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Divine Intervention

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Frederick The Monk
54472.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 11:48 am Reply with quote

Question: What could you half do to John Smith but not do at all to John Lee?

Forfeits:

Answer: Hang them - John Smith became known as Half-Hanged Smith; John 'Babbacombe' Lee was 'The Man They Couldn't Hang'.

Notes: Three attempts were made to hang John Lee on 23rd February 1883 and each time the trapdoor jammed. Every time it was then tested with an equivalent weight and worked. In then end the Home Secretary commuted the sentence to life-imprisonment. Lee was released after serving twenty years in 1905.

In 1705 John Smith was hanged at Tyburn for stealing gloves but was cut down after a quarter of an hour as he was still alive. He was reprieved and became known as 'Half-Hanged Smith'.


John Lee

The John Lee Story
On the night November 15th, 1884, Miss Emma Whitehead Keyse, a former maid of honor was found battered to death with her oil-soaked clothes ablaze at a villa known as 'The Glen' in Babbacombe, Devon. Miss Keyse's cook, Elizabeth Harris, discovered the body of her mistress in the dining room after waking in her own smoke-filled room. She said that Miss Keyse's head had been battered in, and her clothes had doused in oil from a lamp and evidently lighted by the murderer. After taking a statement from the cook, the police quizzed the dead woman's other servant, a 19-year-old footman named John Lee, who was the half-brother of Elizabeth Harris.

Lee had the reputation of being a petty thief and had been hired by Miss Keyse out of pity. With such a track record, the footman soon became the prime suspect in the eyes of the police, despite the fact that Lee had tried to put out the fire on the night of the murder, and had broken down in tears upon hearing that his mistress had been murdered. "I have lost my best friend." a tearful Lee had said to the village constable who had arrived at the scene of the crime first.

But the police painted a different picture. Lee had bloodstained clothing, and an empty can that had contained lamp oil was found in the pantry where Lee had been seen shortly before the fire broke out. Lee tried to explain everything. He told police that the blood on his clothing was his own, because he had gashed his hand while breaking a window pane to let the smoke from the fire out, although he couldn't explain the empty can of lamp oil. Lee was arrested and charged with murder, and at the subsequent trial, the prosecution made it clear that only John Lee had a motive. Just before her brutal death, Miss Keyse had cut Lee's weekly wages of four shillings in half because he had come under suspicion of theft. So, Lee had obviously killed her in fit of anger.

Lee protested, but his words fell on deaf ears. The jury reached a guilty verdict, and shortly before the sentence was passed, Lee declared from the dock, "I am innocent. The Lord will never permit me to be executed!" The judge sentenced John Lee to death by hanging.

On the night before the execution, Lee chatted in his cell with the prison governor and the chaplain, and the former told the condemned that there was no chance of a reprieve. Lee responded by shrugging. Then said, "Elizabeth Harris could say the word which could clear me, if she would."

Shortly before eight o'clock on the morning of Monday, 23rd February, 1885, the executioner James Berry led John Lee to the center of the trap on the gallows, then proceeded to strap Lee's legs together below the knees, before positioning and tightening the rope around his neck. Berry pulled the white hood over the doomed man's head, then walked to the lever. After a short tense pause, Berry threw the lever - and the expected sound of bolts being drawn below the gallows was heard. Death would be a heartbeat away now for Lee. But, to everyone's amazement, the trap door on which John Lee stood refused to open.

Berry took the hood and noose off Lee and tested the stubborn trap with a sandbag that weighed the exact same weight as Lee. The trap opened this time and the sandbag crashed to the ground under the gallows. Lee was pushed onto the trap again with the hood over his head and the noose re-positioned around his neck. This time, all the witnesses to the impending execution knew that the trap would work.

Berry pulled the lever - but the trap beneath Lee's feet wouldn't open again. Berry took the noose and hood off Lee, and guided him off the trap once more. A prison engineer and Berry discussed the problem, and a carpenter was summoned. When the edges of the trap had been planed, and the bolts of the hanging apparatus had been greased, a sandbag acted as a substitute for Lee again. Everything went like clockwork. Lee was put on the trap for the third time. The hooded man stood there, waiting for Berry to throw the lever. Berry then pulled the lever as hard as possible. The chaplain looked away as the greased bolts slid as expected. But to his total astonishment, the chaplain saw that Lee was still standing on the unopened trap. The cleric fainted, but was caught by a warder before he could hit the floor.

It was decided that a messenger should be sent to London to inform the Home Secretary of the botched hanging attempts. While everyone waited for the messenger to return, Lee had a spot of breakfast. Ironically, the hangman James Berry had to turn down the meal he was offered, because of his nerves. So Lee ate Berry's meal instead.

About nine hours later, the messenger returned from London to inform Lee that he had been granted a respite by the Home Secretary. The death sentence had been commuted to life-imprisonment. But Lee was released after serving twenty years. He came out in 1905 and married a childhood sweetheart who had waited patiently for him. The couple went to America, and up until his death in 1933, John Lee, the man who couldn't be hanged, swore he was not a murderer. Whenever people asked him what he thought about being spared from the rope three times in a row, Lee would say it wasn't luck, or freak mechanical failure that saved his neck - but divine intervention.



