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  • Self Serving Capital Punishment May 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Self Serving Capital Punishment

    Where are our modern executioners? Most people would have problems answering this because there are no modern executioners as such, at least in the US. There are guards (who get overtime), there are governors, there are wardens, there are doctors and, outside some death chambers, there are members of the general public and journalists. It might […]

    The Hanging Bed April 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hanging Bed

    Ohio’s premier anomalist, Chris Woodyard has just put up a post on an unusual method of execution in the nineteenth-century press, the cone of death, and she has two earlier posts, including the needle mask, praying to death, squeezing to death and smothering to death. Every ‘funny’ bone in Beachcombing’s body tells him that there […]

    Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor March 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Immortal Meals #21: The Fish That Killed An Emperor

    ***thanks to Tacitus from Detritus for sending this one in*** Symmachus and the far more famous Boethius were Roman nobles after the end of the Roman empire, an uncomfortable time to be ‘senators’. Boethius fell into disgrace with the emperor Theoderic: he essentially got into trouble for defending, in the law courts, an enemy of Theoderic. […]

    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World? February 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    European Kings: the Most Dangerous Job in the World?

    Last week’s silly post on royal tennis deaths and flashbacks from Game of Thrones got Beach thinking. We all die, but if you were a European monarch what were the chances that someone would kill you? The weekends are short so Beach limited himself to England. From 1000-1700 there were 43 monarchs: obviously there is some […]

    Roman Killing Theatre August 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Roman Killing Theatre

    The Romans, as is well known, had a particular genius for killing and for all their precious disgust at human sacrifice (the Empire banned human sacrifice wherever they found it) gladiatorial displays, occasional acts of genocide and public executions were all to the good. The most unusual aspect of Roman public executions was the willingness […]

    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 […]

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