Of executions, hangings, murders, and bombs people now write and speak as they used to speak about the weather. Children play at hangings. …
Yes, this executioner at first hand knows that he is an executioner, and that he does wrong, and is, therefore, hated, and he is afraid of men, and I think this consciousness and this fear before men atone for at least a part of his guilt.
His guilt? CG art (c) Eugene Fokin, used with permission.
But you all … you indirect participators in the iniquities perpetrated every day — do not seem to feel your guilt, nor the shame your participation in those horrors would evoke. It is true that, like the executioner, you fear men … You are all afraid; but, unlike that executioner, you are afraid, not because you know you are doing evil, but because you think other people do evil. …
for me the horrible work goes on of these hangmen, at first enlisted with difficulty, but now no longer so loathing their work; for me exist these gallows, with well-soaped cords, from which hang women, children, and peasants; for me exists this terrible embitterment of man against his fellow-man.
Somehow, since our Halloween 2007 launch, the grim furies have scourged this blog along for three full years of fresh ghoulish content every single one of 1,096 straight days. Talk about rigor mortis.
The blog traffic stats go up and to the right, just like they’re supposed to, now averaging well over 5,000 pageviews daily, with more than 700 feed subscribers. (Pageviews are up more than 50% since last year’s annual report, even though advertising rates haven’t budged. What a bargain!) Residents of 187 different countries have visited Executed Today in the past year.
In all, there were nearly 1.6 million pageviews from last Nov. 1 to the present — as against 1.1 million pageviews cumulative for the first two years of this site’s existence. (For all that growth, the single-day traffic record is still held by a day in the site’s penurious first year: that one time Andrew Sullivan linked me. If Sully doesn’t come through with another link, however, traffic growth trajectory suggests he won’t hold that distinction much longer.)
The site’s Twitter feed has grown more than 150%, to 470-some followers … although given the meteoric growth of Twitter itself, I’m not sure how much weight to put on that. If you do follow me on Twitter, you’ll get about 6-12 tweets daily about executions and connected subjects of crime, violence, and history, and no tweets about how drunk I am or that the circle line is running late or the last time I moved my bowels. Like I said: proper executioners are all business.
Where Are You?
The top 20 countries in terms of traffic are basically the usual suspects; the shuffling on this list is pretty minor year to year. The U.S. was over half the pie last year, and lost some of that ground; Poland and New Zealand both had disproportionate increases in their traffic.
There was some sort of Slavic renaissance on the site in Year III; in addition to Poland, visits from Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Ukraine also surged far above the baseline traffic growth metrics.
The average for pages viewed per visit (2.1), time spent on site (2:29) and “bounce rate” (69% of visitors who leave without clicking a second page) all remained essentially level; given that one might expect the many new visitors to the site to be more casually engaged than returning regular readers, I take that as a positive.
How’d You Get Here?
The site’s historic 60-30-10 ratio of search traffic-referral links-direct lookups stayed pretty much the same, with image searches specifically accounting for over 8% of the overall traffic.
Day by day, much of the daily surge and undertow in traffic is noticeably (to me) accounted for by search hits, and these often tip me to some bit of breaking news. The most popular search remains “executed today”; “executedtoday.com” is also in the top 10, and I’ve also filtered out a couple of site searches explicitly invoking this domain’s Ted Bundy discussion (more on that in a moment). As can be readily observed, there are a couple of searches for specific methods of execution (specifically: nasty methods of execution), but most of the leading search terms are lookups on specific individuals. (Executed individuals … except for one search on an executioner’s name, that of English hangman Albert Pierrepoint.)
|thomas cromwell execution botched|
|samuel doe execution video|
|john albert taylor|
|karl hermann frank|
|drawn and quartered|
|broken on the wheel|
|jenny wanda barkmann|
|maggie dela riva|
|lois nadean smith|
|du’a khalil aswad video|
|karl hermann frank execution video|
|samuel doe execution|
What’d You See When You Got Here?
This has become one of my favorite parts of the annual report. With nearly 1,100 daily entries now posted along with meta-content, I’m going to extend it from last year’s top 25 to the top 40 all-time posts.
