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Los Angeles herald. [volume] (Los Angeles [Calif.]) 1890-1893, August 07, 1890, Image 1

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" Stands for the Interests of "3
L Southern California. j
VOL. XXXIV.—NO. 115.
"Electrocution" Not Wholly
a Success.
Two Shocks Required to Extinguish
the Last Spark of Life.
The Doomed Murderer Meets His Fate
with Wonderful Courage.
An Apnalllnef Scene When the Victim
Began to Return to Con
sciousness After the
First Shock.
Auburn, N. V., Aug. 6.—The trial
of a new means of taking htfman life,
while prompted by humane motives,
has resulted in a sickening spectacle
presented by a pinioned wretch, at
whose vital center was kept pounding
for some moments an alternating cur
rent of electricity which, though it ul
timately destroyed hia life, subjected
the criminal to a torture of whioh no
living being has knowledge, and which
none can describe. Im perfect registry
of the current pressure or faulty con
tact of the electrodes prevented in
stantaneous death. The reader may
gain some conception of the process of
this killing when the statement is
made that the person whose body
3hould be shaken into fragments could
not have suffered suoh pain as did
Kemmler, whose nerve cells and tis
sues were disintegrated not in a flash,
as designed, but by the relatively slow
strokes of the electric hammers upon
them. Whether the blood yet retains
its normal consistency or whether it is
partially or wholly fluidized by the di
vorce of oxygen from the blood cor
puscles, can only be determined by
the 6utopsy.
The Execution Room.
Kemmler's nerve was something
wonderful. He never faltered. He
directed the adjustment of himself in
the chair and counseled the warden to
moderation to secure perfect safety.
The shock was given at 0:43%, acd
was continued about 18 seconds. Two
minutes after the current was cut off
there was evidence of respiration. As
soon as possible the current waß re
turned and then cutoff. Again respir
ation was evident, after a f;w mo
ments. Saliva came from the mouth;
the chest heaved; there was wheezing
in tbe throat. The shock was again
put to tbe prisoner, who, the doctors
remarked, was unconscious from tbe
moment of the first shook. After a
short time smoke appeared at tbe
base; bis
Tne spectacle was most trying. The
man, the doctors said, suffered no
pain, however. The warden says the
voltage at first shock was 1800 volts,
which run down to a point not named.
After a third contact of four minutes
tbe man was declared dead. The
warden's certificate ot death was (hen
signed by all present and the party
broke up at 7:30 to meet at B:ls,when
the body would be ready for the au
When the mask was taken off tbe
face the eyes were found half open,
and his expression, while not normal
or placid, was not horrifying.
Warden Durston stood at the left of
the chair with a band on the back of
it. Almost at the moment Kemmler
took his seat he began to speak in
quick, short jcrioda. "Now, gentle
men," he said,"this is William Kemm
ler. I have warned bim he has got to
die, and if he has anything to say he
will say it." As the warden finished,
Kemmler looked up, and in a high
vo:ce ( without any hesitation, and as
though he bad prepared himself with
the speech: ''Well, I wish every one
good luck in this world, and I think I
am going to the good place. The pa
pers have been raying lots of stuff
that isn't so. That's all I have to
With the conclusion of the speeoh
he turned his back on the jury,took off
bis coat and handed it to the warden.
This disclosed the fact that a bole bad
been cut from the bam! of the trousers
dowD, so aa to expose tbe base of tbe
spine. When the coat was off Kemm
ler turned in the direction of the door
through which he came into the room,
and began to unbutton hia vest; at
the same time the warden drawing the
interfering drapery of his shirt through
the hole in his pants arid cutting it off,
so as to leave a little surface of the
flesh against which one of the elec
trodes was to press, absolutely bare.
Warden Dustoa called attention to the
fact that it waa not necessary to re
move the vest, and Kemmler calmly
buttoning it again, carefully arranged
his necktie.
"Dju't hurry Bbout this matter,"
said the warden; be perfectly cool."
He was perfectly coo!—by ail cdds tbe
coolest man in the room.
Auburn, N. V., Aug. 6.—After
there remained no dcubt that the cur
rent bad done its fatal work, Dr. Fell,
said, "Well, there's no doubt about
one thing; tbe man never suffered an
iota of pain." In after consultations
other physicians expressed the same
belief. It was some mitigation cf tbe
horrors of the situation to believe
Some doctors disagreed with this
view, and doubted his death when his
cheat moved and sounds issued from
his lips.
