Czolgosz’s Body Dissected and Buried in Acid
Autopsy Showed That the Assassin’s Brain Was Healthy.
SKULL OF NORMAL THICKNESS
A Carboy of Vitriol and Half a Dozen Barrels of Quicklime Poured
Remains to Destroy Them.
NO REPENTANCE EVEN AT LAST
Assassin Declared He Killed President McKinley to Benefit the Good
Working People—Wanted to Make Longer Speech.
Auburn, N. Y., Oct. 29.—Within an
hour after he was killed in the electric chair the body of Leon
F. Czolgosz, the assassin of President McKinley, was placed on a
table in the jail office and the autopsy was begun.
Naturally almost the entire attention
of the surgeons was directed towards discovering, if possible, whether
the assassin was in any way mentally irresponsible. The autopsy
was conducted by Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, E. A. Spitzka and Prison
The top of the head was sawed off
through the thickest part of the skull, which was found to be of
normal thickness, and it was the unanimous agreement of the microscopical
examination that the brain was normal or slightly above normal.
This demonstrated to the satisfaction of the physicians that in
no way was Czolgosz’s mental condition, except as it might have
been perverted, responsible for the crime.
The autopsy was completed shortly
before noon, when the surgeons issued the following brief statement:
The autopsy was made by Mr. Edward
A. Spitzka, of New York, under the immediate supervision and
direction of Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, of New York, and Dr. John
Gerin, prison physician. The autopsy occupied over three hours,
and embraced a careful examination of all the bodily organs,
including the brain. The examination revealed a perfectly healthy
state of all the organs, including the brain.
All of the physicians who attended
the execution were present at the autopsy, and all concurred
in the findings of the examiners.
JOHN GERIN, M. D.
CARLOS F. M’DONALD, M. D.
E. A. SPITZKA.
A lengthy report, prepared this afternoon
by the autopsy surgeons, related entirely to the brain and was of
a highly technical character. After scientifically describing to
the minutest detail the brain of the dead murderer, the report concludes
“No anomalies found. The brain [i]n
general is well developed, sufficiently marked with fissures and
the lobes are in normal proportion.”
At 12.30 o’clock a dray, drawn by
two horses, backed up to the death house and the pine box, six feet
long, was taken from it and carried to the autopsy room. The nude
body of the assassin, which had been put together again, was placed
in it and the cover nailed down. It was placed on the dray with
several barrels and boxes. The barrels contained quicklime. One
of the boxes held a carboy of vitriol. The prison officials had
decided to bury the body without delay and to subject it to chemical
treatment. Several days before they had decided that quicklime would
accomplish the desired results of disintegration. Not being familiar
with the action of quicklime on flesh, they had made an experiment
with a piece of beef, placing a large chunk of it in a cauldron
with quicklime. It was found this morning that the lime did not
disintegrate the flesh as rapidly as was desired. It was then decided
to supplement the lime with vitriol.
As the dray drove through the courtyard,
at 10 o’clock, groups of prisoners were going to their stations.
They all knew that the assassin had been put to death, and one group
of convicts who saw the wagon depart sent up a cheer and were not
admonished for so doing. The dray lumbered through the streets and
over the road to the narrow lot adjoining the Fort Hill Cemetery.
It is separated from the cemetery. The nearest building to it is
a modest dwelling, occupied by a family by the name of O’Flaherty.
When the O’Flaherty’s [sic] learned that the assassin’s body
was to be planted within 30 feet of their dwelling they set up a
Even before the dray with the assassin’s
body came a hole eight feet deep, eight long and four wide had been
dug in the centre of the lot. When the dray pulled in through the
inclosure there were about 100 people gathered around the dray.
The guard compelled them to withdraw to the street and then they
made short and expeditious work of the ceremony of burying the assassin.
The box containing his body was taken from the dray and lowered
into the hole. The heads of six barrels containing quicklime were
knocked in and the lime dumped on top of the box.
Three or four armsful of straw were
thrown on top of the lime and the carboy containing the vitriol
was brought. Two of the guards pulled the stopper from the carboy
and tilted it over the hole. Instantly there arose a great volume
of vapor, thick and of an opaque whiteness. The column of vapor
mounted high in the air and rolled off with the wind. As soon as
the carboy had been emptied the laborers began to shovel in the
dirt on top of the mass below, and soon the vapor was cut off and
a fresh mound of earth upon which a few sods were thrown was the
only thing to indicate the whereabouts of all that is mortal of
the slayer of President McKinley.
It is the belief of the physicians
that the body will be entirely disintegrated within 12 hours. During
that time and as long as deemed necessary a guard will be kept over
the unmarked grave.
The assassin was put to death between
7.10 and 7.15 o’clock this morning.
At 6.30 o’clock the condemned man
sent for the warden, and he went down with Superintendent Collins.
