Executions · Famous Last Words · Illinois

FLW: the bad box

Famous Last Words
Joseph Windrath
Chicago, Illinois
June 5, 1896

“Mat, open the bad box! Put him in the bad box! Hang up Mannow!”

Windrath had been convicted of the murder of a railroad clerk during a robbery. His accomplice, Julius Mannow, turned state’s evidence in exchange for a lighter sentence. Carrying nearly the entire weight of the murder, it was suspected that Windrath emulated insanity in a bid to save his own life. During a trial in which a judge granted a temporary stay of execution, Windrath responded by saying “Put him in the bad box; put him in the bad box; put him in the bad box. Where is that hat?” (The Chicago Tribune. May 16, 1896) among other erratic mantras.

The stay was granted to determine if Windrath could justifiably been found clinically insane and spared execution. A doctor who examined Windrath hesitantly testified he believed Windrath was feigning insanity to some degree, and Windrath’s reprieve was revoked. He went to his execution either continuing the ruse to the bitter end or displaying symptoms of a genuine mental disorder, chanting “put him in the bad box,” “hang,” and other fragments until the drop through the gallows’ trap door cut his words short.

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