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Authors: Geoffrey Abbott

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Execution: A Guide to the Ultimate Penalty

BOOK: Execution: A Guide to the Ultimate Penalty
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This edition published in 2012 by Summersdale Publishers Ltd

First published as
The Book of Execution
by Headline Book Publishing in 1994

This edition copyright © Geoffrey Abbott 2005

Photo work by Chris Holmes Photography, Kendal, Cumbria

The right of Geoffrey Abbott to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, nor transmitted, nor translated into a machine language, without the written permission of the publishers.

Condition of Sale

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.

Summersdale Publishers Ltd

46 West Street


West Sussex

PO19 1RP


eISBN 978-0-85765-773-2

Substantial discounts on bulk quantities of Summersdale books are available to corporations, professional associations and other organisations. For details contact Summersdale Publishers by telephone: +44 (0) 1243 771107, fax: +44 (0) 1243 786300 or email: [email protected]



Geoffrey Abbott
served in the RAF during World War Two before later becoming a ‘Beefeater’ at the Tower of London. He has written more than 24 books on torture and execution, has appeared in numerous TV documentaries as consultant or executioner and, by invitation, has written entries on torture and execution for the
Encyclopedia Britannica
. He once stood on the ‘drop’ trapdoors in the execution chamber of Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow (as a fact-finding author, not a convicted criminal!) and has also experienced having a noose placed around his neck by a professional hangman – the late Sydney Dernley, a man endowed with a great, if macabre, sense of humour! He lives in the Lake District.






Beaten to Death

Boiled Alive

Brazen Bull

Broken on the Wheel

Buried Alive

Buried Alive Upside-down

Burned at the Stake

Burned Internally



Cave of Roses





Dry Pan

Eaten by Animals

Eaten by Crocodiles

Electric Chair

Firing Squad

Flayed Alive

Fried to Death

Gas Chamber





Halifax Gibbet

Hanged Alive in Chains

Hanged at the Yard-arm

Hanged, Drawn and Quartered



Impaled by Stakes

Iron Chair

Iron Maiden


Lethal Injection



Mill Wheel

Nail through the Ear


Over a Cannon’s Muzzle



Pressed to Death


Sawn in Half


Scottish Maiden

Sewn in an Animal’s Belly

Shot by Arrows

Spanish Donkey


Stoned to Death




Thousand Cuts

Throat Slitting

Thrown from a Great Height

Tied in a Sack with Animals

Torn apart between Two Trees

Torn apart by Boats

Torn apart by Horses

Twenty-four Cuts


Jargon of the Underworld

Select Bibliography



Appreciative thanks are due to all those who were roped in to advise on hanging, those who stuck their necks out and helped me on the subject of the guillotine and axe, others who sat in during discussions on the electric chair – and even those who failed to get the point of lethal injection.

More seriously, I am indebted to the German, Dutch, French and

American staffs of NATO libraries during the years 1956 to 1974, and the curators and custodians of the many Continental museums and castles who so kindly imparted information on their more gruesome exhibits.

In particular, much credit is due to Dr Harold Hillman, Reader in Physiology and Director of Unity Laboratory of Applied Neurobiology at the University of Surrey, England, for his precise and detailed information on the anatomical effects and likely pain caused by the various methods of execution, and also to Michael Clark of Lornshill Academy, Scotland, for the material he so helpfully provided.

While every effort has been made to trace copyright in all material in this book, the author apologises if he has inadvertently failed to credit any such ownership.

Photographic work is by The Studio Workshop, Kendal, Cumbria.


BOOK: Execution: A Guide to the Ultimate Penalty
4.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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