STOOD HIM IN GOOD
STEAD AT THE LAST MOMENT
Execution at Dannemora Yesterday a Complete Success – Scenes in
the Death Chamber – The Murderer’s Farewell Speech – He
Lived Only Four Minutes After Entering the Room
DANNEMORA, August 2-[Special.] – “Cal”
Wood, the murderer of Leander Pasco, was electrocuted at 11:50 o’clock
to-day. It was the
tenth execution by means of electricity, and like the others passed
off quietly and quickly, sustaining the new method of inflicting the
death penalty as most humane.
The day and hour of the electrocution had been kept very quiet.
It was generally thought on the outside of the big prison
wall that the final act would not take place before Wednesday. The witnesses had been ordered to report at nine o’clock
this morning and as former executions have taken place shortly
after the break of the day, this meeting was thought to be for
instructions and consultation.
Rumor had it yesterday that the death warrant had been read, that
“Cal” Wood had put on the black suit, and that the electrician
had tested the power of the machine by killing a bull.
Notwithstanding the secrecy maintained by Warden Thayer and
his men, these facts were hinted about among the newspaper
correspondents and the idlers about the hotel, and when those
witnesses to the execution who had come during the day retired for
the night it was with the feeling that before twenty-four hours
their said experience would have become a matter of recollection.
There was a gray dawn on this last day of life.
A solemn stillness held the air, and it was quite chilly
when the gray clouds rose slowly from off the mountains about this
little village with its straggling houses, its uncertain streets
and dark, gloomy prison. The
tramp of the gangs of men within the yard could be heard, the
sentry upon the high wall took up his ceaseless pace and the
unfortunates had entered upon another weary day of prison life,
but one, and he saw the clouds rise and obscure the sun, whose
setting he was never more to see.
Prison guards are heartless:
their standard of excellence is exact obedience and quiet
performance of duty. By
this standard “Cal” Wood had won their sympathy, and some no
doubt felt a pang when they thought of his coming dissolution.
There were many of those who thought he ought not to die,
not insipid sentimentalists, but men whose duty is to keep in
check the vicious natures of all manner of criminals. A jury of men could not be polled among the guards in the
prison that would not have commuted “Cal” Wood’s sentence. But the man died, and deservedly so for his premeditated and
terrible crime of murder. His
death watch say that he never flinched since he has been in the
condemned cell. His
spiritual adviser says that he was filled with a religious fervor
when he died. He died
“like a man,” as he said he would.
Wood’s good friend, the Rev. Anson Cheeseman, the prison
chaplain, was at his cell early in the morning.
The doomed man read his Bible until nine o’clock the
night before at which time he went to bed.
He slept soundly until seven o’clock.
He said “good morning, boys,” to the death watch, put
on the death black suit and remarked, without a waver of voice,
the time had come. He
ate a light breakfast, sat down to read the Bible with his
spiritual adviser. While
the condemned man was then preparing himself for the coming
dissolution, the witnesses had assembled together at the hotel.
Warden Thayer led the way at half past eleven for the scene
of the electrocution. They passed on the west side of the warden’s dwelling,
after showing a guard at the gate their invitations, passed around
the west wing of the prison and entered the hospital wing.
The invitations were given at the door and all waited
further instructions from the warden in his waiting room they had
entered. After a few
moments the witnesses passed along a corridor and into the death
room. In the east end
of this room, forty-nine feet four inches by sixteen feet eight
inches, was the chair. The
witnesses seated themselves in a semi-circle in the west end of
the room. The floor
of the room is cement, but a wooden flooring had been laid in the
east end, and upon this the chair stood, screwed to the floor
through rubber matting. The
chair is the same that was used in Sing Sing prison and but a
single improvement has been made since Cotto was electrocuted in
it. The front legs,
which formerly interfered a little with a proper strapping of the
legs has given way to an arrangement of the front legs of the
chair, but which the condemned man’s legs can be fastened
securely at the lower part of the calf of the leg. The executioner’s closed was in the southeast corner, and a
gleaming row of lights about the metres and necessary switches on
the outside suggested the death-dealing power.
Lying across the arms of the chair was also a row of
incandescent lamps on a board, and the chair stood Warden Thayer,
Deputy McKenna, Electrician Davis and the doctors.
