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John (Jack) Ketch (died 1686) was an Englishmarker executioner employed by King Charles II. An immigrant of Irish extraction, he became famous through the way he performed his duties during the tumults of the 1680s, when he was often mentioned in broadsheet accounts that circulated throughout the Kingdom of England. He is thought to have been appointed in 1663. He executed the death sentences against William Russell, Lord Russell in Lincoln's Inn Fieldsmarker on July 21, 1683 and James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth on July 15 1685 after the Monmouth Rebellion. He was either very awkward or sadistic with his beheading technique, and his victims were known to have suffered at their deaths.

Ketch's execution of Lord Russell on July 21 1683 was performed clumsily, and a pamphlet is extant which contains his Apologie, in which he alleges that the prisoner did not "dispose himself as was most suitable" and that he was interrupted while taking aim. On the scaffold (see gallows) on July 15 1685, the Duke of Monmouth, addressing Ketch, referred to his treatment of Lord Russell, the result being that Ketch was quite unmanned. He had to deal at least five strokes with his axe (which he threw down, shouting "I cannot do this thing!") and finally use a knife to sever Monmouth's head from his shoulders. In 1686, Ketch was deposed and imprisoned at Bridewell. His successor, Paskah Rose, a butcher, was hanged at Tyburnmarker after four months in his office. Ketch was reappointed in his place. He died towards the close of 1686.

As a result, the term Jack Ketch is also used:

The knot more commonly known as a hangman's knot is also sometimes known as Jack Ketch's knot.

As a figure of death in folklore "Jack Ketch" is also known as "Hanging Jack" and "Mister Graball".

In popular culture

  • In the 1951 classic "Scrooge", Mr. Jorkins characterizes the young Scrooge and Marley by quipping, "You'd better watch these two. They'd skin Jack Ketch alive if you let them".
  • In David Copperfield , David exclaims to Uriah Heep "I will tell you what I should, under any other circumstances, as soon have thought of telling to Jack Ketch".
  • "The Night Before Larry Was Stretched", an Irish street song presumed to be from the eighteenth century, refers to the protagonist's hangman as Jack Ketch.
  • "Parasite Planet", a 1935 science fiction story by Stanley G. Weinbaum, features a Venusian plant called a Jack Ketch tree that strangles its prey using nooselike loops at the ends of its branches.
  • Several novels of Neal Asher's Polity series feature an AI-controlled military spaceship that has named itself Jack Ketch and has a fascination for historical methods of execution: Line of Polity (2003), [Brass Man] (2005), Polity Agent (2006).
  • The novels in The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson use the name Jack Ketch as a nickname for whichever executioner is currently serving at Tyburn Cross (although at least one scene takes place in 1714, 28 years after the death of the original Ketch).
  • In the Vertigo comic book series Fables, Jack Ketch is Fabletown's executioner. In issue 10, the lines directed at him were, "Try to do a better job on me than you did on my cousin, you incompetent butcher. See if you can do this one in ten chops or less." Later, a military campaign waged against the Empire to regain their homelands is named Jack Ketch, signaling the strategy of destroying the links between the Emperor's world and all other fable lands, of chopping off the head of the empire. Jack Ketch is also a term used to mean executioner in the series as well.
  • In the Alan Moore's comic book series Miracleman, Jack Ketch is an executioner themed superhero that appears in a dream sequence.
  • In the video game Xenosaga Episode II, the large, axe wielding foes use an attack called "Jack Ketch is a Killer."
  • The manga Leviathan, volume 4, features a storyline where a villain uses a book to possess civilians with the spirits of historical killers. The protagonist trumps the villain by using the book to possess a comrade with the spirit of Jack Ketch.
  • The human host for the Marvel Comics anti-hero Ghost Rider in the 1990s was known as Danny Ketch. Howard Mackie originally wanted to name the host "Jack Ketch" but instead opted to name the Danny's best friend as "Jack" and went with "Danny" for the host.
  • A band named "Jack Ketch & the Crowmen" released a 1988 record on Billy Childish's label Hangman Records.
  • In both the animated and videogame versions of Gregory Horror Show the character Nekozombie wears a T-Shirt with 'Jack Ketch' emblazoned on the front.
  • In Philip Larkinmarker's "Livings", the line "Why is Judas like Jack Ketch" is one of the topics of the trivial topics of conversation in the third vignette.
  • In Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker the executioner is called "Ketch".
  • Indie-rock band "I.M. Legend" released their second CD entitled "Godspeed Jack Ketch" on Burnt Carbon Records.
  • Metal/deathmetal/grind band named "Jack Ketch" based in Sacramento, California [88111] [88112]
  • In Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Jack Ketch is a Jack of All Trades
  • In the Doctor Who audio drama "Dead London", an alien named Sepulchre takes the guise of Jack Ketch to control a facsimile of 17th century London.
  • In the book "You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger" by Roger Hall (A story of the OSS during WWII), Jack Ketch is referenced as the consulting architect for the design of the jump tower at Ft. Benning's Parachute School because of its resemblance to a gallows.
  • In the traditional British Punch and Judy puppetshow the character of the hangman is often referred to as Jack Ketch.
  • The band Caravan of Thieves used the following lyrics in their song "Burial at Sea" to refer to a hanging: "It was tricky but we stowed your little buddy all tied up in the galley/Now it's true romance/So, here's a little shanty/Nothing fancy/Sung by Jack and Nancy Ketch/Go fetch your swimming pants/'Cause it's time to dance." [88113]
  • Jack Ketch is a significant character in Pat Mills' 17th century zombie comic series Defoe, one of London's 12 principal zombie hunters and right hand man of the series' lead, Titus Defoe.
  • "Jack Ketch or A Leaf from Tyburn's Tree," a play by George Almar, was first performed at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London on September 20 1841. In this version of events Ketch is a criminal who has been sentenced to death for robbery but is offered a free pardon if he agrees to become the next hangman.
  • "Jack Ketch" - heavy metal group from Tbilisi,Georgian Republic. In 1993 vocalist and guitarist Jack Ketch, former leader of White Trash, decided to create a new band. But in 1994 the band quitted existence. In 2001 Nick/Klaus (P.I.Light, Parryzide, Ruins Of Faith, Undocreation, Most Evil, Jalath) initiated the second formation of Jack Ketch. The same year they recorded the album "All For Attack". Robert "Jack Ketch" (vocals, bass), Nick "Klaus" (drums) and Gela "Klim" (guitars). In december 2008 Klaus and Jack Ketch (Helldrivers, Game Over) desided to reanimate the band. For live playing they engaged new musicians - bassist Lord Saqo (Angel Of Disease, Most Evil, Jalath) and young talented guitarist Achi and started again. Now Jack Ketch and Klaus are working on "Time For Execution" album


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