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  #1  
Old 02-08-2003, 12:57 AM
samboy samboy is offline
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A morbid question about hanging suicides.

I heard somewhere that hanging a person requires some skill to position the knot so that the person being hanged breaks their neck immediately and does not just choke to death.

What happens when someone hangs themselves in their garage or whatever? If they do not break their necks straight away, do they just hang there until they choke?

Basically what I am asking is do people who hang themselves die from choking to death or do they die from a broken neck?
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  #2  
Old 02-08-2003, 01:10 AM
Master Wang-Ka Master Wang-Ka is offline
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Depends on the weight of the person and how much of a drop is involved.

If you loop a noose around your throat and then simply step off a chair and drop a few inches, you will not break your neck. You will strangle over a period of several minutes. That is, unless you are an EXTREMELY heavy person.

If you step off the chair and drop more than ten feet or so, you stand a good chance of snapping the rope, or ripping your head entirely OFF, if you are a man of average size and weight, and depending on the gauge and type of rope used. Such things have happened in public executions.

I seem to recall that at least one hangman had a CHART he consulted. The weight of the victim to be hanged dictated the length of the rope/distance of the drop. Durned if I can remember where I read this, though...
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  #3  
Old 02-08-2003, 01:22 AM
3trew 3trew is online now
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It's my first link, so let's see if it works.

http://monster-island.org/tinashumor/humor/hang.html
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  #4  
Old 02-08-2003, 01:25 AM
3trew 3trew is online now
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I don't have the statistics, but I believe that not only in home hangings but also in professionally managed executions it's more common for the condemned to strangle. Knots don't get tied right, the drop distance isn't correct, the rope slides out of place, etc.

The knot used to tie a noose is also called a "Jack Ketch" knot, after a popular English executioner. He was popular, I've heard, because he was pretty incompetent and his executees rarely broke their necks, thus giving a good show of kicking and flailing as they strangled.
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  #5  
Old 02-08-2003, 01:29 AM
Lissa Lissa is offline
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This book, The Death Penalty: An American History
by Stuart Banner, has a lenghty section on the difficulties that hangmen of the past had with killing the prisoner quiclky, even with a significant drop. Often, the bungled execution was due to poorly tied knots, improper rope, or poor placement of the noose. Many devices were invented to try to make death instantaneous, including a rather unsuccessful one which hoisted the victim upwards quickly, instead of dropping them through a trap door.

It's not a pleasant way to go if done improperly. The victim, slowly strangling, sometimes will defecate and urinate, accompanied with twitching, kicking, and facial discoloration. The male victims will sometimes get an erection, which is another reason why hanging was eventually phased out. (Executions were seen as fun for the whole family, and people objected to their womenfolk and children seeing a peeing, pooping man with an erection.)

Hanging was phased out as a means of execution mainly because quick death was so iffy. Modern means such as electrocution were seen as more "humane" than hanging.
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  #6  
Old 02-08-2003, 02:17 AM
The Calculus of Logic The Calculus of Logic is offline
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it works like this. A person can die one of 2 ways.


1. the rope crushes their windpipe, slowly choking them to death

or (and probably much more likely)

the rope presses the carotid artery closed, cutting off oxygen to the brain & leading to brain death in 10 minutes.



People who hang themselves at home die from blood circulation being cut off to the brain.
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  #7  
Old 02-08-2003, 02:42 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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I always wondered how easy it was to just hang yourself, with a bedsheet or belt etc. etc. One hears constantly of people who hang themselves in prison cells etc. It must be incredibly easy to lose consciousness with something constricting the flow of blood to the brain.

How can human beings be so fragile?
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  #8  
Old 02-08-2003, 02:55 AM
samboy samboy is offline
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tonbo0422 that's sort of why I asked. I hear that in jail you have to take off you belt and shoelaces. How the F*ck do people hang themselves with shoelaces?

As to the replies: So these people are basically choking to death or depriving their brains of blood so they die eventually. I realise that you have to be in a pretty low state to implement suicide, but surely if you have 10 minutes of choking pain to deal with you might reconsider your prospects? I always thought it was somewhow quicker.

