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10 People Who Survived Execution by Hanging

Jude is a marketer by profession but has passion for writing and chooses to also pursue a career in writing.


Anne Green, a young Oxfordshire woman employed by Sir Thomas Read, started facing her misery when she got pregnant for Jeffrey, Read’s 16-year-old grandson. After a miscarriage, the maidservant was too scared and opted to bury the stillborn boy near a cesspit, but it was discovered and reported to Mr Read. She was charged with infanticide under the Infanticide Act. Found guilty of the crime, she was sentenced to death by hanging in December 14th 1650.

After being hanged for nearly half an hour her body was cut down and given to William Petty, a surgeon and anatomical researcher then based in Oxford. Dr. Petty came shortly after and began reviving Greene by administering "hot and cold cordials," tickling her throat with a feather, and administering a hot enema. Green survived and fully recovered within weeks. She was pardoned by the court.



John “Babbacombe” Lee was charged for the murder of Miss Emma Anne Keyse. Keyse was brutally murdered in her house with her neck slashed; a fractured skull and her corpse had been set alight. Being the only male in the house and was also discovered with an unexplainable wound on his arm, John Lee became the initial suspect and was put on trial.

Lee’s trial in February 1885 resulted in the death penalty. On that day, the scaffold was tested and a white hat was placed over his head before the rope was applied. The signal was given and the lever was pulled after prayers, but the trap door beneath Lee's feet did not open. Warders stomped on it, but it remained immovable. The mechanism was examined once again and confirmed to be in great working order. Lee stepped on the trap door a second time, and this time the lever was lifted, but the trap door did not open. A carpenter was summoned, and some repair was completed before the mechanism was checked and confirmed to be functional once again. Lee was put over the trap door for the third time, the lever was pushed for the third time, and the system failed for the third time. This led to a postponement of the execution, Sir William Harcourt, the Home Secretary, reduced the sentence to life in prison. Lee was released from prison after serving 22 years.



William Duel, a 16 years old boy was found guilty for the rape and murder of Sarah Griffin, a mere servant. In September 1740 Sarah left her London employer, was heading back to her family rural Worcestershire for health reasons. Along the way, she met Duell, a farmer's kid who gave Sarah a place to stay for the night, and then Duel went to town and informed six men of her whereabouts, the group came back and attacked her. It was established in court that the main culprit was Duell and evidences in court proved him guilty of rape, robbery and murder.

Duell was hanged on the rope for more than 50 minutes on the day of his execution before he was cut down. His body was brought back to Surgeons' Hall near the Old Bailey in a hackney carriage. A washerwoman was present, entrusted with swilling down the body and prepping it for the anatomy theatre's next dissection presentation. After "around 10 minutes," she heard William Duell "groan quite loudly." The duty surgeon immediately bled the prisoner, "after which he revived pretty quickly."



Joseph Samuel, also known as ‘the man they could not hang’ was a young man from England who was later transferred to Australia after he committed a crime in 1801 and was sentenced for seven years. In Sydney Joseph was part of a gang known for committing crimes. They rubbed the home of a wealthy woman – Mrs Mary Breeze. Mr Luker – a policeman investigating the case - had reason to believe that the perpetrators of this crime would gather at the home of Constable Issac Simmons and Mr Joseph Samuel. But the following morning Mr Luker was found dead his cutlass guard was buried in his brain, and he was horribly wounded.

The group was arrested quickly, and Joseph Samuel admitted to stealing the items but denied being involved in the murders at his trial. While the gang leader was released due to lack of evidence against him, Joseph was sentenced to death by hanging. On the day of the hanging, the wagon on which they were standing drove away after they finished praying, but instead of being hanged, the rope around Samuel's neck broke! The executioner attempted it once more. The rope slipped this time, and his legs came to rest on the ground. The executioner attempted a third time with the audience roaring, but the rope snapped again. This time, an officer galloped off to tell the Governor what had happened and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.



Maggie Dickson was convicted for killing her newly born baby, found guilty and was sentenced to death by hanging. She was hanged by the neck in front of a large crowd in the Grass market. A physician confirmed her dead and her body was to be taken to Edinburgh’s medical faculty for dissection by students, but her family fought for the body to be taken by them.

Maggie Dickson was sitting up in an inn on Edinburgh's east side, sipping a drink, a few hours later. For somehow Maggie had survived being hanged and she went on to live for another 40 years, dying for a second time.



