DEADLY ELECTRICITY: Pranks of the Subtle Fluid

August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

With the recent tragic deaths of 16 ballooners near Lockhart from electrocution and/or fire, we are reminded of electricity’s awesome powers and dangers.

A friend of mine suicided some years ago by tying a power saw around his wrists, turning it on, and jumping into his swimming pool.

Incidental or accidental, electricity and water do not play nicely together.

Austin’s first death from electrocution occurred about noon on Saturday, August 27, 1888, when Edmund Ramey, a colored porter at the Iron Front saloon (corner 6th and Congress), went upstairs to wash the rear windows.

The second story of the building extended back about 80 feet, while the lower one, which contained the billiard hall, ran through to the alley, near the Driskill Hotel

Ramey, once upstairs, went out on the billiard hall roof with a small step ladder, and proceeded to wash the window glass.

He was gone some time, much longer than was necessary to accomplish the task, and his services being needed downstairs another porter went for him.

He went upstairs, and going out on the roof of the billiard hall was astounded and horrified at finding Ramey lying on the roof stone dead but still warm.

He gave the alarm and at once the news spread and an eager crowd soon gathered on the premises, all eager to see the victim and hear the particulars of the electric tragedy, the first serious one to have occurred in this city.

An investigation of all the surroundings led to the belief that while Ramey was washing the window through which the electric wire attached to the fan motor passed, he accidentally touched it and his death was instantaneous. There was not out cry, no call for assistance, no struggle, no anything but awful, sure, swift silent death.

The death-dealing wire was one of the patent insulated ones, but the covering had been saturated by the rains, destroying the insulation, and the moment the unfortunate man touched it his death followed, then and there. He either caught, or accidentally touched the wire with his right hand, three fingers of which were badly burned, the little one entirely through the bone, and it was left hanging by a small piece of skin.

Edmund Ramey was a brother to little Mary Ramey, who was so cruelly assassinated during the series of “servant girl” murders of 1885. His mother, who was wounded the night of Mary’s death, was still living but never recovered from the shock and the wounds of that terrible night of blood.

Coroner Calhoun was called, viewed the body of the deceased and held an inquest. He was as astonished as was everyone else at the hot feeling of the body and it remained in that condition for a long time.

Another Electric Prank.

Early the next morning, Sunday morning, the colored cook, old “Uncle Jack” Spann, at Mrs. Holly’s boarding house on 6th Street, entered the kitchen and proceeded to get breakfast.

The apartment was lighted with an incandescent electric light and about the time Uncle Jack thought he had the meal comfortably cooked he happened to step immediately under the festive little burner and in a trice he was prostrated to the floor. He was suddenly knocked down and lay where he fell, as if dead.

Mr. Jim Holly, standing in the dining room, saw him fall, and ran to his assistance, but no sooner did he step on the kitchen floor than he too was sent sprawling down upon it. Jim managed to get up and raised the alarm, and Dr. Johnson was sent for.

By this time the stove, the cooking utensils and the entire kitchen was completely electrified, and sparks and flashes of flame were darting in every direction.

Dr. Johnson arrived in a few minutes and when he stepped into the kitchen, received a severe shock.

He, with others about in the house, however, managed to get Uncle Jack out of the kitchen, and the doctor after some time, restored him to consciousness, but it was several hours before he could walk, and by evening, he had not fully recovered.

The able electrician was called by telephone and hurried up from the dynamo works. He found the kitchen still under the control of the electric fluid. He also found that the wires leading across the street were having a time of it, sending bright flashes along each other, and altogether the electric current seemed to turn itself loose and was out on a lark in the rain and murk of the Sabbath morning.

The trouble was caused by an arc light wire getting across the incandescent wire leading into Mrs. Holley’s kitchen. For some time after the trouble was removed the kitchen furniture was still electrified, and it was impossible to pick up the coffee pot or other metal articles without being shocked.

At the end of its coverage of both events, the Daily Statesman sternly warned the electric light company of the absolute necessity of a daily inspection of their wires in all parts of the city; it was a duty the company owed the public to so arrange them that by no possible chance would they come in contact with either the incandescent or telephone wires.

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