10 Most gruesome execution methods

Since we started writing down the history of our race, man has frequently come up with revolting methods of killing for punishment. This is a list of the most revolting methods of execution from history. Thankfully most of them are no longer used.

10. Brazen Bull

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The Brazen Bull was invented by Perilaus of Athens (a Brass worker) in the 6th Century BC and offered to Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum, as a gift. It was a large brass bull that was completely hollow inside with a door on the side large enough for a man to enter. Once the man was inside the bull, a fire would be lit beneath it in order to roast him to death. In the head of the bull, Perilaus put a series of tubes and stops that were designed to amplify the screams of the victim and make them sound like the roar of a bull.The Brazen Bull became one of the most common methods of execution in Ancient Greece.

9. Hanging Drawing and Quartering

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Hanging drawing and quartering was the common form of punishment in England for the crime of treason which was considered the worst crime you could commit. The punishment was only applied to men – women found guilty of treason were burnt at the stake. Unbelievably, this punishment remained in law until 1814.

The first stage of the execution was to be tied to a wooden frame and dragged behind a horse to the place of your death. Following that, the criminal would be hanged until they were nearly dead. The criminal would then be removed from the noose and laid on a table. The executioner would then disembowel and emasculate the victim, and burn the entrails in front of his eyes. He would still be alive at this point. The person would then be beheaded and their body cut in to quarters.The normal practice was to send the five parts of the body to various areas where they would be put on display on a gibbet as a warning to others.

8. Burning

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Burning at the Stake was normally done in one of two ways. In the first, the victim would be lead to the center of a wall of sticks and straw and tied to the stake, after which the space between the criminal and the wall would be filled with wood – concealing the person. It is believed that this is the manner in which St Joan of Arc was burnt. The other method was to pile sticks and straw up to the level of the calves only.

When performed by a skilled executioner, the person would burn in this sequence: calves, thighs and hands, torso and forearms, breasts, upper chest, face; and then finally death. Needless to say this would have been excruciating. If a large number of people were to be burnt at the same time, death could occur through carbon monoxide poisoning before the fire reached you. If the fire was small, you could die of shock, blood loss, or heatstroke.

In later versions of burning at the stake, the criminal would be hanged until dead and then burnt symbolically. This method of execution was used to burn witches in most parts of Europe, but it was not used in England for that purpose.

7. Ling Chi

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Ling Chi – execution by slow cutting – was practiced in China until it was outlawed in 1905. In the execution, the criminal is slowly cut in the arms, legs, and chest, until finally they are beheaded or stabbed in the heart. Many western accounts of the execution method are largely exaggerated, with some claiming that the execution could take days to perform.

One modern eyewitness report from Journalist and Politician Henry Norman, describes an execution thus:
"The criminal is fastened to a rough cross, and the executioner, armed with a sharp knife, begins by grasping handfuls from the fleshy parts of the body, such as the thighs and the breasts, and slicing them off. After this he removes the joints and the excrescences of the body one by one-the nose and ears, fingers and toes. Then the limbs are cut off piecemeal at the wrists and the ankles, the elbows and knees, the shoulders and hips. Finally, the victim is stabbed to the heart and his head cut off."

6. Breaking Wheel

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The breaking wheel was also known as the Catherine Wheel and it was a mediaeval execution device. The criminal would be attached to a cart wheel and his arms and legs stretched out along the spokes. The wheel would be made to turn while a heavy metal bar or hammer would deliver bone breaking blows to various parts of the body between the spokes. If a merciful execution had been ordered, after a large number of bones were shattered, fatal blows would be delivered. In cases where mercy was not offered, the criminal would remain on the wheel until they died – this could sometimes take days and the person would die of shock and dehydration.

After the shattering was complete, the limbs of the person would be woven between the spokes and the wheel would be hoisted to the top of a pole for birds to eat the, sometimes still living, body.

In France, a special grace was sometimes offered in which the criminal would be strangled to death before the blows were delivered, or after only two or three.

5. Boiling

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In execution by boiling, the condemned is stripped naked and either placed in a vat of boiling liquid, or in a vat of cold liquid which was then heated to boiling. The liquid could be oil, acid, tar, water, or molten lead. During the reign of King Henry VIII it was a punishment especially reserved for poisoners:
“The preamble of the statute of Henry VIII (which made poisoning treason) in 1531 recites that one Richard Roose (or Coke), a cook, by putting poison in some food intended for the household of the bishop of Rochester and for the poor of the parish of Lambeth, killed a man and woman. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be boiled to death without benefit of clergy. He was publicly boiled at Smithfield. In the same year a maid-servant for poisoning her mistress was boiled at King’s Lynn.” [Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911]

4. Flaying

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Execution by Flaying is when the skin of the criminal is removed from their body with the use of a very sharp knife. Attempts are made to keep the skin intact. This is a very ancient method of execution. The apostle Bartholomew was flayed and crucified upside down. His skin and bones are kept in a Cathedral in Sicily.

There are accounts of Assyrians flaying the skin from a captured enemy or rebellious ruler and nailing it to the wall of his city, as warning to all who would defy their power. The Aztecs of Mexico flayed victims of ritual human sacrifice, generally after death.

While this method of execution is not lawful in any country, in 2000, government troops in Myanmar (Burma) allegedly flayed all of the males of a Karenni village.

