October 31st, 2012 Headsman
Well, we made it.
As mentioned last year, having Executed Today run for five years was, when the site was launched, the crazy-optimistic aspirational idea. October 30, 2012 completed five full years with nary a day missed since the debut; with this day’s Halloween post, we’re into the trackless seas of Year VI. Here there be dragons.
This site has a strange rhythm for authorship, like the spiritual transports of the monastic rule: perpetual sleep deprivation, numbing repetition, immersion in arcane texts. Some days it’s endless drudgery, and the prior has to nudge you awake mid-chant; other days, the ingredients mysteriously add up to some bizarre ecstatic state and the posts pour effortlessly out of the fingers.
The most sobering thought is that this site is the magnum opus of my life so far. If I get jumped by a vampire this Hallow’s Eve, this blog is the first thing in my obit. And like the undead, it would survive its owner’s corporeal death: as of this writing, there are more than 90 posts already pre-scheduled for the months ahead.
Which means that, yes, we’re planning to go after those Year VI dragons.
Site pageview numbers show a steady growth, from 1.9 million in November 2010-October 2011 to more than 2.3 million in November 2011-October 2012. The site will enjoy its seven millionth all-time pageview tomorrow. While there’s nothing wrong with 20% growth, the “natural” growth path of the site is even higher. It’s just been suppressed of late by …
The great malware scare of 2012
Probably the less said about this the better. If you’re a regular visitor, you already know you’ve enjoyed intermittent spells of Google’s maddeningly non-transparent site malware scarlet letter over the past few months. I’m sorry. I’m trying.
I wish there were any indication that said efforts were to any purpose at all. Google (whose blacklist is the source of all the red flags) randomly interdicts the site every couple of weeks for no apparent reason. All site scans show everything clean, and Google must agree since it un-blacklists the same site without any changes a few hours later.
It’s certainly possible that there lies below a real and cunningly intermittent bug, but given that Google has blithely false-positived the site before, it’s also possible that Google just blithely false-positives the site.
I do any due diligence I can find to do, but with so much time seemingly run to waste one grows numb to the specific events: they blow in like the weather, remote from any causation or control or actionable information or evidence of actual harm. At the end of the day there’s an indifferent, unaccountable algorithm that’s either screwing up (but can’t be appealed), or else capturing an elusive piece of information (but not divulging it). And a site administrator who’s barely keeping up.
Other, less irksome traffic facts
Just a few small snapshots from Executed Today’s statistical profile these days.
After standing for 3 1/2 years, the one-day traffic record set August 13, 2008 when Andrew Sullivan linked the site was finally overwhelmed on March 5, 2012 thanks to a link from Cracked.com.
That same link makes Cracked the top non-search engine traffic source for the entire year.
In a virtual tie behind Cracked: Wikipedia* links (led by Eva Dugan and Andrei Chikatilo), and Twitter links.
As we make the turn into Year VI, about 200 folks subscribe to Executed Today updates by email; these are part of the 1100-1200 who read the site via RSS feed.
Over 5,000 tweets emanated from the @executedtoday Twitter feed, bringing it to an alarming lifetime total of around 12,400 micro-updates; this has not deterred followers from hitching on at a net pace north of two per day, now numbering over 1900 in all.
The U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K. (of which, overwhelmingly England) together constitute about 68.6% of the 1.1 million distinct site visitors over the past year. Half of the remainder hail from elsewhere in western Europe, apart from the British Isles.
The most prominent traffic sources outside of western Europe and North America? In descending order: Philippines, India, Poland, Brazil, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Japan. All of these countries’ browsers called on Executed Today more than 5,000 times over the past year.
China just edged Serbia for 46th place on the traffic ranks, trailing Pakistan, Slovakia, and Thailand. Hong Kong, as a separate region, ranked 40th, but even China plus Hong Kong fell just short of 5,000 visitors for the year.
I had no recorded visits at all from North Korea, Western Sahara, or South Sudan. (But I did get six from East Timor.)
Slightly over 10% of the site’s visitors read it on a mobile device. The iPad barely topped the iPhone as the most popular such platform; each had about 4% of the site’s total traffic share. Android devices collectively notched about 3%.