Possibly misplaced PS: I am in no way trying to make fun of suicides or the mindset of the people that commit them.
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  #9  
Old 02-08-2003, 03:01 AM
The Calculus of Logic The Calculus of Logic is offline
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it is quicker than that. You will pass out in about 5 seconds if you completely cut off blood supply to the brain. try it. have someone else press your carotid arteries closed, if they do it right you will pass out quickly.
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  #10  
Old 02-08-2003, 07:08 AM
naita naita is online now
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Quote:
Originally posted by tonbo0422
How can human beings be so fragile?
Evolution doesn't create perfect solutions, it just selects the option that works the best. In the case of us being easy to strangle, well... you'd have to have some sort of evolutionary pressure related to this, pluss a range of mutations that gave a difference in the chance of surviving a hanging. Or some completely unrelated issue could have this 'improvement' as a side effect.
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  #11  
Old 02-08-2003, 08:08 AM
Badge Badge is offline
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I've seen a few hanging suicides, and in none of them was the neck broken. The windpipe isn't always damaged, either. Usually they do strangle, and I believe most go unconscious pretty quickly.

I did have one guy who, to scare his girlfriend, pretended to hang himself from a tree in the back yard. He tied the rope around a branch then around his neck while standing on the first step of a step-stool. He expected her to see all this, then to run out to save him. She went to sleep instead. He accidentally knocked the stool out from under him, and was dangling with just his toes keeping him from completely strangling. Fortunately, a neighbor saw him dancing in the wind and cut him down.

He felt a bit foolish (but he still blamed the whole thing on his girlfriend).
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  #12  
Old 02-08-2003, 04:20 PM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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Badge,

That guy deserves a mention at darwinawards.com. Well, maybe at "almostdarwinawards.com."

To answer my own question, human beings are pathetically fragile (as are most living things.) Knowing this, I took my 1-year-old son to Emergency when he came down with a fever, vomiting and diarrhea, in spite of the protestations of almost all my relatives ("Oh, it's just the flu! It's going around, he'll get over it.")

To them I say: if you can lose consciousness in 5 seconds due to an artery being constricted, it's worth a visit to the doctor to confirm it's "just the flu."

In spite of the $1500 cost.
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  #13  
Old 02-08-2003, 06:01 PM
Hermann Cheruscan Hermann Cheruscan is offline
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I believe that most cases of prison hangings are caused by making a rope out of sheet, tying up the ends so that there is a hanging loop, and the prisoner on his knees leaning forward into the loop cutting off blood flow to the brain.
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  #14  
Old 02-08-2003, 06:11 PM
Davebear Davebear is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by tonbo0422
Knowing this, I took my 1-year-old son to Emergency when he came down with a fever, vomiting and diarrhea, in spite of the protestations of almost all my relatives.
Good decision! Even "just the flu" can be deadly to one-year-olds. I trust he's okay, now.
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  #15  
Old 02-08-2003, 06:45 PM
Longmos Longmos is offline
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Everything, and I do mean everything you ever wanted to know about hanging can be found here.
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  #16  
Old 02-08-2003, 07:31 PM
ltfire ltfire is offline
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I remember a prison movie where this dude was intent on dying. 3 times he was cut down and on his fourth try, which was successful, he tied his hands in front of him, stepped over his hands so his hands were behind his back, and dropped head first to the floor from the upper bunk. His natual survival instinct of hands out was moot.
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  #17  
Old 02-08-2003, 07:49 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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I have a freind (well someone I know anyways) that tried to hang herself and was caught. From what I heard her eyes "popped all the way out of her head..." Anyways when I saw her a while later, she had a big bandage around her neck (for obvious reasons) and she had what looked to be two really bad black eyes.
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  #18  
Old 02-08-2003, 09:06 PM
soulburnz soulburnz is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by samboy
tonbo0422 that's sort of why I asked. I hear that in jail you have to take off you belt and shoelaces. How the F*ck do people hang themselves with shoelaces?
I would think they take the shoelaces away more for the protection of the correctional officers, as well as the suicide risk.
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  #19  
Old 02-09-2003, 01:48 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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Davebear,

Thanks! The little guy is fine again. But from what I know about the human being's ability to "crash" from a seemingly "normal" state, I would bring him (or anyone else—myself possibly excluded!) to Emergency who was displaying alarming symptoms (myself excluded because I don't like hospitals and emergency rooms! =+)

I know about the reality of hanging oneself because someone I knew did it in a drunken binge over a love unrequited (! puhleeze!) and yet another friend (his roommate) had the misfortune to find the idiot hanging on the shower curtain bar.