John Smith

The John Smith Story
Another famous incident in which a man escaped a hanging death involved John Smith, otherwise known as "Half-Hang'd Smith." Smith was convicted of stealing gloves and sentenced to death. On December 12th, 1705, he was taken to the gallows and made to hang, but he was not dead after a quarter of an hour. Throughout the crowd, there were shouts of "reprieve," and he was immediately cut down and had some blood let to restore his health. Smith was taken back to Newgate Prison, and eventually pleaded for a pardon on February 20th, 1706. He suffered terrible pain through the half-hanging experience, but not enough to keep him from crime after he was released. He was never officially convicted of a crime again.



Links to: Death/

Sources:
http://www.qsl.net/w5www/hangman.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/southwest/series1/john-babbacombe-lee.shtml
http://www.murderresearch.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_'Babbacombe'_Lee

Pictures/Props:
Newspaper clipping 'The Man they Could Not Hang' here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/southwest/series1/i/couldnthang_150.jpg
Half-Hanged Smith here - http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/i/tyburn2.jpg
John 'The Man They Counldn't Hang' Lee here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/southwest/series1/i/johlee_203.jpg
Other images here: http://www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/bonifield/pardons.html

Researcher:JP


Last edited by Frederick The Monk on Fri Mar 31, 2006 4:09 am; edited 5 times in total

 
MatC
56523.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:47 am Reply with quote

“Another famous incident in which a man escaped a hanging death involved John Smith, otherwise known as "Half-Hang'd Smith." This man was convicted of stealing gloves and sentenced to death. On December 12th, 1705, Smith was taken to the gallows and made to hang, but he was not dead after a quarter of an hour. Throughout the crowd, there were shouts of "reprieve," and he was immediately cut down and had some blood let to restore his health. Smith was taken back to Newgate Prison, and eventually pleaded for a pardon on February 20th, 1706. He suffered terrible pain through the half-hanging experience, but not enough to keep him from crime after he was released. He was never officially convicted of a crime again.”

Source:
www.umich.edu/~ece/student_projects/bonifield/pardons.html

 
Frederick The Monk
56525.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:54 am Reply with quote

So John is the best Christian name to have if you want to avoid being hanged.

 
MatC
56534.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 9:07 am Reply with quote

Better than Ruth, leastways.

 
Frederick The Monk
56590.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 11:54 am Reply with quote

Not suprisingly John is one of the most common names amongst the list of people executed in England between 1606 and 1898. I count at least 80.

 
Frederick The Monk
56591.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 11:57 am Reply with quote

Joseph is popular too, clocking up 23 appearances.

 
Gray
56597.  Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:39 pm Reply with quote

And he didn't even get a reprieve.

 
MatC
56856.  Sat Mar 04, 2006 7:35 am Reply with quote

What are the odds of getting cured by making a pilgrimage to Lourdes?

I can’t do the maths myself, but:

a) According to Richard Dawkins (quoted in The Freethinker, February 2006) “80,000 people a year make the pilgrimage” and “There have been only 66 authenticated cures.”
and
b) According to Carl Sagan in 1994 (quoted here) “roughly 100 million people have visited Lourdes, France in the last 136 years, many in hopes of being cured of diseases that are untreatable with modern medicine. He states that the spontaneous remission rate for all cancers taken together is estimated to be one in 10,000 to one in 100,000. Supposing that no more than 1% of the visitors to Lourdes are there to treat their cancers, one would expect to have seen between 10 and 100 "miraculous" cures of cancer alone. Yet, Sagan notes, there have been only 64 miraculous cures of any kind authenticated by the Roman Catholic Church at Lourdes.”

The Sagan figures rather entertainingly suggest (am I right?) that visiting Lourdes reduces your chance of being cured.

Problem: I can’t find an “official” figure of how many people have visited Lourdes, let alone how many were after a cure.

 
Gray
56894.  Sat Mar 04, 2006 10:06 am Reply with quote

Dawkins also mentioned in his recent documentary that more people will have contracted contagious diseases from running their fingers over the moist surface of the sacred cave walls than will have been cured.

 
Frederick The Monk
56987.  Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:20 pm Reply with quote

We need some good stats on how many people going to Lourdes are looking for a physical cure and for what. But then do people ever explicity say?

 
Frederick The Monk
56988.  Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:21 pm Reply with quote

I imagine there must be some sort of placebo effect in operation as well.

 
Gray
56996.  Sat Mar 04, 2006 6:55 pm Reply with quote

The fact that they're amongst thousands of other people, all of whom fervently believe (or want to) must generate a huge amount of placebo effect.

A recent documentary on 'alternative medicine' (mostly justifiably rubishing it) found that the placebo effect had an actual mechanism that could be tracked in the brain: when you believe something is really going to work, the brain creates its own dopamine, which reduces stress and increases the efficiency of the body's own immune defences.

So belief really works. Dopamine could be an interesting topic...

 
Frederick The Monk
57024.  Sun Mar 05, 2006 5:07 am Reply with quote

Sounds like you shouold set that thread up. Brings us back to whether we could feed the panel placebos. I think the answer's no but I'd like to see the look on Sarah's face when we suggest it.

 
MatC
57325.  Mon Mar 06, 2006 5:55 am Reply with quote

Gray wrote:
The fact that they're amongst thousands of other people, all of whom fervently believe (or want to) must generate a huge amount of placebo effect.


And yet, they don't get cured ...

 
MatC
58649.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:04 am Reply with quote

The number of “official” miracle cures now stands at 67, according to Fortean Times 208, p.9, after a case from 1952 was added to the list.

 

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