Several of these gentlemen wore rubbers, as a further
protection against any wandering currents of electricity.
as follows: Warden
Walter N. Thayer, Dannemora;
Warden W.R. Brown, Sing Sing; F.L. Clarke, Troy Times; H.
Colvin, Glens Falls; Dr. K.F. Tompkins, Lansingburgh;
Judge Whitman, Sandy Hill; J.C. Mahoney, Glens Falls Star;
G.E. Graham, United Press; W.H. Ferrell, Plattsburgh
Telegram; C.S. McLoughlin, county treasurer, Ticonderoga; A.H.
Thomas, Warrensburgh; District Attorney Lyman Jenkins, Glens
Falls; A.C.H. Livingstone, Elizabethtown Post; G.E. Pond,
Plattsburgh; Dr. I.H. Tamblin, Copenhagen; John P. Pratt, Troy
Telegram; H.C. Gilleland, Plattsburgh; G.H. McMurray, Glens Falls;
P.R. Jones, Plattsburgh; Geo. H. Vining, Associated Press; R.
Vincent Tobin, Albany Argus; Dr. I.V. Ransom, Dannemora prison;
Dr. William M. Bullard, Boston; Lemon Thompson, Jr., Glens Falls;
Dr. Frank Abbott, Jr., New York; Dr. R.I. Irving , Sing Sing
prison; Conant Sawyer, Auburn prison.
Warden Thayer made a brief address.
He told the witnesses they were present as witnesses and
that they should not offer any suggestions.
“I have provided every precaution to make this
electrocution a success,” he said, “and there must not be any
suggestions or interference from the witnesses.
The details of the arrangements are in the hands of the
most expert men. Drs.
Ransom, Irving, Fuller and Abbott will have charge of the details,
assisted by Warden Brown of Sing Sing, and Electrician Davis.”
When Warden Thayer had finished the electrician
THE CURRENT INTO THE CHAIR.
The lights flared up instantly.
Another turn of the lever and they went out.
Then the lights were taken away and the straps hung loose
waiting to embrace in death miserable Cal Wood.
Warden Thayer left the room and in a moment returned
followed by the doomed criminal walking between two guards.
The big fellow walked forward until he was in front of the
chair. He wore a dark
suit of clothes and was a fine looking fellow.
“I want to say a few words,” he said.
Warden Thayer nodded his permission and then Wood spoke as
“I would like to say a few words – a few words of
thanks to Mr. Whitman. I
would say more, but my time is not long enough to express the
thanks I feel towards him. I can’t express it. He
has been nearer than a brother.
I hope he will have a long life and a happy one.
May Heaven be with him.
I hope that God may give me strength and the courage of two
men and that I may meet him in Heaven.
Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.
To that land from which no man shall return.
I prayed that God would forgive me, as he said that the
vilest sinner might return, Joe Wood has returned.
God forgive me. I
hope that God will be merciful.
I hope that my friends may have good luck.
I wish them good luck.
I wish my friends good luck.
I wish all good luck and anybody that has ever done
anything to Joe Wood I wish good luck. Warden-“ As he
was about to continue he turned and at a motion from Warden
Thayer, Deputy McKenna took him by one arm and a hand and with “good-bye”
HIM BACK IN THE DEATH CHAIR.
the same time Guard Hogan did the same standing on the other side.
A stop-watch registered forty-nine and a half minutes after
eleven o’clock. The
witnesses watched what followed with intense interest, one of
them, however, “the good Judge Whitman,” as “Cal” called
him, wept as the doomed man was speaking and he was still
agitated. The straps
were fastened and the electrodes applied to the head and either
leg. When the mask
was being put over his face Wood muttered: “Don’t hurry, boys.”
The feet were strapped, the arms were strapped, a band put
about the waist and the mask was put over the face all in thirty
seconds. As he seated
himself Wood exclaimed, in a clear voice: “God, remember me in
heaven.” Again and
again he muttered this, and then: “God bless me,” “Lord help
me,” “Remember me, Lord,” and as he said this last the body
heaved forward in a state of extreme rigidity; the guards and
Warden Thayer had fallen back.
Electrician Davis had stepped quickly to the closet.
He glanced at Dr. Ransom.
There was a movement of Dr. Ransom’s arm that was hardly
perceptible, and then Electrician Davis drew down the lever,
sending 1,560 volts of electricity into the body.