Now with more traffic than the next three posts combined, this 3,000-plus comment living thread on one of America’s most infamous serial killers just keeps going strong.
It’s not the #1 post every single day; news-driven search hits or traffic to the day’s anniversary posts not infrequently surpass it. But it’s almost always one of the top two or three, and it’s the default number one when nothing else is cooking.
Many thanks to author Kevin M. Sullivan and the many other posters on this thread for making it one of the site’s most captivating pages.
The former Liberian dictator, famously captured and tortured to death on video, which many an Internet denizen comes a-searchin’. (I have only a truncated and relatively PG version of that video.)
He tried to kill Hitler. More importantly for his search prominence, he was cinematically portrayed by Tom Cruise.
Holding steady from fourth place last year, this post’s traffic is almost unnaturally consistent: 20 to 60 hits a day from people who mostly run searches trying to find out when America’s last public hanging took place.
(Also of note: the execution was overseen by a female sheriff, although she ended up delegating the actual execution to male hangmen while she remained off the scaffold.)
The “Jenny Wanda Barkmann” from the top search hits list above was a comely Nazi guard, publicly strangled to death on the gallows on this date.
As noted above, “thomas cromwell execution botched” is your search term winner for the year.
Not a literal execution, though the connection between lynching and the death penalty as varietals of communal violence is uncomfortably close — especially when, as in this case, the outrages of the Negro upon the virtues of southern white women are at issue.
This post’s images of Jesse Washington’s blackened remains are among the more unpleasant illustrations on the site.
Again, the appeal of multimedia. Frank’s hanging in Prague, by the old Austro-Hungarian “pole hanging” method, was filmed. He earned his death in part for one of the war’s most notorious atrocities, the Lidice massacre.
The wartime Prime Minister of Imperial Japan.
People come here looking for the ghastly photos of China’s old “slow slicing” execution method, that so exalted the likes of Bataille.
11. June 19, 1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – Cold War cause celebre
12. June 6, 1997: Henry Francis Hays – White supremacist whose lynching of a random black youth cost the Klan its headquarters
13. Apr. 7, 2007: Du’a Khalil Aswad – Her “honor killing” stoning to death was filmed
14. Sep. 10, 1977: Hamida Djandoubi – The last drop for the French guillotine
15. July 8, 1999: Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis – So rotund, Florida built him a new electric chair
16. Dec. 11, 1962: Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin – These guys knew there was a good chance they’d be the last men hanged in Canada.
17. Nov. 28, 1950: James Corbitt, the hangman’s mate – Those search hits on “Albert Pierrepoint” find this story of the famed executioner hanging a former customer of Pierrepoint’s pub
18. Oct. 9, 1967: Ernesto “Che” Guevara – You might have heard of him.
19. Jan. 31, 1945: Private Eddie Slovik – The last U.S. soldier executed for desertion
20. Nov. 29, 1941: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya – Famed teenage anti-Nazi partisan
21. Feb. 17, 2004: Cameron Todd Willingham – He’s the reason Texas Gov. Rick Perry will never be president.
22. July 19, 2005: Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni – Photographs of these two youths going fearfully to their deaths focused attention on the plight of homosexuals in Iran.
23. June 25, 1959: Charles Starkweather – This seminal heartland spree killer has his own Springsteen song.
24. Dec. 13, 1945: The Belsen war criminals – Another in the continuing “hot Nazi prison babes hanged” series
25. Sep. 13, 1946: Amon Goeth – The villainous concentration camp commandant in Schindler’s List
26. November, 1942: Partisans by the Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger – A graphic photo (with no specific known attribution date) of German units executing prisoners on the bloody eastern front
27. May 25, 1948: Witold Pilecki – Polish Home Guard agent who had once infiltrated Auschwitz, but ran afoul of the Communists after World War II
28. Jan. 12, 1928: Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray – The inspirations for Double Indemnity, doubly notable because a reporter secretly snapped a blurry picture of Ruth Snyder in the electric chair.
29. Jan. 9, 1923: Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters – An English love triangle; Thompson’s controversial, and botched, hanging was said to have contributed to the suicide of her executioner.