The autopßy began at 9 o'clock. It
was found when the body waa spread
out on the table that very severe rigor
raortia had set in. There was little
relaxation, and it was with difficulty
that the corpse was straightened out.
On examination it was found the sec
ond electrode burned through the skin
and into the flesh at the base of the
spire, making a scar nearly five inch
es iv diameter. The heart, lunga and
other organs were t-ken out and
found in good healthy condition, and
will be preserved for future examina
tion. Toe brain a!ao was taken out.
It, too, will be examined.
Details of the Executlon-A Slcken-
Auburn (N. V.) Aug. 6—[By the
Associated Press.] —Kemmler sat
down in the electric chair as qui
etly as though he was sitting down to
dinner. Warden Durston stood ou
the right and George Vieling, of Al
bany, ou the left. They began immed
iately to adjust the straps, the con
demned holding up his arms so as to
give them every assistance. When the
straps had been adjusted about the
body the arms were fastened down and
then the warden leaned over aud
parted Kemmler's feet so as to bring
the legs near the legs of the chair.
While the straps were being arranged,
Kemmler said: "Take your time.
Don't be in a hurry. Be sure every
thing is all right." Two or three times
he repeated these words. Warden
Durston reassuerd him with the ro-
Fatal Cap.
mark that it would not hurt him; that
he (Durston) would be with him all
through, but it was not fear that
Kemmler felt, it was rather a certain
pride in the exaotness of the experi
ment. He seemed to have greater int
erest in its success than those who had
made preparations for it, who were
watching its progress, and its final fa
tal conclusion.
When tho strap had been
adjusted the warden placed his band on
Kemmler's head aud held it against the
rubber cushion which ran over the back
of the chair. Kemmler's eyes were
turned to the other side of the room.
Before, they had followed the warden
in his movement about. Then the doom
ed mau made a fewremarks in a perfet
-1; clear, composed tone of voice: "Well
good luck" was one of them, and,
"Durston, see that things are all right"
was another, Vieling unfastened the
thumbscrew which held back tbe chair
in place and began to lower it so that
the rubber cap which had the saturated
sponge pressed againat the top of
Kemmler's head.
The warden assisted in holding
Kemmler's head. Kemmler said, "Oh,
you had better press tbat down, part
ner, I guess; press that down." So the
head piece was undamped and pressed
further down. While it was beiDg
done Kemmler said, "Well, I want to
do the best I can; I can't do any better
than that."
Warden Durston took in his hand
the leather harness which was to
be adjusted to Kemmler's head.
It was a muzzle of broad leather
straps, which went across the fore
houd and chin. The top of the
strap pressed down against the
nose of Kemmler until it flattened it
down slightly over his face. Tho har
ness was put in place, Dr. Spitzka who
was atanding near the chair, aaid: God
bless you, Kemler,' and the condemned
man answered, "Thank you." Soft-
Death Chair.
ly the door leading into the room where
the switches were arranged was partly i
opened and a man stood in the door
way. Beyond him there were two other
men. Which one of them was to touch !
the lever and make the connection with '
the chair was not known.. Warden
Durston said it never will be known. !
The dynamo in the machineshop was
running at good speed aud the voltme
ter on the wall showed a little more J
than 1000 volts. The warden turned to i
the assembled doctors and those im- ■
mediately around the execution chair
and said: "Do the doctors say it is all !
right?'' Hardly a minute bad elapsed
since the adjustment of tbe straps.
There was no time for Kemmler to have 1
weakened then, if his marvelous cour- 1
age had not been equal to the test of j
further delay, but there was no fear
that he would lose couraSe. He was as
firm in the chair aa before be entered !
the room.
At the warden's request Dr. Fell
stepped forward with a long syringe
in his hand and deftly wetted two
sponges which were at the electrodes,
one on top ol the head and the other at
the base of the spine. Tho water
which he put on them was impregnated
with salt. Dr. Spitzra answered the
warden's question with a shout of "All
right" which was echoed by others
about him. "Heady?" said Durston
again aud then "Good bye." He
stepped to tiie door and through the
opening said to some one in the next
room, but to whom will probably never
be known with certainty, "Everything
is ready." There was an almost im
mediate response and at HAS the elec
tric current was turned on.