The following conversation took place between them and Czolgosz:
“I want to make a statement,” said
“Well, make it,” said the warden.
“But I want more people to hear it.”
“You won’t have any more here,” was
Superintendent Collins’ comment. “If you wait until you get into
the death chamber you won’t have time to say anything.”
Czolgosz’s answer was a negative.
The  poor fool wanted an audience
to gratify his morbid vanity, and an audience he would have if he
had to curtail his remarks.
When this little incident became known,
the haste with which the guards hurried Czolgosz from the cell to
the chair was accounted for. He was not to have any more time for
his mouthings than could be helped.
Before the warden left his cell for
the last time Czolgosz asked if he could not see his brother, for
the first time manifesting any interest in his family.
“No,” replied the warden; “he said
farewell to you last night; that must do.”
Shortly after that the guards gave
him the clothing he was to wear in the chair and he put it on. The
trousers, dark gray, of some fustian or shoddy material, were those
he wore when he was brought to Auburn. The shirt, of cheap gray
flannel, was bought last night outside the prison. Gray prison socks
and prison shoes were furnished, but no underclothing was given
him. The shirt was left open at the throat, and the right leg of
the trousers was split from the knee to ankle. Czolgosz did not
talk during the last few minutes in his cell.
As soon as the execution party reached
the death chamber four guards were sent to Czolgosz’s cell. They
had opened the door and were standing outside when the warden went,
at 7.10 o’clock, to the door leading from the death chamber to the
inner corridor and signaled for the prisoner to be brought in.
The clothing and personal effects
of the assassin were burned under the direction of Warden Mead soon
after the execution.
There was silence in the room, broken
only by the sound of splashing water as a final dip was given to
the electrodes, when Czolgosz strode in, and, pushed by the guards,
plunged forward to the chair, stumbling on the edge of the rubber
mat and tripping over the leg anklets because he was not looking
where he was going, but had his eyes on the spectators. No one but
the prison officers knew that he meditated a speech, and when his
lips began to move and sounds came from them everyone was startled.
Czolgosz’s face, which had been very flushed when he came in, and
in which his eyes glittered with dilated pupils, turned pale as
he was pushed back in the chair under the pressure of the straps,
which were quickly passed across his body and arms, and all the
while he spoke and tried to speak the pallor deeepened [sic].
At the end he was ghastly white.
His jaws could be seen working several
seconds before a sound came through his parted lips. The guards
and electricians who were affixing the straps quickened their efforts.
Suddenly Czolgosz’s voice came to him and he said:
“I shot the President.” There was
a mumble and then: “I die because I thought it would benefit the
good people—the good working people.”
Again the voice failed and what followed
sounded like “abomination,” but was probably “of all nations.”
“I am not sorry for my crime,” he
Nothing more came from the death chair
for a minute. Its occupant was now firmly fastened in the leather
mask, and the strap, which covers all the face but the nose and
binds the head by the forehead and chin firmly to the rubber pad
at the back, had been adjusted, and Czolgosz’s life was no longer
counted by minutes, but by seconds. As the head electrode was being
affixed by Electrician Davis and the leg electrode by Assistant
Thayer, the assassin said:
“I am awfully sorry I could not see
my father. That’s all.”
The warden, who was standing to the
right of the chair, and not far from the door of the electrician’s
closet, now raised his arm as a signal to Davis to get ready. Davis
signaled to the dynamo room, and, when he nodded that all was ready
the warden’s arm fell to his side. Instantly Davis threw his lever
over, and as instantly something seemed to shake Czolgosz. It struck
in with a sound that will never be forgotten by those who have witnessed
such an execution—the sound of a blow struck with irresistible force
on more than living tissue—on life itself. The assassin’s body seemed
to shrink as the current passed through it. Every muscle was contracted.
The fingers dug at the hard wood. Some of the spectators gasped.
It was 7.12½ o’clock when the
current of eight amperes was first turned on at 1700 volts. Davis
held it there for about ten seconds, and several seconds before
the tenth Czolgosz was probably dead.
Davis reduced the current to 200
volts, and held it there until 7.13, when he turned it on again
full, and the body, which had relaxed imperceptibly, was convulsed
again. The second full force was to expel the air from the lungs,
and the dead man’s chest did seem to heave and fall as though a
sigh escaped. The current was down to 200 volts again at 7.13½
o’clock, when Drs. McDonald and Gerin stepped forward and made a
rapid examination of the body, feeling the pulses in the neck and
wrist and listening for heart-beats. They found no sign of life,
but suggested another shock for safety’s sake, and once more, at
7.14, the full current was slung through the body. A few seconds
later Davis shut the current off altogether.
Drs. McDonald and Gerin applied the
stethoscope, and agreed at 7.15 o’clock that Czolgosz was certainly
dead. At their invitation all the other physicians present came
forward and satisfied themselves that this was so.