Robert Blake was a condemned prisoner in Texas who was executed in 1929 for murder. Before going to the electric chair, Blake kept a curious chronicle of activities and dialog between other condemned prisoners on Death Row. His remarks, which detail the anxiety of nine condemned men waiting to be put to death, appeared in the July 1929 edition of The American Mercury and were later used in the grim prison drama, The Last Mile. The prisoners mostly concern themselves in the possibility of a reprieve. When a telegram does arrive for one of the prisoners, he is incensed that it is not from the governor ordering a stay of execution, but from a sheriff asking if he can bring some additional visitors to see the man electrocuted. The prisoners share their last cigars and fruit and endlessly discuss their impending deaths, one stating in forced doggerel:
“Why do they pull a black cap over your face and let it remain until you’re dead? Because the high voltage of electricity will make your eyes pop out of your head!”
The Death Row areas described by Blake in his grim narrative was immediately adjacent to the room housing the electric chair. At the end of his chronicle, Blake states: “These lines are written while Six (referring to the condemned prisoner taking from cell number six) is being strapped into the electric chair. The door between the death chamber and Death Row is open.” He quotes the words of the condemned man which he and the others can hear as Six awaits the current of electricity that will end his life: “I hope that I am the last one who ever sits in this chair. Tell my mother that my last words were of her.” Then Blake adds: “The light goes dim as we hear the whine of the motor when the switch is turned on… The lights go dim twice more.” One of the prisoners shouts from Death Row: “They’re giving him the juice again. Wonder what they’re trying to do, cook him?” One of the condemned men says, “I won’t be able to sleep for a week.” Another replies from his cell: “I’m going to sleep now. You’ll be able to sleep all right. Forget about it.”
One week after writing the above report, Robert Blake himself walked into the dreaded room and sat down in the electric chair to face his own end.