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Half-Hanged Maggie and Other Survivors of the Gallows

Hanging was the most common form of execution until recently, although it wasn't always effective. A very small percentage of condemned criminals survived the ordeal, but since there have been so many hangings over the centuries, and because the stories were unusual enough to be recorded, those tales of survival are numerous enough for a list. Some of them were "executed" again, sometimes using an alternate method. Others were hanged over and over, and a few were impressive enough to be pardoned for their surprising will to live, like Half-Hanged Maggie.

In 1724, the hanging of Margaret Dickson at Edinburgh for the crime of infanticide aroused great interest throughout Europe. She was hanged, cut down, and placed into a coffin. Like the criminal Walter Wynkeburne six decades earlier, the rough cobblestones brought her back to consciousness as the cart carrying her coffin rumbled toward the Musselburgh graveyard. She was removed from the coffin about one-third of the way to the graveyard and prayed over by a minister, before being released. She lived for many years afterwards, had a large family, and was locally famous for selling salt on the streets of Edinburgh, having earned the nickname "Half-Hanged Maggie" on account of her ordeal. The nickname not only stuck-- it followed her to the grave, and was etched into her headstone.

Read the stories of seven other survivors of the gallows at Journal of the Bizarre. -via Strange Company


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