I saw this photo on Facebook a few days ago. It was reportedly taken at the last public hanging in West Virginia, on December 16, 1897. Apparently the event turned into a drunken free-for-all, and resulted in my home state becoming one of the first to ban public executions.
Here’s a short article about it, this is a longer (far more bizarre) one, and here’s a song about the event, by Flatt and Scruggs. I guess that shit was crazy?
And I can’t even imagine going to something like that. Am I alone? Watching some guy suffer and die, as a crowd of drunken hicks holler and taunt and clap their hands like Bryan Adams just launched into “Summer of ’69?” I believe I’ll pass.
Even today, when they execute a prisoner, there’s a small “gallery” as they call it. Why?? Maybe if someone was directly involved in the case, and victimized by the person… But I don’t think I’d be interested, under any circumstance. It’s not a scene I need replaying in my head for the rest of my life, thank you very much.
When we were in England we were on a tour, and the guide told us that hundreds of people were hanged at a certain spot in London, and it was always a big social event. In fact, he said, people would get feather bed-shitting drunk at these outdoor death festivals, and feel like crap the next day. And that’s where the word “hangover” came from.
I find it bizarre. Oh, I’m not going to shed any tears for murderers or rapists, but I don’t need to watch their final sufferings, either. Sweet sainted mother of Ted Bessell. People apparently used to pack up the whole family though, and make a day of it. “He’s almost done fer, Johnny! The spasms are coming pretty far apart now.” It seems weird to me.
I know, however, that public executions would draw HUGE crowds, even in 2017. If they brought them back, thousands and thousands would attend. There’d likely be a Bud Light tent, and hot dog vendors. Maybe a VIP section, or a “snakepit,” like at Metallica concerts. The hangee would probably be required to wear a shirt with an advertising logo on it (State Farm? Carl’s Jr.?), and Ryan Seacrest would almost certainly be the host. Am I wrong?
I didn’t intend for this whole update to be about hangings, but whatever. I’d like to get your thoughts. Please don’t get into politics, ‘cause nobody gives a shit and it’s highly annoying. But what are your opinions on personally attending an execution? Is it something you’d like to do? Maybe it’s something you’ve actually done? If so, we’ll need to get your story. Also, what do you think would happen at a modern public execution? Beyond Seacrest, I mean?
Finally, how do you think they’d capitalize on our renewed enthusiasm for public death? What would the promoters come up with next? Maybe a soothing lazy-river ride through a giant slaughterhouse in the midwest? Please help me out, won’t you?
And I’m going to call it a day, my friends. This is a strange one, I know. Please make of it what you will.
I’ll see you again soon!
Now playing in the bunker
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I’m first, motherfuckers!
You should send your idea to whoever writes Black Mirror.
There are postcards that people collect from back in the day – that feature a photo of the hanging.
As you say – staying out of politics – that may not really be the last “public” hanging.
Lee Harvey Ramone says
I would go to a public hanging, just so I could walk around the crowd asking folks “How’s it hanging?”. I would probably also buy myself a commemorative t-shirt or maybe even a hoodie. I would imagine it would probably be just like going to a NASCAR event, except without all of the engine noise.
Selfies. Endress Selfies with the corpse … still hanging.
And for everyone who doubts that… people used to take photos of themselves with the body. At both executions and lynchings.
With ultimate fighting gathering crowd support, I would imagine than public hangings would do quite well. The only difference between the two is the pulse rate of the comatose body.
With reality TV shows trying to “One Up” each other every year, it’s only a matter of time. Never mind pepper spraying the losing bachelorette, it’ll be hoisting her up the oak tree with a noose made of rose thorns.
Not Oprah says
Hilarious! Love it- I am waiting for this.
I might well want to go if I had a personal connection to the case, to have that closure. Otherwise, no thanks. I do think the person mentioning the selfie-obsessed behaving horribly is very likely right, since selfie-takers are so vain and self-obsessed they have no regard for decency, courtesy, or even safety.
The Other Jeff says
“Apparently the event turned into a drunken free-for-all, and resulted in my home state becoming one of the first to ban public executions.”
Figures. It only takes a few hooligans to ruin a perfectly lovely lynchin’ …
I’d come to watch 45 swing.
And this isn’t “politics” or “political”. It’s both personal and universal.
He seems to be hanging himself at the moment, and it’s not too hard to watch.
Witnessing other public executions would be quite distasteful tho.
Mr. T says
While living in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, I had some chances to view public beheadings. I chose not to. Westerners were supposedly pushed to the front of the crowd so they’d have the best view.