Too bad. Dale was a promising actor (this is all 20 years ago) and would probably be happy to see his name in lights . . . maybe even on this board.

But gods forbid the nightmares for the guy who found him. I wonder what the Hemlock Society would have to say about all this.
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  #20  
Old 02-09-2003, 01:54 AM
Mr. Slant Mr.  Slant is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by soulburnz
I would think they take the shoelaces away more for the protection of the correctional officers, as well as the suicide risk.
If you don't have shoelaces in your shoes, you're also not going to get very far very quickly if you attempt to escape...
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  #21  
Old 02-09-2003, 02:54 AM
red_dragon60 red_dragon60 is offline
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Lissa, your comment about jerking the prisoner up gave me a morbid chuckle when I thought about death by being shot out of a catapault...
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  #22  
Old 02-09-2003, 04:52 AM
dauerbach dauerbach is offline
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Human beings are extraordinarily hard to kill. I think your specious feeling that they are fragile has to do with car crashes and bullet wounds and such, none of which are really pertinent when speaking of the hardiness of the species.

I give 10 to 1 odds that the one year old you brought to the emergancy room for a common but messy normal illness was a first-born. If you had listened to your more experienced friends and relatives you would have saved you and your child time, expense and the trauma of an ER visit. The parents of first borns are the worst.
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  #23  
Old 02-09-2003, 05:07 AM
The Calculus of Logic The Calculus of Logic is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ltfire
I remember a prison movie where this dude was intent on dying. 3 times he was cut down and on his fourth try, which was successful, he tied his hands in front of him, stepped over his hands so his hands were behind his back, and dropped head first to the floor from the upper bunk. His natual survival instinct of hands out was moot.

Its probably bad that i think this is funny, but i used to know a bunch of suicidal people. One was telling me about an attempt he made.

He checked into a hotel room, and decided to suffocate himself with a bag over his head. In order to have a 'no going back' clause, he tied his hands behind his back after he placed a ziplock bag over his head & sealed it with a rubber band. He started panicking and opened the room door and took off running, it must have been funny seeing someone running around with their hands tied behind their back and a ziploc bag sealed around their head. We both laughed.
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  #24  
Old 02-09-2003, 07:40 AM
drachillix drachillix is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jonathan Woodall
If you don't have shoelaces in your shoes, you're also not going to get very far very quickly if you attempt to escape...
Or you cant improvise a garrote.
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  #25  
Old 02-09-2003, 07:42 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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dauerbach,

Heh . . . well, you're right about the "firstborn" thing. But I defy you (as a non-doctor) to tell the difference between a bad cough and Whooping Cough; fever and vomiting as being the Flu, and meningitis; crying and lethargy as a stomach ache and a lethal bacterial infection—especially in a human being that can't talk.

I'd rather look foolish than lose my kid, and I'd do it again with my twelfth-born.

And the paradox still exists: some human beings are extraordinarily fragile, while some are extremely hard to kill. Take Saddam Hussein, for example . . . =+)
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  #26  
Old 02-09-2003, 08:43 AM
Reuben Reuben is offline
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I hope samboy doesn't mind me asking a tangential question in this thread. I meant to ask it a while ago, but didn't want a dedicated thread... this seems the perfect opportunity to ask it though :

A 24 year-old male friend of mine hanged himself about three months ago. His body wasn't found for at least three weeks after that. After the funeral, the lad's inconsolable mother told me that when she was in the Chapel of Rest they wouldn't let her see his body because of the advanced decay. However they did let her 'hold' him through the shroud he was wrapped up in.

She told me that her son's hands were up around his neck as if he was trying to get the noose off before he died.

My question is, was he doing that? Rather, how likely is it that he was trying to get the noose off? Or might the positioning of the arms to be due to some after-death process such as rigor mortis? The question within the question, which his mother so dearly wants an answer to, is of course Did he really mean to do it?

For the record, he hung himself with a dressing-gown cord tied to the hook on the back of a door, the cord thrown back over the door so he was on the other side. He was only a few inches off the ground; the police were uncertain how he'd done it and speculated that a small chair a couple of feet away was used but this is by no means certain. There was no suicide note; and although he was clinically depressed this was utterly unexpected by his closest friends.
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  #27  
Old 02-09-2003, 08:55 AM
Muffin Muffin is online now
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Calculus of Logic
it is quicker than that. You will pass out in about 5 seconds if you completely cut off blood supply to the brain. try it. have someone else press your carotid arteries closed, if they do it right you will pass out quickly.
And if they do it wrong?