There was a sudden oouvulsion of the
frame iv tbe chair. A spasm went
over Kemmler from head to foot. He
was confined by straps and springs
that held him so firmly that no limb or
other part of the body stirred more
than a small fraction of an inch
from its resting place. The twitching
tbat the muscles of the face underwent
gave it for a moment an expression
of pain, but no cry escaped from the
lips; which were free to move at will,
no sound came forth to suggest tbat
consciousness lasted more than tbe
infinitisimal fraction of a second—be
yond the calculation of human mind.
The body remained in a riged position
for seventeen seconds. The jury and
witnessses who remained seated up to
this moment came hurriedly forward
and surrounded the chair. There was
no movement of the body beyond the
first convulsion. It was not a pretty
sight, the man in his shirt sleeves
bound hand and foot, body and even
head, with the heavy' frame work
pressing down on top of the skull.
Dr. McDonald held a stop watch in
his hand and as the seconds flew by be,
noted their passage. Spitzka looked
at the stop watch and as the tenth
second expired he cried out "Stop!"
other voices cried "Stop." The ward
en turned to the doorway, called out
"Stop" to the man at the lever. A
quick movement of the arm and the
electric current was switched off.
There was a relaxation of the body in
the chair. "He's dead," said Spitzka
Dr. Balch was leaning over the body
looking at the exposed skin, Sudden
ly he cried out sharply "Dr. McDon
ald, see that rupture." In a moment
Drs. Spitzka and McDonald had leant
over and were looking where Balch was
pointing at a little red spot ou the
hand that rested on the right arm of
tbe chair. The index finger of the
hand had curved baokward as the
muscles contracted and soraped a
small hole in the skin at the base of
the thumb on the back of the hand.
There was nothing strange in this
alone, but the little rupture was drip
ping blood.
"Turn the current on instantly.
The man is not dead," cried Spitzka.
Faces grew white and forms fell back
from the chair. The warden sprang to
the doorway and cried "Turn on the
current." But the current could not
be turned on. When the signal to
stop had come, the operator had
pressed the little button which gave
the sign to the engineer to stop
the dynamo. The dynamo was
almost at a standstill and the
volt metre registered an almost
imperceptible current. The opera
tor sprang to the button and
gave a sharp quick signal. There
was rapid response, but it was not
quick enough to anticipate tho signs
of reviving consciousness. As the group
or horror-stricken witnesses stood help
lessly by, all eyes were fixed on the
chair. Kemmler's lips began to drip
spittle and in a moment the chest be
gun to move and from the mouth came
heavy stertorous sounds, quickened
and increasing with respiration. There
was no voice but that of the warden
crying to the operator to turn ou the
current, and tbe wheezing sound, a
half groan, which forced itself past the
tightly closed lips, sounded through the
still chamber with ghastly distinctness.
Some of the witnesses turned away
from the sight.
Tho scene seemed a long time in
reaching the climax. In reality there
were but 73 seconds in the inter
val which elapsed between the mo
ment when the first sound issued
from Kemmler's lips until the response
to the sienal came from the dynamo
room, it came with the same sudden
ness that marked tbe first shock which
passed through Kemmler's body. The
sound which horrified the listeners
about the chair was cut off sharply as
the body once more became rigid. The
slimy ooze still dropped from the mouth
aud ran slowly down the beard and on to
the gray vest. Twice wero there
wrenches of the body as the electri- I
cians in the next room threw the cur- j
rent on and off. There was no mistake I
this time about the killing. The dyna
mo was run up to the highest speed,
and again the full current of 2000 volts
was sent through the body. How long
this was kept in action no one knows.
To the excited group about tho chair it
seemed an interminable time. Dr.
Daniel, who thought he had an approx
imate idea of the time at least, said it
was four and a half minutes in all.
The warden's assistant who stood over
the dynamo, said on the record signal
the machinery was run only three aud
a half minuted all together.
No one was anxious to give the
signal to stop. AH dreaded the re
sponsibility of offering, to the man a
chance to revive or give again at least
those appearances of returning anima
tion which startled and sickened the
witnesses a few minutes before. As
the anxious group stood silently
watching the body, suddenly there I
rose from it
Bearing with it the pungent and sick
ening odor of a body burning. Again
there were cries to stop the current and
again the warden sprang to the door
and gave a quick order to his assistan.
