John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee, the Un-Hangable Man

The death penalty isn't really that prevalent in the 21st century. However, for centuries the death penalty, and even public executions, were completely the norm. And, for most of that time, they were believed to have as close as a 100%-death guarantee as possible. Unless, of course, you're Babbacombe Lee.


Now, don't go feeling sorry for ol' Babbacombe Lee. He was first on the stand to hang for the absolutely brutal murder of Emma Anne Whitehead Keyse in November of 1884 in the small village of what became his nickname: Babbacombe.

Although he cried his innocence, the circumstantial evidence was enough to paint him guilty, as well as a large unexplained cut on his arm. He was sentences to hang at Exeter prison. Per usual, the executioner tested the mechanics of the trap door below the scaffold, the rope, etc. All in all, it was set to be a perfectly normal day at the job.

That was until they tried to hang Babbacombe three times, and each time the trap stuck.

In fact, this was so bizarre that Babbacombe had his death sentence commuted to a life sentence. British Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, said of this decision "It would shock the feelings of anyone if a man had twice to pay the pangs of imminent death.”

He went on to serve 22-years in prison and was, surprisingly, released in 1907. But, for a long time nothing was known about the rest of his life.

Until a 2009 study found this man's final chapter. According to this study, his grave was placed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was believed he died in 1945 and lived a completely different, almost normal life in America - even starting a new family. He deserted his wife and two daughters in Britain after his release from prison and they went on to workhouse, which was not an easy life in England during the early 20th century.

Whether he was a murderer or not, one thing is for certain: he was a very lucky man.

The above image is liscensed under Public Domain - it has nothing to do with the above story and is, in fact, the Execution Of Lord Ferrers At Tyburn.