There were some seriously grisly methods of execution used in the past. Here are 5 that even those calling for stiffer sentences would probably think were taking things a bit too far!


1. Breaking wheel

methods of Execution: breaking wheel

Do you wheely want to hurt me? Well, yes, clearly! (Photo: Wikipedia)

There have been some grisly methods of execution in the past. Used throughout Europe from the Middle Ages right up to the 19th century, the condemned person was attached to a wooden wheel. This was turned slowly while the executioner broke the person’s bones by bashing their limbs with a hammer or iron bar. If this did not kill the victim, they would be left tied there to die of dehydration some days later.


2. Execution by elephant

methods of Execution: trampled by elephant

Commit a crime again? Not on your nelly! (Photo: Wikipedia)

A common punishment in earlier centuries in southeast Asia, this grisly form of execution involved training elephants to perform the deed. Designed to show that the emperor had the ultimate power and even controlled all of nature, the condemned prisoner was stomped on by an elephant, either pulverised immediately, or sometimes crushed limb by limb. If that wasn’t bad enough, some of the elephants had blades fitted to their tusks to slice the unfortunate person to pieces too.


3. Sawing

methods of Execution: sawing

Now that’s gotta chafe! (Photo: Wikipedia)

As grisly methods of execution go, being hung upside down and sawn in half vertically has got to be hard to beat! Though not as common as some other forms of punishment, it was especially brutal as it’s believed that the condemned person remained alive for most of the process as the blood in his body would continue to flow to his brain. It was supposedly used by the cruel Roman emperor Caligula, who’d watch his enemies disposed of like this while he sat there eating.


4. Ling chi or slow slicing

methods of Execution: slow slicing

If only the first cut were the deepest!

A form of execution used for a thousand years in China, it was only outlawed in the early 20th century. This “slow slicing” was also known as death by a thousand cuts. The victim was secured and many slow cuts were made, first to the flesh on non-vital areas. The limbs were then amputated and finally the condemned was finished off with a cut across the throat or into the heart.


5. Brazen bull

methods of Execution: brazen bull

Now that’s what I call bullying! (Photo: Wikipedia)

This cruel and grisly method of execution was practiced in Ancient Greece and Rome. The hollow effigy of a bull was made in bronze with a door in the side. The victim was forced inside and a fire was lit underneath. The particularly cruel Greek tyrant Phalaris who devised this torture also had the bull constructed so that plumes of smoke would billow from the nostrils and the screams of the victim would be transformed through a system of tubes into a sound like the bellowing of a bull.


Do you know of any other gruesome methods of execution from history? Let us know.