Resurrection of an old post [victim living after beheading]

Well the only way to prove it would be if someone knew they were going to be beheaded and agreed to do something - wink four times in a row with their left eye - after they were beheaded. I believe something similar to this was in the original Cecil column, although I didn’t get back and read it.

The problem you are overlooking is that we are good at reading those expressions because we see them many times every day. In contrast how many new parents misdiagnose a grimace due to wind as being a smile in an infant? How well could you separate a look of constipation from a look of broken heartedness? How many people can really tell a fake smile from a sincere smile?

In short, how certain are you that what you saw was a real emotion and not simply the result of random muscle spasms? How do you know what a random muscle spasm looks like on face, and if you don’t how do you know that is not what you saw? A random muscle spasm could look like anything you choose to identify it with. You could just be seeing patterns in clouds.

For me, yes that would do it. As would anything else that provided objective evidence for the phenomenon such as Pew’s suggestion. Subjective evidence such as your subjective opinion of what facial expressions mean simply does not constitute evidence.

There are two mechanisms that pretty much guarantee that the consciousness will be lost instantly and never regained.

  1. The neck contains pressure receptors that surround the carotid artery. These receptors are designed to stop blood pressure to the brain getting too high and blowing out blood vessels or so low that the brain is oxygen deprived. While blood pressure remains at the right level high the receptors are happy. When blood pressures gets to high the receptors stretch and send impulses to the brain telling it to slow heart rate as well as flushing blood to the peripheral areas to relieve brain pressure. It also encourages the owner to stop working the muscles by asking then to lie down. The receptors also work when blood pressures drops suddenly but in this case blood is shunted to the brain from the periphery and the ‘lie down’ effect drops the brain to below the level of the heart. . In practical terms this results in giddiness and fainting. Try lying down and relaxing for a while and then standing up rapidly. Most people feel giddy due to the rapid blood pressure drop in the carotid sinuses. In some people actual fainting results. The compression of the carotid arteries will trigger near instant unconsciousness. Someone “sawing and slicing through the tissue in the neck” will most certainly compress those pressure receptors. Result: instantaneous loss of consciousness. The rate of blood loss from the severed vessels will ensure that consciouness is never regained

  2. The next issue is simply one of breaking the spinal cord. There’s a lot of nerves in there, and when the spinal cord is broken they all fire. The resulting overload inevitably causes blackout. It used to be thought up to 20 or so years ago that breaking the spinal cord always caused instant loss of consciousness, but apparently there is some evidence that some breaks in the lower spine may be possible without causing unconsciousness. I’ve tried looking for the evidence for this but while it is regularly cited I can’t find the actual original. But the point is that breaking the spinal cord is terribly traumatic for the brain. Once again I’m willing to concede that someone’s neck could just possibly be neatly severed and allow consciousness to be retained, but not if decapitation results from “sawing and slicing through the tissue in the neck”.

No, that wouldn’t be valid. It would in fact be a slothful induction.

  1. You have no plausible mechanism by which an animal could evolve to experience “joy, happiness, and contentment” as a result of stimuli that reduce reproductive success.

  2. We know that dogs produce stress hormones as a result of stimuli that provoke what we call a pain reaction. Those are the same hormones and in the same approximate ratios as we find released from human subjects in the same circumstances and the human subjects can tell us in no uncertain terms that they felt pain and distress.

Those are just 2 of the more obvious pieces of data that you need to explain before your position can be considered valid.

And that my friend is what we call an ad hominem. It’s nothing more than a personal attack, and a pretty tawdry one at that since it is essentially labelling anyone who disagrees with you as a coward.

Your position is already exceedingly weak since it consists of nothing more than unsupportable and unverifiable anecdote from an anonymous source. You really don’t need to weaken it further with such petty attempts to poison the well.

Blake. Thanks for expressing some of my thoughts in a well-written way.

I DO wonder, given your statement above in bolding(mine), just how long would you even guess a cleanly severed head(guillotine for example) might retain the ability to show a cognitive emotion?

"… there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.” See U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Firearms Training Unit, FBI Academy, Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness (Quantico, VA, July 14, 1989), 8.

Now the blood probably leaves the brain faster if you sever the neck rather than just destroy the heart, but it seems reasonable that a severed head could remain somewhat conscious for a few seconds at least, all the brain needs is oxygen from the blood to function in the short term. Having all the nerves severed would be a strange sensation - perhaps all the person would feel at that point is shock. But I can’t get behind the idea that things just shut down in milliseconds, people are pretty hardy at times and come back from amazing injuries.

Heck, there’s an account of an individual who was shot in the back of the head and lived that I’ve read re-posted on these boards… Something about a warm feeling before passing out. OK, found it - Jackie Pflug;

“I was shot at point blank range, execution style, thrown from the plane onto the tarmac and left for dead. For five hours, I drifted in and out of consciousness until an airport grounds crew retrieved my body on its way to the morgue.” - from her site, Her site talks more about the injury specifically - back of the head with a 38 which left her with brain damage.

And there’s always Phineas Gage for the old-schoolers. My point is that catastrophic brain or vascular injury does not always mean instant death or loss of consciousness…

I imagine that the realization that your head is getting sawn off would get the fight or flight response to kick in, possibly enhancing the amount of oxygen available. In short, I see no reason to reject what enedra has posted out of hand; it isn’t as if he’s claiming these severed heads were flying around the room for hours, speaking in latin, and had glowing eyes… He just said that they don’t die right off the bat, there are a few final moments where they still seem conscious.

It’s an unusual event for which there isn’t a lot of objective data.