The current was stopped and again
there was a relaxation of the body.
Xo doubt this time the current had
done its work, if not well at least com
pletely. Dr. Fell who stood by the
side of the special correspondent of
the Associated Press, turned and said:
"Well, there is no doubt about one
thing, the mau never suffered untold
of pain." In atter consultations other
physicians expressed the same belief.
It was some mitigation of the horrors
of the situation to learn this,
butthe mitigation wa3 extremely slight
when it developed at another point
that some doctors disagreed very
Was Kemmler dead when the chest
moved and the lips gave forth those
strange ghastly sounds? Was be
breathing or was there an involuntary
and phenomenal movement of the chest
muscles? Some of the eminent experts
in attendance said to an Associated
Press correspondent while the body
was still warm in.tho chair that there
was no doubt these were signs of
returning animation; that respiiation.
for respiration they believed it to be,
was growing stronger, and tbat in time
if the current tjad not been turned on
again he would have revived. Others,
among them Dr. Spitzka, stated with
equal positiveness of couviction that
the first shock killed Kemmler instantly.
Doctors Daniels and Southwick, the
fathers of electrocide, believe that
Kemmler was dead, but they think the
current should have been continued
longer than 17 seconds, which was the
official time of the first contact. There
is no way in which a positive deter
mination of tbe question can be made.
It will always remain unsolved.
something Wrong with the Machln-
ory—A Bungling Job.
Auburn, New York, Aug. 6.—As
sociated Press.]. Kemmler bad gone
peacefully to sleep in tbe night and
had slept soundly and was snoring still
at 5 o'clock when he was awakened by
one of his guards. Pastor Houghton,
who attended Kemmler and Prison
Chaplain Yates were with him. They
read to him troin tbe Bible and be
prayed with them. He dressed himself
without aid in a suit of gray mixed
goods. His hair he combed and brushed
with great care. His shoes were well
polished aud while be made himself
finally tidy the warden and a tall
stranger, who is a deputy marshal in
Buffalo, entered the cell. The warden
explained to Kemmler that be must
have the top of bis head shaved. The
prisoner demurred. He had taken
great pains in dressing bis hair and
beside, as he explained to the warden,
be did not want to be disfigured.
Kemmler's hair is a dark brown and
wavy with a hyperion curl that fell on
his forehead, Of this he was proud.
In the shadow of death his vanity
asserted itself. His hair how
ever, was cut, but tbe curl
was saved and, as the sequel proved,
with no good results. The shaven spot
was 2i by U inches in size, and was
not really shaven but was cropped
fairly close.
While this was proceeding the wit
nesses examined the chair. The death
belt was run by the dynamo, and the
incandescent test lamps in the ante
chamber glowed faintly. " How feebly
they burn," exclaimed Dr. Mac Do
nald, who was the only one who got into
the ante-room, and that while ignorant
of the warden's desire to keep its se
crets inviolate. In response to Dr.
Mac Donald's comment, Electrician
Davis remarked that there was "some
thing wrong about the machinery
down there," referring to the dynamo
end of the circuit. This remark took
place before the electricizing. It is
well to remember, and was undoubt
edly as true a few minutes lator when
the bolt was applied to Kemmler.
The condemned man, after having
his hair cut on top his head listened to
the readiug of tho warrant by the
warden. When the current waa
first turned on tho least unhappy
of all in the room was Dr. Southwick of
Buffalo, the father of electricizing in
capital cases and who has been study
ing and been working upon the sub
ject since 1881. "There," he exclaimed,
as he strode away from the chair to the
knot of witnesses at the other end of
the room, "there is the culmination of
ten years work and study. We live in
a higher civilization from this day.
But even while he spoke a quick sharp
cry went up from those yet closely
watching about the silent figure in the
chair. There had been a movement in
the breast of the man whom all had
believed had died one minute and 47
seconds before. The harrowing scenes
attending the second electrocution fol
The doctors in general declared that
the man from the very first contact was
beyond consciousness and some
thought that the action which
startled all and sent the war
den away with a white face
to order the current renewed, was
ouly reflex muscular action. Not so
ono physician, who declared that he
would stake his name that he would
bring Kemmler back to consciousness
and life with brandy and bypodormics.