The most popular posts on Executed Today to date are mostly 3+ years old, and owe their numbers in part to the statistical accumulation intrinsic to longevity. (The most popular posts that were actually written in the previous twelve months concern George Stinney, the 14-year-old whom South Carolina electrocuted for rape in 1944, and the Sikhs who assassinated Indira Gandhi … both 20th century executions, like almost all the all-time most-trafficked posts.)
These top 60 posts (and this list excludes the popular top-ten lists; all the “executions that defined decades” posts would be among the top 60) are truly an elite group on the site, comprising about one in 30 of all the daily posts in the blog’s first 1,827 days. In hard number terms, Ted Bundy (whose post is home to a long discussion thread closing in on 6,000 comments) has been viewed over 133,000 times, while the second- and third-place posts are around 50,000. Those posts at the bottom of this list have been viewed over 9,000 times apiece.
1. Ted Bundy (January 24, 1989)
2. Eleven from the Stutthof concentration camp (July 4, 1946)
3. Samuel K. Doe (September 9, 1990)
4. Mohammad Najibullah (September 27, 1996)
5. Rainey Bethea (August 14, 1936)
6. Jesse Washington lynched (May 15, 1916)
7. Hideki Tojo (December 23, 1948)
8. Thomas Cromwell (July 28, 1540)
9. Karl Hermann Frank (May 22, 1946)
10. Fou Tchou-li (April 10, 1905)
11. Pulitzer Prize-winning firing squad photograph from the Iranian Revolution (August 27, 1979)
12. Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni (July 19, 2005)
13. Nguyen Van Lem (February 1, 1968)
14. Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis (July 8, 1999)
15. James Corbitt (November 28, 1950)
16. The rapists of Maggie dela Riva (May 17, 1972)
17. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (June 19, 1953)
18. Eugen Weidmann (June 17, 1939)
19. Claus von Stauffenberg (July 21, 1944)
20. Three partisans in Minsk (October 26, 1941)
21. Amon Goeth (September 13, 1946)
22. Charles Starkweather (June 25, 1959)
23. Hamida Djandoubi (September 10, 1977)
24. Witold Pilecki (May 25, 1948)
25. Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray (January 12, 1928)
26. Mohamed Oufkir (August 16, 1972)
27. Pvt. Eddie Slovik (January 31, 1945)
28. Henry Francis Hays (June 6, 1997)
29. Michael X (May 16, 1975)
30. Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin (December 11, 1962)
31. Karla Faye Tucker (February 3, 1998)
32. Du’a Khalil Aswad (April 7, 2007)
33. Eight July 20 anti-Hitler plotters (August 8, 1944)
34. Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters (January 9, 1923)
35. Partisans by the Sonderbataillon Dirlewanger (Uncertain date, 1942)
36. Che Guevara (October 9, 1967)
37. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya (November 29, 1941)
38. Robert Francois Damiens (March 28, 1757)
39. The Belsen war criminals (December 13, 1945)
40. Dhananjoy Chatterjee (August 14, 2004)
41. Maximilien Robespierre (July 28, 1794)
42. The Stoning of Soraya M. (August 15, 1986)
43. Princess Misha’al bint Fahd al Saud (July 15, 1977)
44. Hannah Ocuish (December 20, 1786)
45. The In Cold Blood killers (April 14, 1965)
46. Mohammed Bijeh (March 16, 2005)
47. William Johnson (June 20, 1864)
48. John Wayne Gacy (May 10, 1994)
49. Marion Braidfute (Uncertain date, 1297)
50. Willie Francis (May 9, 1947)
51. Cameron Todd Willingham (February 17, 2004)
52. Dr. Jose Rizal (December 30, 1896)
53. The Lonely Hearts Killers (March 8, 1951)
54. Eva Dugan (February 21, 1930)
55. Mary Surratt and the Lincoln assassination conspirators (July 7, 1865)
56. Cleopatra’s sister Arsinoe (late 41 BCE)
57. Father Miguel Pro (November 23, 1927)
58. Henri Languille (June 28, 1905)
59. Pargali Ibrahim Pasha (March 15, 1536)
60. Nam Cam (June 3, 2004)
Guest-written content has been a mainstay on the site from day one and instrumental to its continued existence. Year V was no exception: some six weeks’ worth of posts were, er, executed by folk other than I.
