12 Messed-Up American Executions

Part 1 of 3: 1642–1899

Dale M. Brumfield

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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS INDELIBLY WOVEN into the fabric of American history. Possibly no other western civilization has killed as many of its citizens as America, who despite putting to death over 15,000 people, still ironically holds herself up to the world as an example of compassion, order, and enlightenment.

With the Commonwealth of Virginia on the cusp of abolishing the death penalty, and with similar legislation being introduced at the federal level, it’s time to re-visit some of the more strange and horrific executions throughout America’s history.

Thomas Granger, September 8, 1642

Sixteen-year-old Thomas Granger was hanged in Plymouth, Massachusetts for sodomizing 12 animals, including “a mare, a cowe, two goats, divers sheepe, two calves, and a turkey.”

New England experienced what could be rightfully called a bestiality panic between 1640 and 1643. When the Great Migration finally ceased in 1641, New England had a higher percentage of young unmarried men than at any other point in its history. In Massachusetts alone, the ratio of men to women in 1641was about 132:100. Young unmarried men accounted for most of the cases of bestiality in the 1640s.

Granger and his victims were all condemned per the Old Testament command from Leviticus, which states “And if a man shall lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.” The mare and then the cattle were killed first in front of Granger, then the goats, sheep, and turkey were all slaughtered and thrown into a pit “according to the law.” Granger was then hanged.

Jan Creoli, June 25, 1646

Jan Creoli was a New York slave who was convicted a second time of sodomy against a 10-year-old boy, an offense “condemned by God as an abomination.” As directed by the Dutch governing authority of New Amsterdam, Creoli was “conveyed to the place of public execution, and there choked to death, and then burnt to ashes.” Following Creoli’s execution, his young victim, Manuel Congo, was brought to the gallows, where he was tied to a stake piled high with wood “but not lighted,” then flogged 40 lashes “for justice sake.”

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Dale M. Brumfield

Anti-death penalty advocate, cultural archaeologist, “American Grotesk” historyteller and author of 12 books. More at www.dalebrumfield.net.