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Last Public Hanging at West Virginia Penitentiary | Violence of Frank Hyer

June 19 1931, Frank Hyer was about to be hanged for killing his wife.  Seeing the condemned before his execution surprised officials… he was happy.

West Virginia Penitentiary - Administration Building

Frank Hyer Murderer

Frank abused his wife. Witnessed by many. Then on December 19th, 1930, it got out of hand.

He fatally beat Eva Hyer to death inside his restaurant. Then barricading himself inside as the police surrounded. He fired a gun outside, but wasn’t really aiming.

During his trial, Frank blamed alcohol. Said he had no memory of the incident. No one in the jury believed him.

Guilty and sentenced to hang.

The Hanging Goes Wrong

Surrounded by guards and a priest.  Talking up a storm, he turned to the priest and thanked him for the “wonderful Christian experience”.  Confessing to the murder over and over, saying “whiskey caused it”. 

Frank Hyer wanted to commit suicide but the church brought him back. “It made me a good man!”

Then it’s time.  Frank dressed, walked out as he turns to the group,

“Meet me in heaven… and when you preach Father, tell young men to leave the whiskey alone.”

To the gallows, over the trap, noose placed around his neck as the Reverend said a prayer.  Asking for his final words, Frank was never at a loss,

(edited for space) “I’m guilty … I am perfectly willing to shed my blood for this crime.  Jesus has saved my soul … I am not afraid to die.”

The trap opens and Frank falls… but something wasn’t right.  The pressure was too much.  The rope squeezed Frank’s neck with a hard jerk slicing completely though, ripping the head from his body.

Frank Hyer grave in White Gate Cemetery
Frank Hyer grave in White Gate Cemetery

Witnesses were already soured on the idea of public hangings.  This sealed it.

And that’s how Frank Hyer’s death unofficially started the end of public executions in West Virginia.

Orville Adkins Hanged Twice

Happened at the North Wagon Gate.

North Wagon Gate - Oldest part of West Virginia Pen
North Wagon Gate – Oldest part of West Virginia Pen

Now considered home to its most active ghost.  Orville Paul Adkins haunts the Gate after being hanged privately in 1938.

He was condemned for kidnapping a minister.  Left the holy man in a mine.  Kids later found him dead of pneumonia due to the cold.  Adkins swore he never meant to kill.

Karma or just bad luck followed Orville to the gallows.  On that dark day, Orville was over the trap as an executioner started putting the noose around his neck.  A nervous assistant pulled the handle too early and Orville fell 20 feet to the stone walkway.  Found stunned and hurt but still alive.

The angry executioner grabbed Orville by the collar and dragged him back up.  Noose secured before the trap door opened and Orville Paul Adkins hanged correctly.

Today footsteps are heard.  Above the Gate as if slowly pacing back and forth.  It’s then that witnesses feel uneasy, as if being watched.

More Ghost & History Stories – Podcast…

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