The Daily Mirror

Los Angeles history

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June 9, 1958

June 9, 2008 |  7:42 am

Dropcap_a2 bove, yes, such things really happened. Anybody who thinks the past was a "kinder, simpler time" needs to revisit their history lessons ... At left, an interesting figure is back in the news: The late Robert S. "Rattlesnake" James, the last man to be executed by hanging in California.

On Aug. 4, 1935, James tried to kill his wife, Mary, by putting her foot into a box of rattlesnakes after tying her to a table in their La Crescenta home. Although the snakes bit her, she didn't die, so James drowned her in a backyard fish pond. (Does the fish pond part sound familiar?) The man in the news is Johannssen C. Houtenbrink, alias "Snake Joe," who sold James the rattlesnakes that were to be the murder weapon. Houtenbrink was bitten by one of the 200 snakes he kept at his home, 2414 N. San Gabriel Blvd., South San Gabriel. (Note: Google maps doesn't like this address). Snake Joe recovered, only to be bitten again in 1959.

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