1642: George Spencer, pork loin

4 comments April 8th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1642, George Spencer paid the penalty at the New Haven (Connecticut) colony for a pig-fucking that he probably never perpetrated.

Seven and a half weeks previous, a farmer named John Wakeman had reported to magistrates that his pregnant sow had delivered a litter of healthy piglets … plus one abomination from the nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft and Ron Jeremy.

Itt had no haire on the whole body, the skin was very tender, and of a reddish white collour like a childs; the head most straing, itt had butt one eye in the midle of the face, and thatt large and open, like some blemished eye of a man; over the eye, in the bottome of the foreheade which was like a childes, a thing of flesh grew forth and hung downe, itt was hollow, and like the mans instrument of generation.

Genetics is a funny thing. Once in a while the little variations in a new generation will produce an adaptive advantage that takes the species another step down its evolutionary path.

And then other times what you get is dickface swineclops.

As so often with a proper monster story, it was the frightened townsfolk who produced the real horror.

The resemblance of this poor (and mercifully stillborn) pig to a man — “nose, mouth and chinne deformed, butt nott much unlike a childs, the neck and eares had allso such resemblance” — looked like palpable divine anger to New Haven worthies, and inspired a suitably inquisitorial response.

Its target was localized to George Spencer, a former servant to the pig’s former owner. Spencer had a bum eye himself plus a reputation as a “prophane, lying, scoffing and lewd speritt.” With a model of heredity we might strain to credit as primitive, it emerged as widespread suspicion that soon manifested into fact that Spencer had fathered the penis-headed chimera.

Maybe George Spencer really did go hog wild. Who really knows? But the account of the “investigation” — in which the only actual evidence was Spencer’s own confession plus his mutant “progeny” — has every hallmark of the false confessions whose prevalence is only lately becoming well-understood. European and American “witches” were also telling their persecutors just what they wanted to hear in the mid-17th century.

Spencer denied the charges at first. The magistrate Stephen Goodyear(e)* interrogated him: did Spencer not “take notice of something in [the monster pig] like him”? Goodyear implied that they already knew Spencer was guilty.

During a nervous pause, which Goodyear took to be Spencer preparing his soul to unburden itself but a less hostile viewer might have taken to be the frightened farmhand fretting about how he was going to escape with his neck, Goodyear hit him with Proverbs 28:13. It’s a nice dual-purpose verse to stamp the divine imprimatur on the good cop-bad cop approach: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Spencer wasn’t getting anywhere denying everything. He decided to try confessing and getting in on that mercy.

(Even at this, he told someone else that he had only confessed “for favor”. Upon hearing this, Goodyear stalked back to Spencer’s cell and made him commit to the confession.)

The next day, a team of town grandees showed up to get the details. Again, Spencer denied it, but now his previous day’s remarks hemmed him in. His story was shifty; he changed the location of the sin from the sty to the stable, varied between a half-hour and two hours engaged in his sin.

By the time of the trial that commenced on March 2, Spencer — perhaps now realizing that the proverb he ought to have heeded was “don’t talk to police” — was back to full denial. This time he stuck to it all the way through the proceedings, and little good it did him as witness after witness who had heard various iterations of his confession reported the admission. The judges had to decide how to adjudicate this kind of case at all, and they decided to go straight to the Pentateuch.

according to the fundamentall agreement, made and published by full and generall consent, when the plantation began and government was settled, that the judiciall law of God given by Moses and expounded in other parts of scripture, so far as itt is a hedg and a fence to the morrall law, and neither ceremoniall nor tipicall, nor had any referrence to Canaan, hath an everlasting equity in itt, and should be the rule of their proceedings. They judged the crime cappitall, and thatt the prisoner and the sow, according to Levit. 20 and 15, should be put to death.

By hanging-day on April 8, Spencer was still refusing to admit the charges, and he even continued his obstinacy to the gallows — giving only the sort of standard-issue hanging-day exhortation to straighten those laces and not skip church that everyone always gave. To this he still “joyned a denyall of his fact.”

Only at the very last, with the noose about his neck, “and being tolde it was an ill time now to provoke God when he was falling into his hands, as a righteous and seveere judge who had vengeanc at hand for all his other sins, so for his impudency and atheisme, he justified the sentence as righteous, and fully confessed the bestiality in all the scircumstances,” meanwhile blaming for the probable damnation of his soul a sawyer in the audience named Will Harding who tried to keep the flesh alive by counseling Spencer to just keep his damned mouth shut and not confess anything in the first place. This death’s-edge admission would have satisfied onlookers, but ought not satisfy us; the complex psychology of false confessions with their underlying fear of punishment and need to please a captor are potentially even sharper at the communal performance of a public execution — the offender’s last opportunity to spiritually rejoin his own community. Spencer knew he was doomed; he knew everyone thought he was lying; he would presumably have genuinely feared hell and deeply desired to give his own certain death meaning. Somewhere in this id soup is surely reason enough to say the thing his friends and neighbors all but willed him to say.

