5 People Who Survived Their Own Executions

These people were bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away
5 People Who Survived Their Own Executions

So far, you’ve managed to avoid getting caught for your crimes. In time, however, your luck will run out. They will arrest you, they will try you and they will convict you. Your offense (lollygagging) will earn you the official punishment outlined by law: death. The day of your execution will come, and that will be the end for you.

Or will it? Some people up for execution, against all probability, have managed to survive the ordeal. Consider, for example... 

The Case of the Reversed Organs

In 1978, a woman named Ginggaew Lorsoungnern worked as babysitter for a kid in Thailand. Then she got fired. Like all people in her situation, she resented her rich ex-employers, and along with a gang of conspirators, she put together a plan to get some money out of them. She’d kidnap the kid, using her knowledge of his regular routine, and then ransom him. 


Sounds like a wacky movie! Which ends with the kid dead. 

The parents didn’t fulfill the ransom demands. Apparently, they tried, but they couldn’t figure out the gang’s instructions. So, the gang made good on their threats and murdered the kid — which was a terrible move, not just morally but strategically. Without the kid in their hands, even if they got away with their crime, they stood no chance at a payday. As it was, they never got paid and they all got caught. Lorsoungnern was sentenced to death. 

Thailand at the time used a unique variant of the firing squad. Rather than a group of gunmen targeting the general vicinity of the body, a single mounted gun aimed directly at the heart of a prisoner, who was tightly bound in place. Lorsoungnern went before this gun, it fired and she went limp. 

via ExecutedToday.com

A labor-saving invention, for sure

Later, authorities discovered she had survived the shooting (according to one fanciful account, she sat up once she’d reached the morgue). Doctors examined her and credited her survival to an unusual condition she had — situs inversus. Her internal organs were a mirror image of the usual human layout, so the bullets had failed to tear through her heart. 

The heart is located pretty much right in the center of the chest, but due to the way one part of it beats on the left, it’s convention to say it’s located on the left side. When this beat-y part is on the right side, that’s known as dextrocardia, and it seems this made Lorsoungnern dodge that bullet. It did the first time she was executed, anyway. Thailand then sent her before the gun again, and this time, she didn’t survive. 

Cheated the Hangman, Again and Again

In John “Babbacombe” Lee, we have another apparent case of a servant lashing out against his employer. Lee worked at a house in Devon, and his employer, Emma Keyse, was murdered in November 1884. Lee was arrested and convicted. No one really had strong evidence against him, however. It seems he was convicted because he was the only man in the house, and that still left the possibility of the other servants doing it, or of an outsider doing it. He also had an unexplained cut on his arm, and Keyse had been knifed to death, but the cut didn’t prove Lee did the stabbing.

John Babbacombe Lee

via Wiki Commons

Maybe he cut himself shaving his hairy forearms, you ever thought of that?

A good lawyer should have been able to dismiss any of this supposed evidence as circumstantial. We have to assume his lawyer, Reginald Templar, was not a good lawyer then. Not only was Lee held for the crime — he was sentenced to die. On February 23, 1885, the hangman put the noose around his neck as scheduled. But when he hit the lever, the trapdoor beneath Lee didn’t open. This hangman, James Berry, now tried opening the trapdoor without Lee standing on it, and it opened just fine. Lee returned to the spot, they tried again, and the door again failed to open.

They went through the process yet again, and yet again, the trapdoor stayed shut. At this point, people figured Lee needed a break. Then, on consideration, the Home Secretary commuted the sentence, reasoning that those seconds of thinking you’re about to die are more than you can expect anyone to suffer through multiple times. Lee now received a sentence of plain old penal servitude. After 22 years of that, he was freed, and he went on to live another 40 years as a free man.

Buckingham Books

And as an immortal man — till he died at the age of 80.

In witnessing that trapdoor stay shut, despite all examinations saying it was mechanically sound, people imagined divine intervention stepping in to save Lee. Perhaps Lee wasn’t so guilty after all, they figured. And in fact there was one more suspect in this case who never went on trial: Reginald Templar, Lee’s lawyer.

Templar knew Keyse and visited the house often. That alone made it odd that he represented Lee. Not to mention, he’d actively reached out to Lee asking to represent him. What’s more, he reached out to Lee the very day after the murder, so early on that it was unclear how he’d even heard about it. We said Lee was the only man in the house at the time of the murder because that was put forward in court, unchallenged, but at times, Lee claimed another man was in the house that night — Reginald Templar.

Reginald Templar

via murderresearch.com

Templar should have confessed and got his client off. Then Lee could have confessed and got Templar off.

Not long after representing Lee, Templar went insane and died. And of course, let’s not understate the most damning piece of evidence against him. His name was “Reginald Templar.” That’s a villain’s name, no two ways about it. 

A Taliban Prisoner Survived a Bullet to the Head

Next, let’s turn to someone who was never even accused of the offense for which they were being executed. The offense was the U.S. military killing a Taliban leader in a drone strike, and the people who received the punishment were hikers on a Pakistani mountain. It made roughly as much sense as most retaliatory killings. “In return for killing this terrorist who’s threatening to one-up 9/11, who has a $600,000 bounty within Pakistan itself and apparently killed another Taliban leader to achieve his rank, we’ll kill a dozen unrelated people, all of whom are citizens of countries other than America!”