Sorry, but I don't think that this is the sort of thing to be recommended over the boards.
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  #28  
Old 02-09-2003, 10:31 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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Judging by the remarkable mental caliber of the posters on this board that I have seen, it's unlikely that anyone is about to put the experiment to the test. I don't think there are too many 13-year olds hanging out here.
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  #29  
Old 02-09-2003, 10:34 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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I think the evidence is bolstered by Reuben's post. How many people actually know that the past tense of "hang"--as in by the human neck--is "hanged" and not "hung"?

I rest my case.
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  #30  
Old 02-09-2003, 10:37 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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Well, he got it right the first time, anyway! I suppose after you're dead you can't really be considered human and it's okay to be "hung."
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  #31  
Old 02-09-2003, 10:49 AM
tonbo0422 tonbo0422 is offline
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Sorry to divide what should have been one post into four, but these old brain cells take a long time to process information, these days.

I think it's unlikely that Reuben's friend's hands were grabbing for his throat in death. One would imagine that the act of dying would relax all the muscles immediately—however, I am not a pathologist.

One patently false portrait of death was in The Godfather: the police chief is shot point blank in the forehead, yet he still has the wherewithal to gurgle, lurch, then plant his face in his food. I don't think so. He would collapse like a house of cards, immediately and without a single twitch.

Then again, I've read all the stories about the dying, "faces contorted in a rictus of agony." Physiologically it doesn't make sense, but whaddoIknow?
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  #32  
Old 02-10-2003, 12:58 AM
Lissa Lissa is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by tonbo0422
I think the evidence is bolstered by Reuben's post. How many people actually know that the past tense of "hang"--as in by the human neck--is "hanged" and not "hung"?

I rest my case.
I once had a friend who corrected my usage of the word with this: "It's 'hanged,' dear. 'Hung' is when God gives a man a special gift."

When it comes to prison hangings, from stories I have heard from a friend of mine who works in the industry, some of these guys are extrordinarily dedicated to dying. One fellow hanged himself by tying the noose to a low shelf, and then crouching down. It must have taken incredible willpower to feel yourself choking and not stand up.

In some prisons, such as supermax institutions, the problem arises in finding something to which to tie your noose. Often the cells are unibody, meaning that the bed is a concrete slab with a mattress, and there are no bars on the window. (Often, there are no windows, for that matter.) There is a shelf-desk combo, but its low to the ground. The ceiling is featureless concrete. One fellow my friend told me about tried to hang himself from the sprinkler head on the wall, and only managed to flood his cell.

It matters little if you take their shoelaces away. A person who is dedicated to dying will find a way. Sometimes they use their pants, or sheets, and one fellow even used his socks. Inmates on suicide watch are given only paper robes and paper sheets to try to prevent this.
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  #33  
Old 02-10-2003, 01:31 AM
bobrien bobrien is offline
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Tonbo, when you said there were no 13 year olds hanging around, I assume there was no pun intended?
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  #34  
Old 02-10-2003, 03:37 PM
slipster slipster is offline
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In the late 1970s a stuntman appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He showed Carson how hangings are sometimes staged for movie and TV. He said that hangman typically draped the noose around the subject's neck in such a way that there would be a sharp jerk when the trap was swung, breaking the neck, and bringing on instant death. When hangings were staged, however, the noose was arranged so that there would be a very slow constriction. The subject would eventually die of asphyxiation unless he or she had the noose removed in time.

A demonstration was then given where Carson was hanged, then helped back up to the platform by the stuntman.

I remember thinking at the time that this was an extraordinarily dangerous thing to be showing on national television, and that one or more people watching might be morons enough to try it.

There was one. A 14-year-old boy was found hanged in his living room the next morning. Supposedly the TV was still tuned to the local NBC affiliate. The parents sued, lost, appealed, and lost again.


Even with an experienced executioner, hanging is, apparently, not always a precise art. Of the outlaws named Black Jack Ketcham (there were two of them, brothers) said "let 'er rip" as his last words. Butch Cassidy is said to have described this man as the stupidest outlaw he ever met, but here, at least, he spoke with presience; when the trap was dropped his head tore loose from his neck.
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