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Cruel And Unusual Death / Real Life

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  • The Other Wiki's List of unusual deaths shows that when deaths aren't so bizarre they become darkly humorous, they can just as easily be completely and utterly terrifying. Warning: The level of horror is off the charts.
  • While lethal injection, in theory, allows for a painless execution of capital offenders, in practice many botched executions have proven to be painful. One such case was the botched execution of Joseph Wood, who ended up snorting and gasping for breath for more than an hour before finally dying.
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  • A famous story claims that in 1218, Inalchuq, governor of the Central Asian city of Otrar for the Khwarezmian Empire, arrested a trade caravan from some upstart nomad empire to Khwarezm's east. Unfortunately for Inalchuq and Khwarezm, this caravan came from the Mongols; the leader of the empire was a fellow calling himself Genghis Khan, and he did not take kindly to breaches of Sacred Hospitality. The Mongols, of course, proceeded to conquer Khwarezm (and much else), and as for Inalchuq? He had molten silver poured down his ears and eyes.
  • Hisashi Ouchi, one of the three technicians irradiated during the 1999 Tokaimura nuclear accident, endured a particularly cruel way to die, and an ironic one as well. Having been dosed with over 17 Sieverts of radiation while the three technicians improperly poured nuclear fuel into the experimental Joyo reactor when it reached supercriticality, Ouchi was a doomed man. Admitted to a hospital and his family insisting that he be treated at any cost (even though his death was guaranteed) his body slowly and gruesomely fell apart for 82 days until he finally died. It was widely believed that the Japanese government deliberately kept him alive out of cold scientific interest, but while he was subject to medical intervention the whole time (with one experimental treatment, peripheral stem cell transplantation being proven successful in the process), the medical staff only prolonged Ouchi's life on the insistence of his family and did everything in their power to ease his suffering, even though his body had long since disintegrated past the point of being able to accept painkillers. By that point, experimental treatments were literally all the medical staff had left.
    • Of the other technicians, Masato Shinohara also died. He received a lesser, but still fatal dose and was treated in much the same way, though he didn't suffer as severe a decline. Though he seemed to be improving, his immune system was destroyed by the radiation, and he died from pneumonia exacerbated by infections that ran wild through his respiratory system. The third technician and supervisor of the other two, Yutaka Yokokawa, received a less-than-lethal dose, and spent 3 months in hospital, recovering to face negligence charges in October 2000.
  • Manius Aquillius of Rome was killed by having molten gold poured down his throat. (Counts as a Karmic Death since the Romans had systematically destroyed and milked Pontus and the surrounding area in their pursuit of money.)
    • According to one account, the Parthians did this to notoriously rich and greedy Marcus Licinius Crassus after defeating him and his army at the battle of Carrhae.
  • Some stories claim the Aztecs poured molten gold down Spanish throats after Moctezuma was killed. Doesn't help that Cortez told the Aztecs they wanted the gold because they had a disease that only gold could cure.
    • This is relatively mundane compared to their... creative methods of Human Sacrifice. Besides the famous "priests rip out lots and lots of peoples' hearts on top of a pyramid"note , and the similarly mundane burning to deathnote , they had ceremonies involving flaying alive and priests wearing the victim's skinnote  and death by Hopeless Boss Fightnote . An honorable mention should also go to the festival of the rain god Tlaloc; while his sacrifices were "only" immolated, he required that they be a) children and b) crying.
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  • The Roman emperor Valerian I was captured at the Battle of Edessa by the Persian King Shapur I. According to the stories, Shapur merely used Valerian as a human footstool at first. However, when Shapur grew tired of this game, he had Valerian flayed alive, then stuffed his skin with dung and straw and had it put on display in one of the larger temples in his capital. However, modern historians generally believe Valerian merely died of an illness while in Persian captivity.
  • King Edward II of England was allegedlynote  assassinated by way of first being crushed between two heavy mattresses and then having a red-hot branding iron shoved as far up the King's rectal passage as it could be pushed. The person who arranged this murder? Edward's wife, Isabella. It's generally seen as a particularly cruel Take That! since Edward was notorious for his passion for a male courtier. The courtier in question, Hugh Despenser the Younger, was eventually drawn and quartered (for which see below).
  • A story describing the death of the martyr Saint Lawrence claims he was roasted alive on a giant grill during the persecution of Valerian. The poet Prudentius claims he joked with his tormentors, saying "Turn me over— I'm done on this side". Lawrence is now regarded as the patron saint of cooks, comedians, and firefighters.
  • George, Duke of Clarence, brother of King Edward IV of England, was (according to legend) drowned in a large barrel of malmsey (a sweet wine) in 1478. This may have been made up, though, as the Duke was a noted lover of wine and was almost certainly drunk when he was killed (however that happened).
  • Sir Arthur Aston, a supporter of King Charles I during the English Civil War, was captured by Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads and beaten to death with his own wooden leg when the angry soldiers found out that contrary to popular belief, Aston did not have a secret stash of gold inside his wooden leg.
  • Often used in games of "Would You Rather..." where you have to answer hypothetical questions such as "Would you rather be eaten by rats or drown in urine?" usually with a debate of the contrasting options and why one would be preferable to the other. The game doesn't exclusively use horrible ways to die but it's a common one, along with unappealing but non-deadly fates, disgusting things to eat/do and unattractive people to have sex with.
  • Famed astronomer Tycho Brahe supposedly died because he had to urinate while at a banquet but wouldn't leave the table because it would be impolite, leading to a ruptured bladder.
  • Vlad the Impaler practically wrote the book on this:
    • As his name would indicate, his favorite punishment for any and all crimes in his kingdom was impalement. If done "correctly" it can take an impaled victim up to three days to die of superinfection due to the stake tearing the intestinal wall and letting all the bacteria into the rest of the body. There's a reason he's considered the inspiration for Dracula.
