August 2021

Life can be full of surprises, ironies and stories of people overcoming even the most impossible odds.  The 1933 case of an Irish firefighter nicknamed, “The Indestructible Mike Malloy” could be one such example of someone who absolutely refused to die, however the case Wenseslao Moguel might even top that!

Realistically speaking, no one should survive one bullet to the head.  Despite that, throughout history, there have been occasions where not only did people survive, they somehow endured two shots to the head.

Invariably, the wounds came at a cost of major brain trauma.  For someone to survive more than half a dozen shots to the head, without any brain damage, would be unheard of.  Or would it?

To borrow a phrase from Robert Ripley: “Believe it or not” there is a man who managed to achieve the impossible of surviving not just one or two shots to the head but he lived through a firing squad execution where eight bullets simultaneously struck him.

Wenseslao Moguel is that man.  Not only did he beat all odds, he truly outplayed death at its own game.

The year was 1915.  The bloody Mexican Revolution had been going for five years and Moguel was a soldier fighting on the side of Pancho Villa and his revolutionary force.

It was during one battle that Moguel and other soldiers in his unit were taken prisoner.  Long before the Geneva Convention demanded humane treatment of prisoners of war, the renegade soldier was sentenced to death by firing squad.

After being afforded a blindfold, the men were lined up against a wall and summarily shot by a squad of 8 executioners.  As the men fell to the ground, one by one, when the bullets pierced their helpless bodies Moguel soon found himself (literally) to be the last man standing.

The executioner squad turned their rifles toward him and let loose with 8 bullets to the head.  Hit and bloodied, Moguel dropped to the ground but was still breathing.  That’s when the squad commander walked over to the crumpled man and shot him a ninth time straight in the head to make sure he was dead.

The point blank headshot should have been lethal.  It wasn’t but Moguel knew the squad would finish him off if he didn’t fake his death so he laid on the ground holding his breath.

Stories differ as to what happened after the execution squad walked away from the carnage they created.  Some sources suggest that Moguel was rescued and was given medical attention until he recovered.

Another story is a bit more detailed.

That legends involves Moguel crawling to the church of St. James Apostle three blocks away where a church member found him and took him home until he recuperated.  According to the lore, a parishioner was amazed at how lucky Moguel was to survive nine shots so he hid him until 1924 when the Mexican revolution ended.

Regardless of what happened after he was shot, the fact is not only did Moguel survive nine shots to the head, he sustained no brain damage.

In 1930, Moguel migrated to the United States for a better life.  Although he was a folk hero in Mexico, nobody really knew him in the United States.  It wasn’t until American’s began asking questions about his disfigured face that he began telling his famous story.

Word quickly spread.

By 1937, Moguel was as popular in the United States as he was in Mexico.  He was even invited to be a guest on the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” radio show in Cleveland, Ohio.  Ever the showman, Ripley’s rebranded Moguel as “El Fusilado” or “the executed one.”   With the sponsorship of the NBC, El Fusilado began a tour across the United States where audiences could meet the legendary tough man.

With America becoming increasingly preoccupied with World War II, Moguel faded into obscurity.  Moguel eventually migrated back to his home country in Mexico.  He died in 1975 of natural causes.  He was 85.

Evidently Moguel was not completely forgotten, in 2008 the English rock group Chumbawamba released a song entitled El Fusilado. The song was about Wenseslao Moguel.

Francisco "Pancho" Villa
Wenseslao Moguel on NBC radio