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  • A man is led to a gallows, a black hood placed over his head.

  • Next is the thick rope noose, as he is asked if he has any last words.

  • The condemned remains silent, and the executioner moves to his station.

  • Yet there is no trap door for the condemned to fall through, in fact he is about to be

  • less 'hanged' for his crimes, and more 'jerked' for them.

  • Welcome to the world of the Upright Jerker.

  • Some of you history buffs probably know that the FBI's first everPublic Enemy Number

  • 1” was the outlaw named John Dillinger.

  • What most of you won't know is that the man that was actually called public enemy

  • number one first was one Gerald Chapman, a sophisticated smooth criminal that was nicknamed,

  • The Count of Gramercy Park.”

  • This Brooklyn-born man started his criminal career in his early teens, and later became

  • a smartly-dressed, well-read, startlingly eloquent man who belonged to an early Prohibition-era

  • gang.

  • He robbed banks, made illegal alcohol, and was eventually accused of murder.

  • Chapman pleaded for justice, saying he was innocent of the crime, but the court didn't

  • see it that way.

  • The cops wanted him dead, for various reasons that we will soon discuss.

  • What's of more importance today is how he went, which could be said to be the USA's

  • most brutal kind of capital punishmentand one few people have heard of.

  • Since Chapman was arguably the most infamous criminal whose life ended at the hands of

  • the upright jerker, we'll first tell you a little more about the man and why the authorities

  • so dearly wanted him dead.

  • Born to Irish immigrant parents in New York in 1887, Chapman lived a rough and tumble

  • kind of life.

  • He was first arrested at 14 and then sent to prison, and would spend the majority of

  • his young life behind bars.

  • It was on the inside where he read voraciously and educated himself, and when he got out

  • he dressed like a man of high esteem and perfected a rather posh British accent.

  • In his twenties he had bootlegging operations all over the U.S. and became quite a successful

  • criminal.

  • But it wasn't until his mid-30s that he really hit the big time after robbing a U.S.

  • mail truck of money, bonds and jewelry.

  • The haul was worth around 2.4 million bucksaround 34 million in today's money.

  • After that he lived like an aristocrat in New York's very wealthy Gramercy Park neighborhood,

  • hence his sobriquet, “The Count of Gramercy Park.”

  • He was also calledThe Gentleman Bandit.”

  • He was eventually arrested, and then made the headlines not only for conning people

  • into thinking he was an aristocrat, but also because he escaped from the police station.

  • He was captured again and given 25 years, but he subsequently escaped from prison.

  • While on the run he was injured during his re-capture, but then he escaped from the prison

  • hospital.

  • Chapman was a man that was hard to pin down, that's for sure.

  • While on the run he went on a crime spree, and during one particular robbery a police

  • officer was killed.

  • It was then that the media ran the story about the country's, “Public Enemy Number One”.

  • Chapman had become a huge embarrassment to the federal authorities, who now not only

  • wanted to pin him down, but also string him up.

  • When he was arrested again, law enforcement were hoping for one thing: a swift execution.

  • On April 6, 1926, Chapman was taken to the gallows in Connecticut's Wethersfield Prison.

  • He'd fought a hard legal battle, saying he wanted justice, not mercy.

  • Instead, he was taken to be executed on what was called The Upright Jerker.

  • Reports at the time stated that Chapmanswore profusely as doom neared.”

  • Ok, so what was it exactly?

  • Well, we've seen one patent and what it looked like was a contraption that would perform

  • a reverse hanging.

  • Instead of putting a person's head in a noose and then letting them fall through a

  • trapdoor, the upright jerker would use pulleys and a large weight to lift the noose, and

  • the neck in it, upwards.

  • The man wasn't fastened down.

  • He would be left hanging a few feet off the ground, but it was hoped that the sudden jolt

  • would break the man's neck.

  • Hmm, you might ask, why would the U.S. decide to use such a contraption.

  • Why not stick with good old hanging?

  • The reason was that hanging didn't always work.

  • Sometimes the drop would be too much and the prisoner would be decapitated, and sometimes

  • the drop was too little and the prisoner would take too long to die.

  • While public hangings always drew large crowds, decapitations and drawn out deaths were not

  • to the people's liking.

  • They wanted a good, clean, swift death.

  • But was the upright jerker any better than regular hanging?

  • The answer, it seems, is no.

  • In fact, it took nine minutes for Chapman to die, which was far from humane.

  • Theautomatic gallows”, as it was sometimes called, didn't exactly take off around the

  • world, and for good reason.

  • But it was tried and tested in some states, notably New York.

  • Long before Chapman was placed on the upright jerker a man named Lewis Wilber went the same

  • way in Morrisville, New York.

  • It was agreed that the weight to be used would be 238 pounds (107kg), which as you can imagine

  • was some force pulling his head up.