30. Aug. 8, 1944: Eight July 20 plotters – The aforementioned Stauffenberg was actually executed on the night of the coup by another German officer trying to cover his own complicity. These eight co-conspirators met a more official end: tortured by the Gestapo, abused in the People’s Court, and strangled on piano wire.
31. May 16, 1975: Michael X – Black nationalist hanged in Trinidad for burning to death a Tory M.P.’s daughter.
32. May 17, 1972: The rapists of Maggie dela Riva – Callow sons of the elite electrocuted for raping a well-known Filipina actress.
33. Oct. 26, 1941: Masha Bruskina, Kiril Trus and Voldia Shcherbatshevich – This post has graphic photos of partisans publicly executed by the Wehrmacht in Minsk
34. Feb. 1, 1968: Nguyen Van Lem – The prisoner summarily shot through the head by South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, in one of the Vietnam War’s most unforgettable images
35. Sep. 27, 1996: Dr. Mohammad Najibullah – The Soviet-sponsored former Afghan head of state, strung up on a traffic pylon when the Taliban took power.
36. July 15, 1977: Princess Misha’al bint Fahd al Saud – Nineteen-year-old Saudi royal adulteress
37. May 10, 1994: John Wayne Gacy – Democratic machine operative, amateur harlequin, serial killer
38. Aug. 14, 2004: Dhananjoy Chatterjee – The only person hanged in India in the past generation … though he doesn’t seem destined to be the last.
39. Apr. 28, 1945: Benito Mussolini, his mistress, and his aides – Afterwards, their bodies were strung up for public abuse in Milan
40. Mar. 28, 1757: Robert Francois Damiens – You’ll read a ghastly description of his quartering in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Appropriately for Foucault (though not mentioned by him) Casanova also helped his friend get busy while watching the execution.
I mention this every year, because it bears mentioning every year: there’s a striking traffic advantage for executions of a more recent vintage. I have fortuitous search placement on Tudor politician Thomas Cromwell — that fact surprises me somewhat — and since he’s recently been one of the main characters on a hit TV show, he gets plenty of search love.
After that, you need to get all the way down to #40 to find the next post about someone who was executed before the 20th century … even though just a bit over half the site’s content concerns pre-20th century executions. By my count, World War II alone accounts for 13 posts in the top 40, and 20 more of those entries are postwar executions. The same effect is also visible in the search terms.
Again, guest content to the tune of nearly a month was generously supplied by various friends of the site. Copious thanks to all of the following:
Mar. 4, 1771: Green Tea Hag
Mar. 21, 1979: Gu Shan
April 25, 1644: Looters in conquered Beijing
May 3, 738: Copan King 18-Rabbit
Elizabeth M. Hull
One Thousand and One Nights for One Thousand and One Deaths, a special supplemental post for our 1,001st consecutive day posting
Dec. 13, 1532: Solomon Molcho
Jan. 17, 1799: Dun Mikiel Xerri
Apr. 6, 1199: Pierre Basile
Oct. 9, 1401: Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan
July 30, 1419: The first defenestration of Prague
Aug. 15, 2004: Atefah Rajabi Shalaaleh
Aug. 18, 1775: Thomas Jeremiah
Sept. 5, 1942: Lodz Ghetto “Children’s Action”
Sept. 15, 1944: Mala Zimetbaum and Edward Galinski
Sept. 29, 1941: Babi Yar massacre
I’m also grateful for these expert interviews:
Dec. 27, 1899: Hilda Blake, poorhouse orphan
Feb. 12, 1554: Lady Jane Grey
Mar. 22, 1803: Thomas Hilliker
This poster of the triangular Tyburn gallows is available from Madame Talbot’s Victorian & Gothic Lowbrow.
Random. This little innovation actually got introduced last year and remains one of the most popular bits on the site. Every thirtieth pageview or so is from someone just dialing up a random execution — about 53,000 for the year.
Okay, this was pretty cool.
Legibility. If the text on the site is a bit easier on the eyes lately, it’s thanks to Ramon Garcia‘s pro bono CSS work.
Milestone. There’s no shortage of material, but I’m a little surprised my constitution has held out long enough to make it to 1,000-plus consecutive days. We take it one day at a time, coach.