Thing said, the poor sow was butchered under Spencer’s eyes first (as Leviticus demands). Then Spencer was strangled on hemp, “God opening his mouth before his death, to give him the glory of his rightousnes, to the full satisfaction of all then present.”

* Goodyear(e)‘s daughter Hannah would eventually marry the son of John Wakeman, whose sow it was that gave birth to the pig that started all the ruckus. In the early 1650s, Stephen Goodyear would favor colonial authorities with suspicions of a witch in his very own household, but that poor servant managed to avoid execution.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Connecticut,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Innocent Bystanders,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Sex,USA,Wrongful Executions

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1774: Peter Galwin, pedophile, and John Taylor, zoophile

Add comment December 5th, 2013 Meaghan

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

On this date in 1774, Peter Galwin and John Taylor were hanged together in Burlington in New Jersey.

Galwin was the principal of a small school in Northampton Township with a hankering for prepubescent children. According to court documents, Galwin raped or attempted to rape four young girls on four separate occasions in July and August 1774: Ann Prosser, Hope Reeves, Sarah Deacon and Ann Jones, all of them “infants under the age of ten years.”

The assault caused “great damage” to Ann Jones in particular. Whether or not the victims were his students is not known.

The crimes of John Taylor, alias John Philip Snyder, were still more exotic.

An itinerant farmhand, he allegedly stole money, “two items of female intimate apparel” and other items from his employer, a widow named Orpha Emlay, on August 13, 1774. She suspected him of the theft but lacked proof, so she decided to spy on him.

Daniel Hearn, in his book Legal Executions in New Jersey: A Comprehensive Registry, 1691-1963, describes what happened six weeks later:

She wound up getting more than just an eyeful on the afternoon of October 2, 1774. It was then that the wary woman peeked into her barn and saw Taylor committing an act of gross indecency with a cow. Appalled, Emlay presumably let out a shriek because Taylor heard her. The naked pervert chased her down while brandishing a knife and a hammer. He smashed Emlay’s skull and slit her throat from ear to ear.

Understandably, public outrage against both offenders ran high in the community. Hearn notes that guards had to “prevent enraged onlookers from tearing both men apart before they reached the gallows.”

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1674: Benjamin Gourd, the last bestiality execution

Add comment April 2nd, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1674, Benjamin Gourd (or Goad) was hanged for bestiality in Puritan Massachusetts.

Six New England colonists (pdf) had died for bestiality up through 1662, but the sentence was falling out of fashion.

Gourd, caught having his way with a mare “at noon day in an open yard” and within sight of the gallows, has the distinction of being the last colonist of the future United States put to death for fauna-philia. And even the jury that sentenced him was noticeably reluctant about dooming the 17-year-old.

Well, preacher Samuel Danforth wasn’t going to have any of this ungodly backsliding on Gourd’s ungodly backsliding.

Danforth’s The Cry of Sodom Enquired Into; Upon Occasion of the Arraignment and Condemnation of Benjamin Goad, for His Prodigious Villany (that’s a pdf of the full spiel; here’s a Cliff Notes version) is regarded as the first published “execution sermon” in American history.

the Earth groans under the burthen of such Wickedness. You pity his Youth and tender years, but I pray pity the holy Law of God, which is shamefully violated; pity the glorious Name of God, which is horribly profaned; pity the Land, which is fearfully polluted and defiled.

We think Corey Robin will recognize Danforth’s indictment of the youth’s “licentious liberty” obtained in defiance of an unnamed Master as the root of all his ruin, and any American with an AM radio dial will recognize the rest.

Being at length, by the good hand of God, brought under the Yoke of Government and Service, (which might have bridled and restrained him from such wickedness) he violently brake away from his Master, and with an high hand boldly and impudently, like a childe of Belial, shook off that Yoke of God, casting reproach and disgrace upon his Master. Having now obtained a licentious liberty, he grew so impudent in his wickedness, as to commit this horrid Villany in the sight of the Sun, and in the open field, even at Noon-day; proclaiming his sin like Sodom. Though he be a Youth in respect of years, yet he is grown old in wickedness, and ripe for Vengeance.

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1642: Thomas Granger and the beasts he lay with

4 comments September 8th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1642, a teenager was hanged in the Plymouth colony for bestiality — in accordance with the law of the Pentateuch.