  • It worked of course, and Wilbur died, but was the death as painless as upright jerker

  • enthusiasts had said it would be?

  • Well, when the weight was released poor old Wilbur was sent flying four feet in the air,

  • only to come back down again and hang two feet off the ground.

  • It wasn't really a good look for the authorities.

  • The condemned was never meant to take off like a rocket.

  • When a man named James Stephens was hanged, he too was raised into the air, and reports

  • said he was left contorting and gurgling until he died from asphyxiation.

  • That's not what hanging was supposed to be like.

  • It was supposed to break the neck and put the condemned out of his misery very quickly.

  • The same thing happened to a man named Benjamin Hunter.

  • His neck didn't break and he spent a good few minutes in agonizing pain.

  • A bystander remarked, “A chill ran through the witnesses present.

  • It was awful.”

  • This all happened towards the end of the 19th century, a time when scientists in Britain

  • were trying to perfect hanging using measured drops, so that the person's neck would break

  • when the man fell through the trapdoor and the rope tightened.

  • But those Brits kept getting it wrong, too, and men's heads would roll or they would

  • be left dangling like a dog on a leash, wriggling around and panting until finally dead.

  • The upright jerker was supposed to be an improvement - a modern American take on killing science.

  • The thing is, it just didn't work, and in the latter half of the 19th century some critics

  • in the U.S. were calling the methodhideousandbrutal.”

  • Those critics asked what was the point of the upright jerker, since it very seldom broke

  • a man's neck.

  • At least with your regular hanging the odds were stacked against the condemned person

  • enduring several minutes' of painful strangling.

  • When Thomas Welsh met with the machine in Newark, it's said the sheriff hung his head

  • in shame as the man struggled on the rope, with bystanders turning the other way.

  • It was called a slow, painful death.

  • Coming to the end of 19th century a man named Charles Sterling got the same treatment in

  • Ohio, with one newspaper later saying that the execution was a “scene of horrorsickening

  • in the extreme.”

  • But for decades to come all over the U.S. men convulsed, contorted, writhed and thrashed

  • around on the contraption, and even though the press wrote about the sheer horror of

  • the backwards hanging, it was still the method of choice in some states.

  • The reason, as we said, was because all over the world countries were struggling to hang

  • folks with dignityif there is such a thing.

  • Then there was the hydraulic upright jerker, which was supposed to be an improvement.

  • In 1892, a man named Mr. T. Thatcher Graves was supposed to go this way in Colorado.

  • It was a kind of complicated device.

  • Again, there was a weight on the other end of a noose, but with this hydraulic version

  • the condemned man actually killed himself.

  • This took the weight of guilt off the authorities.

  • The man basically stood on a platform, his body weight putting various gears into motion,

  • and releasing a plug on a water jug in another room.

  • The water would rush into a barrel that was connected to the rope that the condemned man

  • had around his neck.

  • When it was full and heavy the rope was pulled upwards with the man's head in it.

  • It sounds rather like one of those complicated mouse trap videos that appear on YouTube now

  • and again.

  • Did it work?

  • Of course it didn't, well, in the way it was supposed to.

  • The water contraption looked very modern and scientific, but thetwitch-upmethod,

  • or beingjerked to Jesusas it was sometimes described, was almost always a botch job.

  • Mr. Graves, should have gotten the hydraulic version of the upright jerker, but he hanged

  • himself in his jail cell rather than be the first person to test the complicated killing

  • machine.

  • Allowing the prisoner to basically kill himself was all the rage at the end of the 19th century.

  • More devices were built so that when the man stood on a platform a weight would be released

  • except it looks like the authorities gave up on using water.

  • Believe it or not, in 1905 in Nebraska, a man named Francis Barker invented a hanging

  • machine for himself.

  • His device consisted of a trap-door, though, not the upright method.

  • Still, he created a device that allowed the condemnedin this case himto push

  • a button that would release the door.

  • At the time the magazinePopular Mechanicswrote that law enforcement would welcome such

  • a product.

  • So, what happened to the upright jerker?

  • Well, the electric chair took over in the end.

  • More and more states in the early 20th century started adopting the electric chair as a killing

  • instrument.

  • Electricity was the in thing, and hanging to some people seemed so old hat.

  • The chair was touted as being painless, fast, and humane, which it certainly was not.

  • We can't tell you who was the last person to be executed on the upright jerker, although

  • its use ended sometime in the 1930s.

  • In 1933, there is a report that says in the state of Colorado the last man took hisflight

  • to eternity.”

  • Now go watch this video, “What The Last 24 Hours of Death Row Prisoner Look Like in

  • 2019”.

  • Or have a look at this, “Teenage Death Row Prisoner Who Survived His Own Execution.”

A man is led to a gallows, a black hood placed over his head.

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The Upright Jerker - Worst Punishments in the History of Mankind

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/17
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