The 10 Most Horrific Execution Methods Throughout History

Published February 4, 2016
Updated February 12, 2018

Whether involving rats, spikes, or boiling oil, the worst execution methods ever invented prove that humans have mastered the art of torture and death.

Worst Execution Methods Again

If the last few thousand years of human history have shown us to be good at one thing, it’s the art of inflicting painful, humiliating death on one another.

Whether using ravenous animals, scorching temperatures, or endless variations of sharp, pointed implements, the ingenuity that has gone into the act of death by torture is genuinely shocking. You’ll need a strong stomach to make it through this list of the worst execution methods ever used:

Worst Execution Methods: Boiling To Death

Being Boiled To Death

A slow and agonizing punishment, this method traditionally saw the victim gradually lowered — feet-first — into boiling oil, water, or wax (although uses of boiling wine and molten lead have also been recorded).

If the shock of the pain did not render them immediately unconscious, the person would experience the excruciating sensation of their outer layers of skin, utterly destroyed by immersion burns, dissolving right off their body, followed by the complete breakdown of the fatty tissue, boiling away beneath.

It seems safe to assume that such a horrendous fate, one of the worst execution methods ever devised, would be reserved for the foulest of murderers, but historical documents refute this.

The Emperor Nero is said to have dispatched thousands of Christians in this manner, while in the Middle Ages, the main recipients of the punishment were not killers or rapists but coin forgers, particularly in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. In Britain, meanwhile, King Henry VIII introduced the practice for executing poisoners.

Shockingly, the practice is believed to have been carried out as recently as 2002, when the government of Uzbekistan, led by Islam Karimov, was alleged to have tortured several suspected terrorists to death in this manner.

The Blood Eagle

Blood Eagle

Image Source: Spotify

A technique ascribed to ancient Norse warriors, the blood eagle mixed brutality and poetic imagery in a way that only the Vikings could. First, the victim’s back would be hacked open and the skin ripped apart, exposing the spinal column.

The ribs would then be snapped from the spine and forcibly bent backwards until they faced outwards from the body, forming a pair of bloody, shattered eagle’s wings. As a horrifying finale, the lungs would then be pulled from the body cavity and coated with stinging salt, causing eventual death by suffocation.

There is some question as to whether this technique was ever actually used, as the only accounts come from Norse literature.

Several scholars claim that the act we know of today is simply a result of poor translating, and misunderstands the strong association of the eagle with blood and death in Norse imagery. That said, every account is consistent in that in each case, the victim is a nobleman being punished for murdering his father.

The good news for any poor soul who might have suffered this indignity? The agony and blood loss from the initial wounds would probably have caused them to pass out long before the lungs were removed from their bodies.

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