—Mark Twain on a speaking tour of England in 1897
I’ve written two earlier blogs about people who were reported dead, even though they were very much alive. One involved our good friend Cheryl who discovered on her Ancestry family tree that she had been listed as dead since 2011. She is still very much alive. Another involved a woman struck by a bicycle in Albuquerque who police listed as dead when she was placed in an ambulance, yet turned up to be very alive at the hospital the next day. Chagrined police issued a profuse apology to her and her family.
And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but for fans of the extremely silly movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” you might remember a scene in which a man believed to be dying from the plague is brought to a cart carrying dead victims to the grave. The cart is accompanied by a man who rings a bell and calls out “Bring out your dead” as it rolls along gritty streets somewhere in England.
As he is about to be loaded onto the cart, the presumed dead man calls out “I’m not dead yet,” then later says “I’m getting better” and concludes with “I think I’ll go for a walk.”
Frustrated that they can’t complete their gruesome work, one of the workers whacks the complaining man in the head, making sure he is in fact dead.
“Ah, thanks very much,” replies the worker who brought the man to the cart.
Below is a link to a short You Tube video of the scene if you’re interested:
What leads me to this discussion is a story I read in a book by good friend and author Jack Wilson about the Lincoln County War. His book, Merchants, Guns & Money, is an excellent and thoroughly researched accounting of the bloody Lincoln County War in the late 1800s. I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn the whole story about this slice of New Mexico history.
An episode in the book that caught my attention involves the hanging of a murder suspect, William Wilson, who shot another man in response to some harsh words at an earlier political convention. Following a quick kangaroo court trial in which he was convicted, Wilson was sentenced to hang in Lincoln. On the day of his hanging, Wilson was asked if he had any last words. He began to say that he blamed Maj. L.G. Murphy — one of the key players in the Lincoln County War — for his predicament.
“You promised to save me,” Wilson said, “but…”
And at that moment, before Wilson could finish his dying accusation, Murphy kicked the trigger to the trap door of the gallows and the convicted man’s body jerked and started swinging.
After nine and one-half minutes, the authorities took down Wilson’s body and placed it in a coffin. Shortly thereafter, someone noticed that Wilson was still breathing. A group of soldiers from nearby Fort Stanton took the body out of the coffin, put a new noose around Wilson’s neck, then hung him a second time for another 20 minutes.
That apparently did the trick.