IN the Tice execution, at Auburn prison, 1,720 volts had
been used, but Electrician Davis says that 1, 200 volts is
sufficient to kill any human being.
The current was held on for twelve seconds and then the
contact was broken, and the body lapsed into a limp condition. When eight seconds had passed the current was again put on
and continued for ten seconds.
There was the same spasmodic movement of the body; the
hands, which had been clinched, turned palms and fingers opened.
These movements were due to the shock of electricity and
were not conscious movements on the part of the man in the chair.
Doubtless life was extinguished the instant electricity
began to surge through the body at the first contact.
“Cal” Wood was dead.
The circuit was again turned off for twelve seconds and the
body straightened up again. When
the contact was made white vapor and smoke issued from where the
electold pressed against the right temple.
It coursed upward, and the witnesses
TO SMELL BURNING RUBBER.
Six seconds elapsed, when the current was turned off.
The smoke immediately ceased to rise, and in three seconds
the current was put on again and the contact continued seven
seconds. The man had
Dr. Ransom quickly stepped to the chair, and drawing the shirt
aside placed the stethoscope over the heart.
He announced that there was no pulsation, and the other
doctors examined the heart and agreed with him.
Warden Thayer announced to the witnesses that they might
come forward and examine the body. Many did so, feeling the pulse, examining the heart by means
of the stethoscope, and remarking excessive perspiration that
covered the body and the cold, clammy feeling of the hand.
It was just fifty-three and a quarter minutes past eleven
when Warden Thayer announced that the physicians in charge had
pronounced the man dead. One
minute fifty seconds after “Cal” Wood had passed over the
threshold of the door he had spoken and was taking his place in
the chair. Thirty
seconds later the signal was given and after one minute and seven
seconds the current had been turned off from the body.
From the time that the murderer entered the room until the
physician and witnesses had examined the body and pronouncing the
MINUTE AND SEVEN SECONDS
execution had been the most successful of any.
When the mask had been taken off all eagerly looked to see
if the flesh had been burned.
There was not a sign of a burn, not the slightest injury to
the skin. The eyes
were closed, the lids being drawn tightly together. The mouth was passive, showing no signs of pain.
Where the foot electrode pressed against the left calf, the
flesh had been slightly blistered. Electrician Davis said to The Argus correspondent that the
vapor and smoke was caused by the burning of the electrode. The water that kept the sponge wet poured a little too fast,
and the electricity followed the water to the rubber of which the
solid parts of the harness is made and burned.
When the flood of water is properly regulated, there will
be no trouble of this kind.
Mr. Davis pronounced the electrocution a complete success as had
been the last three. Warden
Thayer was congratulated for the thorough arrangements that had
been made, and Dr. Ransom felt that unfortunate Cal Wood had been
dispatched quickly and painlessly. There were those among the witnesses who immediately passed
into the waiting room adjoining the electrocution room when the
man was pronounced dead. No
one was badly unnerved by the sight.
There is nothing horrifying about electrocution, save the
terrible thought that the life of a human being is about to be cut
signed by seventeen witnesses as follows:
[names omitted]. The
body was removed from the chair and taken into the post mortem
room when the witnesses had signed the death certificate.
There Drs. Ransom, Irving and Fuller made an autopsy.
The condition of the organs was found to be the same as in
all previous cases as regards the effect of the electric current.
The doctors remarked that fine physical man that “Cal”
Wood was. It was ound
that Wood had Bright’s disease.
The protuberance on the back of the neck which Wood said
had been inflicted with a gun barrel, and which was used by the
defense in the case to establish their plea of insanity, was found
to be nothing more than a fatty tissue.
WOOD WAS AT THE HOTEL
her brother-in-law and cousin during the execution.
When the autopsy was concluded, the body was turned over to
Mrs. Wood. With “Cal’s”
brother and a cousin they left with the body on the 6:07 train.
The rough box containing the body of this electrocuted man
was marked as follows: “The
body of Joseph Wood, Athol, Warren county, N.Y.”
The prison chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Cheeseman, says that he
has a confession made by Wood in which he says that the reason he
killed Pasco was because he had committed an unnatural crime with
his wife. Mrs. Wood
was spoken to concerning this and the statement that her husband
before his death had denied it.
She said that it was so.
printed in the Albany Argus, 3 August, 1892.