1899: Martha Place, the first woman electrocuted Themed Set: Arsenic

1963: Frederick Charles Wood, “Let me burn”

March 21st, 2014 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1963, hardened killer Frederick Charles Wood, 51, became the next-to-last prisoner to be executed at Sing Sing Prison in New York.

Although he came from a respectable, law-abiding family, Wood had a terrible temper and was very experienced at homicide. The man’s murderous career makes him the perfect poster child for the death penalty.

He committed his first murder while he was in his mid-teens, poisoning a girlfriend. He was out in only a few years, however, and fell back into crime: in 1933, he committed another horrific slaying. This time his victim, also female, was a stranger. Wood reportedly beat her with an iron bar and crushed her skull, and stabbed her over 140 times.

He served seven years and was paroled in 1940. In 1942, he killed again — for the third time. Wood attacked a man, hit him with a beer bottle, stomped on his head and slashed his throat. The victim, he said, was bothering his girlfriend.

This time he served almost twenty years before he was paroled again in 1960.

Mere weeks after his release from custody, in New York City, Wood beat and slashed a 62-year-old acquaintance to death, supposedly because his victim had made a pass at him. He then slaughtered the man’s 78-year-old sleeping roommate.

(When he was arrested the next day, Wood gave his occupation as “wine sampler.”)

Newspapers condemned the state parole board for letting him go so many times. Wood himself seemed to realize how stupid and pointless it all was, and refused any attempts to put off his much-deserved death sentence. He wrote that he wanted to “ride the lighting without further delay,” and added, “I do not welcome any intrusion into this stinking case of mine.”

Although Wood claimed he had schizophrenia and requested electroconvulsive therapy, three psychiatrists found him sane. A member of the Lunacy Commission asked him, “Is there any way we can help you?” Wood replied, “Let me burn.”

This article provides a detailed account of his crimes and execution, comparing him with Timothy McVeigh.

As he stood in the death chamber waiting to be strapped into the electric chair, he grinned at the witnesses and said, “Gents, this is an educational project. You are about to witness the damaging effect electricity has on Wood. Enjoy yourselves.”

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Guest Writers,History,Murder,New York,Other Voices,USA,Volunteers

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6 thoughts on “1963: Frederick Charles Wood, “Let me burn””

  1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    He should have been killed after the first murder. That would have solved it. The bleeding hearts hate to hear this but it’s true.

  2. Meaghan says:

    I totally knew you would say that, Kevin. In fact whilst writing this entry I thought “Kevin’s going to say [that].”

    Question for you: in your opinion, does Mr. Wood count as a serial killer or not? I mean, yes, he killed multiple people individually over an extended time period, but the murders themselves don’t seem very “serial” to me.

  3. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Meaghan! You know me!! I had to respond, LOL!

    No, I’m like you: I don’t see Wood as a serial killer.

    See you after my next comment, LOL!

  4. Philippe says:


    Yesterday I was in one of my usual bookshops in Paris for buying a book about a cinema magazine of the 1960s and on the same table I saw and purchased as well another book. Rather thin, 90 pages, and small in format.
    But the subject is some real-life criminal cases which have inspired movies featuring serial killers on the screen.
    ” Une série de tueurs : les serial killers qui ont inspiré le cinéma ”
    Author Axel Cadieux
    Publisher : Capricci, 20 March 2014

    I am copying here the list of chapters.

    For each, the first phrase refers to the real case, the phrase below to the movie.
    Of course the same case may have inspired other films mentioned or not in the chapter.

    In brackets is the name of the killer in real-life, which I have looked at each time.

    Le Boucher de Plainfield
    Massacre à la tronçonneuse
    ( Ed Gein )
    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ( 1974, Tobe Hooper )

    Les Amants criminels
    Tueurs nés
    ( Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate )
    Natural Born Killers ( 1994, Oliver Stone )

    Le Barbe-Bleue de la côte Est
    La Nuit du chasseur
    ( Harry Powers, who became Harry Powell played by Robert Mitchum. )
    The Night of the Hunter ( 1955, Charles Laughton )

    Le Croque-mitaine du Texas
    Le Crocodile de la mort
    ( Joe Ball )
    Eaten Alive ( 1977, Tobe Hooper )

    Le Policier halluciné
    ( Manuel Pardo )
    Dexter ( 2006 – 2013, James Manos Jr )

    Clint Eastwood face au Zodiac
    L’Inspecteur Harry
    ( The Zodiac )
    Dirty Harry ( 1971, Don Siegel )

    L’Eventreur du campus
    ( Danny Rolling )
    Scream ( 1996, Wes Craven )

    Les Mantes religieuses
    Arsenic et vieilles dentelles
    ( Vera Renczi / Amy Archer-Gilligan )
    Arsenic and Old Lace ( 1944, Frank Capra )

    Un Puzzle de tueurs
    Le Silence des agneaux
    ( Ed Kemper / Jerry Brudos / Gary Heidnik / Ted Bundy / Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris / Jeffrey Dahmer )
    The Silence of the Lambs ( 1991, Jonathan Demme )

    Crocodile Dundee
    Wolf Creek
    ( Bradley Murdoch / Ivan Milat / Matthew Milat his nephew )
    Wolf Creek ( 2005, Greg McLean )

    Les Cannibales de l’entre-deux-guerres
    M le Maudit
    ( Fritz Haarmann / Karl Denke / Karl Grossman / Peter Kürten )
    M Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder ( 1931, Fritz Lang )

    Index des tueurs
    ( Index of killers )
    ( Names already mentioned plus :
    Benjamin James Darras, Sarah Edmonson, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Herbert Mulin, Richard Ramirez, Charles Xhitman )

    Best Regards

  5. Kevin M Sullivan says:

    Very informative, Philippe!

    Thank you!


  6. JCF says:

    “That would have solved it.”

    What’s the “it” here? Four fewer murdered people?

    I honestly do not believe so. A violent society—never more accurately expressed as through the death penalty—CREATES murderers. The hang-em-highs hate to hear this but it’s true.

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