Amazing Execution Survival Stories – Oddy Central

5. Elizabeth Proctor

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 in Salem 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 were 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, her husband was executed. In January 1693 while still in prison, Elizabeth gave birth to a son whom she named John after his father. 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.

Interesting Fact: Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned during the Salam Witch Trials. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused (fourteen women and five men) were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison.

4. John Henry George Lee

1864 – circa 1945

In 1884 at her home at Torquay England, Miss Emma Keyse was bludgeoned to death with an axe, her throat slashed with a knife and her house set on fire. John Lee, who was one of the servants at the house was arrested and convicted of her murder and sentenced to death by hanging. The date for the hanging was set for February 23rd 1885 at the Exeter Prison. When Lee was standing at the gallows waiting to die the trap door release malfunctioned. Not just once, not twice, but three times! Amid the confusion of these botched attempts Lee was returned to his cell and at some later time the Home Secretary reduced his sentence to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released.

Interesting Fact: After some 23 years in prison Lee (now aged 41) due to constant pressure to review his case, was released in December 1907. Ironically it was suggested that this was not because the merits of the case justified a review but because of the infamous bungle which was made in attempting to hang him.

3. William Duell


In 1740, 16 year old William Duell was convicted of raping and murdering a girl in the village of Tyburn, London. Duell was sentenced to death by hanged along with 4 others. During this time period bodies of criminals were regularly provided to medical training colleges so after the execution Duell’s body was brought to Surgeons’ Hall to be anatomized. After he was stripped and laid on the board one of the servants noticed he was breathing. After Duell’s breath became quicker and quicker the surgeon took some blood from him and in two hours he was able to sit up in his chair. That evening the authorities decided to reprieve him and his sentence was commuted to transportation.

Interesting Fact: Tyburn was commonly invoked in euphemisms for capital punishment – for instance, “to take a ride to Tyburn” was to go to one’s hanging.

2. Zoleykhah Kadkhoda

born 1977

In 1997 20-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 great reaction among most of the village inhabitants which caused the stoning to stop. It was first thought that the woman had died and was taken to the morgue but then began to breath again and was taken to the hospital. Her condition improved and an appeal for amnesty was submitted to the court on her behalf.

Interesting Fact: The Iranian authorities informed Amnesty International that the death sentence against Zoleykhah Kadkhoda has been lifted and that she was released on 26 November 1997.

1. Wenseslao Moguel

El Fusilado Accident

On March 18, 1915 Wenseslao Moguel was captured while fighting in the Mexican revolution. Without trial he was sentenced to be executed by firing squad. Moguel was shot 9 times including a final bullet through his head at close range by an officer to insure death. Moguel somehow survived and managed to escape. Wenseslao went on to live a full life after his “execution”. The above photo shows Moguel in 1937 on the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not radio show pointing to his scar from the bullet that was shot at close range.