Particular thanks go to Meaghan Good not only for her amazingly prolific contributions but for her flexibility around the site’s editorial needs. (Read: she’s been willing to let me bump posts out a year when something else comes up or there are competing schedule priorities. I do this to my own posts all the time, but I hate to ask it of others.) Meaghan wrote almost 10% of this past year’s posts, and she found almost all those executions through her own research as well.
I don’t know how or why she does it, but I’m so thankful that she does.
Oct. 2, 1629: Jeronimus Cornelisz
Nov. 1, 1943: Not Anatoly Kuznetsov
Dec. 31, 1942: Three Bialystok Jews
Jan. 9, 1900: Louisa Masset
Jan. 13, 1943: Jarvis Catoe
Jan. 15, 1999: Recak Massacre
Jan. 27, 1961: Wasyl Gnypiuk
Feb. 8, 1942: Icchok Malmed
Feb. 24, 1942: Five Jews in Sokal
Mar. 2, 1942: Jakub Lemberg and family
Mar. 13, 1956: Jesus Maria de Galindez
Apr. 7, 1903: George Chapman
Apr. 8, 1763: Elizabeth Morton
Apr. 9, 1945: Johann Georg Elser
June 10, 1896: Amelia Dyer
June 16, 1944: George Stinney
June 1953: 32 merciful Soviet soldiers
Summer 1943: Marianne Elise Kurchner
July 9, 1941: Not Shaike Iwensky
July 14, 1941: Jake Bird
July 16, 1936: Mary Creighton
Sometime in 1301: False Margaret
Aug. 9, 1934: Anna Antonio
Aug. 17, 1942: Irene Nemirovsky
Aug. 18, 2011: Li Lindong
Aug. 21, 1887: Israel Lipski
Aug. 29, 1890: Otto Lueth
Sep. 5, 1937: Andrei Arzhilovsky
Sep. 10, 1943: Phillip Coleman
Sep. 11, 1942: Ten for Meir Berliner’s murder of a Treblinka officer
Sep. 13, 1944: Noor Inayat Khan
Oct. 1, 1926: Tony Vettere
Oct. 3, 1945: Henry William Hagert
Oct. 5, 1900: Coleman Gillespie
1,500th day special post: The Hand of Glory
Dec. 7, 1869: Nicholas Melady, the last public hanging in Canada
We’re also very grateful to the various authors and experts who shared their insights on such diverse figures as …
John Bishop and Thomas Head, the London Burkers
Richmond, Va., killer Thomas Cluverius
Chicago murderer George Painter (and the sausage-baron near contemporary who wasn’t hanged)
Johnny Frank Garrett, believed by the makers of a recent film to have been railroaded.
California bandido Tiburcio Vasquez
Joseph Christock. A photo of, and a drawing by, this hanged murderer became family artifacts for the descendants of an assistant warden; one of those descendants offered them to this site to share
A seminal 15th century “war crimes” case
The (possible) model for “Smugglerius”, the spine-tingling flayed ecorche
Ballad subject Frankie Silver
A Revolutionary War deserter
The last men executed by Michigan and Rhode Island
William Rose, whose hanging in Redwood County, Minn. remains controversial more than a century later
Just some of the everyday posts I particularly enjoyed researching, writing, or generally learning about this year.
