Most people hope they’ll die by passing in their sleep, in a peaceful setting, or maybe surrounded by loved ones. But for the victims of these 15 executions, that couldn’t be further from reality. Whether it’s being set on fire inside of a tire or having your limbs slowly cut off, these deaths are sure to make you cringe. I’d say “enjoy”, but that would be a little weird. Instead, let’s just say, try not to yak on your keyboard!
15. Buried Alive
Being buried alive starts out our list of executions. Dating back to times B.C., this punishment has been used for individuals as well as groups. The victim is usually tied up and then placed in a hole and buried. One of the most recent and disturbing uses of this form of execution was the Nanjing Massacre during World War II, when Japanese soldiers buried groups of Chinese civilians alive in what was referred to as the “Ten Thousand Corpse Ditch”.
14. Snake Pit
One of the oldest forms of torture and execution, snake pits were a very common form of capital punishment. Convicts were cast into a deep pit with venomous snakes, dying after the irritated and poorly fed snakes attacked them. Several famous leaders have been said to die this way, including Ragnar Lodbrok, the Viking warlord, and Gunnar the king of Burgundy. Some variation on the traditional snake pit is being thrown into a small pool of water containing water snakes.
13. The Spanish Tickler
This torture device was commonly used in Europe during the Middle Ages. Used to tear open the victim’s skin, this weapon could rip through anything, including muscle and bone. The victim was tied up naked, sometimes in public, and then the torturers begin mutilating them. Usually starting on the limbs and working inward, the neck and face were always saved for last.
12. Slow Slicing
Ling Chi, translated as “slow slicing” or “the lingering death” was described as the death by a thousand cuts. Practiced from 900 AD to 1905, this form of torture and execution is similar to The Five Pains, but drawn out over a much longer period of time. The torturer slowly cuts and removes several body parts, extending the victims life and torture as long as possible. According to Confucian principle, a body that is cut into pieces cannot be whole in the spiritual afterlife, making the form of execution one that still tortures the victim in the afterlife.
11. Burning at the Stake
Death by burning has been used as a form of capital punishment for centuries, often associated with crimes such as treason and witchcraft. Today it is considered cruel and unusual punishment, but before the 18th century, being burned on the stake was common practice. The victim is tied to a large stake, frequently in the center of town or anywhere with onlookers and then lit on fire. It is considered one of the slowest ways to die.
Commonly practiced in South Africa, Necklacing is unfortunately still quite common today. Necklacing consists of a rubber tire, filled with gasoline, being forced around the victim’s chest and arms, and then being set on fire. Necklacing essentially causes the body to be turned into a melted mess, which is why it comes in at number 10 on our list.
9. Execution by Elephant
In South and Southeast Asia, the Elephant has been a method of capital punishment for thousands of years. The animals were trained to execute two ways. Slowly, in a prolonged manner, dismembering and torturing or by Crushing, which killed the victim nearly instantly. Usually employed by royalty, these elephant assassins only heightened the fear of royalty to the common people, proving that they even had the ability to control wild animals. The concept was eventually adopted and finessed by the Roman military to deal with deserting soldiers.
8. The Five Pains
This form of Chinese capital punishment is a relatively easy concept to grasp. It starts with the victims nose being cut off, then one hand and one foot, and finally, the victim is castrated and cut in half across the waist. Inventor of this punishment Li Si, a Chinese Prime Minister, was eventually tortured and then executed this way.
7. Colombian Necktie
This method of execution is one of the goriest. The victim’s throat is slashed, often with a knife but really any sharp object would do, and then their tongue is pulled out through the open wound. During La Violencia, a Colombian period of history fraught with killing, this was the most common form of execution. It is used mainly to intimidate others who encounter the body after the fact.
6. Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered
The penalty for high treason in England, to be hanged, drawn and quartered was a common occurrence during medieval times. Although it was abolished in 1814, this form of execution was responsible for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of deaths. The process was as follows. First, the victim is dragged on a wooden frame, called a hurdle, to the place of the execution. Second, the victim is hanged by the neck for a short period of time until nearly dead (hanged). Third, the disembowelment and castration occur, where afterward, the entrails and genitalia are burned in front of the victim (drawn). Finally, the body is divided into four separate parts and beheaded (quartered).
5. Cement shoes
Introduced by the American Mafia, this method of execution involves placing the victim’s feet inside of cinder blocks and then filling them with wet cement and then throwing him or her into the water. This form of execution is still practiced today, and even created the term “someone who sleeps with the fishes” as a euphemism for the dead.
The guillotine is one of the most notorious forms of execution. Made up of a razor sharp blade attached to a rope, the victims head was placed in the middle of the frame and then the blade dropped with efficiency, causing the person to be decapitated almost instantly. The guillotine is a seemingly humane method of execution until you consider that people potentially are still alive for a few moments following the act. Crowds have reported that people who had been guillotined would blink their eyes or mouth words shortly after their heads had been cut off. Experts theorized that the swiftness of the blade had little impact on the brain, and didn’t cause loss of consciousness. One doctor even reported witnessing a man’s execution, and when he called the prisoner’s name after his head was detached, the prisoner made eye contact with him, even focusing his pupils. It must be pretty weird to know that your head is no longer attached to your body!
3. Republican Marriage
The Republican Marriage might not be the most gruesome death on this list, but it is certainly one of the most interesting. Originating in France, this form of execution was common in Revolutionary France. It involved tying together two naked people, a male and female usually of a similar age, and drowning them. In some cases, usually where water wasn’t available, the couple would be run through with a sword.
This ancient method of execution is one of the most well known methods, obviously mainly due to the execution of Jesus Christ. Crucifixion consists of the victims hands and feet being nailed into a wooden cross and then being hoisted into the air. The victim is then left to hang there until death, which usually took days, and often meant dying of thirst before anything else.
1. The Brazen Bull
The Brazen Bull, sometimes known as the Sicilian Bull is one of the cruelest methods of torture and execution out there. Designed in ancient Greece, solid brass was cast into the shape of a hollow bull, with a door on the side that opened and latched. To begin the execution, the victim was placed inside of the brass bull and a fire was set underneath. The fire was heated until the metal was literally yellow, causing the victim to “roast to death”. Yum. The bull was designed so that the screams of the victim would come out sounding musical for the enjoyment of the executioner. Naturally enough, the inventor of this form of punishment ended up being executed inside of the Bull, which was all too predictable. You live by the horns, you die by the horns. While this is a tough list to rank, we feel comfortable putting The Brazen Bull in the top spot.