TAMPA, Fla. - The century-old oak chair that Eddie Clawson bought a decade ago had an eerie feel to it. He took it to his home in Sarasota, where his friends initially were impressed but eventually got uneasy around it.
It wasn't comfortable. There was no cushy upholstery, no footrest.
Back in the chair's heyday, people who sat in it tended not to get up.
It was the economy that forced Clawson, 46, Sarasota, to sell his antique electric chair. His swimming pool construction business was slowed by the economy and he was having trouble making mortgage payments. So the chair had to go.
"I didn't think I would want to be living in the woods," he said, "sitting in my electric chair."
He sold the chair this past weekend to television's "Treasure Hunters Roadshow," which held an event in Tampa. The show buys collectibles and antiques from people who bring stuff to the shows.
Clawson said he got the electric chair from a buddy in North Florida who's into the "antiques-swapping-getting-all-the-cool-stuff business up there." His buddy was inspecting a shed filled with other antiques when he spotted the chair and made an offer.
"He doesn't hold on to stuff," Clawson said of his buddy, "so the first thing he does is call me and I headed up there.
"It's just kind of rare," he said. "I've never heard of anybody ever having one. It turned a lot of heads, and it was kind of fun weirding out my friends all these years. Everybody dug it, but at the same time they were kind of creeped out to come into my house."
He brought the chair to a "Treasure Hunters Roadshow" in Sarasota a couple of months ago and got an offer for it, but he held off. The show came to Tampa this past weekend, and Clawson loaded his chair into a truck and brought it up here to sell.
He got a good amount of cash for it, though he declined to say how much, he said, and much of it will go to catch up on his mortgage payments.
"Treasure Hunters Roadshow" antique experts say the electric chair, circa 1896, is genuine, though exactly where it came from or who may have breathed their last breaths in it, remains a mystery.
The first execution by electricity was in 1890 in New York State. The chair purchased by the road show wasn't that one and it's not one from Florida. It could be among the first generation of chairs built for executions, perhaps in Ohio, said David Morgan, advertising director with Treasure Hunters Roadshow.
"We did buy it," he said on Monday morning.
Morgan said he's not sure what will happen to the chair. It likely will be bought by a collector. Probably, it won't end up in a family room in front of a television, though. "It's not made for comfort," he said.
"It's rare and interesting," Morgan said. "For all I know it might end up as a prop for Halloween."
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