Resurrection of an old post [victim living after beheading]

I was searching for a news story and tripped over a question about whether decapitated heads remain conscious. Cecil I don’t know how many beheadings you’ve seen but I’ve seen three. There is never a time when one is more wide awake than when some one is sawing and slicing through the tissue in the neck. I once thought the horror of such an event would cause the victim to pass out from absolute shock maybe even die before the beheading got very far along. But that appears not to be the case. The head can’t speak, but I have seen the mouth appear to try and the eyes move just as you would expect some one to look around once they are disoriented. It only last a few moments but the three I saw were not thrown into immediate unconsciousness.

enedra, welcome to the Straight Dope.

I have moved your post from General Questions to the Forum on Comments on Cecil’s Columns because you are pretty clearly commenting on a specific column, not actually asking a General Question.

Usually, if you are posting regarding an actual article, it is a good idea to provide a link so that anyone following your post can check it against the original article. In this case, the original article was Do decapitated heads briefly remain conscious?.

Excuse me if I find your claim unlikely, but where did these beheadings happen? The only countries that use beheadings for executions anymore are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, and Iran. It appears that in all of them beheadings are done with a scimitar, and the executioner always makes a clean swing. There is no “sawing and slicing.” How did you happen to be present at these executions?

Thanks tomndebb. Sorry not to take time to learn how to navigate here but I don’t plan to be here long.

IRT Mr. Wagner. I’m afraid you’ll have to believe it or not. Surely you don’t think all beheadings are legally sanctioned by sovereign states. I honestly don’t know if war brings out the worst in us or if the worst among us are drawn to war. Details on where I’ve been would only raise more questions than they answer. And the guilty are not alive to stand trial. You’ve really got some nerve trying to formulate how all beheadings must occur. Beheading is not unique to the countries you list. All I will tell you is I had 2 choices. Watch what was happening or be prepared to shoot a fellow soldier and very possibly several more for shooting him. Lastly, well. Never mind. Heads don’t die immediately. That’s the point I wanted to make.

For what it’s worth I’ve never been to Iraq, or any other Middle Eastern country.

So, Ed Zotti isn’t Cecil, Robert Ripley is.

I choose not.

The members of this message board are quite adept at both asking and answering questions, so please don’t spare us your details on that account.

Pony up or take your tales elsewhere.

Mysterious circumstances notwithstanding, I should point out that Cecil has two columns on beheadings. The first (apparently the one enedra read) is the column Tom linked to: Do decapitated heads briefly remain conscious? (08-Jan-1982). The other column is from much later: Does the head remain briefly conscious after decapitation? (12-Jun-1998). In the later column, Cecil says,

So. Further comment?

IRT Fear Itself. You are ½ the reason details serve no purpose.

IRT Cervaise. No. Take your dapper deftness to people who have been in combat and if they are willing to tell you what they have seen question their truthfulness in person.

Someone who knows please address the next statement as true or false. One reason soldiers don’t want to discuss combat experience is because too much of what can be told should never have happened.

We either don’t want to admit doing it or we don’t like the fact we know about it and went with it. If some of you are so skilled at answering questions you shouldn’t have to have this spelled out.

Certain people won’t rest until someone has been put on trial for behaviour that goes with the territory - right or wrong it is nature of the beast. I am not saying all soldiers commit crimes in a direct way. The only crime I committed was not reporting the beheadings I saw. If you incredulous punks think I’m going to give some limp spined wus a silver bullet you’re more naive than even I can fathom.

Unbeknownst to me it appears Cecil has had a change of heart - OK mind. I’m not sure why that soothes my soul but it does. I’ve never once felt compelled to blurt out at ball game, poker game or any kind of gathering “hey, ya know what? When ya cut off somebody’s head with a knife the guy’s brain lives long enough to know what happened. Yeah, I seen it” In fact the question has never come up in my circles. I’m glad it hasn’t. I’m more than a little upset at realizing the contempt and hostility I feel toward a couple of you nattering nabobs. I’m glad for my sake we aren’t in arms reach of each other. I feel like I’m just now realizing I had a narrow escape and didn’t even know there was a threat close by. Well, I get two prizes for this little exchange. 1. The wisdom to know not to ever, ever, never let on I have seen what I’ve seen. I mean where I can be pressed for “details.” And 2. Hopefully be able to dismiss nattering nabobs as they should be. :slight_smile:

Please excuse the double post. I can’t leave and not thank zut for the other article by Cecil and helping me maintain a little credibility. I have a paradox of sorts here. I know I don’t need support for what I saw with my two eyes not once but three times BUT I do appreciate it. I really do.