No, thank you. Although exceptions might be made in extraordinary circumstances, such as those hypothesized by the eminent researcher sunshine_in_va.
As that other eminent researcher, Dick Clark, used to say, “Gang, I’m going to spin a 45 for you and I think you’ll be able to dance to it.”
Nope, no thank you.
I’ve seen plenty of people die and sometimes been instrumental in their deaths. Some have been peaceful and some will always haunt me.
Death, no matter how deserved, is not something I’d care to see turned into a a drunken orgy of suffering, fear, and pain.
Selfies are a certainty until someone figures out how to turn a profit taking corpse adjacent photos.
I suspect they’d be televised as well, with hours of backstory and buildup until it’s handed over to a pair of commentators who sound like Vincent Price and Peter Cushing calling The Masters. There’d be lots of dramatic lighting and camera angles, and slow motion replays of the trap door opening and the feet dropping through space.
After the penultimate moment there would be interviews, first with victims taking about closure and then with the family of the deceased to get their reactions.
All the while the crowd in the background would be a cross between the Today Show crowds with signs like Hi, Bullao Chip Oklahoma! Go Sooners! and bead throwing frat boys at Mardi Gras.
Does anyone recall an episode of Happy Days where a “reality show” called You Asked For It was part of the plot? There’s a joke about the host remembering Ralph Malph as the kid who kept writing in asking to see a human sacrifice.
I fear were not far from that.
I agee ….I’ve seen too much to glamorize or romanticize a human death. Your last moments should be your own and not a special on the death view cable channel.
JeffInDenver (InCleveland) says
Not just televised – pay per view. They’d make a (pardon the pun) killing.
I would have no interest in being a spectator.
Ryan Seacrest: “Let’s open that trap door!!…….. right after this break”
The Divine Miss E says
On the TV show “The Killing”, in the third season, there was a secondary storyline about a man on death row who was actually innocent, and the detective trying to help prove it before it was too late. The prisoner, who enjoyed being a pain in the ass, found out that he could demand they execute him by hanging in Washington, so he did, requiring them to build a gallows just for him. Because it’s television, I expected them to exonerate him at the last moment, but no, they “showed” him being executed by hanging. It was graphic, and it didn’t even matter if it wasn’t real, I was traumatized. There was blubbering involved. So no, I could never watch a real one.
Joe T. says
Back stage meet and greets before the event with the soon to be swinger! Stand next to him and give him the finger, captured by camera.
I didn’t know about the origin of “hangover”, interesting. George Carlin one did a routine along these lines.
The people who go online and watch beheadings and such would definitely attend, but not me.
Seacrest is the obvious choice as a total sellout, but I think it’d have more of a WWE vibe.
Jeff, I think you need to do a new “How many fucks in…”
Watch Veep, fucks fly like fireflies.
I use Firefucks for my web browser. It’s less painful than it sounds.
Earl Melton says
After seeing some reports about complications with death by chemical injection, I’m of the mind if society demands a death sentence, a more humane alternative might be a guillotine . A Doctor could administer the same stuff they give you when you have heart surgery and then it’s over.
But … if we still had hangings there’s a few bastards I’d go to see swinging in the wind.
You know who you are.
(Like many of us) I’ve held pet animals as they were euthanized, and I’ve never detected any distress. If the state is going to kill people, why can’t that process be scaled up? How much more death drug would a human need over a Great Dane?
Either our pets are silently suffering or we’re killing people in an unnecessarily cruel way. The guillotine seems a pretty damn neat solution. If televised it could be sponsored by Gillette.
For heinous acts like aggravated mopery, we could compel offenders to do a hitch as a spokesperson for Trump: day after long day of cryin’ and lyin’.
Lee Harvey Ramone says
Cryin’ and Lyin’ was a great band out of Atlanta back in the day
Damn. I DO miss the day.
Basket O' Deplorables says
Obama was Putin’s cock holster and the press was on their knees for 8 years.
Basket O' Deplorables says
The Fake News Media which invents a new fake news story every day or runs a fake news story created by the Dimocrats, like the Russians hacked our election which was made up by Podesta the night of the election to explain why Crooked Cankles lost. And why not make up fake news? The Fake News Media is the propaganda arm of the Dimocrat Party.
Lee Harvey Ramone says
Well, I’m just so glad the comments didn’t get political. Just so daggum glad
Close your eyes snowflake, this murderer is about to pay his debt to society with his life. All others come forth and bear witness to the penalty for disregard of life.
