Capital punishment is a touchy subject for most people, but when it came to condemning prisoners to this fate there were many ways in which it was done. Some were pretty gruesome and torturous, and others were quicker and more humane. Many people have wondered how a prisoner was executed and how it differs from today. Here is simply a brief list on the many forms of capital punishment and how long it took to actually carry it out.
A long time ago, burning was a form of execution. Many people know about this form of capital punishment that was carried out during the Salem Witch Trials. Burning was also how Joan of Arc ultimately died long before she was known to be innocent of any wrongdoing. A person would be burned at the stake. Sometimes a bunch of people would be burned together, in which case, most would die from smoke inhalation. If there was only one person being burned, they would suffer significant amount of burns before dieing of blood loss, or shock. Even after the person was dead, their body would continue to burn in a public display. (There were many public executions carried out ages ago.)
When a person is stoned, it simply means they are laying down with extremely heavy stones placed on top of them. This would ultimately cause your heart to stop beating because of the weight. The same thing happens if you were to die because of being constricted by a large snake, such as a python or anaconda.
Just how it sounds, boiling involved a person boiling in either water or oil. Depending on the executioner, it could have taken a long time (he would dangle your body back and forth until death) or it could have been quicker by being dropped inside of the boiling liquid.
Most are more familiar with this. An execution would have a large blade shape enough to cut your head off in one swipe. If the blade was dull, however, it would take quite a few blows before the deed was done. This was before the guillotine was invented. This contraption made it significantly faster and easier to carry out an execution. One of the most famous people to be executed this way was Marie Antoinette.
Another form of execution carried out during The Salem Witch Trials. There were different methods of hanging. There would be a quick drop, where the person would asphyxiate into unconciousness before dieing, which took a certain amount of minutes. Then there was the long drop which was supposed to instantly break the neck of the person condemned. This caused immediate death. In this case the measurement of the rope had to be taken into consideration depending how the drop was to be done.
The electric chair was invented as a means of carrying out capital punishment in a more humane way. There were chairs that became “famous” by being called “Old Sparky” or “Old Smokey.” At least 2000 volts (or more) of alternating current would pass through the person in intervals. Usually the person would become unconscious right away. Despite some gruesome malfunctions, this became one of the main forms of execution for quite some time until people began to see it as a cruel and unusual punishment.
This is the main method of execution done today, and is the most humane out of all other methods. When a person is condemned to lethal injection, for them, it’s like falling asleep. Three drugs are administered in intervals to put the person to sleep, then to paralyze their respiratory functions, and lastly, to stop their heart. The entire process only took moments. Lately, a new method was done by use of only one type of drug. The use of this drug is under debate however.
For more information on the many forms of capital punishment, visit here: