Santa Cruz County History - People

A Walk Through Time: Amos Lunt
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

Nestled comfortably in the confines of Santa Cruz Memorial park is the headstone of Amos Lunt and it seems only appropriate that this placid scene should serve as the final resting place for the famous "Hangman of San Quentin."

Lunt, a Civil War veteran, came to Santa Cruz during the pioneering days. While a young man, he entered law enforcement after being elected constable of the city of Santa Cruz. In the late 1880s he served as Chief of Police, but was fired in 1889 after a policy dispute over the arrest of alcoholics.

The following year, Lunt went to work as a guard at San Quentin prison and was given the difficult job of hangman. For eight years, Lunt was responsible for releasing the trap door on dozens of condemned men. By 1899 the faces of the prisoners he had executed were beginning to haunt him and he grew restless and violent. Lunt would suddenly draw his pistol and attempt to fire at the hallucinations that he believed followed him.

Declared a danger to the general public, Lunt was eventually hospitalized and placed in the Napa State Asylum for the Insane. He later died on September 20, 1901.

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