In the early 1900s, towns were looking for more humane ways to execute prisoners. In those days, executions were public events and the large crowds were beginning to grow weary of watching slow, painful deaths.

At that same time, the first so-called "Trial of the Century" was taking place in Cheyenne. Infamous bounty hunter, detective and gun-for-hire Tom Horn was convicted of murdering a 14-year-old boy and sentenced to hang.

To spare the hangman of any culpability in the killing, and to avoid paying an executioner, local architect James Julian was commissioned to design a new gallows. The device featured a trap door, which was connected to a bucket of water. The weight of the water would, conceivably, create enough pressure to break the trap door, plunging the condemned to their death.

Unfortunately, the execution didn't go as planned.

Horn teased the local lawman who placed the noose around his neck, saying, "What's the matter, Joe? Ain't losing your nerve, are you?"

The hushed crowd waited neverously while the water bucket filled slowly. When it fell from a beam nearly a minute later, the trap door sprung and Horn fell.

Instead of a humane hanging, onlookers were horrified when the noose failed to snap Horn's neck. His body dangled from the gallows for 17 minutes before he was finally pronounced dead.

The Julian Gallows was later sent to the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins, where it remained in use until 1936.





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