On this date in 1938, the state of West Virginia carried out the execution of kidnapper/murderer, Orville (sometimes spelled Arvil) Paul Adkins, at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. He was led to the gallows inside a building known as North Wagon Gate and the trapdoor was sprung... not once, but twice.
Adkins received this ultimate punishment following his role in the kidnapping of one Dr. James I. Seden in Hunnington, an evangelical minister and missionary to Japan. After his abduction, Adkins and two other men led Seden to an abandoned mine, left him, and sent a ransom note to his family. Seden was later discovered alive, but suffering from pneumonia and partial paralysis from which he would later die in the hospital. All three men quickly confessed to the crime and were sentenced to death. The sentence on all three would be carried out on March 21, 1938 at the prison.
While the other two executions went smoothly, something went amiss when Adkins was led on to the trapdoor. Before the noose could be securely placed around his neck, the trapdoor was sprung and Adkins fell headfirst onto the concrete floor below. Prison officials, still stung by a hanging only seven years earlier that resulted in the accidental decapitation of a prisoner, acted quickly. Guards loaded the severely injured Adkins on to a stretcher, carried him back up the stairs, and he was again placed on the trapdoor. With the noose securely around his neck, the trapdoor was sprung for a second time. Today, many claim that Adkins is one of the many ghosts that are said to haunt North Wagon Gate in the former prison that is notorious for its alleged haunting.
Read more stories of the supernatural at West Virginia Penitentiary.
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