Executions & The Executioners Who Perform Them

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Anonymous

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#1
I very much enjoyed the autobiography of a famous British hangman, Albert Pierrepoint. He'd hanged most of the famous Brit murderers of the 20th century, it seemed, and the book was a cracking read.

Though not exactly up there with the literary greats-
Ruth Ellis 'seemed a nice woman'
Derek Bentley 'didn't give me any trouble'

Not quoting here, just giving an idea.

Pierrepoint was proud of having never botched an execution and was fastidious about weighing for drops, measuring rope precisely and so on. A condemned man would be on the lookout for the hangman sneaking a look at him the day before and I seem to remember our Albert being most discreet about this, showing an unexpectedly sensitive side. Very professional was Mr Pierrepoint.
 

intaglio

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#2
I recall reading a book by one of Pierrepoints many assistants where he recalled that from the time the Executioner entered the condemned cell to the drop was about 20 seconds. Times in excess of 30 were subject to investigation. The fastest was about 15 secs. Trouble is I can't find the book. Gone in one of my moves I suppose.

The proceedure was wait for the cleric to leave, executioners enter and Governers stop watch started. The warders would have the prisoner standing. Prisoner is turned round and handcuffed. Third warder opens door to execution chamber, executioner and prisoner is marched through rapidly but not at a run (too much danger of falling). Onto the trap, hood on, noose on. Assistant kneels and fastens legs. Rolls clear of trap and . . . †
 

FelixAntonius

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#3
intaglio said:
I recall reading a book by one of Pierrepoints many assistants where he recalled that from the time the Executioner entered the condemned cell to the drop was about 20 seconds. Times in excess of 30 were subject to investigation. The fastest was about 15 secs. Trouble is I can't find the book. Gone in one of my moves I suppose. . . †
Was it:- The Hangman's Tale-Memoirs of a Public Executioner by Syd Dernley?
 

intaglio

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#4
Thanks, David! it was that book. It also has the hangmans calculation, I think.
 

FelixAntonius

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#5
Yup!

The 'rough formula', i.e. Weight in pounds,divided into a thousand, equals the drop in feet & inches... The example given is 10stone=140lb=a drop of 7ft 1.75inches.

I think Pierrepoint gives it as well, but says that after a particular hanging "another factor was taken into acount", dunno' what it was though!
 

intaglio

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#6
There is a memory that if the prisoner was obese, but had a scrawny neck the drop had to be reduced because, as happened once in the 19th Century, the head parted from the body
 

FelixAntonius

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#7
It could well be intaglio.

I've just found the entry in Pierrepoint's book & the formula is different:-

1260 foot-pounds over the weight in pounds = length of recommended drop in feet.

With the note: "It was revised in1913 to include another factor."
 
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Anonymous

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#8
IIRC Pierrepoint was 'loaned' to Nuremberg after the trials because of the back log. A master-sergeant was placed in charge of the executions, a job nobody particularly wanted and for which he was hardly qualified, and suitably botched the jobs and caused a considerable back log, which Pierrepoint cleared quickly. There was also a rumour that he had become enamoured of Irma Grese, 'the Blonde Beast of Belsen', and even rumours of a wedding, although he would have had to work quickly as he was only in the same prison as her for 32 hours and all conversations he had with her were through an interpreter. But let's not let that stand in the way of a good story....
 
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FraterLibre

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#9
The People's Fun

Dark Detective - Excellent article, very informative and full of rip-snorting details. And isn't it amusing that "deterrence" is always mentioned, when the sheer number of executions shows that nothing is deterred but the humanity of the executioners and spectators?

Will TV be long in presenting us game shows to the death?
 
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Anonymous

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#10
there's a novel called "the perfect execution" whic features a hangman who uses the name. Its very very good. By Tim Binding.
 
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FraterLibre

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#11
Type of Novel

tasha - Thanks for the recommendation. Is it a horror novel, or historical, or a mystery, or what? Please tell us a bit about it.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#12
It wasn't Pierrepoint but Ellis who was the executioner in the
case of Edith Thompson in 1923. The weight calculations may have been
complicated in her case by the fact that her insides fell out of
her on the way to the rope. No matter - they held her together
with towels.

Ellis attempted suicide a few weeks later. :cross eye
 

intaglio

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#13
Wasn't it another Ellis - Ruth - who precipitated nearly Pierrepoints resignation. Something went wrong with that one as well but Pierrepoint would never say what.
 

FelixAntonius

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#14
intaglio said:
Wasn't it another Ellis - Ruth - who precipitated nearly Pierrepoints resignation. Something went wrong with that one as well but Pierrepoint would never say what.
To quote Pierrepoint himself:-

"At the execution of Ruth Ellis no untoward incident happened which in any way appalled me or anyone else, and the execution had absolutly no connection with my resignatin seven months later...."

Keith Simpson's post-mortem Examination seems to bear this out, again, nothing unusual is reported & it seems likely that Pierrepoint had a disagreement with HM Government, in respect of an execution that was cancelled at the last minute & for which Pierrepoint only got a half fee!!!!!!
 
