New York’s first executioner Edwin Davis’ day job didn’t keep him up at night, but the people who live in his house now can barely get a wink of sleep. Davis was the first person to build the electric chair Thomas Edison invented. Davis thought he was doing a good deed, sparing the condemned the painful end of hanging. In TLC’s Kindred Spirits season 2, episode 2, “The Executioner,” ghost hunters Amy Bruni and Adam Berry will investigate the executioner’s old house. TLC pulled the lever on this jolting behind the scenes clip.
Davis’ home is now owned by an engineer named Jason. He says he’s been “sleeping on the couch for about five years” in the clip. And his waking hours aren’t much better.
“He fell down a flight of stairs, or he was pushed, he has no idea,” Berry tells Bruni. “One minute he was going through a door and the next, he was on the ground.” The pair’s mission statement is to “help real people tormented by paranormal activity in their homes.” They advise homeowners who are “scared by the mysterious happenings, but hesitant to pick up and leave.” The logical engineer wants to keep his spooky address with its historical background.
William Kemmler was the first person in New York State to die by electric chair. He was relieved to have the honor. Before Warden Charles Durston set the convicted murder in the dubious seat of honor at New York’s Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890, Kemler took a bow for the witnesses and admitted “I think it is much better to die by electricity than it is by hanging. It will not give me any pain.”
Kemmler told prison electrician Edwin Davis to take his time, “and do it right. I’m in no hurry.” The chair had been successfully tried out on a horse the previous day. The generator was charged with 1,000 volts. Davis jolted Kemmler with a 17-second shock. It didn’t kill him, so Davis zapped him again, this time until the witnesses smelled burning flesh. One reporter fainted. Witnesses gagged. But the killer was dead. The execution was deemed a success. Davis went on to tour with his man-made killing machine. He electrocuted more than 300 convicts, including President William McKinley’s assassin Leon Czolgosz, and the first woman to be executed by electric chair, Martha Place.
Thomas Edison was a great scientist, but a nasty public relations man. He electrocuted dogs, cats and an orangutan to prove his inventor George Westinghouse’s alternating current (AC) was dangerous, while Edison’s direct current (DC), was safe. But there was one thing Edison said AC was good for, execution, which he generously dubbed “Westinghousing.” He invented the electric chair at Thomas Alva Edison’s works at West Orange, New Jersey in the late 1880s.
To be fair, Edison actually wanted to end capital punishment in the United States and invented the chair as an alternative to the traditional method. Edwin Davis found death by hanging to be inhumane. If the convict didn’t instantly die of a broken neck, they would choke to death for about a half-hour. Davis retired in 1914. The ghosts he brought home from work are still on overtime.
Amy Bruni has over 20 years of investigation experience. She previously starred SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. The runs her own paranormal travel company called “Strange Escapes.” Adam Berry was a musical theater major who started investigating the paranormal after he saw ghosts on a trip Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He co-founded the Provincetown Paranormal Research Society. He matriculated at SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters Academy before teaming with Bruni on Ghost Hunters.
Kindred Spirits new Episode “The Executioner” airs on TLC on Friday, September 22 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.