A little backround.
William Kemmler had run off with a married woman by the name of Tillie Ziegler. Their affair ended when Kemmler murdered Ziegler and was sentenced to die in the newly invented electric chair. The following is a first hand account of how gruesome the execution really was, written by an anonymous reporter covering the event for the now defunct New York World.
"The first execution by electricity has been a horror. Physicians who might make a jest out of the dissecting room, officials who have seen many a man's neck wrenched by rope, surgeons who have lived in hospitals and knelt beside the dead and dying on bloody fields, held their breaths with a gasp, and those unaccustomed to such sights turned away in dread."
"The doctors say the victim did not suffer. Only his Maker knows if that be true. To the eye, it looked as though he were in convulsive agony."
"The current had been passing through his body for fifteen seconds when the electrode at the head was removed. Suddenly the breast heaved. There was a straining at the straps which bound him, a purplish foam covered the lips and was spattered over the leather head band."
The man was alive. Wardens, physicians, everybody, lost their wits. There was a startled cry for the current to be turned on again. Signals, only half understood, were given to those in the next room at the switchboard. When they knew what happened, they were prompt to act, and the switch handle could be heard as it was pulled back and forth, breaking the deadly current into jets."
The rigor of death came on the instant. An odor of burning flesh and singed hair filled the room. For a moment a blue flame played about the base of the victims spine. One of the witnesses nearly fell to the floor. Another lost control of his stomach. Cold perspiration beaded every face. This time the electricity flowed for four minutes."
"Kemmler was dead. Part of his brain had been baked hard. Some of the blood in his head had been turned to charcoal. The flesh at the small of his back was black with fire."