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  • London, England, the month of May 1536.

  • Anne Boleyn, the second wife of the blood-thirsty King Henry VIII, has been accused of adultery,

  • incest, and treason.

  • The accusations were no doubt made up so Henry could be done with her and remarry, but justice

  • in those days was in short supply.

  • In prison, Anne is at times hysterical, but sometimes calm, waiting for the word.

  • Will she lose her head, or be burned at the stake?

  • Her friend and ally, Archbishop Thomas Cramner, informs her that it will be the former, the

  • lesser of two evils.

  • May 19, 8.00 am, dressed in a dark grey robe of damask and covered by a mantle of white

  • ermine fur, she is led to the scaffold.

  • “I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray

  • for me,” she says at the end of a moving speech.

  • She is blindfolded.

  • She waits, kneeling, facing the floor.

  • Her head is severed from her body by a swift blow of a Frenchman's sword.

  • Did she die in an instant, or for a few seconds did she remain conscious?

  • Did she make a face and try to speak, after her head was no longer attached to her body?

  • That's what some witnesses said.

  • Could it be possible?

  • Today we're going to talk about all kinds of forms of decapitation, but we'll start

  • with the express version, such as the way that 35-36-year old Boleyn went.

  • Ok, so we need to tell you about Mike, aka Miracle Mike.

  • He lost his head in the USA in 1945 and he lived for another 18 months...

  • Mike was a chicken, a chicken whose brain stem remained intact and whose blood clotted

  • after his beheading.

  • He survived due to the position of the brain in a chicken's head and the fact his executor

  • sliced his head at a certain angle.

  • Because of that remaining brain, he could control his movements, and his breathing and

  • heartbeat were regulated.

  • This could never, ever, happen to a human, but we thought we'd tell you about the animal,

  • on record, that has survived the longest after being decapitated.

  • In view of today's show, we might ask how long a human is conscious after the act.

  • Has a head ever fallen into a basket or landed on a scaffold and looked up at the blue sky

  • and thought, “Damn, I won't see that again.”

  • It's hard to say of course, because it's not as if scientists are presently doing decapitation

  • tests on humans.

  • They have, however, tested on rats in labs.

  • They've cut off rodents' heads and then measured the electrical activity in their

  • brain.

  • It turns out that the rats might think for a few seconds while their head is not connected

  • to their body.

  • In one study, the brain signals were lost after 17 seconds, although the researchers

  • said consciousness was gone around the four second mark.

  • They also noticed something else.

  • That was one last surge of activity after about a minute.

  • They called this thewave of death.”

  • It's generally thought that brain activity also may last three to four seconds after

  • a human is decapitated, but there have been instances when people have reported that the

  • headless person seemed alive for longer.

  • Take the case of a French man who was a convicted murderer and guillotined in 1905.

  • This is what a doctor wrote: “I was able to note immediately after the

  • decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic

  • contractions for about five or six seconds … I waited for several seconds.

  • The spasmodic movements ceased.

  • The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs.”

  • The doctor, shocked, shouted the man's name, “Languille!”, only to see his eyelids

  • open once again and look right at him for a few seconds.

  • The question is, was that the wave of death?

  • There are other reports of so-calledlucid decapitation.”

  • One involved a car crash in the US that happened in 1989.

  • An Army veteran saw his friend die, and not only that, his buddy had been decapitated.

  • He later remarked, “My friend's head came to rest face up, and (from my angle) upside-down.

  • As I watched, his mouth opened and closed no less than two times.

  • The facial expressions he displayed were first of shock or confusion, followed by terror

  • or grief.”

  • If this is true.

  • If humans can think after they lose their head, then being decapitated has to be one

  • of the weirdest ways to die.

  • Being beheaded by an executioner at the top of his game, someone with the right tools,

  • may not actually be the worst way to die.

  • But the fact is, beheading can be a very messy business.

  • We might take for instance the execution of Mary Queen of Scots on February 7, 1587.

  • She was taken to the scaffold, and while knelt down, the executioner asked for her forgiveness

  • for what he was about to do.

  • She said to him, “I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make

  • an end of all my troubles.”

  • He did, but his form was off that day.

  • After she uttered her final words, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”,

  • he struck with his axe.

  • He missed his markher slender neckand instead hit her in the head.

  • She was certainly not dead since she moaned in pain.

  • The second blow was on target and killed her, except bits of stubborn sinew hung on and

  • he had to cut through that.

  • Finally, he grabbed her head, held it aloft, and shouted to the crowd, “God save the

  • queen.”

  • To make the spectacle even worse, the beautiful auburn hair he was holding turned out to be

  • a wig, and Mary's head fell with an unceremonious plop to the floor.

  • Her head, adorned only with short grey hair, rolled onto the ground in front of shocked

  • witnesses.

  • One of them swore that he saw her lips move.

  • We don't know exactly how long she lasted after that first wayward blow, but you can

  • understand that being beheaded by a bad executioner was a pretty unpleasant experience.

  • It gets worse, a lot worse.

  • It would be an understatement to say that the beheading of Margaret Pole, the Countess

  • of Salisbury, was a bit of a botch job.

  • Margaret was accused of being a traitor and was locked up in the Tower of London by the

  • prolific lady killer Henry VIII.

