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  • The Somers Affair: A Pirate Fantasy and Three Nooses July 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Somers Affair: A Pirate Fantasy and Three Nooses

    The Somers affair is a curious incident dating to 1843 in which three American sailors were executed/murdered (opinions differ) in surprising circumstances. There is a lot of scope for psychologising and motive fishing, but the best bet is that this was an adolescent game that got very, very badly out of hand. First, the bare […]

    Last Meals of US Condemned June 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Meals of US Condemned

    A book on the history of the last meal (including attempts to intoxicate the soon to be executed) would be a fascinating one. Not least is the rather poor taste in banning the custom in some states in the US, that seems an unnecessary act of spite to criminals living their difficult last hours. There […]

    Image: Bloody Babs Says Goodbye to Tommy April 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Bloody Babs Says Goodbye to Tommy

    Barbara Graham was executed by the State of California, June 3 1955, in the gas chamber at St Quentin: she had been found guilty of the murder of one Mabel Monahan, an elderly lady. There are some questions about her guilt. Perhaps we can lay this to rest, immediately, by noting that whether BG actually […]

    The Last Stoning in Ireland November 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Stoning in Ireland

    Ok this title is a provocation. Saying the last stoning in Ireland is a bit like saying the last blizzard in Saudia Arabia or the last vegetarian meal in France. The early Irish left behind detailed law codes and there is no record of anyone being stoned at any time. Their medieval heirs had many […]

    Death’s Fluttering Wings: Photos November 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Death's Fluttering Wings: Photos

    A bit of a melancholy day and so Strange History offers a post on death: a series of pictures of people about to die. The only condition is that the photographs must not be excessively upsetting or morbid. This means that most of the people here, in fact, do not know that they are about […]

    Execution Substitution: Has It Ever Happened? September 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
     Execution Substitution: Has It Ever Happened?

    A weird little episode that Beach can’t get out of his head. 20 January 1793 the news has come that Louis XVI will be executed/murdered/killed the next day. It is difficult for us to understand the frantic actions undertaken by monarchists in Paris in their do or die efforts to save ‘the anointed of God’. […]

    Botched Beheadings April 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Botched Beheadings

    The guillotine was originally invented as an act of humanitarianism to liberate criminal kind from the axe. It made sense, after all, to remove a criminal’s head from his or from her shoulders if that criminal had to be killed. But the procedure was messy. Two important things could go wrong while removing said head […]

    Death As A Basketball April 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death As A Basketball

    Death by basketball… We examined this quaint pre-Columbian custom just last week. But what about the strangest death of them all death AS a basketball? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The place is Central America and we are in pre-Columbian times again. This is the epoch of the great ball games of the Maya and […]

    Death By Basketball April 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Death By Basketball

    Humanity is extraordinarily ingenious in terms of the different ways it has found to execute people. We’ve reviewed on this blog before elephant executions; Mike Dash has recently given space to the Viking’s blood eagle; there is necklacing in Sub-Saharan Africa (a lynching rather than judicial capital punishment); the brazen bull in ancient Greece (another […]

    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop March 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop

    Here are some extracts from the trial of one of the most interesting fairy witches of them all: Bessie Dunlop who was brought before the Edinburgh Assizes in 1576. This rendering of the trial (into English rather than Scots English) comes from Emma Wilby’s worthwhile: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Bessie’s first confession includes the […]

    Death of the Doctor December 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death of the Doctor

    Poor old reverend William Dodd! Hanged in 1777 at Tyburn he was the last Englishman to be sentence to death for forgery. His trip to the gallows was greased by money. He was never able to make enough and yet he was always able to spend too much. In February 1777 he forged a bond […]

    Good Executions? December 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Good Executions?

    Is there such a thing as a ‘good execution’: after all the extinction of human life should never or almost never be a cause for celebration? Well, historians have used the phrase, in the past generation – though it has older antecedents – to refer to the extent to which the criminal cooperates with his […]

    Modesty and Killing November 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Modesty and Killing

    When Benito Mussolini was ‘executed’ (jolted out of a car by some communist partisans and shot in the chest in a ditch) he did not die alone. By his side was his lover and perhaps the most significant woman in his life, Clara Petacci. CP was gunned down a moment before Mussolini himself. The corpses […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope September 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope

    Beach read the following description of an execution this summer and it has remained in his mind so vividly that he thought that he would share it here. Lord Ferrers (obit deservedly 1760) was a bad lot who used to put fireworks in his wife’s bed (he loathed her) and eventually shot a steward who […]

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