake up one morning and decide that you want to see your neigbors publicly murdered for being witches, yeah, you might be a little crazy.


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