CIRCA 1652

In 1692 Elizabeth Proctor and her husband John were accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials. After their arrest, the court met to discuss the fate of John and Elizabeth and several others. In spite of the petitions and testimonies from friends, both John and Elizabeth were found guilty and sentenced to death. Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the time, was granted a stay of execution until after the birth of the baby. John tried to postpone his execution but failed. On August 19, 1692, he was executed. In January 1693, while still in prison, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. For some reason, Elizabeth was not executed as the court had ordered, and then, in 1693, the governor, believing that people were being wrongly convicted without hard evidence, ordered 153 people set free. Elizabeth was among this general release of prisoners.



BORN 1977

In 1997 in Iran, twenty-year-old Zoleykhah Kadkhoda was arrested and charged with engaging in sexual relations outside marriage. She was immediately sentenced to death by stoning. Kadkhoda was then buried up to her waist in preparation for her execution but soon after the stoning began it prompted a violent reaction among most of the village inhabitants, which caused the stoning to stop. It was first thought the woman had died and was taken to the morgue but she began to breathe again and was taken to the hospital. Her condition improved and an appeal for amnesty was submitted to the court on her behalf.



CIRCA 1690

John Smith, from England, was convicted of robbery and was sentenced to death by hanging at Tyburn. On Christmas Eve, 1705, having been pushed off the back of the cart, he dangled for fifteen minutes until the crowd began to shout, “reprieve.” He was then cut down and taken to a nearby house where he soon recovered. When Smith was asked what it had felt like to be hanged, this is what he told his rescuers: “When I was turned off I was, for some time, sensible of very great pain occasioned by the weight of my body and felt my spirits in strange commotion, violently pressing upwards. Having forced their way to my head I saw a great blaze or glaring light that seemed to go out of my eyes in a flash and then I lost all sense of pain. After I was cut down, I began to come to myself and the blood and spirits forcing themselves into their former channels put me by a prickling or shooting into such intolerable pain that I could have wished those hanged who had cut me down.”



CIRCA 1630

Anne Green was a twenty-two-year-old woman from England who was, most likely, seduced by the grandson of her employer. When Green became pregnant she hid her pregnancy and gave birth to a premature baby boy who died soon after he was born. After trying unsuccessfully to hide the child’s body, Green was accused of the murder and sentenced to death by hanging. She hanged for thirty minutes until her body was cut down and placed in a coffin and taken to a local doctor who gave anatomy lectures at the university. When the doctors and others assembled for the dissection opened the coffin, they noticed the corpse was breathing and making noises. After being given hot drinks she opened her eyes. The treatment continued with bloodletting and twelve hours after the execution Anne Green was able to say a few words. After her unique rescue, the court usher attended the execution, and the prison director of Oxford agreed that Anne Green should be reprieved. Green later married, had three children, and lived for fifteen years after her famous execution.



CIRCA 1880

On March 18, 1915, Wenseslao Moguel was captured while fighting in the Mexican Revolution. He was sentenced without trial to execution by firing squad. Moguel was shot nine times, with the final bullet fired close range at his head. Moguel somehow survived and managed to escape. He went on to live a full life after his “execution.”



CIRCA 1780

Joseph Samuel was born in England and later transported to Australia after committing a robbery in 1801. He became involved in a gang in Sydney and robbed the home of a wealthy woman. A policeman who was stationed at her home was murdered. The gang was soon caught and at the trial, Joseph Samuel confessed to stealing the goods but denied being part of the murder. The leader of the gang was released due to lack of evidence and Joseph Samuel was sentenced to death by hanging. In 1803, Samuel and another criminal were driven in a cart to Parramatta where hundreds of people came to view the event. After praying, the cart on which they were standing drove off, but instead of being hanged, the rope around Samuel’s neck snapped! The executioner tried again. This time, the rope slipped and his legs touched the ground. With the crowd in an uproar, the executioner tried for the third time and 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. The governor and others believed that it was a sign from God that Samuel should not be hanged.



CIRCA 1700

Maggie Dickson lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the early eighteenth century. Her story is remarkably similar to Anne Green’s. After her husband deserted her in 1723, she was forced to move further south to Kelso near the Scottish Borders. She worked for an innkeeper in return for basic lodgings and started an affair with the innkeeper’s son, which led to her becoming pregnant. Not wanting the innkeeper to discover this because it would lead to her dismissal, she concealed her pregnancy as long as possible. The baby was born prematurely and died within a few days of being born. She then planned to put the baby into the River Tweed but couldn’t bring herself to and finally left it on the riverbank. The same day the baby was discovered and traced to Maggie and in 1724 she was charged under the contravention of the Concealment of Pregnancy. Maggie was taken back to Grassmarket for her public execution by hanging. After the hanging, she was pronounced dead and her body was bound for Musselburgh where she was to be buried, however, the journey was interrupted by a knocking and banging from within the wooden coffin. The lid was lifted to find Maggie alive and well. The law saw it as God’s will and she was freed to live for another forty years.





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