Lahore Times

Call this a hot take, but we’re going to say the terrorists are wrong. 

The hikers were climbing the mountain Nanga Parbat in 2013. They settled into the base camp at night, and then in stormed 16 armed men, who first appeared to be local security forces, based on their uniforms. They took the group’s money, passports, phones and laptops, suggesting they weren’t police, they were robbers. Next, the men systematically broke all the laptops and phones and had the climbers kneel with blindfolds on, suggesting they were something slightly worse than robbers. 

The Taliban dudes then started shooting all the climbers. They killed 11 of them. One other of the 12 was Zhang Jingchuan from China, and the bullet that hit his head knocked him unconscious. It didn’t kill him, however, and when he awoke, he broke out of his bonds and fled, zigzagging to make it harder for any bullets to successfully hit him. He dove into the nearest ravine and hid there, waiting an hour till his pursuers gave up looking for him and took off. He eventually slipped back into the basecamp, found one satellite phone that was still intact and called for help. 

Nanga Parbat Rupal Base camp, Gilgit Baltistan

Muhammad Ashar

Surprise. This whole story was just an ad for the the Iridium 9555 handset.

Nanga Parbat already had a dangerous reputation. More than 100 climbers had died there over the years, giving it the nickname “Killer Mountain.” In fairness, these had all been deaths from normal climbing-related risks, not Taliban executions. Now, following this attack, Pakistan took steps to respond. They moved to stamp out the “Killer Mountain” nickname, for fear that it was discouraging interested foreigners from visiting the country. 

The Man with the Elusive Veins

Between the rapes, the kidnappings and the aggravated murder charge, the case against Romell Broom was so big that he offered to plead guilty in exchange for a possible life sentence. Prosecutors weren’t having it. The case went to trial, and he was sentenced to death in 1985. In September 2009, he went in to receive lethal injection (these long delays, and decades of appeals, are typical in American death penalty cases). Only problem was, the executioners couldn’t find his vein. 

Romell Broom

Equal Justice Initiative

Nurses could do this job better, but they’re in the health business, not the death business.

The way lethal injection usually works is, executioners stick a couple IVs in you so they can pump in a selection of drugs. These drugs paralyze you and kill you. Interestingly, too, they might even block the pain and knock you out, but no one’s really bothered to check whether that second half is true. With Broom, they spent two hours trying to find a suitable blood vessel, but this search was in vain, or rather not in vein. They stuck him 18 different times without finding anything suitable. They hit bone. He started crying, at which point we imagine everyone pointed at him and started laughing. 

Afterward, with his execution being rescheduled, Broom filed a new appeal, saying that executing him again would count as double jeopardy. Courts turned this down, saying no, that’s not what double jeopardy means. His lawyer also now argued that executing him again would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. To which the court more or less said, well, it might be if the exact same painful fruitless routine happens again, but we can’t count on that. If we allowed for that possibility, maybe every single execution would be cruel and unusual punishment, and how could that ever be true. 


Wesley Tingey/Unsplash

“Actually, let’s just switch to the Thai gun. That never fails.”

Issues similar to Broom’s surrounded a handful of other U.S. executions, but in most cases, the inmate did end up being executed. Not Broom. Though Broom’s next execution was scheduled for 2022, he died from COVID before that. Within the first year of the pandemic, COVID killed at least 17 death-row inmates. That was actually more than the total number of death-row inmates executed during that same time period. 

The Shot One

In the 1910s, Mexico had a bit of a kerfuffle, which ended with two million people dead. Somewhere in the middle of this revolution, General Abel Argumedo sent men into the Yucatán Literary Institute to recruit students by force. Just months later, pro-government forces in Halachó in Yucatán arrested these teens for fighting for this Constitutionalist Army. 

Constitutional Army

Gustavo Casasola

As a teen, you’re screwed no matter what you do. 

In March 1915, a firing squad shot at each of the student-soldiers, one by one. The last in line for execution was named Wenceslao Moguel. Eight gunman shot at him. Then it fell to the commanding officer, one Colonel Ortiz, to walk directly up to him and deliver the coup de grace, shooting him in the head. People would later discover that he shot him in the jaw, not the temple.

Then Ortiz’s men left, leaving the bodies where they lay, which was customary with public executions such as this one. They did not check to make sure the prisoners had all died, and in fact Moguel had not, despite having been shot nine times. The official record on him goes blank for a bit at this point, and so we have dueling accounts that say he either got discovered and was rescued or crawled to a church. Either way, he wisely lay low for the remainder of the Mexican Revolution and only made waves after that. At that point, his story became known, and people started calling him El Fusilado, “The Shot One.”

In 1937, he visited the U.S., showing off a disfigured but fully functional face:

Wenceslao Moguel and Robert Ripley


That's Robert Ripley interviewing him. The audience couldn't see him as this was a radio interview. 

One other photo of him, dated just a few years later, will have you hardly noticing anything about his face other than his huge mustache:

Wenceslao Moguel

Bob Cox

If you’re wondering whether all men with such elaborate facial hair are hiding the fact that they have messed-up faces, that is absolutely untrue. However, it is true that all men with such elaborate facial hair have suffered near-fatal wounds and only just barely survived. 

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