    • Being a Combat Pragmatist, he also used impalement as a form of psychological warfare. More than one whole army of Turks might have thought twice upon seeing hundreds of Turkish troops impaled in a place where Vlad knew they'd be marching through on their way to invade his territory.
    • And the method he used to impale people was pretty gruesome. He'd use a pole with a ball on one end and a spike on the other, and stick it through people's... well, let's just say it's pretty gross. He'd also have victims impaled upside down, or several per stake, or various other methods, turning it into what he might have seen as a sadistic art form. Another famous story claims he had an enemy army impaled, and then held a victory celebration among the dying victims; one guest constantly complained about the stench, so he had the complaining guest impaled on a much higher stake, claiming it was so the stench wouldn't bother him.
    • Of course, he had plenty of other methods. Women who had pre-marital sex (a rather serious crime in those days) were flayed alive, publically, as well as being impaled through their vaginas, according to some stories about him. And there were numerous other stories about other incredibly cruel - yet creative - ways he tortured people to death. (There was one famous story about how he was insulted by Turkish ambassadors who refused to remove their turbans in his presence. When they claimed it was tradition for them never to do so, he responded by having a servant nail the turbans to their heads. The story doesn't say whether or not they survived.)
    • Impalement still appears to have been used as late as the 1920s. There is a photograph, purporting to be of the end of a Polish officer captured in the 1921 war with Russia, showing a naked man being impaled via the anus as troops dressed in Russian uniforms look on. The associated Wikipedia article lists known atrocities and bad behaviour by both sides during this brief and nasty war.
  • The medieval and early modern English punishment of hanging, drawing, and quartering was, more or less, this. Reserved for sentences of high treason on commoner men and the occasional nobleman who had really pissed someone off (female commoner traitors were simply burned at the stake for reasons of public decency, noblewomen and the more fortunate of the noblemen were beheaded), hanging, drawing, and quartering was more or less Exactly What It Says on the Tin...with a few additions.
    1. The condemned was tied to a board and dragged through the streets to the place of execution.
    2. He was then hanged until almost dead.
    3. He was then emasculated and disemboweled (drawing). He might at this point be shown his now-missing bits (this happened with William Wallace).
    4. He was then beheaded.
    5. He was then dismembered (quartering).
    6. Finally, the bits were publicly displayed across the country.
  • Famously defied by Guy Fawkes, who jumped off the scaffold and died of a broken neck before he could suffer the worst of the above. A co-conspirator attempted the same thing but failed and played this straight.
  • There were two execution events relating to the Babington plot that saw those involved hanged, drawn, and quartered. The first group of convicts played this straight, and all it accomplished was make martyrs of them, to the point where no less than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Tudor was forced to order that the second group of convicts be allowed to expire on the gallows (read: hang by the neck until "quite dead") before the rest of the sentence was carried out.
  • Ancien Régime France had the following punishment reserved for regicides (i.e. people who had killed/tried to kill the king):
    1. The condemned was tortured with red-hot pincers.
    2. His dominant hand, possibly holding the weapon used in the crime, was then burned with sulfur.
    3. The wounds generated by these tortures were then filled with molten wax, then lead, and then boiling oil.
    4. The condemned's arms and legs were then harnessed to several horses, which would proceed to pull in opposite directions. The objective here was to literally have his limbs ripped off by the horses, although if it was taking too long—and it could take hours—the executioner might help the horses along with an ax.
    5. Finally, the condemned's torso would be burned at the stake. Note that the last person to receive this punishment (Robert-François Damiens, who had attempted to kill Louis XV in 1757) was still alive when the burning started. (His Last Words, by the way? After waking up and before the pincers he said, "La journée sera rude"—"The day will be hard". Would it ever...)
    • When he heard of the punishment to be carried out on Damiens, the King himself was horrified. No wonder that when Revolution came, the new government abolished all the forms of execution from the Ancien Régime and replaced them with the guillotine.
    • About 150 years before Damiens, François Ravaillac, the Catholic fanatic who fatally stabbed French monarch Henry IV, suffered essentially the same punishment, but with the hot wax replaced with resin or pitch. To add insult to injury, his parents were forced into exile, and his family was ordered to give up the surname "Ravalliac".
    • The reason for this extremely cruel method of execution was that regicide was considered one of the worst crimes imaginable. According to medieval and early modern French theological doctrine, this was because it was a crime against nothing less than the majesty of God Himself — the king of France was literally considered God's Anointed as he was anointed with sacred oil in the coronation ceremony — and because the king was seen as the father of all his subjects, regicide also was an instance of the heinous crime of patricide (see below).
      • It's worth noting that a counterpart British example occurred around ten years after Damiens's assassination attempt and brutal execution when George III was unsuccessfully attacked by an insane woman in a manner very reminiscent of Damiens's attack.note  HM Government's reaction? To put her in an insane asylum.note 
    • The guillotine was invented at least in part to avert this trope. A heavy, angled blade slicing through the neck of the condemned was a quick and relatively painless death, especially since the executioners of the time did not always have sharp blades, or swung hard enough... (The other part of this was that under the Revolution, it was felt that all the condemned were entitled to the speed of a beheading, rather than having that fate reserved to noble criminals; however, there just weren't enough trained executioners to do that, hence the "need" for a machine.)
  • The Dutch borrowed elements of both the English and French methods for use on Balthasar Gérard, the man who killed William the Silent. After some particularly horrid torture, the red-hot pincers were used to pinch off his right hand (unlike the French, who cut the hand off separately). The executioners then applied the pincer to his skin on various other locations so hard the burning went to his bones. He would then be quartered alive and his heart was cut out from his chest and thrown into his face. Finally, his head was cut off and the four sides of his body that were pulled apart were to be exhibited on the four city gates. His head was put on a stake and placed near the house where William used to live. His possessions were given to the church.
  • Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini supposedly killed some detractors using castor oil. For those who don't know what castor oil is, it's an old home remedy used as a laxative; a spoonful of it was often given to children for upset stomachs. Mussolini's blackshirts would (as the story claims) pour an entire bottle down a bound victim's throat, resulting in chronic diarrohea and eventual death by dehydration.
  • Ancient Romans frowned on patricide. After a good scourging, they would tie the accused in a burlap sack with a dog, a rooster, a monkey, and a snake, then throw the whole sack into a river.
  • A Colombian necktie is a form of gangland execution used by mobsters and drug lords when they want to scare someone the victim is associated with. (As the name suggests, the first known use of it was in Colombia during the civil war of 1948-58 that ravaged the countryside.) The victim's throat is cut vertically, and then the killer pulls his tongue out through the wound, leaving him to bleed to death. (It's pretty gruesome, and as you might expect, leaves an unsubtle message to whoever finds the body.)
  • Ancient Greece had three timelessly great dramatists, all of whom died in memorable ways. Euripides was torn to pieces by a pack of dogs; Sophocles choked on a grape, and Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise. (Specifically, by a tortoise that was dropped on his head by an eagle who, apparently, mistook his bald spot for a rock.)
  • This was the whole purpose of crucifixion. Not only did the Romans have to invent a whole new word to describe the pain of having nails driven through one's medial nerves ("excruciating" comes from ex crucia, "out of the cross"), but the victims were put up on display for everyone naked while they suffocated to death, probably crying in agony and pleading for their lives. On top of everything else, the victims were viciously scourged with studded whips just beforehand. The Romans themselves considered crucifixion so terrible that it was illegal for citizens to be crucified.
    • Interestingly, crucifixion is still today theoretically available in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. However, of these countries, only Saudi Arabia is recorded to have ever actually applied the punishment, and usually as a method of displaying the dead body of criminal who had already been executed some other way (e.g. an armed robber put up on a cross after being beheaded) rather than causing a torturous death. The others prefer hanging for most executions; Saudi Arabia for its part usually prefers beheading with a sharp sword.
  • While death by hanging may be bad enough, there was a time when it was much worse. Hanging someone by the gallows in history (see: Haman from The Bible) involved chopping down a tree and shaving (most) of the branches off so it resembled a huge spike. They then sharpened the end of the top and ran the condemned through. To top it off, they then hoisted the entire tree on its end so that the victim was all the way at the top where he eventually slid down the tree. Sorta like this at 1:50. With a tree trunk.
  • Up until the end of the Qing Dynasty in China, one of the most cruel and unusual ways to die was "Death by a Thousand Cuts", or lingchi. There are variations, but one familiar example is the victim would be immobilized and the executioner would start cutting his skin off, bit by bit, making sure the victim is conscious and, more importantly, alive during this whole time (so no cheating by cutting the arteries and letting him bleed out). Skill is rewarded for keeping the victim alive as long as possible. Allegedly, the longest execution in this way on record was on an evil eunuch, which allegedly took 3 days and 3,357 cuts.
    • That said, for the most part, the families of people sentenced to this punishment tended to pay off the executioner to end it quickly, with much of the slicing done postmortem.
    • A lot of the horror associated with this technique is due to western misunderstandings of Chinese culture. In Confucianism having bits cut off of your body (even after death) imperilled your immortal soul. Confucians would consider the desecration of one's corpse the worst part of this method.
  • Another Chinese execution method was the waist chop, which was exactly what it sounds like. The condemned would be laid on a table with a giant blade affixed to it—looking like nothing if not a gigantic paper cutter. The victim's waist would be aligned with the blade, the executioner would pull it down, and the condemned would be left to die. Because the heart would still be working and attached to the brain, death typically came by sheer blood loss, which could take a while. This led to its final abolition in 1732 by the Yongzheng Emperor of Qing when he heard that the last person executed by this method had managed to write the rather complicated (12-stroke) character 慘 (cǎn, "misery") seven times in his own blood before expiring.
    • The waist chop was not an exclusively Chinese method of horrible execution; it was found all over the ancient and medieval world (though admittedly, only China put it in its regular repertoire of horrible deaths). Perhaps the most famous non-Chinese instance was in 1260, when Qutuz, Mamluke Sultan of Egypt, received emissaries from Hulagu Khan's Mongol Ilkhanate demanding his submission. Qutuz declared his intent to resist by slicing the Mongol emissaries at the waist. It's unclear if Qutuz let them die of blood loss as was typical with the Chinese executions or hastened their deaths as soon as the point was made; it's known he did have the emissaries decapitated after the waist chop so their heads could be displayed on pikes at the Cairo city gates. Remarkably, Qutuz's regime survived this, defeating the Mongols in battle at Ain Jalut in September 1260,note  though Qutuz himself didn't (he was stupid enough to renege on a promise to his ally Baibars and got killed for his trouble).
  • The Assyrians used them as a tool of war and diplomacy. The reliefs of the palace of Assurnasirpal II about the fate of rebels (decapitations, flaying, mutilations, and all that kind of cute stuff) were probably made to scare enemy ambassadors.
  • The Vikings may have performed the "Blood Eagle" or "Butterfly Cut" — cracking the victim's ribs from the back and pulling out his lungs, and spreading them out like wings behind him. Supposedly, this was reserved for the worst of the worst criminals, like someone who murdered his parents, but there is some question as to whether or not the procedure was ever actually performed, or is even possible. Due to a lack of contemporary sources and the fact that the first recorded instance of the Blood Eagle appeared in the sagas that were written long after the Christianization of Scandinavia it is doubtful such an execution existed.
  • When the Mongol leader Hulegu conquered Baghdad in the 14th century, he had the last of the Abbasid Caliphs loaded into a sack and trampled to death with horses. The irony is that the Mongols would have actually considered this to be an extremely dignified death.note  Furthermore, it was immoral to spill the blood of a holy man. Unfortunately for the caliph, that taboo wasn't figurative.
