|I spoke with The RedEye this week about haunted Chicago spots, and an article on their webpage today speaks about about the site of the gallows. Here’s a classic story from the site:
In the 20th Century, executioners in many parts of the world modernized the process by which convicts were hanged. Weights and measurements were taken, and much of the pomp and ritual was taken out of the proceedings. A really good hangman could get a prisoner from inside the cell to dead at the end of the rope in thirty seconds or less.
Chicago in the 19th century was not so scientific. Though state laws prohibiting public executions were enacted after only a few hangings had taken place locally, newspaper reporters were usually present (and, occasionally, hundreds of people managed to get a pass, as well). There was still a grim death march, and convicts were expected to make a speech. The executions were seldom quick and painless – it was fairly common for prisoners to take twenty minutes until they were completely dead. And even then, there were often doubts.
|A tale from our book on hangings in Chicago:
And so, in 1882, an experiment was tried. When James Tracy was convicted of murder after shooting a man during a burglary, he was a remarkably good sport about the whole execution, even though he insisted that he was innocent. He stood on the scaffold and said “I thin it’ll hold me,” then shouted “Good-bye, kids!” to other prisoners, with whom he’d become quite popular. He spent the morning signing autograph cards with his birth day and death day added under the signature. On the scaffold, before the reporters and officials, he said, “I have no statement to make further than the fact that I am innocent. In a few moments I shall stand before my Maker. Were any man under these circumstances guilty, he would acknowledge it. Innocent as I am, I have no fear to die. I die an innocent man. Truth is mighty and will prevail. I have done.”
It was when they took his body down after the hanging that things got weird.
There had been whisperings that maybe the convicts being hanged were not fully dead when taken down. If they weren’t, that would have led to some odd legal complications. And so, an experiment was tried. Three attending physicians, Drs. Danforth, Bowers, and Haines, took Tracy’s body into a nearby bathroom, rigged it up with electrical wires, and tried to see if they could bring him back to life!
Here are the results of the experiment, as published in a local paper:
A few other attempts were made to revive hanged men over the years, though never in the same official capacity – I’ll repost a story or two here this week.
For more stories like this, see FATAL DROP: TRUE TALES OF THE CHICAGO GALLOWS (revised kindle edition) (Weird Chicago)