A peeping Tom who has escaped from a state mental asylum is hardly the sort of fugitive anyone wants hiding out in their farmyard barn. And farmer’s wife Delia Congdon, 41, had no idea that Elroy Kent, 33, was watching her undress because she was a deaf-mute.

Kent had arrived at the Congdons’ East Wallingford, Vermont, US, farm, after going on the run from the asylum in July, 1908. From his hiding place in their barn he could see through Delia’s bedroom window. Becoming sexually aroused, he entered the farmhouse, raped and throttled her, then battered her to death with a wood-splitter.

He was at large for several months before he was caught stealing a bicycle. He was sentenced to death and, despite legal arguments about his insanity, brought to the gallows in Vermont on Friday, January 5th, 1912.

An electrical device had been installed to spring the gallows’ trap, consisting of six separate buttons manned by six warders. Five of the buttons were fakes and only one actually worked, so that no one would know for sure who sent the condemned man to his death.

When the buttons were pushed the trap opened but the rope broke, plunging Kent to the concrete floor below. He writhed about in agony for several minutes before the gallows could be reset. The hanging process was then repeated and this time the rope held.