    • This was also the punishment of choice for Mongol princes who rebelled against the Great Khan (and lost), such as Ariq Boke, since the blood kin of Genghis Khan were considered holy.
  • There is a tale of an assassin who attempted to kill a Dutch royal in the 1700s. He was stuffed into a barrel along with hundreds of rusty nails, then repeatedly rolled down the steepest hill to be found. Not a pleasant way to go.
  • Happened during the Congo Crisis in the former Belgian Congo:
    • Congelese national hero and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and two of his ministers were arrested by General Mobutu, then beaten up by soldiers in the plane leading them from Léopoldville to Elisabethville so hard the pilots warned them it could destabilise the engine, then, once in the hands of the Katangese gendarmes, they were once more beaten up before being shot, their bodies dissolved in acid.
    • When the Simbas took Stanleyville/Kisangani in 1964, Sylvere Bondekwe, the mayor at the time was stripped naked and had his liver ripped out and the mob of Simbas ate it while he was Forced to Watch.
    • Pierre Mulele. Mobutu (dictator of Zaire at the time) tricked him into returning to Zaire and had him publicly tortured to death in 1967: his eyes gouged, genitals ripped off and his limbs cut off one at a time all while he was alive.
  • The Cheka in the early days of Soviet Russia:
    Victims were reportedly skinned alive, scalped, "crowned" with barbed wire, impaled, crucified, hanged, stoned to death, tied to planks, and pushed slowly into furnaces or tanks of boiling water, and rolled around naked in internally nail-studded barrels. Chekists reportedly poured water on naked prisoners in the winter-bound streets until they became living ice statues. Others reportedly beheaded their victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. The Chinese Cheka detachments stationed in Kiev reportedly would attach an iron tube to the torso of a bound victim and insert a rat into the other end which was then closed off with wire netting. The tube was then held over a flame until the rat began gnawing through the victim's guts in an effort to escape. Anton Denikin's investigation discovered corpses whose lungs, throats, and mouths had been packed with earth.
    • The Whites (and other sides, like Anarchists or simply local bandits who proliferated in the lawless atmosphere of the times) were hardly better. The reports of both sides' atrocities read like a record of some sort of a cruelty contest. One has to take into account that both were heavily Unreliable Narrators with a lot of incentive to demonize the other side...
    • The Cheka were also essentially the replacement for the Okhrana, the secret police of the Russian Empire, who also routinely tortured and murdered the enemies of the Czar. The creation of the Cheka (And its successor organizations, the KGB and the FSB) was basically business as usual.
  • Elizabeth Báthory was punished for her crimes by being sealed in her room, with only a small window in the wall that used to be her doorway from which a guard would give her her meals. She actually lived like this for a few years before finally dying.
    • Of course, even this was pretty mundane compared to some of the things she allegedly did to her victims: Cooking them alive, biting their throats out, locking them in spike-filled cages which were then swung about on pulley systems...
    • Because Elizabeth had many important relatives, her execution (which was originally suggested by King Matthias of Hungary) would generate too many negative effects amongst the nobility. So, she was, at first placed under house arrest. When the king finally visited her and saw the extent of her evil, he had her sealed in that room for four years. As for living in a room for four years being mundane a demise compared to, say, being poked to death with red hot pokers... Well, think about it: imagine, having no human contact for four years, other than whomever it is who brings your food through a slot... No one to talk to, no one to compliment your wondrous beauty that cost you so many lives and so much of your own sanity to preserve... That is, no one to talk to other than the furniture or the piles of your own excrement.
      • Considering that this was a woman who was accused of bathing in the virgins' blood to preserve her youth (such that she was nicknamed the Blood Countess) and was possibly even a cannibal (well before the term and practice caught onto European society), one would think that the isolation from human contact was not only a fitting if cruel punishment, but also a necessity toward protecting any more potential victims.
      • More modern examination reveals that the king owed her massive amounts of money. She also owned immense tracts of land, which would be forfeit to the crown if she had committed crimes leading to her own execution, which he attempted to enforce. It does appear that Bathory was at the very least abusive to those around her, but there may be room for doubt about the scope of her crimes.
  • Once King Olaf of Norway became a Christian in the late 10th Century, he was very enthusiastic about spreading the Gospel of the loving and merciful Prince of Peace:
    One famed Viking lord, Raud, had an adder shoved down his throat when he refused to accept Christ; another, Eyvind Kinrifa, was tortured to death with a pan of glowing coals upon his belly.
  • Legend has it that when Caupolicán, toqui (war leader) of the Mapuche of southern Chile, was captured by the Spanish in 1558, he was executed by being forced to sit on a pointed stake, which his body weight caused to slowly skewer him.
  • The Mongols are said to have forced an Arab prince, al-Kamil, to eat his own flesh, slice by slice, until death relieved him of the task. Saddam Hussein's regime is also said to have done this to a Kuwaiti woman during the Gulf War.
  • Chemical weapons such as blister agents are rather ineffective at killing yet have been used in WW1 and the Iran-Iraq war. Mustard gas causes exposed skin to blister and peel off, while inhaled gas does the same to your lungs. However, despite the horrific injuries, it often took victims days to die, sometimes from drowning in the bile that gathered in their lungs.
  • Radiation poisoning. If a person receives a dose of radiation that is fatal but not strong enough to kill them outright (more than about 8 Grays), they'll pass through a period of vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, and other symptoms before feeling seemingly better. This period is called Latent Period or 'Walking Ghost Period' and results from the fact that radiation has killed good part or all of rapidly multiplying cells such as those in bone marrow and gastrointestinal lining and the damage of whose won't become apparent until later when the tissues and cells that are substituted by them hit the end of their life cycle. This period is then followed by return of symptoms and the victim slowly wasting away from disease itself, malnutrition, and opportunistic diseases, followed by death. Dying from higher doses of radiation isn't any less cruel either, though a lot faster, with 20 to 50 Grays killing in about three days, 50 to 80 Grays leading to coma within minutes and death within hours, and doses of more than 80 Grays believed to cause instant death.
