A Brief History
On April 26, 1933, the Nazi secret police force known as the Gestapo was founded. No strangers to torturing and executing people, firing squads, hanging by piano wire, and death by torture were Gestapo favorites. We continue what we started on April 25 when we told you about 10 ways people have been executed with no regard for humanity, intentional or unintentional. Here are 10 more ways people have executed other people and were not so nice about it.
10. Poison Gas.
Used today and recently for individual executions, the condemned have been known to choke and sputter in agony during their supposed humane execution. Used for mass executions, especially by the Nazi’s before and during World War II, slow methods using carbon monoxide from engine exhaust were replaced by more efficient Zyklon-B, a concentrated pesticide. The notorious gas chambers of Nazi Germany were hellish places where victims would claw and scratch their fingernails off trying to escape the gas.
It is not the fall that kills you, it is the hard landing. People have been thrown from lethal heights throughout history, whether from cliffs, towers or out of airplanes. A common misconception is that the victim will die or pass out (of what?) before hitting the ground, but that is wishful thinking. Only if the altitude is so great that the victim suffocates or freezes to death on the way are they not conscious and alive when they impact the ground (or water). Depending on the height the victim is thrown from, death can be fast or slow.
8. Death of a Thousand Cuts.
As the name implies, the victim would be cut many times with non-fatal cuts causing the process to last hours or days. Sometimes the cuts would include lopping off body parts one at a time until the victim finally died.
This process could be the entire form of execution, or part of a more complex series of events. In Japan, sometimes the condemned would have to perform the act himself, hopefully with a trusted person standing by to cut off the victim’s head as soon as the disemboweling took place. This example is another one of those executions where the victim could linger a long time while seeing his own innards spilled out of his body.
Normally (if it can be considered normal) the victim would not be squashed right away, but would be placed under a container where rocks or other weights would be slowly added to drag out the dying experience.
5. Buried Alive.
Whether in a coffin or in the bare earth, this is a fiendish way to kill only your worst enemies. Many people have a deep fear of being buried alive, so much so that caskets have been sold with signaling devices inside to let people on the surface know if the buried person is actually still alive. Death would normally be caused by suffocation.
Sometimes done in stages by repeated dunking the victim numerous times and nearly drowning him until he finally drowns, and sometimes done all at once by holding the person under until they are dead. People are also tied to weights sufficient to keep them under water long enough to drown, such as in alleged Mafia executions where a hapless thug is given “a pair of concrete shoes.” As anyone who has been water boarded will attest, drowning is a terrifying way to die.
Forcing a person to take poison or cramming it down his throat had the potential to be a terrible death. Some poisons were administered in doses too low to cause quick death, or were of insufficient purity to do so. Victims often suffered convulsions and vomiting as well as sever pain, lingering for hours or days.
A method of horribly killing a sailor, the victim would be tied to a rope that was passed under a ship (in the old wooden ship days) and dragged all the way along the bottom of the ship to the other side. Of course, the victim could drown somewhere along the way, but in any case he would be torn to ribbons by the sharp barnacles attached to the outside of the ship.
1. Skinning Alive.
Seriously, this item has to be one of the creepiest ways to kill someone. How many times have you heard someone threaten, “I’ll skin you alive!” Unfortunately, some people have been skinned alive. Also known as flaying, this method was undoubtedly one terrible way to die. Death could be caused by bleeding to death or by hypothermia. could also die of shock, and death could come in an hour or two or even last for days. Sometimes people would be totally stripped of their skin, other times just their face or other body area would be targeted. People who believe in reincarnation must wonder what plastic surgeons did in their previous lives!
Question for students (and subscribers): Should there be another sequel? Tell us in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please read…
Wilson, R. Michael. Frontier Justice in the Wild West: Bungled, Bizarre, And Fascinating Executions. TwoDot, 2007.