The dreaded 'Penal Administration, French Guiana' is far more associated with cruelty, inhumanity and death than with survival and redemption. That said, there were exceptions to the rule and disgraced French naval officer Charles Benjamin Ullmo is one of them. Condemned to Guiana for life after trying to ransom stolen military secrets, Ullmo didn't look … Continue reading Charles Benjamin Ullmo, redeemed on Devil’s Island.
I recently had a brief Twitter conversation with a fellow scribe at Crime Traveller and these gentlemen came up therein, so I thought their story might be interesting to look at in more detail. ‘The Executor of High Works’ was a grandiose title for so unrelentingly grim a profession, especially one traditionally inherited by people … Continue reading Les Bourreaux, France’s ‘Executors of High Works.’
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 boxer and Wimbledon tennis star, he died a convict, murderer and … Continue reading On This Day in 1909, Vere Thomas ‘St. Leger’ Goold: A long way from Tipperary.
"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 diminish the number of prisoners consigned to its care. The fiercest … Continue reading On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.
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 1963. Alcatraz is 85 years old today. At least it's 85 … Continue reading On This Day in 1934; Alcatraz officially opens.
Executioners are seen as a strange breed. Usually tolerated, sometimes celebrated, frequently feared and often despised, the man (for it usually is) who drops the blade, swings the axe, pushes the lever or throws the switch remains a breed apart. With their particular profession you might think that, death being touted as a deterrent, they'd … Continue reading Executed executioners; the biters bit.
Meet Henri Charriere. Frenchman, Venezuelan, career criminal, transportee to Devil's Island, denier of the murder that sent him there, happy to claim to have committed a murder while he was there and general storyteller and writer. Also known as 'Papillon (due to a butterfly tattoo on his chest) and writer of the eponymous book turned … Continue reading Papillon – The Butterfly Pinned..?