  • Northern Australians like to come up with an incredibly creative range of methods of killing cane toads; being pests on the level of rabbits in Australia, this makes sense. Running them over in a car, cricket bats, golf clubs, broom handles with nails in them, air pumps, paracetamol, firecrackers, freezing, antiseptic spray, aerosol cans with cigarette lighters, tubs of salt, gumboots, bricks, other toads... Considering how durable the things are and just how overpopulated the species is, they've certainly got plenty on which to practice.
  • Johnny Cash's brother apparently died several days after a particularly nasty industrial accident involving a table saw.
  • The stretch rack is a torture device so commonly depicted in fiction that many would assume it does not fit this Trope. Such assumptions would be wrong. When used to interrogate a prisoner (who often did not survive) the victim's limbs would be stretched via a slow process until forcefully dislocated. This procedure was so agonizing that even witnessing it was often enough to get a prisoner to talk.
  • There was once a torture device known as a Judas Cradle, which consisted of a small pyramid on legs. You would be tied over it with your legs spread and lowered downward as the Cradle went... places. But that's not the only thing that killed them. If a person lived, they would die later by infection due to the pyramid not being washed regularly.
  • A republican marriage was a brutal form of execution that allegedly occurred in Nantes during the Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France, supposedly inflicted upon loyalists or those who did not support the revolutionaries. The condemned victims, always one man and one woman (most often, a priest or monk and a nun), were by most accounts, bound together naked and then drowned, or possibly impaled with a sword. There is a great deal of skepticism about whether this was truly done, and if so, how often. The story is that these were ordered done by the cruel revolutionary Jean-Baptiste Carrier, but whether this execution was carried out and whether more were done is unclear. That being said, given Carrier's confirmed atrocities, it's not much of a stretch—especially given that among Carrier's confirmed atrocities include a similar method of execution, the "republican baptism": dozens of people loaded on barges rigged to sink, which were then sunk, drowning everyone. (If you're wondering why he didn't do like the rest of the revolutionaries and use Madame La Guillotine, she was, despite her great efficiency, not fast enough at "disposing" of all the alleged "counterrevolutionaries" Carrier "found".)
  • Necklacing. Someone fills a rubber tire with a flammable liquid like petroleum, forces it around your chest and arms, then lights it on fire. It may take up to twenty minutes before the person dies. Popular in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s and in Haiti from 1986-1990, during the transition to democracy.
    • A similar method is reportedly used in some of Rio's favelas to punish informantes ('snitches'). The victim is placed inside a column of tires going up to his neck, then doused in flammable liquid and set afire. The method is called Micro-ondas, or "Microwaving".
  • The Breaking Wheel, variations of which have been used since ancient times. The victim was strapped to a wooden or metal wheel. Then the executioner broke their limbs with a large iron club until the death blow—a hard hit to the chest—was given. Most died before the death blow was given. If that wasn't bad enough, the victim was tortured beforehand or even tortured while on the wheel. Methods of torture included having your penis or nipples ripped off with a hot clamp. Variations of the breaking wheel include Saint Catherine's Wheel (being rolled over spikes), being tied to the rim and rolled down a hill or around the city square, and being roasted over a fire. Definitely unpleasant. (According to legend, Saint Catherine herself was a martyr who was subjected to the one that is now named after her, but miraculously, the wheel broke instead, allowing her a more dignified — at the time — execution by beheading.)
    • An account given by a Swedish priest to one of his friends condemned to die this way displays what an awful way this could be to die, especially if the executioner was unskilled:
      Here the executioner gave him the first stroke. His cries were terrible. "O Jesus! Jesus, have mercy upon me!" This cruel scene was much lengthened out, and of the utmost horror; for as the headsman had no skill in his business, the wretch under his hands received upwards of fifteen several blows, with each of which were intermixed the most piteous groans, and invocations of the name of God. At length, after two strokes given on the breast, his strength and voice failed him. In a faltering dying tone, he was just heard to say, "Cut off my head!" and the executioner still lingering, he himself placed his head on the scaffold: in a word, after four strokes with a hatchet, the head was separated from the body, and the body quartered. Such was the end of the renowned Patkul: and may God have mercy on his soul!
    • The Finnish version of this, called teilaus was to first break all the bones and then revolve the wheel around so that the broken bone heads would cause internal hemorrhage, the victim slowly bleeding to death. In today's colloquial Finnish, teilaus means a particularly nasty rejection, critique, or review.
  • Spiders, scorpions and other arachnids inflict this on their prey. They don't just suck the liquids out. They inject the prey with acid, which dissolves the bug's insides. They then suck out the resulting goop.
    • This is also how numerous species of insects feed on prey, including the aptly titled assassin bug.
  • Lobsters get Stewed Alive...but this is a merciful death compared to how you broil lobsters; tie their claws down, slit them open with a knife, then put them into the oven while they're still alive (though the infamous "scream" they make is actually steam escaping from their shells). Hence the infamously incoherent quote by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of Jersey Shore fame: "That's why I don't eat friggin' lobster or anything like that — because they're alive when you kill it." On the other hand, a simple Mercy Kill is to put them in the freezer for five to ten minutes.
  • One of the methods used to hunt the now extinct Passenger Pigeon was to capture one and use it as a decoy. The method of turning the captured pigeon into a decoy was to sew its eyes shut and set it free near a pigeon nesting area. Being blind, the pigeon would flap about, drawing the attention of the nesting birds. Hunters would then capture the rest of the birds with nets, and kill them by crushing their skulls using their own hands.
  • In an example from the natural world, a six-foot-long alligator ended up running into an invasive thirteen-foot reticulated python in the Florida Everglades. The python ended up winning the ensuing battle and swallowed the alligator whole. Sometime later, either due to swallowing a prey item that was too large, or the alligator being still alive and clawing at the python's insides in an attempt to escape, the python's abdomen burst. Both reptiles were found dead, half of the alligator still protruding out of half of the burst-open python.
  • Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, one of the last native Princes of Wales, was taken prisoner by the English and attempted to escape by climbing down a rope ladder made from tying bedsheets together. He fell and was found dead in the courtyard the next day with his head essentially crammed down into his neck cavity from the impact. He was succeeded as Prince by his elder son, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, who was betrayed to the English by his younger half-brother Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Dafydd's reward for his crimes was to be the first person in recorded history to be hanged, drawn, and quartered; Llewelyn at least died in battle and didn't suffer.
  • Death by boiling was a form of execution used in Europe and Asia, as recently as 1687. The condemned was lowered into a cauldron containing boiling water, oil, tar, wine, or wax, causing prolonged scalding, fourth-degree burns, and eventually, destruction of the epidermis and dermis, leading to the complete breakdown of subcutaneous fat. Eventually the heat would expose muscle, leading to breaches in major arteries and veins. In England, this ghastly and horrid method was first legalized by Henry VIII for murderers who killed by poison, which was considered a form of treason. It tended to draw more crowds due to the rarity until Edward VI outlawed it in 1547.
    • In France, money counterfeiters were boiled during the Ancien Régime (with water, not oil), naked, tied from head to toe and thrown head-first into the water. In fact, the boiling always happened after the executioner did strangle the condemned (a legal procedure called "retentum" to avoid the criminal far too great pain)... Though, on one unique occasion, on February 11th, 1488, a jeweler called Louis Sécrétain was indeed boiled alive in Tours, the judges wanted it that way as a one-time example. After he was thrown into the steaming cauldron, he emerged twice, screaming. The public thought the punishment was so horrifying that it provoked a riot. The executioner was beaten to death and the condemned saved from the cauldron. To end the story on a true but incredible note, Secrétain was treated by nuns and monks and he, albeit slowly, was cured and did survive: the King believed that was a true act of God, and pardoned the counterfeiter. Some versions did precise that the 26-year-old, already father of two, had eight more kids with his wife after coming back home!
  • Burning at the stake is well-known in fiction as a form of execution for witches, and was known to be Joan of Arc’s fate, but fiction leaves out the gory details. Done mostly to women for serious crimes (in cases where rules of public decency prohibited the form of execution given to men) burning was a slow and painful death from shock, blood loss, or heatstroke (though when condemned were burned as groups, some might die of carbon monoxide poisoning before the flames got to them). This was a favoured method of Henry VIII's elder daughter, "Bloody" Mary I, who killed hundreds of English Protestants this way.
  • From the Middle Ages to the 19th Century, execution by elephant was a favored method in Southeast Asia for rebellion, tax evasion, or theft, as it was symbolic of a ruler's power, even over nature. Elephants are rather easy to train, so depending on the whims of the ruler, this form of execution was either an Inversion, where the condemned man's death was mercifully quick (the elephant swiftly crushing the skull) or played horribly straight, the elephant being trained to prolong the unfortunate victim's agony by slowly crushing him.
  • Flaying, when a victim is skinned alive, literally, has been done by the Aztecs to prisoners of war, to traitors in medieval Europe and by some Chinese emperors, again to POWs. While no longer legal in any part of the world, there was an incident in 2000 where Burmese troops flayed every male inhabitant of the village of Karenni. Generally, an attempt is made to keep the victim alive while removing the skin in one piece, causing death by shock, blood loss, hypothermia, or infection, often days afterwards. Saint Bartholomew is generally said to have been martyred this way.
  • The Brazen Bull, an ancient Greek device. The victim was placed inside a giant hollow metal bull and a fire was lit underneath it. The result was a lot like a modern oven. The device was designed to amplify the victim's screams into something like a bull's sound. The guy who invented this device was the first to be executed by this method. (Though there's some doubt this ever actually happened; the very few stories about the thing all seem to be secondhand accounts coming from people who disliked Phalaris, the ruler who supposedly commissioned the thing. It's possibly an early, very successful example of propaganda.)
  • Scaphism was a particularly cruel method of execution practiced by the ancient Persians. The victim was stripped naked and placed between two hollowed-out boats or tree trunks like a casket with only their head, hands, and feet sticking out; then force-fed enough milk and honey to result in diarrhea, as well as having honey smeared on the exposed face, hands and feet to attract insects to them before being left floating in a stagnant pond or out in the sun. The person's filth would accumulate within the container and attract more bugs to eat and breed in his or her flesh, which would become increasingly gangrenous (a little like the Sloth victim from Se7en, but even more gruesome). Death in this fashion, which often came about in a matter of days to weeks and was lingering and horrible, usually came about as a result of dehydration, starvation, and septic shock.
    • Considering that the Persians were, generally speaking, one of the nicer empires to be ruled by (they let every community run its own business as long as they didn't rebel and paid their taxes on time, and even then, the punishment for rebellion was beheading for the rebel leaders and the punishment for tax evasion was higher taxes), one had to really piss them off to get such a punishment.
  • On July 16, 1936, in Romania, Mihai Stelescu was shot by the Decemviri, an Iron Guard death squad, in his hospital bed between 38 and about 200 times before being cut him into pieces with axes by his murderers, who then danced around his body. His crime: having left the Iron Guard and starting another nationalist organization.
  • As a rule of thumb, most animals don't give a damn about how they kill their prey, which can result in some deaths being quite cruel indeed. Scavengers are even worse: One of the reasons Medieval weapons were built with spiked ends were to Mercy Kill enemy soldiers because scavengers didn't care if their prey was dead as long as it was unable to fight back, resulting in the fallen being eaten alive.
  • Sonderabteilung Lola, a particularly nasty branch of Les Collaborateurs in Nazi-occupied Norway, reputedly executed resistance fighters by throwing them into an empty room covered with motor oil (or some other lubricant) and broken glass.
