December 9th, 2013 Robert Elder
(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post. This post originally appeared on the Last Words blog here. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)
“I have a right to choose the way I die!”
— Douglas Van Vlack, convicted of murder, hanging, Idaho.
Executed December 9, 1937
Van Vlack kidnapped his ex-wife and killed her, as well as two police officers. A few hours before his hanging was scheduled, Van Vlack broke away from his guards and scrambled over the cell block to cling to the ceiling rafters. He stayed in the ceiling for a half an hour as his lawyer and the prison chaplain begged for him to come down; he jumped thirty feet below just before the guards entered the cell block with a net. Van Vlack’s hanging was unsuccessful; technically he died the next day, December 10, after a few hours in a coma.
Also on this date
- 1727: An Irish deserter at Gibraltar
- 1999: James Beathard, on the word of a known liar
- 1603: The men of the Bye Plot, but not those of the Main Plot
- 2007: Seven Tuareg and Arab civilians
- 1783: The first hangings at Newgate Prison
- 1793: Sydney Carton posing as Charles Darnay