William Bradford — we just met him, trying to keep things cool with the Indians — relates the “very sadde accidente of the like foule nature in this govermente”:

Ther was a youth whose name was Thomas Granger; he was servant to an honest man of Duxbery, being aboute 16 or 17 years of age. (His father and mother lived at the same time at Sityate.) He was this year detected of buggery (and indicted for the same) with a mare, a cowe, tow goats, five sheep, 2 calves, and a turkey. Horrible it is to mention, but the truth of the historie requires it. He was first discovered by one that accidentally saw his lewd practise towards the mare. (I forbear perticulers.) Being upon it examined and committed, in the end he not only confest the fact with that beast at that time, but sundrie times before, and at severall times with all the rest of the forenamed in his indictmente; and this his free-confession was not only in private to the magistrates, (though at first he strived to deney it,) but to sundrie, both ministers and others, and afterwards, upon his indictemente, to the whole court and jury; and confirmed it at his execution. And whereas some of the sheep could not so well be knowne by his description of them, others with them were brought before him, and he declared which were they, and which were not. And accordingly he was cast by the jury, and condemned, and after executed about the 8 of Sept 1642. A very sade spectakle it was; for first the mare, and then the cowe, and the rest of the lesser catle, were kild before his face, according to the law, Levit: 20.15 and then he him selfe was executed.* The catle were all cast into a great and large pitte that was digged of purposs for them, and no use made of any part of them.

So, pilgrims: weird about sex, a bit rough with the punishment. No wonder they got a rep.

Granger is the first juvenile known to be executed in the territory of the modern United States — if you like, you could read it as the start of a pattern, even though almost a century would pass before the next such execution. “Juvenile” is a relative term, of course, since we see our day’s victim across a historical redefinition (arguably, outright creation) of “childhood” in the centuries to come: Granger left a wife and daughter.

“Sodomy, rapes, buggery,” were one of the five classes of crimes punishable by death according to the Plymouth Colony’s 1636 statutes. Still, Granger’s is the only one of ten recorded Plymouth Colony executions not imposed for murder (Source, via.) — not that other hot-blooded Puritans, including later zoophiles, didn’t get themselves into hot water.

American poet Charles Olson reimagined Thomas Granger in the 1940’s by remixing William Bradford’s narrative into a startlingly poignant piece, “There was a Youth whose Name was Thomas Granger”:

From the beginning, SIN
and the reason, note, known from the start

says Mr. Bradford: As it is with waters when
their streames are stopped or damed up, wickednes

(Morton, Morton, Morton)
here by strict laws as in no more,
or so much, that I have known or heard of,
and ye same nerly looked unto
(Tom Granger)
so, as it cannot rune in a comone road of liberty
as it would, and is inclined,

it searches every wher (everywhere)
and breaks out wher it getts vente, says he

Rest, Tom, in your pit where they put you
a great & large pitte digged of purposs for them
of Duxbery, servant, being aboute 16. or 17. years of age
his father & mother living at the time at Sityate

espetially drunkennes & unclainnes
incontinencie betweene persons unmaried
but some maried persons allso
And that which is worse
(things fearfull to name)

HAVE BROAK FORTH OFTENER THAN ONCE
IN THIS LAND

2
indicated for ye same) with
a mare, a cowe, tow goats, five sheep, 2. calves
and a turkey (Plymouth Plantation)

Now follows ye ministers answers

3
Mr Charles Channcys a reverend, godly, very larned man
who shortly thereafter, due to a difference aboute baptising
he holding it ought only to be by diping
that sprinkling was unlawful, removed him selfe
to the same Sityate, a minister to ye church ther

in this case proved, by reference to ye judicials of Moyses
& see: Luther, Calvin, Hen: Bulin:. Theo: Beza. Zanch:
what greevous sin in ye sight of God,
by ye instigation of burning lusts, set on fire of hell,

to procede to contactum & fricationem ad emissionem seminis,
&c.,
& yt contra naturam, or to attempt ye grosse acts of

4

Mr Bradford: I forbear perticulers.
And accordingly he was cast by ye jury,
and condemned.

It being demanded of him
the youth confessed he had it of another
who had long used it in old England,
and they kept cattle together.

And after executed about ye 8. Of Septr, 1642.
A very sade spectakle it was; for first the mare,
and then ye cowe, and ye rest of ye lesser catle,

were kild before his face, according to ye law
Levit: 20.15.

and then he him selfe

and no use made of any part of them

* The hangman, John Holmes — no, not that one — claimed a fee “for x weeks dyett for Granger £1., and for executing Granger and viij beasts, £2.10.0.” His count of executed beasts falls short of the total (12) enumerated by Bradford, presumably accounted by the difficulty in identifying the sheep.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Animals,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Death Penalty,England,Execution,God,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Notable Jurisprudence,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Sex,USA

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