10 People Who Survived Their Execution

The existence of time is very important in human lives. It seems sometimes that ‘Time’ has its own whims. The following people are those who were sentenced to death by humans but time made its own judgement and said ‘your time is not up yet!’ so they lived in spite of all human effort to the contrary.

A list of 10 people who survived their execution astonishingly:

10. Elizabeth Proctor (1652-Unknown)

Elizabeth Proctor

In the Salem Witch Trials (1692-93), Elizabeth Proctor along with her her husband was accused of practising witchcraft and after a trial was sentenced to death. Elizabeth was pregnant and therefore was granted a stay of execution until after the birth of her baby. Her husband was executed on August 19, 1692. Salem Witch Trials was a big sensational story back then. Soon the Governor intervened and ordered 153 people (who were wrongly convicted without hard evidence) to be freed. Elizabeth was among those released.

9. John Henry George Lee (1864 – Circa 1945)

10 People Who Survived Their Execution

John Lee was convicted of murdering his employer, Miss Emma Keyse by clubbing her to death with an axe followed by slashing her throat with a knife and then setting her house on fire. He was sentenced to death by hanging. On the day of his hanging he was taken to the Exeter Prison. He was made to stand on the trap door, beneath which his dead corpse would have been hanging, had the door not malfunctioned. They tried hanging him again but failed. After three failed attempts, the Home Secretary reduced John Lee’s sentence to life imprisonment.

8. Zoleykhah Kadkhoda (1977)

Zoleykhah Kadkhoda

In Iran a young woman named Zoleykhah Kadkhoda was charged of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. Kadkhoda was buried up to her waist but soon after the stoning began there was a sharp disapproving reaction from the villagers. Never-the-less the stoning went on and by the time it stopped Kadkhoda was thought to be dead and her corpse was taken to the morgue. Arriving there, they soon discovered that she was breathing and was rushed to the hospital. Zoleykhah Kadkhoda survived that day to tell her story.

7. William Duell (Circa 1724)

William Duell Execution

17 year old William Duell was convicted of raping and murdering Sarah Griffin in London and he was sentenced to death. The executioners hung his body for about 20 minutes (which was a standard procedure to make sure the person has died) before cutting him down. It was a practise then to donate dead criminal bodies for training of students to medical institutes. Accordingly Duell’s body was brought to Surgeons’ Hall. The corpse was stripped and laid on the board and was about to be anatomized when one of the servants noticed he was breathing which got quicker every minute.  He was then bled, and in two hours, he was able to sit upright. Duell was sent back to prison again. The authorities soon decided to reprieve him and his sentence was commuted to transportation also known as penal transportation (i.e. exile).

6. John Smith (Circa 1661 To After 1727)

John Smith circa 1690

John Smith, from England was charged of housebreaking and was sentenced to death by hanging at the Tyburn gallows. When at the Tyburn, he was being hanged, his family and friends tugged at his legs to shorten his suffering but some people held Smith’s feet up for the possibility that he would not die. Apparently it worked. After hanging for a quarter of an hour, people began shouting for a reprieve. Unable to resist public clamouring the authorities granted a reprieve; Smith was cut down and taken to a house in the neighbourhood, where he recovered. He was granted freedom later.

Interestingly, he went back to his profession of housebreaking and was convicted three more times. The third time he was caught of theft and was sentenced to transportation (exile) to Virginia.

5. Anne Green (1628 – 1665)

Anne Greene

Anne Green was a domestic servant who had committed infanticide in 1650. The child was her own child said to have been fathered by the grandson of her employer. Green hid her pregnancy and gave birth to a still born. She tried unsuccessfully to hide the body and was discovered and sentenced to death by hanging. During the execution she hung with the rope around her throat while her friends pulled at her swinging body, as was requested by Anne herself. She was even struck severe blows just to make sure that she was dead. After the usual interval she was cut down, pronounced dead and handed over to the medical students. But the students were in for a shock when they discovered that the ‘corpse’ was actually faintly breathing. She was accordingly treated and soon recovered. The event was regarded as the special interference of the hand of God on behalf of the innocent and therefore Anne Green was pardoned.

4. Maggie Dickson (Circa 1700)

Maggie Dickson

Like Anne Green, Maggie Dickson was convicted of infanticide of her own child that she had had through an affair with the Innkeeper’s son. She kept her pregnancy a secret. The baby was prematurely born and died within a few days. Unable to throw her dead child into the river, she left it on the riverbank. So the baby was discovered and the authorities traced it back to Maggie. Maggie was taken for public execution at the Grasssmarket. After her hanging the corpse was placed into the coffin but on the way to the graveyard she awoke up and started banging from inside the coffin. This strange happening was seen as God’s will and so she was freed.

Maggie Dickson is now hailed as a legend and is often referred to as Half-Hangit Maggie. There’s even is a pub named after her in the Grassmarket.

3. Joseph Samuel (1780-1806)

Joseph Samuel Execution

Samuel and his gang were charged of robbery and the murder of a policeman. When the news of Joseph Samuel hanging spread it attracted a large crowd who gathered at the execution spot. During the execution the cart on which he was standing drove off, but instead of dangling in air Samuel fell on the ground as the rope around his neck snapped. The crowd quivered and murmured among themselves. Another attempt was made hastily but this time, the rope slipped and got longer therefore Samuel’s legs touched the ground. People uproar in excitement. On the third attempt the rope snapped again. The crowd yelled for Samuel to be freed for they believed that it was a sign from God. The governor was sent for, who came and investigated and upon popular demand commuted Joseph Samuel’s sentence to life imprisonment.

2. Wenseslao Moguel (Circa 1880)

10 People Who Survived Their Execution

Captured while fighting in the Mexican revolution and sentenced to death without a trial in 1915, Moguel survival story is unbelievable. He was shot 9 times by the firing squad, the 9th bullet passed right through his head at close range to insure his death. But Moguel, not only somehow survived, he also managed to escape from prison. He came on the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not radio show in 1937. In the above photo Moguel is seen pointing to the scar made by the bullet wound.

1. Willie Francis (1929 – 1947)

Willie Francis

At the age of 16 Willie Francis became the first incident of a failed execution by electrocution in the United States. On murdering his employer – a pharmacy owner – Francis was convicted and sentenced to death by the electric chair. On administering a lethal surge of electricity, witnesses report that they had heard the boy scream “Take it off! Take it off! Let me breathe! “. Another report claimed him saying “I’m n-not dying!” The executioners were left flabbergasted. It was later discovered that the electric chair failed to kill Willie Francis because it was improperly set up by a prison guard who was drunk at the time.

So Willie was allowed to live but only for a year, after which he was executed on another electrical chair which was not set up by a drunk.