The Man Who Survived Execution

Sentenced to execution by firing squad during the 1915 Mexican Revolution, Wenseslao Moguel survived despite being shot nine times, the final coup de grâce, a bullet shot through his head by an officer to ensure death. His story of survival was so incredible that it caught the eye of Robert Ripley himself.

“Pancho” Villa was one of the most famous leaders of the Mexican Revolution. After his defeat by the Constitutionalists in 1915, Northern rebels faced harsh punishment by regional de facto armies. One of the unfortunate casualties of war was Wenseslao Moguel. Branded as a traitor, Wenseslao was sentenced—without trial—to execution by firing squad.

During the Mexican Revolution, a firing squad was the preferred means of execution. The squad was comprised of nine soldiers who would all fire their weapons at the same time. The tenth shooter, an officer, was to aim at one of the prisoner’s vital organs and deliver the coup de grace—the kill shot.

This was Wenseslao’s lucky day. March 18, 1915. The Federales took their positions and fired—even the tenth. Assuming he was dead, the job was done, or so they thought. Wenseslao survived! Although in excruciating pain, he waited for his executioners to leave and, miraculously, left the scene to make his way to safety.


Though horribly disfigured, Wenseslao Moguel went on to live a full life, and became legendary thanks to Robert L. Ripley, founder of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. He appeared on his 1937 radio show and at the Cleveland, Ohio, odditorium. He was dubbed El Fusilado—the executed one.

el fusilado survived execution