3 June 1955 – Barbara Graham
Drug-addicted prostitute Barbara Graham, born Barbara Elaine Wood had been convicted of murder in America. She got the gas chamber along with her two accomplices after they botched a robbery in an attempt to do a wealthy, elderly widow over. Graham and her two criminal partners, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins had ended up killing Mabel Monahan in Burbank, California.
The trio were found guilty and during her two years on death row Babs suddenly found God.
Throughout her last night she apparently prayed and her piety looked as if it had paid off a couple of times. She’d been scheduled to die at 10am and came close to execution twice, but was granted slight stays of execution as there was a glimmer of hope that she’d be reprieved. But that in itself was excruciating for Babs who’d steeled herself for execution at 10am. So when the glimmer came to nothing, she sobbed ‘why do they torture me so?’
Clinging to life
She was strapped to a chair in the gas chamber just after 11:30am and hooked up to a stethescope. The doors closed in on her and the cyanide was released. Her head bowed in what appeared to be a quick and painless death. But it transpired that she was actually holding her breath in a desperate bid to clutch on to life. Of course, she couldn’t hold her breath for ever and her lungs eventually filled with the tearingly noxious fumes and she was declared dead at 11:42am just a few weeks short of her 32nd birthday. Her two partners followed roughly three hours later. And the deaths didn’t stop there.
Babs’ lives on
Before her death she cursed those who’d been instrumental in sending her down. Roughly a year after Bloody Babs expired that marked the onset of a spate of unexpected deaths. Her defence lawyer, who’d quit after her lies were exposed, had a heart attack just a year later. The following year, a trio of men were struck down comprising the prosecutor who got cancer, Monahan’s former son-in-law who suffered an attack of apoplexy and the chief warden whose heart gave out.
Bloody Babs, on the other hand, well, her story took off – she was posthumously immortalised in a couple of films. The first starred Susan Hayward, who won an Oscar for playing Graham in the 1958 film I Want To Live. The movie played on the theory that she was innocent. But, it was largely acknowledged to be a work of fiction. Bionic woman Lindsay Wagner went on to star in the 1983 remake.