Category: History

Justice; Regular or Extra Crispy.


Execution has long been part of criminal history, society’s ultimate sanction for the very worst offenders. Less enthusiastic supporters regard it as a necessary evil and a deterrent even while acknowledging its distasteful nature. Opponents believe it no deterrent at all, that it’s applied…

On This Day in 1953 – Louisa Merrifield, the Blackpool Poisoner.


It’s a fact that, for all their ruthlessness and guile, murderers can and do make the most idiotic mistakes. Louisa Merrifield was certainly one of them. Born in 1906, Merrifield was a liar, a fraudster, a cheat and ultimately a murderer. Today in 1953…

On This Day in 1924 – Howard Hinton, Georgia’s first electrocution.


It’s common to find ‘Peachtree Bandit’ Frank Dupre, armed robber and murderer executed on September 1, 1921 with Luke McDonald, listed as the last man to hang in Georgia. He wasn’t. That was Arthur Meyers, a murderer hanged at Augusta on June 17, 1931…

On This Day in 1977 – Hamida Djandoubi, last man to face a French guillotine.


  The dawn on September 11, 1977 dawned damp and grey for the citizens of Marseilles, especially those residing in Les Baumettes Prison. All the inmates (and some of the staff) were were in a dark mood as they contemplated the rising of the…

On This Day in 1909, Vere Thomas ‘St. Leger’ Goold: A long way from Tipperary.


A long, long way as it turned out. When Vere Goold took his own life on this day in 1909 he was far from Tipperary (his ancestral home) and everything else he’d ever known. Once the son of a prominent Irish family, a talented…

On This Day in 1962: Illinois bids farewell to Old Sparky (and James Dukes).


When 25 witnesses, mostly reporters, gathered in the basement death chamber at Illinois’s Cook County Jail, they couldn’t have known they were gathering there for the last time. Decades down the line Illinois hacks would gather again for the same reason, but in a…

On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.


“The Bagne is a charnel house, a mass grave, running from syphilis to tuberculosis, with all the tropical diseases one can imagine (carrying malaria, ankylosis, amoebic dysentery, leprosy, etc.), all destined to work hand in hand with an Administration whose task it is to…

Joel Singer and Jack Franck, the original Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.


  If you’re a fan of Clint Eastwood then 1974’s ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ distributed by United Artists, is probably in your DVD collection. Not one of his better-known movies and perhaps not one of his best, but well worth watching all the same. The…

On This Day in 1964 – The Last Executions In Britain.


As regular readers are aware, I cover true crime here and the death penalty is a regular feature. Being an abolitionist, it’s with some small satisfaction that we’re going to look at Britain’s last executions. To the minute, if you happen to be reading…

On This Day in 1934; Alcatraz officially opens.


b “We are looking forward to great things from Alcatraz.” – Attorney-General Homer Cummings at the official opening in 1934. “Alcatraz was never no good for nobody.” – Convict Frank Weatherman, Number AZ1576, the last convict admitted to The Rock, on its closure in…

Newgate Prison: Ask not for whom the Bell tolls…


Now here’s a real criminal curiosity, the infamous Execution Bell from London’s notorious Newgate Prison. Accounts of executions, themselves a grim British tradition until the 1960’s, often relate stories of a black flag being raised and a prison bell tolling to announce a prisoner’s…

On This Day in 1890; William Kemmler – The World’s First Legal Electrocution.


August 6, 1890 saw the dawn of a new age for criminal history. At Auburn Prison in upstate New York there was the execution.of one William Kemmler, condemned for murdering girlfriend Matilda Ziegler with a hatchet. There was nothing remarkable about Kemmler (an alcoholic…

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