  • In World War 2, the Japanese military had a research unit called Unit 731 that was notorious for inflicting horrible deaths on the Chinese civilian population. These deaths often included vivisection without anesthesia, weapons testing with conventional weapons, biological and chemical weapons testing, and burning to death with flamethrowers.
  • Rabies is this in a nutshell. Upon being infected without being pre-emptively vaccinated, you have less than a day before you can get the vaccine and even then it's not a guarantee. Rabies attacks the brain functions and makes the victim violently expel any water they try to drink, and choke on any food they try to eat, this includes their own saliva which they let congeal in their mouth to spit out. After ten days of this, the body starts seizing violently and you start to change mentally. After the thirteenth or so day, the victim is babbling nonsensically and spewing and heaving so much rejected saliva it's all over their mouth (which is where the classic "foaming mouth" comes from), by the fifteenth or so day, the victim slips into a coma and it's just a matter of the doctors ending life support, which at this point is a Mercy Kill. Perhaps the scariest part is that the mental decay associated with the late stages isn't well-documented, which means it's entirely possible you're aware of the entire process but can't get your body to act how you want it to.
    • It might not cause as much suffering as that. Jeanna Giese, a 15-year-old girl who became a rare survivor of rabies after undergoing the Milwaukee Protocol, mentioned blacking out as the disease was setting in and then not waking up until after she came out of her drug-induced coma. Aside from some lingering neurological issues, she's mostly recovered.
    • It is, however, an absolutely horrible and traumatic way for an animal to die. Animals infected with rabies are routinely put down, as this is a far more humane death than allowing them to succumb to the disease.
  • There are a number of parasites that take control of insects or small animals and then force them against their will to allow themselves to be eaten by predators. For example, the Dicrocoelium infects an ant and then forces the ant to crawl to the tip of a blade of grass where it can easily be eaten by a bird, thus allowing the parasite to continue its cycle inside a bird. Even worse, the Spinochordodes larvae enter grasshoppers that drink the water they reside in and then after growing inside the grasshopper, they take control and force the grasshopper to jump into a body of water and drown itself. Imagine being unable to stop your body from drowning itself.
  • Because of reptiles' slow metabolisms, decapitation can take hours or days to kill them, though they feel every bit of it the whole time.
  • Mohammad Najibullah, last president of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban during the fall of Kabul and beaten, castrated, and dragged behind a car before being hung from a lamppost.
  • Spontaneous combustion, while apocryphal, is still a pretty weird way to go. It's just as it sounds: You spontaneously combust into flames. Although there have been survivors, dying from it sure must have sucked. Oh, and we have little to go on as to what causes it.
    • Many unusual deaths that were attributed to spontaneous combustion may have actually been caused by something far worse than just exploding for no reason. Imagine your clothing catching fire and burning through your skin and then soaking up your body fat like wax, slowly burning your body away like an inside-out candle until only the least fatty parts of your body remain. This phenomenon is called the wick effect.
  • Emmett Till. For proof, look at this picture of his body (or don't); he looks closer to something between a middle-aged white man and a literal botch of stone than the 14-year-old black boy he actually was. His family forbade funeral officials from "prettying up" his corpse so everyone could see how twisted and evil white racists in the South are. And it wouldn’t be the racist south if his killers weren’t acquitted anyway. This happened because of a False Rape Accusation as well.
  • Reverse hanging was an especially brutal method of execution. The victim would simply be left hanging upside down until the pressure caused a clot to form, resulting in a fatal brain hemorrhage. Which could take up to 10 hours to happen. Many executioners made the process even worse by flipping the victim upright every few hours, allowing blood to temporarily rush back down to their feet before returning them to their inverted position. It should go without saying that all of this was excruciatingly painful.
  • On November 5th, 1983, an accident occurred in a diving bell of the Byford Dolphin drill rig. The pressure in the chamber dropped from nine atmospheres to one in under a second, killing a tender and four divers instantly. The diver exposed to the highest pressure gradient, Truls Hellevik, had his thoracoabdominal cavity bisected, causing all of his internal organs besides his trachea, a piece of small intestine, and his thoracic spine to be launched out of his body. His remains were also launched through a small gap in the bell's door, scattering fragments of his body all over the rig. Thankfully, we can rest easy knowing it was a very quick death, if not instantaneous.
  • Snitches and criminal informants run the risk of suffering this fate at the hands of those they snitch on.
    • LeBron Gaither, a sixteen-year-old student at a public high school in Lebanon, Kentucky, was used to spy on Jason Noel, a local drug dealer, and testified against him before a Grand Jury. The day after, he was sent by the police to spy on him. He was then tortured, beaten with a bat, shot with a pistol and a shotgun, run over by a car, and dragged by a chain through the woods.
  • James Garfield endured a pretty agonizing demise. After being wounded by Charles Guiteau's bullet, he spent two months in utter pain. And his doctors caused him greater injury trying to find the bullet with un-sterilized hands and surgical tools. He was unable to eat solid foods, and he often suffered from high fever. (Most doctors in modern times have deduced that his life could have been saved had x-rays been used, but they would not be discovered until 1895.)
  • The terrorist group ISIS is infamous for their unusually cruel executions, including aforementioned uses of crucifixion, but what really makes them needlessly cruel is that ISIS films and broadcasts these executions as propaganda. Some of their most inventive include loading prisoners into steel cages and then throwing them into the Mediterranean to drown.
  • A non-intentional, as well as non-human example, could be poultry intercourse. A lot of birds— including chickens and ducks— are more likely than not to violently gang-rape a female. Occasionally this results in a very agonizing death for said female.
