Botched Execution Attempt of Tom Ketchum – 1901 That Went Horribly Wrong

Botched Execution Attempt of Tom Ketchum – 1901 That Went Horribly Wrong

Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum was an old west outlaw in the most classical sense. He and his posse – The Ketchum Gang – marauded across New Mexico and Texas during the late 1800s, holding up trains, saloons, stores, and post offices. By 1900, however, Black Jack’s gang was reduced to nothing as a result of dangerous standoffs, gangrene, and other perils of a high-risk career path. By then a lone rider, Ketchum figured he had one more train holdup in him.

He boarded a train just outside of Folsom, NM, and stormed the engine with a pistol. The train stopped on a curved segment of the track, which allowed the conductor to get the drop on Ketchum and maim him in the arm. Ketchum was apprehended shortly thereafter.

After a short trial in Clayton, NM, Ketchum was condemned to hang. This was a big occasion for the town of Clayton, as they had never hanged a man before. Novices that they were, the hangmen forgot about the 200-pound sandbag attached to the rope they used to test it out, which rendered the noose extremely taut. As a result, when Ketchum was dropped through the gallows, his head was instantly severed.

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