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This Day in History: The man they could not hang

On this day in history, a 19-year-old man named John Lee was sent to the gallows for murder in Exeter, England. In 1884, Ellen Keyse, a maid to Queen Victoria, was found beaten and murdered near Lee's room. There was no direct evidence of Lee's guilt, only his reputation as a known thief and an alleged motive that Keyse mistreated him as an employee.

Nevertheless he was convicted. In a test run, the equipment used to hang him was in working order and weights plunged to the ground as expected. But when Lee was in the noose and the lever was pulled, the floor beneath him did not drop. Two more times they tried to hang him but the equipment would not budge.

The judge saw it as a sign from God and ordered that John Lee live. He served 22 years in prison before he was released and moved to America.

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