  • She denied she'd done anything wrong and even scribbled a poem on her cell wall.

  • It started, “For traitors on the block should die.

  • I am no traitor, no, not I!”

  • The poem fell on deaf ears and off to the chopping block she went.

  • He hacked and hacked at her neck, missing most times, sometimes hitting her back and

  • sometimes her head.

  • It's said it took eleven blows to finish her off.

  • One witness later said that the person with the axe was “a wretched and blundering youth

  • who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner.”

  • Maybe it was hard to get the staff in those days, maybe he was an intern, or maybe Margaret

  • just made his job difficult.

  • Another account says that she refused to lay her head in the block and that she moved around

  • during the blows while telling the executioner to do his best in the circumstances.

  • It states, “She ran about the scaffold; and the executioner followed her with his

  • axe, aiming many fruitless blows at her neck before he was able to give the fatal stroke.”

  • In any case, it was a brutal death.

  • Beheading shouldn't have lasted too long if the executioner's tool was sharp and

  • he had a good aim.

  • The tools back then were usually a heavy sword, but bearded axes were also at times the weapon

  • of choice.

  • As you've now heard, not all beheadings went as planned.

  • This is why new technologies were created.

  • We tend to think that the French invented the guillotine in the 18th century, but very

  • similar devices were around for a long time before that.

  • The Halifax Gibbet, named after a town in northern England, was used the last time in

  • 1650.

  • On that occasion, one man had stolen some cloth and another man had stolen two horses.

  • Harsh, but such were the times.

  • The Halifax Gibbet worked in a similar way to the guillotine, in that a heavy axe was

  • fastened to a wooden block and raised in the air by rope.

  • When the rope was cut, the block and the blade would fall down and decapitate the prisoner.

  • That block was so heavy that one witness once wrote that it could have decapitated a bull.

  • It was certainly better than the axe, and a lot better than a knife.

  • But we'll get to that later.

  • First let's talk about someone named Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

  • He didn't invent the guillotine and was even against the death sentence.

  • What he did do is call for a more humane form of executing a person than chopping off their

  • head with a sword or axe or breaking them on the wheel.

  • He wanted executions to be painless, once remarking about a machine that would, “cut

  • off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it!”

  • Indeed, the machine invented that would get a lot of use in France had a blade and connecting

  • weight that weighed around 176 pounds (80 kilograms).

  • This fell from a height of 14 feet (4.3 meters) and the person it fell on had his head secured

  • by a round frame called a “lunette.”

  • It was so good at what it did that it was hailed as the execution that never fails.

  • Only a century or so earlier, executions were supposed to be a long, drawn out spectacle

  • that crowds could enjoy.

  • People were slowly broken or wheels or they were pulled limb from limb by horses, and

  • they were supposed to suffer unimaginable pain.

  • The guillotine, or thenational razor' as it would be called during the French Revolution,

  • was reliable, fast and more humane.

  • Believe it or not, in the 21st century there have been people that have called for the

  • introduction of the guillotine in the U.S. Jay Chapman, who created the three-drug protocol

  • in 1977 that is now used for lethal injection, said in 2007 that the guillotine was the simplest

  • form of execution.

  • He said, “I'm not at all opposed to bringing it back.

  • The person's head is cut off and that's the end of it.”

  • Before that, in 1996, a Georgia state legislator named Doug Tepe tried to bring the guillotine

  • back but to no avail.

  • So, if you're ever in the unenviable position of having to choose between methods of decapitation,

  • it seems the guillotine would be the way to go.

  • There's not much chance of that, though, since it was last used in France in 1977 and

  • has never been used again anywhere else.

  • This now brings us to the very worst form of decapitation, that of being decapitated

  • by a knife.

  • This much slower and way more painful process happened in Spain centuries ago and was thought

  • to be a more noble way to die than having your throat slit.

  • Today such a gruesome act would not be carried out legally as a form of capital punishment

  • although people can still be decapitated by sword under the law in the country of Saudi

  • Arabia.

  • If it happens these daysand it hasthe criminals doing the act are usually insurgents

  • in the Middle East and Asia, members of organized crime, or certifiably insane people that have

  • lost their minds and attacked innocent folks.

  • A few years back it happened to a woman in Mexico, with her executioner announcing, “Well,

  • gentleman, this is what happens to all those in the Gulf Cartel.

  • On behalf of Los Zetas.”

  • The fighting over drug turf in Mexico has actually resulted in quite a lot of people

  • losing their heads, sometimes when they were alive and sometimes after they were killed

  • another way.

  • The scary truth is, since the message can be spread using social media, these groups

  • at times have used decapitation to induce fear in their opponents or the public.

  • It can also create terror for governments and citizens of the world, if we're talking

  • about insurgent groups.

  • In such grizzly murders, the decapitation is not over when a heavy blade falls, but

  • it is slow and painful.

  • Soft tissues are first cut, but then ligaments and bones that hold the neck together have

  • to be cut with much more effort.

  • When it happens this way, we can certainly say it's one of the worst ways to die.

  • Now you need to watch this, “Strangest Ways People Died.”

  • Or, have a look at this, “What Happens When You Die?”

London, England, the month of May 1536.

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Decapitation - Worst Ways to Die

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/13
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