|Click on the images at the bottom to select the large image.
Louis Lingg finally took matters into his own hands. He was visited the evening of November 9 by Dr. Theodore Bluthardt, the county physician who had treated the wounded policemen and testified at the trial. According to Bluthardt, they conversed for a while, presumably in German, in the manner of friends saying good-bye.
Shortly before nine o'clock the next morning, the day before the scheduled execution, Lingg apparently used a cigar to light the fuse on a detonating cap that he had placed in his mouth. The source of the cap, like that of the bombs found in his cell, and where he concealed it, is not known. When the terrified jailers reached the cell, they found Lingg's head slung over the edge of his bed, bits of teeth, flesh, and bone on the walls and floor, and blood everywhere.
A terrible gurgling sound indicated that the prisoner was still alive. They carried him to a nearby bathroom and summoned physicians, who did what they could to comfort and revive him. Lingg remained conscious but unable to speak, and he twice wrote out requests to be propped up so he could breathe better. He somehow lasted a full six hours, finally passing away around three o'clock.
The first image, titled "Horrible Suicide of Lingg," is from the Pictorial West of November 20, 1887. The second image, "Lingg's Terrible Death," is from Michael Schaack's Anarchy and Anarchists (1889). The other images are details from the second one.
Although Lingg's suicide was a surprise, the range of reactions was predictable. Critics of clemency declared that the suicide was proof that these men deserved no mercy, that the bombs found earlier in the week had not been planted, and that, had these bombs not been discovered, Lingg might have blown up the whole jail. Hard-line anarchists either accused the police of murdering Lingg or praised his bravery. Moderate socialist Frank Stauber, whom Lingg had denounced as a traitor when Stauber had urged him to ask for clemency, said, "I am not surprised. I would not be surprised at anything Lingg should do. He has been crazy for months." Lingg's fellow defendants sadly shook their heads.
The staff of the jail now faced criticism from all sides. If Lingg had been completely searched and kept isolated since the bombs were discovered in his cell, how did he have a blasting cap in his possession? The sheriff's men had the anarchists disrobe down to their shorts and searched them one more time before the executions the following day.