Top 10 Gruesome Methods of Execution



Top 10 Gruesome Methods of Execution

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Brandon Stuhr

If you were a criminal or a prisoner of war, one of these methods could be used to decide your grim fate. Join as we count down our picks for Top 10 Gruesome Methods of Execution. For this list, we considered only methods that were officially sanctioned by some form of governing body, so we’re excluding types of executions created or used by criminals such as necklacing.

Special thanks to our user Daniel Fong for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Brandon Stuhr

Top 10 Gruesome Methods Of Execution

If you were a criminal or a prisoner of war, one of these methods could be used to decide your grim fate. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 gruesome methods of execution.

For this list, we considered only methods that were officially sanctioned by some form of governing body, so we’re excluding types of executions created or used by criminals such as necklacing. Also, prepare for some mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.

#10: Disembowelment
Let’s start our list by getting our hands a little bloody. The actual act of disembowelment involves removing major organs of the bowels from the individual’s body via a slice in the stomach area. The actual execution method changes depending on the region: for example, in Japan it is performed as the ritualistic suicide Seppuku. Regardless, it is highly unlikely that any individual would survive being disemboweled, as most occurrences prove fatal without major medical attention. While it can be argued when and where disembowelment originated, we think we can all agree that this execution method should be abandoned.

#9: Burning at the Stake

Associated by many with the United States’ 17th century Salem witch trials, burning at the stake was a sentence reserved for those found guilty of treason, heresy, witchcraft, or sexual crimes like incest or homosexuality. Victims would be mounted to a pole in public and set ablaze. Depending on the size of the fire, most victims would die by carbon monoxide poisoning before even being burned by the flames. Although Joan of Arc’s execution in 1431 is likely one of the most famous examples of burning at the stake, this method is far from gone even in the 21st century, as cases have appeared as recently as August 2015.

#8: Hanging, Drawing & Quartering

Now the English sure know how to execute someone. Beginning during King Henry III’s reign, this multi-stage execution would begin with the criminal being drawn to the by horse to the site of their execution, at which point they were hanged until near-death. This was followed by disembowelment and beheading – but since that wasn’t enough, the victim would be cut into quarters, and these pieces were often displayed at landmarks across the nation. This punishment was saved for men guilty of treason, as treasonous women were instead burned at the stake – for the sake of decency, of course. It was eliminated in England in 1870.

#7: Vertical or Longitudinal Impalement

That title is really putting it politely; what we mean is impalement through the rectum. What do you do if you want to show your power over your enemy or criminals against the state? Impale them, of course. This gruesome act involves shoving a large post through the victim’s rectum, which often protrudes through their chest, shoulder or skull. Far from an instant death, different methods could ensure the criminal’s suffering for hours or days if done properly. Impalement was rather popular with cruel 15th century ruler Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia – aka Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler. He used it as a form of intimidation, who scared off Ottoman armies with his forests of impaled victims.

#6: Death by Sawing

A style of execution used the world over through different eras, sawing is exactly what it sounds like: the victim is sliced to death by a saw. The criminal might be cut left to right or down through the middle; maybe they’re even decapitated. In extreme cases, they may even be hung upside down and sawed from the genitals all the way down to through their head until they’re split in two. Though it was not a common form of punishment during his era, this execution style was a personal favorite of infamous Roman emperor Caligula, whose appetite was reportedly stimulated by the show so he often ate as he watched.

#5: Scaphism

Also known as “The Boats,” this Persian method saw executioners tie their victims to two small rowboats. They would then feed and cover the criminals with liquids like milk and honey, until the person developed diarrhea. Then the boat was launched onto a body of stagnant water, where the elements – and bugs – would have their way with the body. As days passed, the smell worsened and the number of bugs who feasted on the body grew, resulting in infected areas not suitable to be discussed. This execution method would last for days and possibly weeks on end, eventually resulting in the victim’s death as a combination of dehydration, starvation and septic shock.

#4: Crucifixion

Our next entry is execution turned religious symbol. When a prisoner is crucified, they are tied or nailed to a cross and left for dead. Causes of death range from heart failure, to shock to asphyxia or worse, but death can also come because of starvation, dehydration, or severe weather conditions. While most commonly associated with the execution of Jesus Christ, crucifixion was used across Europe for many centuries. It may seem ancient now, but it’s still used in certain countries – however, fortunately, those are few and far between.

#3: Blood Eagle

When it comes to gruesome executions, there’s no way we could leave the Norse people out. Used as a sacrificial ritual to the Norse god Odin and saved for noblemen who murdered a father, the executioner would carve an eagle into the victim’s back while severing the ribs. But the finishing touch? The lungs were then ripped out as well. While it’s not clear whether or not the Blood Eagle was a real ritual or simply a work of fiction, there’s no denying it’s one execution and torture method of which we’d never want to be on the receiving end.

#2: Brazen Bull

The Greeks had many execution methods at their disposal, but when they developed our silver medal entry they came up with an especially gruesome technique. Created by Perillos of Athens as a new method of finishing off criminals, the Brazen Bull was a life-size bull oven made entirely of bronze. The victims were locked inside and a fire was lit below it, boiling the victim’s skin until they died of severe burns. Missed the execution? Well, according to some sources, the scorched bones were so beautiful, they were made into jewelry. Is this better or worse than being boiled alive in a vat of liquid? TBH, we don’t want to find out.

Before we sanction our top execution, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Stoning [aka Lapidation]
- Catherine Wheel
- Torn Apart by Carnivorous Animals

#1: Lingchi

Our gold star goes to one method that’ll make your skin crawl – but count yourself lucky that you still have skin. Also known as “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” this method of capital punishment was initially used in China between 900 and 1905, and involved criminals being strung up in public to await their fate. Similar to flaying, lingchi sees the skin or body parts sliced off systematically and gradually, resulting in a slow and incredibly painful death. Earmarked specifically for what were labeled the worst crimes – like treason or the murder of one’s own parents – the process could be as quick as 10-20 minutes, or it could last days, but the result was undoubtedly shame and suffering in this life and the next.

Do you agree with our list? What method of execution makes you fear cruel and unusual punishment? For more enticing top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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