Thursday, 17 April 2014

Victorian strangeness: The death of a curious monkey

There are many reasons why animal experts might consider it unsuitable to keep a primate as a pet, but an episode from the 19th Century provides a particularly bizarre warning, writes Jeremy Clay.

Rockwell Syrock had a hobby. Jocko rather liked it too.

Together they toured the towns of Victorian North Carolina, whiling away the empty days before the invention of Twitter by joining the crowds of spectators at public executions.

Jocko was a monkey - a cheeky one by all accounts, who was quite a favourite with children for miles around their Goldsboro home. Like his owner, Jocko took a keen interest in the gruesome rituals of capital punishment.

On a summer's day in 1880, the flamboyantly-named Mr Syrock had been cheerfully looking forward to the hanging of a convicted murderer when the state governor thwarted his plans by postponing the execution.

If Mr Syrock was downhearted he made the best of the situation, grabbing the opportunity to take a closer look at the gibbet which was ready and waiting for its indisposed victim.

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