Alfred Southwick

Birth Name:
Alfred Porter Southwick
Birth Date:
May 18, 1826
Birth Place:
Saybrook, Ohio
Death Date:
June 11, 1898
Place of Death:
456 Michigan Street, Buffalo, New York
Age:
72
Cause of Death:
Natural causes
Cemetery Name:
Forest Lawn Cemetery
Claim to Fame:
The Odd and the Interesting
In 1881 Alfred Southwick heard a story about an intoxicated man who touched a live electric generator. Given that the man died so quickly, Southwick concluded that electricity could be used as an alternative to hanging for executions. And while his background included stints as a steam-boat engineer and dentist, Alfred was credited with inventing the electric chair as a method of legal execution. He also served as a professor at the University of Buffalo school of dental medicine, now known as the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Fun Fact

Ok, we know you’re going to ask, so here we go …

Who was the first person executed using Alfred Southwick’s electric chair? On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler was executed by electrocution. Southwick was present and is reported to have said, “There is the culmination of ten years work and study! We live in a higher civilization from this day.”

William Kemmler was a produce peddler, alcoholic, and murderer, who, in 1890, became the first person in the world to be executed by electric chair. He was convicted of murdering Matilda “Tillie” Ziegler, his common-law wife, a year earlier. Although electrocution had previously been successfully used to kill a horse, Kemmler’s execution did not go smoothly.

Strapped into the chair, the generator was charged with 1,000 volts, which was thought to be adequate to induce quick unconsciousness and cardiac arrest. The chair had already been tested; a horse had been electrocuted the day before. Current passed through Kemmler for 17 seconds. The power was turned off and Kemmler was declared dead by Edward Charles Spitzka. Suddenly witnesses noticed Kemmler was still breathing. The attending physicians, Spitzka and Carlos Frederick MacDonald, came forward to examine Kemmler. After confirming he was still alive, Spitzka reportedly called out, “Have the current turned on again, quick—no delay.”

In the second attempt, Kemmler was shocked with 2,000 volts. Blood vessels under his skin ruptured and bled, and some witnesses claimed his body caught fire. The New York Times reported instead that “an awful odor began to permeate the death chamber, and then, as though to cap the climax of this fearful sight, it was seen that the hair under and around the electrode on the head and the flesh under and around the electrode at the base of the spine was singeing. The stench was unbearable.” Upon autopsy, doctors had found the blood vessels under the cap of his skull had carbonized and the top of the brain had hardened. Witnesses reported the smell of burning flesh and several nauseated spectators tried to leave the room.

The execution took approximately eight minutes.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Forest Lawn Cemetery

1990 Main Road

Buffalo, New York, 14208

USA

North America

Map:

Cemetery map of Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York

Grave Location:

Section 31, Lot 21, Grave 3

Grave Location Description

As you enter the cemetery follow the blue line in the road until you come to the intersection of Sections 25, 26 and 31. Located 6 rows from the road and behind the large Nott * Hunt monument look for the 4 identical rectangle markers that only come up about one foot from the ground. Alfred has the inscription “Father” on his monument and is buried next to his wife.

Grave Location GPS

42.92700192627793, -78.85984359269278

Photos:

[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]
[+]

Read More About Alfred Southwick:

Videos Featuring Alfred Southwick:

See More:

Annie Edson Taylor

popular name: Annie Edson Taylor

date_of_death: April 29, 1921

age: 82

cause_of_death: Natural Causes

claim_to_fame: The Odd and the Interesting

best_know_for: Annie Edson Taylor was an American schoolteacher who, on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, became the first, and oldest, person to go over Niagara Falls intentionally and survive. The trip itself took less than twenty minutes, but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened and discovered she was relatively unharmed with only a small gash on her head. She attempted to earn money by talking about her experience, writing a memoir, and eventually working as a clairvoyant, but eventually fell into poverty and died in relative obscurity.

Lorraine Warren

popular name: Lorraine Warren

date_of_death: April 18, 2019

age: 92

cause_of_death: Natural causes

claim_to_fame: The Odd and the Interesting

best_know_for: Lorraine Warren was a world renowned paranormal researcher and ghosthunter and was half of the husband and wife team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, Seekers of the Supernatural. The team was often asked to assist in numerous police investigations involving satanic ritualistic murders, and were in high demand by hundreds of colleges and universities to speak on the subject of the supernatural. Ed and Lorraine, have co-authored ten books on the subject of the supernatural. Two of the books were made into made for television movies, The Demon Murder Case and The Haunted. They were among only a handful of investigators asked to investigate the Amityville Horror Case, and were consultants on the first Amityville Horror film. After his passing, the film franchise featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren (portrayed by actors Vera Farmigo and Peter Wilson) “The Conjuring” has grossed over $2 billion in global ticket sales. The Conjuring was released in 2013, and quickly became one of the most widely-praised supernatural horror flicks in recent history.

Joan Merriam Smith

popular name: Joan Merriam Smith

date_of_death: February 17, 1965

age: 28

cause_of_death: Plane crash

claim_to_fame: The Odd and the Interesting

best_know_for: Joan Merriam Smith was an American aviator, famous for her 1964 solo flight around the world in which she became the second woman to complete the trip, by following the equatorial route attempted in 1937 by Amelia Earhart. (Jerrie Mock set off the same week on a different route, and finished before Smith did.) In doing so she also became the first woman to fly a twin-engine aircraft around the world, and the first woman to fly the Pacific Ocean from west to east in a twin-engine plane. Following the equatorial Amelia Earhart route, Joan became the first person in history to successfully complete a solo flight around the world at the equator, as well as the first person to complete the Amelia Earhart route. Smith also was the the first person in history to fly solo around the world at the equator, to complete the longest single solo flight around the world, first woman to fly a twin-engine aircraft around the world, the first woman to fly the Pacific Ocean from west to east in a twin-engine plane, the first woman to receive an airline transport rating at the age of 23, the youngest woman to complete a solo flight around the world, and the first woman to fly solo from Africa to Australia, from Australia to Guam via New Guinea, and from Wake to Midway Island. Sadly she died the following year when the plane she was piloting suffered structural failure and crashed in California.

Back to Top