The concept for my story, Dead Man Walking, came about after years of corresponding with a number of Death Row inmates in California, Texas, and Florida. Many have no hope of living, knowing that sooner or later, the executioner will send lethal drugs through an IV-line causing their death.
Can you imagine the absolute fear that must grip a human being when they know, for certain, the method, day and time of their death? That last twelve step walk from the nine by six-foot death-watch cell to the execution room must be absolute hell.
Then, just before the curtain opens allowing witnesses to watch the state-sanctioned death, the condemned is laid on the execution table face up, either under his own volition or by the brute force of Death Squad Correctional Officers. Think of what that must feel like? Six-men forcibly buckling those thick leather straps over the body, cutting into the flesh, the body tightly secured on the table.
After the governor’s signed “Death Warrant” is read to the condemned, officials ask if there are any final words. In the next few minutes, Sodium Thiopental is sent through an I.V. line inducing unconsciousness. Immediately following, Midazolam… (or Pancuronium Bromide) is used to paralyze the muscles before Potassium Chloride stops the heart. Just like that… one minute alive, next dead!
There is no doubt that Death Row has some of the most dangerous people on the planet, so it is already a very violent place occupied by the most heinous people in America. Add to this… the spirits of executed convicts, and suddenly, The Row has its own ghost stories. That’s where Dead Man Walking comes in. It’s a very real story wrapped in the guise of fiction.
In 2001, a prison guard claimed Bundy’s ghost was seen sitting casually on the electric chair shortly after his execution with a knowing smile on his face. Whenever a guard approached the ghost, it would disappear. Other guards at Florida State Prison reported seeing Bundy’s ghost lingering in his death row cell, where he would verbally taunt them, saying, “Well, I beat all of you, didn’t I?” The prison claims that Bundy’s ghost showed up so frequently that guards refused to enter the execution chamber by themselves.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho, once incarcerated more than thirteen-thousand prisoners during its one-hundred and one-years of operation. The most infamous convict executed there was the last man to be executed in the state. Raymond Allen Snowden’s ghost is said to haunt his cell and at the site of the gallows where he was hung by the neck, visitors feel uneasy and cold.
The Laughter and loud banging sounds are heard emanating from death row and Snowden’s spirit reportedly revealed itself as a dark shadow figure that appeared to reach out from beyond the grave touching and pushing people. Another man sentenced to die at the prison decided to take his own life rather than leave it up to the state. Douglas Van Vlack said, “My mother told me it was all right for me to choose the way I wanted to die.” Climbing up the rafters of the cell block, he dove to his death on the concrete floor below. Tour guides of the now-closed prison have reported seeing his spirit lingering in the exact spot where he died. He sometimes appears as a full-body apparition or as a greenish orb of light that drains the power of batteries.
No matter where we go in the country, this theme keeps repeating itself. Death Row is a nightmare for convicts waiting to die. It’s not just the death chamber that taunts them, but a whole host of ghosts who refuse to leave the row until they have caused the death of one of the men there.
This is the story of the ghosts that haunt Death Row.
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