Killed the Radio Star. My post on Arkadi Berdichevsky, a Soviet economist purged in the 1930s who also happened to be the father of conservative intellectual Jon Utley, actually prompted Mr. Utley to get in touch with me and led to an appearance on Antiwar Radio.
Metadeath. This post to mark the odometer rolling over to 2010 actually has more clicks than any posts save Bundy and Doe. Given three years of content in the reservoir and the way list posts are catnip to clickthroughs … there may be a few more of these in the offing.
Editor’s Picks. These posts aren’t necessarily big traffic-earners or major award-winners. But — to me, at least — they stood out somewhat from the everyday, as unusually interesting.
Ali Resti and Sayyid Husain, to placate America Great moments in American foreign policy: “When you are dealing with a government like Persia … if you ask them to execute a Moslem for the death of a Christian … if they do it, you accomplish more for the prestige of your country than if they paid a million.”
Four for the oil of Chad. Natural resource politics: scary.
The time when America went to war to protect the P.O.W. status of foreign terrorists. Or the time when trying unlawful combatants outside the Geneva Conventions outraged Britain and the U.S.
The Slaves of the Zong: cold-blooded summary “executions” of slaves when they became more profitable dead than alive.
Robert Kett, rebelling against the landlords’ enclosures of common lands that marked the dawn of capitalism. There’s more on enclosures in the hanging of these 19th century poachers
Aesop, of the fables. He’s supposed to have been executed by Delphians by hurling off a rock … for stinginess.
Young Goethe’s family was involved in the case of Susanna Margaretha Brandt, an infanticide who might have inspired the Gretchen character in his Faust
Joshua Tefft, the only person drawn and quartered in (what is now) the U.S.A. … for being too friendly with the neighboring Indians.
Mary Carleton, a 17th century adventuress whose manipulation of identity and celebrity is downright postmodern.
William Williams, the last hanged in Minnesota — a story also bound up in the move from public to secretive executions late at night and behind prison walls.
The Amboyna Massacre, in which Dutch colonial authorities in Indonesia waterboarded English prisoners into confessing to a fantastical terrorist plot, then executed them en masse
Jacques de Molay, the last Templar Grand Master, historical conspiracy theory nexus
Mehmed Kemal, executed by defeated Ottoman Turkey for the Armenian genocide, as it tried to make enough amends for the recent First World War to survive. (It didn’t.)
The Tour de Nesle affair saw princesses and knights with an excessive investment in romantic love set up the Hundred Years War.
Caryl Chessman, death row author and lightning rod for death penalty proponents and opponents alike.
Italian national heroes Cesare Battisti and Fabio Filzi — lavishly photographed martyring themselves to Austria-Hungary.
The first major war crimes trials of World War II took place in 1943, in the USSR … and those hanged as a result of the Krasnodar trials were not German soldiers, but alleged Soviet collaborators.
A mass execution Ivan the Terrible carried out at the height of his oprichnina terror.
Valery Sablin, the misunderstood inspiration for The Hunt for Red October.
Maharajah Nandakumar, a nasty little judicial assassination in colonial India that helped set the scene for a more orderly Empire.
Elizabeth Martha Brown, a disturbingly sexy hanging witnessed by young go-getter Thomas Hardy — and arguably an inspiration for his novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Neptune, an African in Suriname whose butchery was vividly recorded by John Gabriel Stedman.
Roux de Marsilly, a hook to the Man in the Iron Mask
Gasim, the character Peter O’Toole executes just before taking Aqaba in Lawrence of Arabia
Thomas Nash, controversially renditioned to the British by the Federalists in 1799
A montage of cultural artifacts generated by Sacco and Vanzetti
A notorious mass impaling by Vlad the Impaler
All the entries in the Executions by Effigy themed set, a truly strange old practice
The Babington Plot, busted by Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster Walsingham
Mehdi Hashemi, who exposed the Iran-Contra scandal
“The Rand … never again saw a significant white mineworkers’ strike” after South Africa hanged C.C. Stassen in 1922
… topical for year three, we are obliged to mention