The Fuji first execution was in 1872 during the times of Bau chief Seru Cakobau. Their first culprit was a man known only as frank that was convicted for the murder of Mr Thomas Muir on board the Marion Rennie, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

Preparations where made the previous night against the set day for Frank’s hanging, the rope was fixed, and the noose adjusted. However, that night rain fell, and soaked the rope, which was rather thick, and had to be dried before a fire the next morning. The hangman had difficulties knotting the rope over Frank’s neck; the rope was tight but not as tight as it should have been. “Then the rope tightened with a slow dull thud, and Franks was obviously dead for nearly three minutes until his limbs began to twitch and he uttered numerous moans before speaking. He begged everyone around him to relieve him of his suffering, to let him meet his Maker in peace”. While still suspended in air, Frank managed to reach for the rope and strained himself from the noose on his neck. He continued to beg them to put him out of his misery which was too much to bear, telling everyone around that he has forgiven them for the ‘black Job’. The scene was so horrifying that one of the men passed out.

One of the officials cut him down, with no attempt to catch him, he fell heavily on the ground. Frank was then moved to prison. The law decided to free him afterwards.

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Inetta de Balsham was executed for sheltering thieves, and was sentenced to death by hanging. On Monday, August 16, she was hanged around 9a.m and left there for three days to die till the following Thursday morning, when she was cut down and was still breathing.

This was one of the most outstanding survival victims through hanging; her case was so unique that she was granted a pardon by King Henry III.



A quarrel had broken out between a group of men and Ewan (Owen) MacDonald, a 19-year-old Scottish soldier temporarily stationed in Newcastle with General Guise's Highlanders on the evening of the 23rd May, 1752. MacDonald pursued the group of men out of the bar and stabbed Robert Parker, a Cooper, in the neck, killing him almost instantly, then went back and engages in another fight where he broke another man’s arm.

Mcdonald was arrested and sentenced to death following a dissection which made him the first man to suffer this post-mortem punishment as dictated by the 1752 Murder Act, in Newcastle.

“It was said that after the body was taken to the Surgeons’ Hall, and placed ready for dissection, that the surgeons were called to attend a case at the Infirmary, who, on their return, found Macdonald so far recovered as to be sitting up; he immediately begged for mercy, but a young surgeon not wishing to be disappointed of the dissection, seized a wooden mall with which he deprived him of life”.


Marry Person Webster, was suspected of witch craft on several occasions. Born Mary Reeve, daughter of Thomas Reeve and Hannah Rowe Reeve, in England around 1624. Her family migrated to Springfield there she married William Webster.

Her misery started when she was accused of putting a spell on cattle and horses so they couldn’t go past her house, a hen fell down a chimney into a pot of boiling water when she stepped inside a house. Her body was scalded, most likely from the hot water, but her neighbours dubbed it the witches' mark. In April, the court in Northampton sent her to Boston to be tried as a witch and was judged innocent, and then they took her back to Hampshire County.

Marry faced another episode when a prominent citizen of Hadley – Philip Smith – died a painful death. The people of Hadley, having dragged her out of her house, hanged her up until she was near dead, let her down, rolled her in the snow for a while and buried her in it; there they left her to die. It happened that she survived and the incident earned her the nickname ‘Half-hanged Mary’



A man hanged for a highway robbery but lived to murder the man who convicted him, and died two years later. During the time of Charles II, Patrick came to England and became a member of the Cold stream Guards. Patrick lived a luxurious life which his job couldn’t pay for; as a result, he sorted for other means to settle his debts and soon became a highway man with his first victim being Dr. Clewer. Patrick won a card game over the man’s gown.

He later deserted his regiment and stole a horse before fleeing London via the coach routes. With some recruits to his gang, he succeeded in a few robbers before he and his gang was rounded up and caught. He was tried and executed at Gloucester for a robbery committed within two miles of that city. After being hanged for the usual time his body was given to his friends but on the way to his house he showed signs of life which was confirmed by a surgeon. The surgeon was threatened to keep his recovery a secret with Patrick promising to turn a new live.

Patrick stole a horse and took to the road again after a while, soon after he met the lawyer who had convicted him and killed him. He committed several other crimes and was arrested 2years later; he was hanged properly this time in chains.



Endoni Jude (author) from Lagos on September 24, 2021:

Thank you very much John, I will look into it

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 24, 2021:

This was a very interesting article, and some of those survivals of hanging are quite incredible. You will have to remove the unrelated Amazon capsules for the article to be featured on a niche site or Discover however.

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