3. Necklacing

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Necklacing is a type of execution in which a rubber tyre is filled with gasoline, forced over the arms and chest of the victim, and set alight. It was a common practice in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s anti-apartheid struggle.

Necklacing sentences were sometimes handed down against alleged criminals by “people’s courts” established in black townships as a means of circumventing the apartheid judicial system. Necklacing was also used to punish members of the black community who were perceived as collaborators with the apartheid regime. These included black policemen, town councilors and others, as well as their relatives and associates. The practice was frequently carried out in the name of the African National Congress (ANC), and was even endorsed by Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and a senior member of the ANC, although the ANC officially condemned the practice. [Wikipedia]

Necklacing has also occured in Brazil, and Haiti, and at least one person was killed by this method in Nigeria during muslim protests over the Muhammad Cartoons.

2. Scaphism

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Scaphism is an Ancient Persian method of execution. According to Wikipedia, a naked person would be firmly fastened within a back-to-back pair of narrow rowboats (or in some variations a hollowed out tree trunk), the head, hands, and feet protruding from this improvised container. The condemned was forced to ingest milk and honey to the point of developing severe diarrhea, and more honey would be rubbed on his body so as to attract insects to the exposed appendages. They would then be left to float on a stagnant pond (or alternately, simply exposed to the sun somewhere). The defenseless individual’s feces accumulated within the container, attracting more insects, which would eat and breed within his or her exposed (and increasingly gangrenous) flesh. Death, when it eventually occurred, was probably due to a combination of dehydration, starvation and septic shock.

Plutarch writes that it took Mithridates 17 days to die by this method of execution. Native American Indians also used a similar method of execution where they would tie the victim to a tree, smear him and leave him to the ants. Because he was not previously force-fed, he would generally starve in a few days.

1. Sawing

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In Execution by sawing, the criminal would be hung upside-down and a large saw would be used to cut their body in half, starting with the groin, all the way to the head. Because the person was hanging upside-down, the brain received sufficient blood to keep them alive until the saw finally reached the main blood vessels in the abdomen. In the Asian version of this execution, the victim would stand upright and the sawing would begin at the top of the head.

Some traditions state that the Prophet Isaiah was executed by the saw. It is believed that Saint Paul is making reference to this in his Epistle to the Hebrews 11:37:

"They were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being in want, distressed, afflicted."

This method of execution was used in the Middle East, Europe, and parts of Asia. It was also used in the Roman Empire and was considered to be the favorite punishment dished out by Emperor Caligula.


Personally, I would add an eleventh method to those already mentioned:

11. Blood Eagle

There is some speculation over what would happen - it is an old viking execution and torture method sometimes mentioned in Norse poetry and literature. It was performed by cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out. Salt was sprinkled in the wounds. Victims of the method of execution, as mentioned in skaldic poetry and the Norse sagas, are believed to have included King Ælla of Northumbria, Halfdan son of King Haraldr Hárfagri of Norway, King Edmund, King Maelgualai of Munster, and possibly Archbishop Ælfheah of Canterbury.
The historicity of the practice is disputed. Some take it as historical: evidence of atrocities fueled by pagan hatred of Christianity; others take it as fiction: heroic Icelandic sagas, skaldic poetry and inaccurate translations. Whether or not it was true, It most certainly would have been excruciating to the victim.

  • Bekenel
  • October 20, 2010, 10:35 am
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  • 2

    Dude, you left out impaling.

    Impalement as a method of torture and execution involves the body of a person being pierced with a long stake. The penetration could be through the sides, through the rectum, through the vagina, or through the mouth. This method leads to a painful death, sometimes taking days. The stake would often be planted in the ground, leaving the impaled person suspended to die.
    In some forms of impalement, the stake would be inserted so as to avoid immediate death, and would function as a plug to prevent blood loss. After preparation of the victim, perhaps including public torture and rape, the victim was stripped and an incision was made in the perineum between the genitals and rectum. A stout pole with a blunt end was inserted. A blunt end would push vital organs to the side, greatly slowing death.
    The pole would often come out of the body at the top of the sternum and be placed against the lower jaw so that the victim would not slide farther down the pole. Often, the victim was hoisted into the air after partial impalement. Gravity and the victim's own struggles would cause him to slide down the pole.

    made famous by shaka zulu
    - Reddeath195 March 19, 2011, 7:38 pm
    i was thinking more vlad the impaler.
    - wolfman March 19, 2011, 8:31 pm
    forgot about him i know shaka zulu used that as his preferred method
    - Reddeath195 March 19, 2011, 8:33 pm
  • 2

    Damn people think up some fucked up brutal shit. I was sitting here thinking as I read this, if i had to pick one of these for my death sentence, which one would i choose? I couldn't pic one. Not one of those sounds less horrific then the next.

  • 1

    :D Thanks for number seven, me and some friends were talking about this torture but we couldn't remember what the name was.

    • ember
    • March 19, 2011, 7:36 pm
  • 1

    There is a new one the gangs like MS13 and the Mexican mafia its where you take a small PVC pipe sharpen one end to a point stab the victim somewhere beneath the sternum or stomach in an upward motion basically coring the person and taking a chunk out of any vital organs it hits its difficult to repair because doctors can stitch and heal cuts but its impossible to repair what isnt there if a chunk of it is missing death can be anywhere from hours to days depending on what they hit

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