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Anonymous

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#15
here's what the publisher says about it. Unfortunately i got the 'jack ketch' bit wrong. Duuur me. He uses the pseudonym Solomon Straw. But its still a very good book. "Jeremiah Bembo lives quietly growing fruit and vegetables which his wife Judith sells at the local market. In secret, under the name of Solomon Straw, he travels the country as England's executioner, carrying out the hangings required by law. In a post-war provincial Britain seamed with commonplace corruption, he strives to maintain a balance of compassion and justice, until a murder is committed, bringing his two lives into an inevitable collision. "All human life is there, in a mesmerizing world of its own" Guardian; "A brilliant, terrifying and haunting novel...it has an almost Dickensian moral clarity...a wholly impressive work. It combines all the packed action of a thriller with a vision remarkable for its breadth and for its humanity" Evening Standard; "A compelling mixture of murder-mystery, Greek tragedy and love story...Set in the post-war period of travelling salesmen and Ruth Ellis look-alikes it asks the enormous, eternal questions in language that is both lyrical and barbaric" Sunday Telegraph"
 
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Anonymous

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#17
The Edith Thompson case always makes my blood boil-poor woman basically executed on no real evidence just her morals. Anyway, that aside, the version of her execution that I read said that she remained intact until she actually dropped through the hole and the resulting jerk made her insides just fall out. There is a theory that she was pregnant and that this was a gruesome 'natural' abortion, but surely she would have been examined prior to the execution?? As can be expected all witnesses were suitably shocked.

Whatever the reason, women were thereafter required to wear stout leather underwear during the execution process.
 
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FraterLibre

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#18
Weakened Sphincters of Society's Pure Love

having been brutally raped repeatedly may have been part of the cause, too, along with gravity and the jerk of the rope, of course.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#19
My mum was a nurse in London in the 1950s and they were told that a person's insides were liable to fall out if 'the drop' was violent enough (which it usually was). :(
 
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FraterLibre

Guest
#20
Bodies In Motion

I know this happens at terminal velocity, which is why people die jumping off bridges that are high enough. The water stops their bodies but their organs keep going, due to inertia, and rip themselves free. Same basic bit of nasty physics, except that the drop for a hanging is only a few feet, so I'm not sure in most cases if this would suffice. Still, perhaps so. Grotesque, either way.
 
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FraterLibre

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#22
Hollywood Westerns: A Lesson Learned

Also, the placement of the knot, and how it was tied, affected whether the neck was snapped or not.
 
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Anonymous

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#23
I am intrigued by the "insides falling out" reference. What exactly do you all mean by "insides", liver and lights,etc? Never heard that one before.
Here in the state of Washington, hanging is still the death penalty execution method and a few years ago, a death row inmate sued the state because he was so obese that hanging would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment". Unfortunately, I don't remember the outcome.
 
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FraterLibre

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#25
Tune In Tomorrow

A friend once proposed a humane form of execution that would also make for superb modern television: det cord.

You wrap det cord, which burns at 5000 ft./ sec., around the condemned's head. It will detonate at a speed faster than human nerves can transmit pain, so the convict's head would simply explode in a spray before he could react. Completely humane, and colorful enough for the most jaded Hollywood executive.
 
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Anonymous

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#26
Tasha, his premise was that they couldn't snap his neck due to his weight so he would instead slowly and painfully strangle.
Given his size (something like 450 lbs) can you imagine the INSIDES that would fall out of him????
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#27
I'm thinking Steak and Kidney pie filling.....

Also Fraterlibre's mate's exploding head idea - shades of 'scanners', but.....yes.....very inventive.

If you had to be executed which way would you like to go?
 
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Anonymous

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#28
Well if I simply HAD to be executed, a nice lethal injection cocktail would do for me. With, hopefully, my insides are secured so we wouldn't have any unsightly "fallings". (I can't seem to get over that....)
 
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Anonymous

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#30
Sorry to disappoint you, but there's nothing nice about lethal injection :

(Excuse the length)...

Lethal injection – first introduced 1977 in Oklahoma and Texas. First prisoner to die Charlie Brooks, sentenced to death for his part in the murder of a used car dealer, in Fort Worth, in 1971. Died in Huntsville Prison on 7 December, 1982.

Pre med injection to sedate them before going into operating theatre, prior to general anaesthesia is common procedure.

Three drugs, all acidic, with a pH value higher than 6, which burns so terribly feels as though injected with fire.

1st injection of 8cc 2 per cent sodium pentothal.

Leaves cell, strapped onto gurney.

2 16 gauge needles and catheters inserted into both arms, connected by flexible tubes to the executioner’s position which is hidden from view. Doctor also attaches a cardiac monitor and stethoscope to man’s chest.

2nd injection sodium thiopental, fast acting anaesthetic which takes effect in about 10 seconds. Feels slight pressure and arms starts to ache, then feel light headed.

After one minute, 15cc of normal saline to ease the passage of 50mg/50cc Pancuronium bromide. Pavulon is a curare derived muscle relaxant which paralyses respiratory function.

Feels pressure in chest, suffocating feeling causing him to gasp several times for air. Dizzy and hyperventilating, heart beats faster and faster as entire nervous system comes under attack. Called ‘stress syndrome’ – common feature of first stages of dying.

Second stage, unable to breathe or move, but can still see and hear. Paralysed and unable to swallow. Looks dead. Central nervous system beginning to shut down. Eyes dilate and hairs on skin stand erect as injected with another 15cc of saline then massive dose of Potassium Chloride (1.50-2.70mEq/kg). When injected intravenously, this drug burns and hurts, because it is a naturally occurring salt and instantly disrupts the chemical balance of the blood. It causes the muscle to tighten up in extreme contraction and the instant it reaches the heart muscle, it causes the heart to stop beating. Sedated by the thiopental and unable to draw breath because of Pavulon, unable to scream in pain when potassium injected, sending heart into a crunching, excruciating cramp.

Cost of drugs, $86.08
 
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