This just occurred to me. Maybe I made someone think the three events happened in the same few minutes or the same day. They were spread over 4 months. Even tho I didn’t shoot the psychopath, I covered the guy who did. He had become the enemy.

I feel no pity for anyone who protects war criminals.

Sounds like the guy is beyond either protection or prosecution. I’d hate to have to live with the kind of memories enedra has.

I can understand the compulsion to finally say something about the events, especially as his memory was jogged by running across the articles. That doesn’t mean we get or deserve details. Don’t forget folks that for many, this place is a combination of diary, confessional and Dear Abby.

I’ll never know if enedra has BS’d us or not, but his posts are articulate and well written. They’re also plausable. Atrocities happen in war. That something like this could happen is hardly a surprise. Now that I think about it, we’re not even sure exactly what country enedra was fighting for. I assume America, but some of his choice of words could be British or British-schooled. At the moment I see no real reason to disbelieve him.

Enedra, I don’t necessarily doubt what you say, as Zoogirl above me said, it’s completely possible. However this message board is pretty much founded on the concept of fighting ignorance with scientific techniques (although insightful anecdotes can be helpful.) When a guest enters and makes a somewhat extraordinary claim and then when asked about more details says, “I’m not going to talk about it, I don’t have to, I saw it with my own eyes,” it makes one wonder why you this guest started the thread in the first place.
We’re a curious sort and many of us here are an accusatory sort, and don’t tend to just believe people on their word. This policy may discount some very valid anecdotes, such as yours, but it also prevents false knowledge from getting passed on as true because “some guy on a message board told me.”
You’re certainly not obliged to go into detail about your horrific war experiences, but these are things to keep in mind next time you start a thread.

Um… beheading someone is a war crime, and so is failing to report such. if your experience is so illegal that you cannot even back it up… sorry, you have zero credibility and nothing to build on, you will just have to live with that. Accidentally shooting a pregnant woman would be an example of a tragic mistake; watching someone having their head sawed off is criminal cowardice and a crime against humanity. You should be ashamed of yourself for your complicity and you should feel fortunate to be breathing free air, and I think you know that, evidenced by your fear of talking about it. If you thought that your story would be blindly accepted, or that people would be receptive to war criminals here… well, this is not that kind of place. In fact I am surprised your tale has been received so mildly.

Yeah. There were follow-up threads to Cecil’s last column in which he(Cecil) seemed to go along with the story told by a Vet.

There have been follow-up colums from us dopers such as Karen Lingel’s doubts
and ,Eve’s and samclem’s sketicism ,followed by JoltSucker’s good suggestions, all of which were great threads which have unfortunately been removed from the current server due to space restrictions.

I and others argued that we still don’t have any proof. Especially since the story teller was in a car wreck and unconcious for a while.

And for all the eyewitness testimony the new poster enedra, what he/she saw could have been merely reflexes, not anything concious.

If I came across as arrogant by not disclosing details then we had a communication breakdown. CYA is very much in the forefront here. While it is a crime (which I did acknowledge) to not report such things it is next to impossible -no it is impossible to properly deal with this kind of situation on the fly. We didn’t have field forms for reporting atrocities. I think we did the right thing when I covered the shooter’s back and the psychopath now lays dead where the people he beheaded lays. The powers that be would disagree but their powder puff arses don’t leave the sacred halls of politics so simply put they don’t know enough to call it. They think they do.

IRT why I posted in the first place I explained early on. If you’re too busy to read it I’m too busy to retype it. I usually don’t leave out the stuff that answers the most obvious questions.

IRT my aggravation at the nattering nabobs is due more to the toss of the coin appearance your doubt had. With no more to go on than you had you seemed to buck common sense with a head in the sand ring to it. People like Brainwreck write like they haven’t read the thread. The opposite of which is Zoogirl and others. Brainwreck, normally I would say I hope you never see combat duty. But you need a new definition of coward - combat is exactly what you need. For the record I have been haunted by what I saw, what I didn’t do and the one thing that counters that is the field remedy I mentioned.

