Saturday, June 23, 2012

Execution Ingenuity

There are few things that inspire the creativity of man greater than torture and murder, and civilizations over time have struggled to combat the unending cruelty displayed by it's citizenry with equally terrible resolve, with varying results. The purpose of these acts have as much to do with preventing such offenses as they do with punishing criminals, as evidenced by the public forum that they are most commonly performed in. Tonight I will give a short list of five such punishments that I believe are particularly inventive and effective in spreading fear and horror among the condemned and beyond.

5.) The Five Pains: Not surprisingly, China has led the way historically in inhumane execution. They are the only civilization represented twice on this list and could easily fill a respectable torture and execution top ten on their own. The five pains method was invented in the Qin Dynasty by Li Si, an advisor to the emperor. It consisted of the severing of the nose, then one hand and one foot, followed by castration and then cutting the victim in two at the waist. Anyone executed by this method would live through the process until the final cut, making it particularly horrible. But justice has a way of finding the cruel no matter how well protected or powerful they are, and ultimately Li Si found himself on the receiving end of his creation in 208 B.C. after being convicted of treason.

4.) The Blood Eagle: And what list of brutality would be complete without a contribution by the Norse Vikings? Any culture that grants afterlife exclusively to those that died in violent battle is bound to inspire ingenious abuse methods, and the Vikings give us the blood eagle. This execution method was possibly the most labor intensive, require ing the executioner to detach the ribs at the spine then splay them outward, breaking them, then pulling out and flattening the lungs to appear like the bloodstained wings of a demon. And adding salt to the wound, salt was literally added to the wound. Now that's just plain mean. I imagine this must have required some artistic talent in the executioner to perform correctly, proving again that the best work is always done by those that love their job.

3.) The Colombian Necktie: This is the only execution method on the list that was devised in modern times, and where better than the heart of violent revolution in South America, Colombia? The earliest examples of this method being used trace it to the civil war known as La Violencia, which broke out in 1948. Aptly named, this act consists of the slashing of the victim's throat, after which the executioner would reach into the wound and pull the tongue out, leaving it to dangle between the collar bones like a gentlemanly necktie. Like all torturous techniques, the main objective would be to inspire fear in those that witnessed the act or found the victim's afterward rather than solely just for punishment of the victim. Although rarely practiced anymore, the brutality of the drug trade has accounted for a few occurrences in the last couple of decades. Here's hoping for a comeback.

2.) Lingchi: Better known as slow slicing, or the death by a thousand cuts, Lingchi was a public execution style that was designed to prolong death and cause as much pain as humanly possible. It is said that medical doctors of the time provided one thousand strips of paper that bore the names of different locations on the body, and the executioner would draw the strips out, one by one, until the victim died. While this sounds about as horrible a punishment as can be imagined, it appears (in true capitalist fashion) that there may have been a loophole for the rich that were condemned to suffer this act. If the family of the victim paid a sufficient bribe to the torturer then the first strip he pulled from the box would be for the throat, and they would be dispatched with the first cut. But that did not mean they escaped entirely, as the body would still suffer through a few dozen additional cuts before the whole thing ended. And similarly to The Five Pains mentioned above, the corpse of the condemned would be buried incomplete, ensuring that the spirit was separated from the body and denying them an afterlife.

1.) Scaphism: We have representation in this list from the Colombians, the Vikings, and twice from the Chinese, but there is one glaring party yet to attend this bloody party. Well rest assured, the number one spot belongs to the Persians. Scaphism was possibly the most horrible and inventive form of execution and torture ever devised, and is almost unknown in modern times. Known commonly as the boats, the victim was placed in the middle of two small boats, attached like a coffin with holes to allow the head and limbs to protrude, and then sent to the middle of a stagnant pond to bake in the sun. But the real bitch of this method was in the preparation. The victim was force fed copious amounts of milk and honey, then slathered in honey before being sealed inside the boats. This caused rampant and unending nausea and diarrhea and attracted hordes of flies and maggots to breed inside the coffin. Along with being baked alive, the victim was eaten from the inside out, often ending up with insects crawling out of the nose and mouth. From what I understand this is the punishment that we have lined up for Jerry Sandusky.

Well, there you have it folks. My short list of the worst ways to die that have ever been devised on earth. But the truly creative sadists out there should take this as a challenge, and maybe we can push the limits of advancements in death and dismemberment in the 21st century. My money is on the mexican cartels.