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.”

On this day..

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

  1. Anne Impellizzeri says:

    My father was working in the governor’s office at the time of Frederick Charles Wood’s execution.
    Part of my father’s job the night of Wood’s execution was to write down his last words, as told to him by a phone call from the prison.
    He has told the family the story multiple times. Creeps me out every time!

  2. Joe says:

    On that day in 1963 my father George J.was one of the prison officers that walked Mr.Wood to the chair.

  3. Meaghan says:

    I came across a very similar case from across the pond in the UK, in a book I was reading today called “Murder & Crime: Kingston Upon Hull.” In the first half of the 20th century a man (can’t remember his name) murdered three women one after the other. In each case it was a wife or cohabiting girlfriend. In each case he killed them rather brutally out of jealousy. In each case he was convicted of manslaughter, served a prison term of some years, then was released. He would have gotten an automatic death sentence if convicted of murder.

    The second and third times the jury didn’t know about his previous record. (It’s safe to say that neither did his luckless partners.) By the third time the judge, who DID know about his record, had had it and sentenced him to the maximum term of life in prison for manslaughter. But he was paroled anyway and died a free man.

  4. 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.

    1. Adeline says:

      JCF thinks all they need is a hug. Seriously though, in these types of extreme recidivism, your claim makes no logical sense. Unless, of course, you count the lives of these people to be of far greater value than their victims. Next up you’ll claim one murderous recidivist is worth five non violent citizens…

      1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

        JCF believes there’s NO room for violence in society; that all violence is evil, when it’s not. Violence used against innocent people is evil. But violence used against evil folks is not.

        Gee, I wonder what JCF would do, if he had a gun in his hand, and he saw a madman with an axe in his hands running for a child. And he knows that the only way to stop that beautiful and innocent child from being killed, is to raise that weapon, fire and kill the madman. Oh, what a violent act that would be; and one that would be divinely appropriate. For if he doesn’t man-up and kill that man, the beautiful child will die. And the parents will be grieving forever. And so in this case, as in millions of cases around the world, violence can be a wonderful thing, and one that normal people need to embrace. JCF’s way of thinking is both stupid and dangerous.

  5. Kevin M Sullivan says:

    Very informative, Philippe!

    Thank you!


  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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