Capital punishment carried out in the shadows does little to deter murder.
On June 15, 1920, three African American circus workers, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie, suspects in an assault case, were taken from jail, attacked, and lynched by a white mob of thousands in Duluth, Minnesota. Rumors had circulated that six African Americans had raped and robbed a teenage girl. A physician’s examination of her subsequently found no evidence of rape or assault.
No crime was committed until the fine white citizens of Duluth dragged the three black guys down the street and hung them from a lamppost. Here’s a photograph from which the local citizenry made a postcard to commemorate the occasion and to make a few bucks on the deal . . .
Nine-year-old Abram Zimmerman lived two blocks from the site of the lynchings. Forty-five years later, Mr. Zimmerman’s son Bobby wrote a song about desperation and desolation. The first verse is instructive . . .
They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner, they’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker, the other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless, they need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight, from Desolation Row
On October 10, 2003, a plaza and statues were dedicated in Duluth to the three men who were killed. The bronze statues are part of a memorial across the street from the site of the lynchings. The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was designed and sculpted by Carla J. Stetson, in collaboration with editor and writer Anthony Peyton-Porter.
At the memorial’s opening, thousands of citizens of Duluth and surrounding communities gathered for a ceremony. The final speaker at the ceremony was Warren Read, the great-grandson of one of the most prominent leaders of the lynch mob:
“It was a long held family secret, and its deeply buried shame was brought to the surface and unraveled. We will never know the destinies and legacies these men would have chosen for themselves if they had been allowed to make that choice. But I know this: their existence, however brief and cruelly interrupted, is forever woven into the fabric of my own life. My son will continue to be raised in an environment of tolerance, understanding and humility, now with even more pertinence than before.”
History doesn’t record whether any crime was deterred by the murders of these three young men.
note: Several paragraphs of the above were copied directly from the Wikipedia article about the lynchings. The first verse of “Desolation Row” was used without permission of Mr. Dylan or Special Rider Music. The photograph was linked to without remuneration to the lynch mob.
Speaking of being left hanging, is Mr Kay okay?
I would guess, based upon recent comments in the fortnightly updates like “Back before every one of my hopes and dreams burned to the fucking ground like a 1980 Richard Pryor, I used to daydream about things” that it’s possible that Jeff is pretty fuckin’ far from OK.
“Fortnightly?” Is that for my benefit? I understood y’all didn’t use that word. My daughter got sent out of class for insisting penultimate was a real word. Fortnight would have seen her suspended 😉
If a student gets the shaft for using penultimate in America, that has a very specific meaning: she needs a different school. Americans fucked themselves by switching to descriptive dictionaries thirty or forty years ago: we lost words like biweekly, which now means either every two weeks or twice a week. Under the regime of prescriptive dictionaries, in use for two hundred years, the meaning of biweekly wouldn’t have drifted. However, under the current circumstances, if I want a word that unambiguously means “every two weeks” my choices are 1) fortnightly, or 2) “every two weeks” which is certainly more than one word.
So, no, fortnightly, like the Pulp Fiction reference, wasn’t for you in particular, although by now it might be just you and me and the crickets out here. And tell your daughter to keep using the right word for the right purpose: someday we’ll have another President who’ll do the same. Until then, she has my support, bigly.
So I pulled a dictionary from the shelf to see for myself.
I had never checked the definition of biweekly because I already knew it meant every two weeks. Ack! Now it does if it’s a noun; if it’s an adjective the primary definition is twice weekly, the second meaning is every two weeks.
Do they even teach grammar these days? I know spelling seems to have fallen by the wayside. And yes, that’s why I live in a semi-rural area – no damn kids on the lawn.
Words have meanings. Don’t get me started on biannual -vs- biennial, for example.
Lee Harvey Ramone says
For whatever it’s worth, I use the word penultimate conversationally on a regular basis.
I do, too. I thought it was normal.
Maybe it’s an age thing? The school year is drawing to a close, perhaps on the penultimate day of school I should leave a print out of this on the teacher’s desk.
That would be most brilliant!
I hope you’ll convey my greetings to said teacher and suggest that he go fuck himself.
I don’t think I should tell a woman to go fuck herself.
Yours covfefely, Limey
Well, you know her and I don’t.
Lee and Q, are you chemists?
A gut-wrenching perspective. Merci.
Buzz in Wheeling says
The Deplorables would sell tickets and popcorn to something like this. Guaranteed.
Any chance we could get a quick update? The internet isn’t the same without you