  • Various kingdoms in India and Southeast Asia, as well as the Roman army, would make use of specially-trained elephants to torture and kill criminals. (The Mughal Empire was particularly fond of this method.) Usually, these were political prisoners (i.e. people who had committed treason or made an attempt on the king's life, or something like that), or people in the military who had committed a crime. The exact method varied: sometimes the person "thrown to the elephants" was "only" tortured and then allowed to go free, sometimes the elephant would toss them in the air and catch them on his tusks, sometimes metal rings with blades on them were fastened to the elephant's front legs and then the condemned sliced up by the elephants' blades (usually after being tossed in the air), and sometimes they were simply crushed or trampled to death by the elephant. (Usually a bull elephant specially selected for his size.) Occasionally, it consisted of a Hopeless Boss Fight between the condemned and the elephant, with the criminal being allowed to go free if he was successful. (Which, needless to say, he almost never was.)
  • Some jurisdictions in fifteenth-century Germany specified that anyone who debarked a tree on common land would have their guts nailed to the tree, then be driven in circles to disembowel them (though Jacob Grimm studied that period and didn't find any records of this happening in practice). Slavic and Baltic pagans reportedly killed Christians in a similar manner. During The American Revolution, an Iroquois ambush party inflicted this (after a litany of other tortures) on a lieutenant sent by George Washington to destroy pro-British Native American settlements.
  • In 2005, Kenneth Pinyan died from a perforated colon which he'd sustained from an attempt to have receptive anal sex with a horse. As a result, the state in which he resided (Washington) swiftly outlawed sex with animals, giving a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison for future offenders.
  • Being shot in the gut by a low-powered bullet, especially before modern medicine. "Low-powered" doesn't mean can't hurt you, it means it will just slosh around in your insides, tearing up organs, and leaving you to slowly bleed to death and die of infection over the course of a few days. Turns out there's bacteria in the intestines that really ought to stay in the intestine and not in your bloodstream.
  • Industrial accidents, especially ones involving heavy equipment usually result in horrific deaths.
  • During a performance at the Takarazuka Grand Theater in 1954, actress Hiromi Kazuki's costume was caught in the mechanics of the lift following the end of a scene and an upcoming quick change for the next scene. She was wearing an underskirt with a metal band about the waist, and when her costume became stuck she was unable to free herself. Her feet were dragged into the moving mechanism and the metal band cut into her torso, killing her.
  • The murder of Junko Furuta, a Japanese schoolgirl who was kidnapped, gang-raped, and unimaginably tortured by a group of teenage boys and some Yakuza that they were friends with. She lingered for around forty days before she finally died of shock, having been set on fire. And the reason why they did this to her? It's because the head violator had wanted her to be his girlfriend, but she turned him down.
  • The case of Anna Antonio is a purely psychological one, but still horrifying: She supposedly hired a hitman to kill her abusive husband, but likely didn't even do it as her "accomplice" confessed while under extreme duress. When she was sentenced to the electric chair she kept getting a stay of execution only to get scheduled to die again. This went on for over 16 months and nearly drove her insane. By the time she was finally executed, she said "I have died enough deaths for a million men". Just to twist the knife further, she died right on her daughter's birthday.
  • Lynchings, which, contrary to popular belief, didn't just involve hanging but often included branding, burning, and chopping off body parts, all done for the amusement of the crowd.
  • The "Witch" John Fian had his fingernails ripped out, his feet crushed, was strangled, and then burnt at the stake.
  • The event that led to the Memphis sanitation strike that Martin Luther King Jr. was attempting to intervene in when he was assassinated involved two black sanitation workers being crushed to death in a garbage compactor seeking shelter from rain.
  • A non-human example would be bull or bear baiting, which involved tying up the bull/bear and having big dogs such as pit bulls maul it to death, basically just for entertainment. Thankfully, the "sport" was outlawed in 1835.
  • Land mines tend to cause this, as most of the damage will be to the legs, likely leaving the vital organs intact so the victim will slowly bleed to death after their legs are blown off. There's a good reason most countries ban them.
  • Ebullism; it's when your blood boils in your veins from low atmospheric pressure.
  • The 1916 sinking of the HMHS Britannic, sister ship to the RMS Titanic, had a gruesome example as it was in the process of being evacuated after hitting a mine off the Greek island of Kea during World War I. While attempts were being made to save the ship when it began to list, two lifeboats were launched early on the port side for fears it would capsize too early... while the half-surfaced propellers were still turning at high speed from the maneuver. The lifeboats and all of their occupants were promptly sucked into and mulched by them. A third lifeboat was narrowly prevented from meeting the same fate through the propellers stopping just in time.
  • The death of the seven astronauts from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. The exact cause of death is unknown, but it was definitely cruel, painful, and horrifying. From one successive stage to another: depressurization, off-nominal dynamic G environment, lethal trauma, exposition to hostile aerodynamic/thermal environment including molten shuttle debris, high-speed/high-altitude environment, and ground impact. Hopefully, they were already long gone when they reached the last event.
  • During the misleadingly-named Battle of May Island (a Royal Navy exercise during World War I that ended in multiple deadly collisions thanks to bad submarine designs, bad policy, and bad luck), the crew of one of the event's two sunken vessels found themselves stranded in freezing ocean water covered in crude oil. Those who didn't drown from hypothermia or swallowing the oil ended up being shredded to pieces by a fleet of oblivious destroyers. Only one sailor from this crowd was rescued, and he was so gravely injured that he died anyways.
  • Marooning was a frequent punishment at sea in the old days, and was typically used on mutineers or hated captains who were successfully deposed. It simply involved leaving them stranded on a desert island in the middle of nowhere, where they would usually die of thirst after a few days due to there being no potable water in the middle of the ocean. This would occasionally be a subversion by giving the victim a pistol in case they couldn't take it anymore.
  • There was a contest held by Sacramento radio station KDND back in 2007 called "Hold your wee for a Wii" in which participants were challenged to drink as much water as they could without urinating, with the winner getting, yes, a Wii. It unfortunately fell into controversy when one of the contestants was found dead from water poisoning a few hours later.
  • Crown Prince Sado died of starvation and dehydration after being locked in a box for days... on his father's orders.