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Amazing True Stories of Execution Blunders [Secure eReader]
eBook by Geoffrey Abbott

eBook Category: History/General Nonfiction
eBook Description: The business of death can be seriously absurd, and nothing illustrates this better than these gruesome true tales. This gory compendium details the frankly ridiculous ways in which a number of ill-fated unfortunates met (or failed to meet) their maker at the hands of lamentably inept executioners. With black and white illustrations, this book brings together a mixture of bungled executions, strange last requests and classic one-liners from medieval times to the present day.

eBook Publisher: Summersdale Non Fiction/Summersdale Non Fiction
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2007

In the days when life was short and disease was rife, when existence for the lower classes was a daily struggle to survive and humane consideration for the wrong-doers, as prescribed by the law, was minimal, death on the scaffold, however violent, was accepted by the populace as the norm and, to many, as a regular source of entertainment. No instruction was given to the executioner regarding exactly how he should perform his task and little or no consideration was given to the possible suffering of the victim, for had not he or she attempted to remove or replace the monarch, change the country?s religion or committed some other hideous crime? So why hone the axe razor-sharp? Why go to all the trouble of training a man to aim it accurately and mercifully? Why allow the victim to die quickly on the rope, or die at all, before disembowelling them with the ripping knife, had they been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered? After all, the victims were there to be punished ? and punished they were. Deterrence was the name of the game and as a negative can rarely be proven, the question as to whether it worked or not remains unanswered. The legal responsibility in England for the execution of criminals, by whatever means, was that of the sheriff, the word derived from ?shire-reeve?, he being the chief officer of the Crown of each county or shire. That official however, in order to avoid having to do the distasteful job personally, subcontracted it out to anyone who volunteered, and so the task of beheading, hanging, or of drawing and quartering the condemned person, was undertaken by the hangman, the title describing his more usual occupation. Those who tightened the noose, swung the axe or wielded the ripping knife were men of their times, most of them lacking sensitivity or imagination, many of them brutal and callous. Employed when the occasion demanded rather than as civil (!) servants, few if any records were kept of their names, and anonymity was also essential to avoid retribution wreaked by the supporters of those they had executed. Loathed and abused by the public at large, their services, however repugnant to the society of the day, were essential, for without them all those engaged in administering the law of the land, the judges and lawyers, the court officials and the juries, would have been totally redundant. Admittedly some of them, Thrift, Sanson, Schmidt and the like, tried to dispatch their victims in a humane manner, but the very presence of the almost invariably hostile crowds inhibited their efforts. By instinct anti-government, those who attended executions generally classified the executioner as a symbol of authority and targeted him accordingly, but he was also traditionally greeted with almost affectionate abuse (akin to the present-day treatment of football referees). And just as today?s soccer fans would not miss a home game for the world, so in the days of public executions the locals seized every opportunity to attend a local hanging or beheading. Should it be the execution of the perpetrator of a particularly horrific crime, residents of nearby towns would pour in by cart, coach and wagon; in the nineteenth century the rail companies would even lay on special excursions with reductions in fares for group-travelling. These events provided a great day out for the whole family; they would get there early to get a good seat on the specially erected wooden stands, while the more affluent would book rooms overlooking the scaffold and partake of wine and such repasts as cold chicken or pheasant to sustain them through the performance.

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