Meantime one of the witnesses, Mr. G.
G. Bain of Washington, D. C, had
fainted and lay upon the bench where
he was being fanned.
When finally tbe electric mask was
removed Kemmler's eyes were found
to be half closed and without tho
glassy stare common to eyes in death.
The lids were lifted and tests of the
pupils with bright light were made.
There was no contraction of the pupils.
Where the mask had pressed the fore
head there was a livid mark, the mark
of the law's righteous desecration.
The nose and region of its base was a
deeply livid hue. Purple spots soon be
gan mottling the hands, arms and
nock, and the doctors said he was
surely dead. Oue of the Buffalo doc
tors seven minutes after the straps
were removed cut the skin at the tem
ple for a microscopic specimen
of the dead man's blood. 'It was
immediately examined - and found
slightly coagulated. On the electrodes
being withdrawn from contact with the
body, hair adhered to the rim of the
upper disc. Drs. McDonald and
Shrady examined the head. They
found there waa a deep circular imprint
on the top of the head made by the
Stlllflll SALE
The space upon which this
notice is printed is very expensive;
therefore unless we had some
thing very important to announce
we should not use and pay for it.
You probably follow the leader
so far as passing bombastic non
sense in the shape of advertise
ments. Be kind enough to give
this modest announcement a
look. Go further, analyze it, and
if it is not asking too much come
and be convinced that we have
actual BARGAINS for you.
Everything must be closed out
during the month of August to
make room for fall purchases
now in transit.
Corner Spring and Temple Streets.
We Close at 6p. m. Saturdays at xo p. m.
T -*$8 A' YCA RK— '
P Buy« the Daily Herald and'
k $2 the Weekly Herald.
80. .O. rO, r<S rCS rfri <Oi 10l 10l
sharp pressure of the electrode's rim.
The "spot where a tuft of Kemmler's
hair had been cut off just before death
was found to constitute not more than
one-third of the area of contact with
the electrode and close examinatien
disclosed tbat the edges of copper
within tueeloctrode had slightly burned
the scalp just where the head bad been
cut. Had not Kemmler's desire to
avoid disfigurement by the cutting off
of bis hair prevailed, contact would
have been more perfect aud ths
chances ot instaneous death would
have been very much greater,
and possibly the disfigurement
which he dreaded would have been
avoided. Aa to the causes of the fail
ure to kill Kemmler instantly, there is
said by all physicians to be no doubt
that consciousness was stricken from
the brain instantly. Tlie fact that he
waa not instantly killed is the result of
improper contact or insufficient voltage
or pressure.
Warden Durston says 1700 volt 3 were
first applied to Kemmler. When ques
tioned tonight by an Associated Press
correspondent if the 20 incandescent
lamps on the circuit were burning
when the bolt was discharged into the
murderer, he stated that they were.
They should not have been. The mo
ment before switching the current into
Kemmler the teat lamps should have
been cut off. Each lamp consumes 50
volts, hence 20 took 1000 volts at once
out of the current sent to Kemmler.
That left 700 volts to cause death. The
best authorities state that lo per oent.
of a current is stopped at tne points of
contact, and that 85 is thua expended
in the body. Eighty-five per cent.of the
700 volts not consumed today by the
test lamps is 590 volts of measure. This
is not enough to surely kill instantly
with good contact and that of today
was not perfect. The warden says all
was working right this morning,though
last night at midnight his appliances
were in such order that he was not
certain whether the execution would
take place today, even though be had
summoned hia guests to the prison at
an early hour this morning. Warden
Durston has been througu a terrific
ordeal, and the knavery of men has
been pressed upon him so much where
he least expected, that he scarcely
knowa whether to trust himself. We
will approach the eletricizing of Fish
here with more light.
The concensus of opinion among
witnesses here today is that there is
not the slightest doubt that a human
being may be instantly killed by 1000
volts applied through a perfect contact
and continued 20 seconds.
The body of Kemmler will doubtless
be disposed, of tomorrow in the prison
burying ground with quick lime to
hasten dissolution.
Frightful Railway Accident.
Vienna, Aug. 6. —[A railroad train
was thrown from the track today near
Pilson, Bohemia. The cars rolled
down an embankment into a marsh.
Tbe stoker and several passengers
were killed. Eight persons were injured
Most of the passengers were emi
grants bound tor the United States.

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