Friday, April 28, 2017

Sepia Saturday #365: Hanging

I've wrung dry the subject of hanging laundry and while I love shadows in the prompt photo, I have none of my own that are suitable. That left me "hanging" as far as my search for subject matter. One idle synapse snapped something over to another (I'm on vacation in Bali) and I decided to walk on the dark side.

House of the Hanged Man was painted by Cezanne in 1873 and depicts a picturesque cottage situated in Auvers near the Rue de Four. Despite the title, no suicide or hanging is known to have taken place there. Supposedly, the house had been owned by a Breton man named Penn’Du, which closely sounds like the French word for hanged man - Pendu.

While researching the Winnipeg Police Department's buffalo robe coats I stumbled on information about the last person hanged in Headingley Jail in Manitoba. What caught my attention was the fact that the hangman got a credit. His name was Camille - he was wearing a black beret and a Hawaiian shirt. Wardrobe surprise! Wouldn't you think a serious job like hanging people would call for a somber costume...a black shirt perhaps? The beret befuddled me completely. I cannot imagine why someone would dress like this to perform a hanging, but then I know no one who would take such a job.

And so I did a little more Wikipedia research and learned that Canada's "official" hangmen have been few - only three of them:

1. J Radcliffe was hired as Canada’s national hangman in 1892. One of the original stipulations in his contract with the federal government included a clause that might seem odd today, but was apparently the norm for many hangmen of that time around the world — Radcliffe was entitled to the clothes off the backs of the men he executed.

Radcliffe, sometimes spelled “Radclive”, also liked to sell lengths of rope as souvenirs as he travelled the country performing executions. The fact was, the rope used in the hangings themselves was never passed on to the hangmen. Radcliffe was once caught in a B.C. hardware store by a local sheriff; the hangman was buying extra rope. Presumably he sold lengths as "the piece of rope that hanged so-and-so".

He was British, but lived in Toronto and worked on the side as a waiter at a yacht club; he was fired when a customer recognized him from his other line of work. At the time of Radcliffe’s death, it was reported he had hanged upwards of 150 people.

2. Arthur Ellis. Arthur Ellis was the pseudonym of Arthur B. English, a British man who became Canada's official hangman in 1913, after Radclive's death. Ellis worked as a hangman in Canada until the botched execution of Thomasina Sarao in Montreal in 1935, in which she was decapitated.
He died in poverty in Montreal in July, 1938. Ellis is prominently featured in the 2009 documentary
"Hangman's Graveyard".

3. Camille Blanchard. Camille Blanchard (a pseudonym), succeeded Ellis. Blanchard was on the Quebec government payroll as hangman and executed people elsewhere in the country on a piecework basis. Blanchard carried out many executions (for which he was not paid) in the postwar period in Canada, such as the double hanging of Leonard Jackson and Steven Suchan of the Boyd Gang in 1952.

This is as close to a hangman as I've ever been. Close enough for me.

Swing over to to read other takes on the theme.


  1. I admire Radcliffe's marketing skills. But wouldn't you think he had made enough money selling the hanging ropes that he wouldn't have to work as a waiter?

  2. Oh Dear! I cant help feeling that being hung by someone wearing a black beret & Hawaiian Shirt really is adding insult to injury......

  3. I haven't played hangman for years. Of course hanging has been banned in the UK for years.

  4. Oh, my -- you DID cross over into the dark side! But what a fascinating take...and wonderful history!

  5. Loved the Cezanne, not so much the info on hang men...but thanks for reminding me of the word game. Used to spend hours playing it with school friends.

  6. Excellent spin on the theme! I would never have imagined Canadian executioners would be so colorful and so few. It's strange that the "Hangman" is such a common cliche and yet thankfully most civilized countries have ended public displays of executions.

  7. The original name of the community we lived in until 6 years ago, was "Garrotte" (or Garrote) - a Spanish word for hanging a person using an iron collar. During the gold rush period a garrotte hanging was carried out in the community and so the community became known as "Garrotte". Then a second hanging was held up the road a bit in another small settlement, so the two became known as First Garrotte and Second Garrotte. Eventually First Garrotte was renamed Groveland as families began moving into the area. The name "Second Garrotte" still holds although there is no longer a settlement there. I think the large oak tree used at the time might still exist however? I'll have to check that out.

  8. It sounds like those hangmen were gruesome characters, as was their line of work! Perhaps Camille Blanchard wore his black beret because he knew that English judges traditionally wore a black cap when sentencing a person to death, but his appalling shirt choice was hardly in keeping with that idea.