Over the last 20,000 years we have slowly turned from nomadic hunters into a civilization, creating mathematics, science and arts. Yet over the same amount of time we have also perfected ways of killing each other. Here are the most brutal ways to die. I should add that this list is not for the faint of heart.
Warning- Some pictures on this list are extremely graphic, proceed with caution.
Being buried alive is one of the most common human fears, and it makes sense to fear it, can you actually imagine waking up in a coffin? Sadly this is also an execution method. There are two types of being buried alive, either you have oxygen or you don’t. In the case of an enclosed coffin you don’t get much oxygen and you will die within a few hours, and you will pass out way before that. The other form is more frightening, and that is when you actually have access to oxygen. In this case you can last days, and you will be fully aware that you are buried alive and would be left in the darkness- its a slow and agonizing death. The second method was used most famously on Vestal Virgins who violated the oath of celibacy. This method of execution was used by the Chinese since a long period of time and even in Europe during the 1200-1500AD time frame. It was mostly used by the Europeans to punish women (men were usually just beheaded).
The TV show MythBusters tested out if its possible to survive being buried alive in a coffin, by trying to batter out of it (Kill Bill style)- its not even remotely possible, sadly.
Another gruesome execution method in which the victim’s throat is cut horizontally, with a sharp object, and his tongue is pulled out through the open wound. It was first used during the outbreak of La Violencia, the Colombian civil war. It is now used today by drug kingpins as a method to intimidate others. This method of execution was also mentioned in my favorite show “Breaking Bad” when Jessie and Walter are contemplating what can happen if they release Krazy-8 from the basement.
This was used as a weapon and to torture people. Made out of long, sharp iron spikes resembling claws. Used to rip out flesh away from the bone, from any part of the body. It was designed as that bones and flesh do not get in the way. It was usually used on thieves and unfaithful wives. Death usually came slowly, as if you didn’t die from the wounds, you would die from the infection from those deep cuts made by the blades, one of the reasons behind this was that the blades were nearly never washed, so that kept the chances of infections high. A common way of using this gruesome weapon was to attach it to an end of a long stick, and then use it to tear down the victims back as they were hung up by the wrists.
This method of torture and execution is mentioned in the Nordic saga legends. The idea was to cut the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and then pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim’s back. They didn’t stop here, the last phase was to sprinkle salt on the wounds. Famous victims included King Ælla of Northumbria, and King Maelgualai of Munster. Today we are still not sure if this practice was actually real.
In reality if this method was performed, the victim would lose consciousness from blood loss and shock when his back was cut and would die of suffocation the moment the lungs were pulled out, he wouldn’t make it to the salt part.
Used in England, was the penalty for high treason, the ultimate crime possible against the state. Convicts were first tied to a horse and dragged to the point of execution, then they were hanged (but not killed here), castrated, had their organs removed, chopped in to four pieces (quartered) and then beheaded. Their remains were shown in public in prominent places of London (including the London Bridge). Women were usually just burnt at the stake, for reasons of public decency. The penalty itself was abolished in 1870 but the death penalty for treason was just recently abolished in 1998.
A very common method of execution, reserved for crimes such as treason, witchcraft, and heresy. The victim was tied to a stake and then burnt till he died. Looking at it from a slightly medical point of view, if the fire was huge, the victim died from carbon monoxide poisoning, before the flames properly burned him. If the fire was small then he would die really slowly, first his legs, then torso then his vital organs. There are reports that sometimes it took up to two hours for a victim to die. As a form of mercy, victims were usually strangled (by hanging) while being burned to drastically speed up the process (reducing it to mere minutes). Most famous victim of this was Joan of Arc.
I have to mention Sir Benjamin Hammett, when I talk of this punishment. He was the sheriff of London in 1789, and he caught a ring of coin counterfeiters, the men were executed by hanging, but by law the woman (Catherine Murphy) was supposed to be burned at the stake. Hammett didn’t like the law, and he instead had her hanged first and then thirty minutes after her death, had her burned at the stake. Next year he mentioned this story to the Parliament and asked them to abolish the archaic law, he succeeded.
Also called “Ling Chi” translated as death by a thousand cuts used in China in the 900AD until it was banned in 1905. In this method of execution the condemned was killed by using a knife to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time. This method was reserved for crimes such as treason and killing one’s parents. In later times, they sometimes gave opium to them as an act of mercy or as a way of preventing fainting (two ways to look at everything). The punishment was publicly humiliating, a slow lingering death, and as also a punishment after death. Let me explain the last part, to be cut to pieces meant that the body of the victim would not be “whole” in a spiritual life after death.
In reality the process could not have lasted long, its not possible to remain conscious or even alive after one or two severe wounds, so in reality there probably only a few dozen wounds and the entire process would take fifteen to twenty minutes. The reason we know this is that from the available photographic evidence we have, the crowd remains consistent across the series of photographs. The family could speed up the process even further if they bribed the executioner to do the coup de grâce by having a stab to the heart inflicted first.
The brazen bull or the bronze bull was an execution device designed in ancient Greece. Its inventor was Perillos of Athens, who made it for Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, as a new way of executing criminals. The bull was made entirely of bronze, hollow in the inside, and with a door on one side. The criminals were locked inside the bull, and then there was fire lit underneath it, which heated the metal until the unfortunate person roasted inside to death.
The bull was designed in a way that the victims screams were converted into sounds which were similar to the bellowing of an infuriated bull. Perillos was thrown inside the bull to test out its sound system, as Phalaris set fire underneath it. Just before Perillos could die though, Phalaris freed him, but instead of rewarding his sucess, he threw him off a hill. Phalaris was later overthrown and killed by the brazen bull himself. About the people who are skeptic about the Bull, it did in fact exist and many later Romans even explicitly mentioned it. Scipio the Younger even found the Bull in Carthage (they had ruled Sicily) and returned the Bull to its homeland.
Source – Diehl & Donnelly 2008, p. 37
Scaphism, also known as ‘the boats’ was an ancient Persian way of execution designed for the Greeks. The victim was stripped naked and then firmly tied to two narrow boats then he was forced to eat milk and honey to the point of developing a severe bowel movement and diarrhea, and then more honey is rubbed on their exposed appendages to attract insects. The victim would then be left to float helplessly over a stagnant pond. Their feces would be accumulated within the container, which would attract even more insects who would eat and breed on his exposed flesh, which would soon become gangrenous and filled with burrowing insects. The victim would be fed each day, so that he doesn’t starve or dehydrate to death, prolonging the torture. First the victim would go into delirium until finally dying.
Bamboo torture involved a bamboo shoot being grown through the body of a victim. The victim was tied above a young bamboo shoot and for several days, as a sharp, fast growing shoot would first puncture, and then completely penetrate the victim’s body, eventually emerging through the other side. MythBusters tested out this method and found out that a bamboo shoot can penetrate through several inches of ballistic gelatin in just three days. Ballistic gelatin is considered comparable to human flesh, and the experiment thus supported the viability of this form of torture. The most scary thing about this method is that not only did it probably happen, but out of all the methods mentioned, you die the most slowly from this method.
Also I love historical things, creepy stuff, and videogames.
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