10 failed executions in history that proves that God alone can give or take life.

May 6, 2020 3:15 PM

The existence of time is very important in 

human lives. It seems sometimes that ‘Time’ 

has its own whims. The following people are 

those who were sentenced to death by 


but time made its own judgement and said ‘

your time is not up yet!’ so they lived in 

spite of all human effort to the contrary.

A list of 10 people who survived their execution astonishingly:

10. Elizabeth Proctor (1652-Unknown)

Elizabeth Proctor

In the Salem Witch Trials (1692-93), Elizabeth 

Proctor along with her her husband was 

accused of practising witchcraft and after a 

trial was sentenced to death. Elizabeth was 

pregnant and therefore was granted a stay of 

execution until after the birth of 

her baby. Her husband was executed on 

August 19, 1692. Salem Witch Trials was a big 

sensational story back then. Soon the Governor

intervened and ordered 153 people (who were 

wrongly convicted without hard evidence) to be

freed. Elizabeth was among those released.

9. John Henry George Lee (1864 – Circa 1945)

10 People Who Survived Their Execution

John Lee was convicted of murdering his 

employer, Miss Emma Keyse by clubbing her to

death with an axe followed by slashing her 

throat with a knife and then setting her house 

on fire. He was sentenced to death by hanging. 

On the day of his hanging he was taken to the 

Exeter Prison. He was made to stand on the 

trap door, beneath which his dead corpse 

would have been hanging, had the door not 

malfunctioned. They tried hanging him again 

but failed. After three failed attempts, the 

Home Secretary reduced John Lee’s sentence 

to life imprisonment.

8. Zoleykhah Kadkhoda (1977)

In Iran a young woman named Zoleykhah 

Kadkhoda was charged of adultery and 

sentenced to death by stoning. Kadkhoda was 

buried up to her waist but soon after the 

stoning began there was a sharp disapproving 

reaction from the villagers. Never-the-less the 

stoning went on and by the time it stopped 

Kadkhoda was thought to be dead and her 

corpse was taken to the morgue. Arriving there,

they soon discovered that she was breathing 

and was rushed to the hospital. Zoleykhah 

Kadkhoda survived that day to tell her story.

7. William Duell (Circa 1724)

William Duell Execution

17 year old William Duell was convicted of 

raping and murdering Sarah Griffin in London 

and he was sentenced to death. The 

executioners hung his body for about 20 

minutes (which was a standard procedure to 

make sure the person has died) before cutting 

him down. It was a practise then to donate 

dead criminal bodies for training of students to

medical institutes. Accordingly Duell’s body 

was brought to Surgeons’ Hall. The corpse was

stripped and laid on the board and was about 

to be anatomized when one of the servants 

noticed he was breathing which got quicker 

every minute. He was then bled, and in two 

hours, he was able to sit upright. Duell was 

sent back to prison again. The authorities soon

decided to reprieve him and his sentence was 

commuted to transportation also known as 

penal transportation (i.e. exile).

6. John Smith (Circa 1661 To After 1727)

John Smith circa 1690

John Smith, from England was charged of 

housebreaking and was sentenced to death by 

hanging at the Tyburn gallows. When at 

the Tyburn, he was being hanged, his family 

and friends tugged at his legs to shorten his 

suffering but some people held Smith’s feet up 

for the possibility that he would not die. 

Apparently it worked. After hanging for a 

quarter of an hour, people began shouting for  

reprieve. Unable to resist public clamouring the

authorities granted a reprieve; Smith was cut 

down and taken to a house in the 

neighbourhood, where he recovered. He was 

granted freedom later.

Interestingly, he went back to his profession of 

housebreaking and was convicted three more 

times. The third time he was caught of theft 

and was sentenced to transportation (exile) 

to Virginia.

5. Anne Green (1628 – 1665)

Anne Greene

Anne Green was a domestic servant who had 

committed infanticide in 1650. The child was 

her own child said to have been fathered by the

grandson of her employer. Green hid her 

pregnancy and gave birth to a still born. She 

tried unsuccessfully to hide the body and was 

discovered and sentenced to death by hanging.

During the execution she hung with the rope 

around her throat while her friends pulled at 


swinging body, as was requested by Anne 

herself. She was even struck severe blows just 

to make sure that she was dead. After the 

usual interval she was cut down, pronounced 

dead and handed over to the medical 


But the students were in for a shock when they 

discovered that the ‘corpse’ was actually 


breathing. She was accordingly treated and 

soon recovered. The event was regarded as 


special interference of the hand of God on 

behalf of the innocent and therefore Anne 

Green was pardoned.

4. Maggie Dickson (Circa 1700)

Maggie Dickson

Like Anne Green, Maggie Dickson was 

convicted of infanticide of her own child that 

she had had through an affair with the 

Innkeeper’s son. She kept her pregnancy a 

secret. The baby was prematurely born and 

died within a few days. Unable to throw her 

dead child into the river, she left it on the 

riverbank. So the baby was discovered and the 

authorities traced it back to Maggie. Maggie 

was taken for public execution at the 

Grasssmarket. After her hanging the corpse 

was placed into the coffin but on the way to the

graveyard she awoke up and started banging 

from inside the coffin. This strange happening 

was seen as God’s will and so she was freed.

Maggie Dickson is now hailed as a legend and 

is often referred to as Half-Hangit Maggie. 

There’s even is a pub named after her in the 


3. Joseph Samuel (1780-1806)

Joseph Samuel Execution

Samuel and his gang were charged of robbery 

and the murder of a policeman. When the news

of Joseph Samuel hanging spread it attracted a

large crowd who gathered at the execution 

spot. During the execution the cart on which he

was standing drove off, but instead of dangling

in air Samuel fell on the ground as the rope 

around his neck snapped. The crowd quivered 

and murmured among themselves. Another 

attempt was made hastily but this time, the 

rope slipped and got longer therefore Samuel’s 

legs touched the ground. People uproar in 

excitement. On the third attempt the rope 

snapped again. The crowd yelled for Samuel to 

be freed for they believed that it was a sign 

from God. The governor was sent for, who 

came and investigated and upon popular 

demand commuted Joseph Samuel’s 


to life imprisonment.

2. Wenseslao Moguel (Circa 1880)

10 People Who Survived Their Execution

Captured while fighting in the Mexican 

revolution and sentenced to death without a 

trial in 1915, Moguel survival story is 

unbelievable. He was shot 9 times by the firing 

squad, the 9th bullet passed right through his 

head at close range to insure his death. But 

Moguel, not only somehow survived, he also 

managed to escape from prison. He came on 

the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not radio show in 

1937. In the above photo Moguel is seen 

pointing to the scar made by the bullet wound.

1. Willie Francis (1929 – 1947)

Willie Francis

At the age of 16 Willie Francis became the first 

incident of a failed execution by electrocution 

in the United States. On murdering his 

employer – a pharmacy owner – Francis was 

convicted and sentenced to death by the 

electric chair. On administering a lethal surge 

of electricity, witnesses report that they had 

heard the boy scream “Take it off! Take it off! 

Let me breathe! “. Another report claimed him 

saying “I’m n-not dying!” The executioners were

left flabbergasted. It was later discovered that 

the electric chair failed to kill Willie Francis 

because it was improperly set up by a prison 

guard who was drunk at the time.

So Willie was allowed to live but only for a 


after which he was executed on another 

electrical chair which was not set up by a 


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