In 1876, the courts of Dayton, Ohio, ordered the execution of a 19-year-old who had murdered an admired citizen. Things went well enough, for such an affair, until the rope broke.
The poor young criminal had fallen on his back, apparently unconscious, with the broken rope around his neck, and the black cap vailing his eyes. The reporter knelt beside him and felt his pulse. It was beating slowly and regularly. Probably the miserable boy thought then, if he could think at all, that he was really dead—dead in darkness, for his eyes were vailed—dead and blind to this world, but about to open his eyes upon another. The awful hush immediately following his fall might have strengthened this dim idea. But then came gasps, and choked sobs from the spectators; the hurrying of feet, and the horrified voice of Deputy Freeman calling, “For God’s sake, get me that other rope, quick!” Then a pitiful groan came from beneath the black cap.
“My God! Oh, my God!”
“Why, I ain’t dead—I ain’t dead!”
“Are you hurt, my child?” inquired Father Murphy.
“No, father, I’m not dead; I’m not hurt. What are they going to do with me?”
No one had the heart to tell him, lying there blind and helpless and ignorant even of what had occurred. The reporter, who still kept his hand on the boy’s wrist, suddenly felt the pulsation quicken horribly, the rapid beating of intense fear; the youth’s whole body trembled violently.
“His pulse is one hundred and twenty,” whispered a physician.
From there it actually gets worse.