Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Rulloff: The Genius Killer

Impatient to the End

On May 18, 1871, Rulloff was taken to the gallows.  It was a fine spring day, drawing people from all over.  Rulloff was suddenly concerned about what might happened to his body and he requested that it be locked into a vault until his brother came to claim it.

There are several stories about his last moments, and apparently each journalist told it as he pleased. Bailey relates the following: As guards watched to ensure that Rulloff did not commit suicide and rob them of the spectacle, several reporters came to bid Rulloff good-bye (one of whom, Ham, failed to provide him a lancet or morphine that he'd requested).  He apparently hoped that the governor would issue a last-minute pardon, but that didn't happen.  His brother also did not show up.

On the gallows, say several sources, he urged the hangman to "hurry it up.  I want to be in Hell in time for dinner."  However, Bailey truncates this by reporting that he simply grew impatient over inexplicable delays and wanted to just get it over with.  He apparently stated that he had "nothing at all" to say.

The hangman pulled a white cap over Rulloff's head and face, then tested the rope.  In short succession, Rulloff was raised up with a quick snap.  He struggled for breath for several minutes, putting one hand out of and back into a pocket, and his heart beat for over twenty minutes before he finally died.  His neck had never broken as it was supposed to do, so he had been strangled to death.  He died at 11:40 A.M.  It was the last public hanging in the state of New York.

Oddly enough, an article appeared in the Times, reporting that Rulloff's daughter had been found and was alive and well.  She was being raised by Rulloff's brother in Pennsylvania, was 25 years old (the right age), had received many gifts from Rulloff over the years, and was running a hotel in Parker's Landing.  She believed Rulloff was her uncle, but there was talk in her county that she was actually the missing child.  Her name was not revealed.

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