I’m afraid this has turned into “is enedra a liar” and it should remain “do decapitated heads remain alive?” I’d like to turn attention to the poster samclem. I am a “he.” We can see fear, happiness, confusion on a dog’s face. Trust me, it was not “reflexes.” In fact until the cord in the neck is cut the victim continues to try to breath. You get sounds that range from a wet wheeze to a sound (not vocal - vocal cords go almost first) that resembles a growl. I remember a school yard fight once where a kid got his face pressed hard in some soft dirt. In an effort to breathe and cuss he made muffled sounds that remind me of one of the victims. The BH victims sounds tho were all breathing as I said nothing vocal. (edit add on - they did scream like hell but not for long). But in spite of the massive loss of blood, and his head connected only by the cord in the neck (not sure where the spinal cord becomes something else, sorry) he made a sound that resembled growling. Personally I think he was blowing a large amount of blood out of his lungs but I didn’t get down on my hands and knees and look. Once that cord got cut his body ceased to move. His face looked like stunned disbelief and his lips moved like he was trying to speak. The last one looked like he wanted to tune up and cry. Just like a three year old when you tell him “No.”

The strangest thing out of all I saw is that if the psychopath had merely shot the enemy soldier it would have been “war is hell” as usual. But he had to be the devil himself and drag all of us into his realm, making co-psychopaths out of all of us. Which is why he he’s dead and we’re not in prison or worse. It should stay that way.

For the record, what is the other half?

I choose not to believe you, not because I think you are a liar, but because there is not enough evidence to support what you are claiming. Some people, like zoogirl, ask only that there be no reason to disbelieve you. I have a higher standard; I have lived too long and heard too many tales to simply accept whatever sounds plausible. I am a skeptic about most of what I read on the internet, and while you write well, I am not ready to accept your extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof. The best I can offer you is, it could have happened. Now, if you think the best way to improve my opinion is by withholding details, I can only say that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the very basics of critical thinking.

First, speaking from the viewpoint of a combat veteran the tale is not as extraordinary as many would like to think. Not that beheadings occur so often but other gross ugly things happen all of which is another story. After you see a few men go from whole bodies to remnants in the blink of an eye or find the remains of something hideous a beheading is not all that shocking.

IRT the other ½. The ½ you make up is that details won’t do you any good because then they would have to be verified. Understandable yes but that ushers in the other ½. The folks who could verify information are the ones who would be compelled to take legal action. That’s the two halves. Details are either insufficient or do too much.

I can appreciate your position a bit better. I forget the world is full of losers who have nothing better to do than go to forums and chat rooms and pass themselves off as people they are not. I don’t like being suckered into a false reality either. The thing that got under my skin with the doubters had more to do with the notion they didn’t seem to be able to acknowledge such things even happen. In 2006 that level of naivete blows my mind. While I like being believed especially on matters that have affected my sleep like this once did I strongly feel at this point being dismissed as bored babbler might be the way to go. Not that you do, it just might be the way to go from here.

Basically this is all you’ve provided in evidence that a severed head can have some cognitive function after the beheading is complete. And it’s no proof at all. His face could look like anything you choose, but that doesn’t mean he had cognitive function. His lips could perhaps still move in reflex action. Perhaps for seconds. But that doesn’t mean he had cognitive function.

There is absolutely no scientific evidence that a severed head could have any cognitive function after it’s severed from the body. Your personal opinions of what the heads appeared to you to be doing is a nice anecdote, much like the one Cecil appears to have swallowed from the VietNam vet in the accident.

Anecdotes aren’t very good evidence in this kind of matter.


First you betray your fair mindedness when you say things like “His face could look like anything you choose,” (see 4.). We all know enedra did not establish and name the emotional expressions that we all see and consistently identify universally across cultures. Happy looks happy. Sad looks sad. Angry looks angry. Broken hearted looks broken hearted. Worried looks worried. And it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, Eskimo or Zulu it looks the same everywhere. Otherwise, smilies would have no meaning. :stuck_out_tongue:

1.what would you accept as proof since a severed head can’t speak? Would it really take hooking up a living person to a machine that can measure brain activity, decapitate them, and take the readings for you to grant the premise?

2.what physiology can you point to that requires the brain and its cognizant abilities must immediately cease to function upon being severed with no blunt trauma to the brain. I believe “blunt trauma” describes what we call a blow to the head in this case.

  1. Would it be a valid position to say since dogs can’t talk we have no proof they feel pain? Using your paradigm, what we call screaming, yelping, hollering bloody murder may be how dogs really express joy, happiness, and contentment. We have errantly pinned our opinions to what we see when dogs holler and just assume it is pain, apparently.

  2. I wonder out loud to my self how much of the scepticism (all parties) stems from a wish not to accept some things pure and simple.