25 of Humanity’s Most Brutal Methods of Execution

Posted by on December 16, 2011

Consider yourself lucky. If you are reading this you most likely not only live in a society blessed by a functioning legal system you also probably live in a society in which that system makes an attempt to fairly and efficiently deliver justice, especially in the case of capital punishment. For most of history rather than capital punishment being focused on ending life it was focused on drawing it out long enough that the victim would be put through as much hell-on-earth as possible. So, in order to help you count your blessings we are bringing you 25 of humanity’s most brutal methods of execution.



An ancient Persian method of execution where a person is stripped naked and placed in a tree trunk with only the head, hands, and feet protruding. They are then forced fed milk and honey until they develop a severe case of diarrhea. All of there exposed skin would then be covered in honey to attract insects while they were left floating in a stagnant pond. As the person’s feces accumulated, the insects it attracted would begin to eat and breed within his/her skin which would become increasingly gangrenous. Death could take over 2 weeks and was likely the result of starvation, dehydration, and shock.



Conceived in the late 1700′s this was one of the first methods of execution created under the assumption that capital punishment was intended to end life rather than inflict pain (successor to #11). Although it was specifically invented as a human form of execution it has been outlawed in France and the last one was in 1977.


Republican Marriage

A strange form of execution allegedly practiced in France it involved the tying of a man and woman together and then both of them being thrown in a river to drown.


Cement Shoes


A method of execution preferred by the American mafia, it was similar to Republican Marriage in that it involved drowning but instead of being tied to someone of the opposite gender, your feet were placed in cement blocks.


Execution by Elephant

Employed heavily in southeast asia, the elephants were often trained to prolong the death of the victim. Many times this method was used in order to show that the ruler is even in command of nature.


Walking the Plank


You’re probably getting tired of people being thrown into the water, but this form of execution many times ended a little differently from the previous two. Mainly practiced by pirates and rogue seafarers the victims often didn’t even have time to drown before they were dealt with by the sharks that tended to follow the ships.



Bestiarii is a reference to those who would combat beasts in the days of Ancient Rome. Although sometimes the act was voluntary and performed for money or recognition, many times the bestearii were political prisoners sent into the arena naked and unable to defend themselves.



Named after the implement used in the execution, usually a mallet, this method of capital punishment was popular in the papal states during the 18th century. The condemned would be led to a scaffold in a public square with nothing more than the executioner and a coffin. The executioner would then raise the mallet and bring it down on the head of the victim. Because this would typically only lead to them being stunned their throat was usually slit right after.


Upright Jerker


Having originated in the United States, this method of capital punishment is now often employed in countries like Iran. Although it is very similar to hanging, rather than the victim being dropped through a trap door to sever the spinal cord they are violently jerked upwards, typically by a crane.



Allegedly practiced in parts of Europe and Asia, it involved the victim being inverted and then sawn in half starting at the groin. Due to being upside down the brain would receive enough blood to keep the person conscious until the large vessels of the abdomen were severed.



The act of removing a person’s skin from their body, this form of execution was often used in order to stir up fear, as the skin would typically be nailed in a public place for all to see.


Blood Eagle

Spoken of in Nordic sagas, the Blood Eagle involved cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking them so they resembled wings, and then pulling the victim’s lungs out through the opening. Salt would then be sprinkled on the wound.Drawing done by Cate Richards, www.caterichards.net


The Gridiron

Essentially broiling the victim over a bed of hot coals, the first “burning” method on our list was terribly cruel and the death was not a quick one.



Although we have already seen this method employed by means of elephants, there is so much more to be said here. Crushing was typically used in Europe or America in order to extract a plea from a victim. Every time the victim refused, more weight was added to their chest until fatal suffocation would occur.


Breaking Wheel

Also known as the Catherine Wheel, the victim would be tied to it and then spun while the executioner delivered bone shattering blows to their body. Sometimes the victims appendages would then be woven through the spokes of the wheel and they would be placed on display for all to see.