Shahla Jahed, the footballer’s mistress who hanged after an Iranian O.J. trial
Jewish anti-slavery insurrectionist Isaac Yeshurun
Brokeback outback? The touching story of gay bushrangers
The Anabaptist Munster rebellion
Allen Foster‘s dying allusion to youthful sparring dates with black pugilist Joe Louis got his gassing mentioned by Martin Luther King
Aris Kindt, the hanged thief who ended up on a Dutch dissection table … and in a Dutch master’s painting
Wyatt Outlaw’s lynching in 1870 North Carolina emblemized the tragic defeat of Reconstruction
Lady Hamilton, the Scottish lady-in-waiting in Peter the Great’s court, who may or may not have snuck into Scottish ballads
Take an example from Paul Warner Powell: please confirm your understanding of your Fifth Amendment rights before bragging about committing capital murder to a prosecuting attorney
Formerly a perfectly accepted local wise woman, Matteuccia di Francesco got burned at the stake after San Bernardino of Siena came around firing up witchcraft hysteria
Pierre Vigier‘s contested hanging in a Gascony whose putative ducal lord was the English king highlighted the confusing lines of feudal authority … and presaged the coming age of the nation-state
William Frederick Horry, which is really a post about the career of the cool and professional new guy who hanged him — William Marwood
Antioch’s Muslim defenders were perplexed by Crusader knight Rainald Porchet, who instead of arranging his own ransom incited his captors to martyr him
There was once a worldwide campaign to establish the innocence of James Hanratty, hanged on questionable circumstantial evidence in Great Britain. But latter-day DNA tests confirmed his guilt after all
Leo Tolstoy was pretty shaken up after seeing Francis Richeux guillotined. Consider that beside his depiction of an execution scene in War and Peace
Everyday heroes: Joan Peterson refused to help some unscrupulous local pols disinherit a local woman by accusing her of witchcraft. So those pols accused Joan of witchcraft instead
Public sympathy for Andrew Wilson, hanged for robbing an excise collector, caused his hanging to set off a chain of events triggering one of Edinburgh’s most destructive riots
A missionary preserved an account of Chief Zacharias Kukuri‘s hanging during the German genocide of the Herero in present-day Namibia
Extraordinary rendition during the Stuart Restoration, when three fugitive regicides were kidnapped from the Netherlands
A little misunderstanding about just how much “emancipation” the Russian serfs were getting led to Anton Petrov‘s revolt and subsequent execution
The dangers of theology: Danes like Michael Blodorn really got into “suicide-by-executioner”
Public defender Johnny Mostiler made out pretty well mailing in defenses for indigent people in Spalding County, Ga. His clientele, like Curtis Osborne, did not
Lee Akers survived one of the most horrific prison fires in history (author Chester Himes, then a fellow-prisoner with Akers, wrote about it) only to die in the Ohio electric chair
Francois de Montmorency was executed for his dedication to the weird and intractable subculture of dueling
A showy 1680 Madrid auto de fe was the last of its kind
Merchant mariner who tries to ram a submarine: hero or war criminal?
The great-grandfather of the current Dallas County District Attorney
French triple murderer Henri Pranzini‘s public guillotining was of interest both to the artist Gauguin and to a young St. Therese of Lisieux
Thackeray (maybe it was Thackeray) mocked sympathy for an 18th century philologist-murderer by penning a satirically sympathetic homage to an 18th century foundling-flogging murderer
This hilariously lowbrow patriotic travestying of art following Alexander II’s near-assassination at the hands of Dmitry Karakozov is one of my favorite anecdotes on the site
Beware the rampaging vegetarians
Bosavern Penlez‘s hanging under the riot act for grabbing some linens from a whorehouse being destroyed by a mob almost set off a riot of its own
The best post series of the year was all about Jamaica’s Morant Bay Rebellion
We also added new companions to the long-popular “10 executions that defined the 2000s” post. This was our take on the Nineties and Eighties death penalty cases that loomed largest.
Yes, sure, they attract plenty of clicks. But they’re not cynical features; it’s actually quite diverting to think about and write these up.
With the site set to surpass the 2,000-post mark in the year ahead, expect to see more roundup, highlight, and list-type posts that offer new views of the vast content reservoir hereabouts.
In addition, of course, to the usual steady stream of fresh daily posts replenishing said reservoir.
* I don’t place my own site’s links on Wikipedia — seems a little tacky — so any traffic from that quarter is as near to earned as possible.
Also on this date
- Executed Today's Fourth Annual Report: Wrung, Wan and Quartered
- 1893: Bertha Zillmann, completely prostrate
- Executed Today's Third Annual Report: Third Time Lucky
- 1492: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, Nearly Headless Nick
- 1938: The terrified John Deering
- Executed Today's Second Annual Report: Once Bitten, Twice Die
- Executed Today's First Annual Report: One Year of Dying Languorously
- 1793: The Girondists
Entry Filed under: Administrative Messages