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Bacon records ho knew “ of an inquisitive person who hanged himself for the purpose of ascertaining if strangulation was a painful operation. One of his friends very fortunately cut him down before it was too late, when the curious experimentalist was quite satisfied that hanging was by no moans painful or unjileasant, and that the moment strangulation took place he had been struck with a flickering light, that was instantly followed by utter darkness. ” Various cases are recorded of individuals thus cut down, when hanged by accident or executed. In most instances they have asserted that they experienced a pleasant sensation on strangulation. A similar case is that of “ Halfhanged Smith,” who was a Yorkshireman, although not executed at York. He was the son of a fanner at Mai ton, who had served both by sea and land. While a soldier in Lord Outt’s regiment of Guards ho became one of a gang of housebreakers, and was in December, 1705, arraigned upon seven indictments, for which he was duly sentenced to death. Great efforts were made to obtain him a reprieve, but all to no purpose, and on the 24th of the month he was hanged at Tyburn. Before he hanged 15 minutes the people called out “ A reprieve !” and he was incontinently cut down, although no evidence is forthcoming of the actual arrival of the reprieve. When conveyed to a neighboring house, bled and otherwise treated, he recovered his senses. His description of his sensations is thus given in in the Remarkable Trials,” edited by Capt. Benson, and published by Camden Hotten (p. 30) : —“ When he was turned off he was for some time sensible of very great pain, occasioned by the weight of his body, and felt his spirits in a wild commotion, violently pressing upwards ; that, having forced their way to his head, he, as it were, saw a great blaze or glaring light, which seemed to go out at his eyes with a flash, and then he lost all sense of pain. That after he was cut down and began to come to himself, the blood and spirits, forcing themselves into their former channels, put him, by a sort of pricking or shooting, to such intolerable pain that he could have wished those hanged that cut him down.” Such cases, says the same authority, were not uncommon at one time in Ireland, and persons were seen walking about whom it was well known had been only imperfectly hanged. It was then the rule that the body should hang for half-an-hour ; but the sheriff, from “ mistaken lenity, would look away after the prisoner had been turned off, while the friends of the culprit would hold up their companion by the waistband of his breeches, so that the rope should not press upon his throat.” When the half-hour was expired, the deceased was put into a cart, which was driven at a gallop along a stony road. The jolting was considered a never-failing recipe for “ bringing the patient to.” One such recovery was so complete that the resuscitated man sat up in his coffin in the cart and gave three cheers. One of his friends was so much shocked by this indecent conduct, that he hit the ex-corpse on the head with his shillelagh and silenced him effectually. The blow killed the poor wretch, and the question arose whether the assailant ought not to be tried for murder ; but, on taking legal advice, it was ruled that ‘‘ no one could be success I fully charged with the murder of a man who was already dead in law.” —Records of York Castle. By A. W. Twyford and Major A. Griffiths.

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 64, 21 February 1880

Word Count

HALF HANGED. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 64, 21 February 1880