First off let’s me make it clear that a guillotine does not severe a neck cleanly. No matter how sharp that blade is when it strikes bone it is going to shatter and crush, not slice. That is going to push bone fragments into the spinal cord and cause all sorts of mess. No way do I believe anyone killed with a guillotine remains conscious.

When I said neatly severed I meant a sedated and restrained “patient” with their neck positioned properly, a trained surgeon, several scalpels and at least half an hours work. To sever the spinal cord cleanly you’d need to expose the spinal column then slide the scalpel between a vertebra and a disk. That way only soft tissue is being moved and nothing is producing any great pressure on the neurons. Then you can go on and sever the rest of the neck.
As for how long someone could remain conscious following such a procedure, I wouldn’t think more than 10 seconds simply because the brain has absolutely no oxygen supply. But of course that’s just a WAG. It is theoretically possible to retain consciousness for up to 3 minutes with no oxygen supply.


You simply can not compare a low velocity bullet wound to the brain with severing the spinal column and all blood vessels in the neck. The brain has no baroreceptors. Brain injuries result in minimal blood loss, low velocity injuries don’t; cause the type of massive neuronal impulse associated with severing the spinal column.

In short such comparisons are totally invalid. You might just as well compare bullet wounds to being hit by Mike Tyson and conclude that since bullet wounds don’t cause unconcsiousness neither can being hit. The types of damage and the causes of unconsciousness are totally unrelated.

The next point is that adrenalin doesn’t cause a change in the amount of oxygen in the brain.

As for seeing no reason to reject what enedra is saying, what about the total lack of evidence or corroboration for his claims? What we have is an unsupportable and unverifiable anecdote form an anonymous source. Since when did the SDMB start accepting such claims?

Here is an additional account I don’t think **Cecil ** or anyone else has posted here. It is cited on The AFU and Urban Legend Archive as being from the British Medical Journal, Vol 294: February, 1987 page 474:

Thanks for that Fear Itself. That seems to be themost credible evience yet produced on this subject.

While the head retains the blink reflex for 5 seconds after decapitatoin there is absolutely no sign of consciousness. Even the blink reflex ceased after 5 seconds.

I think that pretty much ends the debate as far as objective facts go. Decapitated heads do not remain conscious and there is insufficent oxygen supply to even maintain the most primitive reflexes for more than 5 seconds.

There’s nothing like standing there seeing it with your own eyes to make you conclude “so much for experts.” Seems like to me this thread didn’t really get serious about this subject until I “poisoned the well” as you say. c’est la vie.

I don’t discount the physiological info above at all. It sounds right enough to an absolute layman. But as those of you who are exposed to science and engineering know you have the text book and then you have the field. Often they don’t compliment each other; sometimes they just plain don’t agree. And if I knew how to reconcile them I’d write my book and retire. If I had only seen one I’d probably take all that and go “hmmm, that makes sense.” But I saw three. What doesn’t make sense is what we think we know contrasted with what I know I saw. I am more than willing to say you could be 100% correct. But I just can’t square what you know with what I saw, it sure as hell wasn’t clouds.

For the record I’m willing to end my part of this discussion on the note that none of us really really knows for sure what the state of mind of a beheading victim is. Their thoughts may be screaming like nothing we can imagine or they may be dead as a rock. I just want to point out that while we can all read the same books I’ve got the extra experience of seeing the subject up close and personal. In most discussions that would be an advantage. Not this time - it 's just the extra experience. In any discussion you have the catching up to do. Hope you never do but it still remains to be done.

Well I’ve been doing what gets me in the most trouble - thinking.

Blake I hate to say it but how do you know? Your two mechanisms presuppose a lot that you simply have no way of knowing what happened or to what degree either. Pressure on receptors and carotid arteries? The psychopath didn’t use a rope or a butter knife. He used his knife that I can assure you didn’t need much strength to make it work. And unless you have documentation of a spinal cord being severed under controlled circumstances with brain activity being monitored you’re behind the same ontological eight ball you say I am. You don’t know either. As you can see from the preceding post I bought your explanation but later I realized you are addressing an event where you just plain were not present.

Statements like this show you’re guessing more than anybody:
“First off let’s me make it clear that a guillotine does not severe a neck cleanly. No matter how sharp that blade is when it strikes bone it is going to shatter and crush, not slice. That is going to push bone fragments into the spinal cord and cause all sorts of mess. No way do I believe anyone killed with a guillotine remains conscious.”

I don’t what defines a clean cut but I know what sharp, heavy, and gravity is.

Further I know I never suggested that the spinal cord was broken. You said “There’s a lot of nerves in there, and when the spinal cord is broken they all fire.” That probably is the case with a bone crushing injury. We are talking about slicing (sorry I ever said sawing) with a knife that is second only to a scalpel.

As for my corroboration - where is everybody else’s?

Wow. This thread is highly disturbing. It hurts me to even read enedra’s story. I don’t know what to think. If I’m reading right, a soldier on our side decided to execute some people by slowly sawing their heads off in the same way that those kidnappers were doing to their victims in the videos, and after he finished the third one, while the victims suffered horribly and appeared to still be conscious for a few seconds after having their heads cut off, one of enedra’s fellow soldiers decided this guy was a nutcase and needed to be stopped, so he shot him while enedra covered for him.


Blake, could you expand on a couple things for me?

It is? How? I always thought the whole 10-15 second limit was the max you could remain conscious without getting fresh, oxygen-rich blood in the brain.

Also, can you expand on the point you made about the nerves in the spinal cord firing when cut? How did we learn that? Is it just supposition based on the unconsciousness that generally seems to follow having the spinal cord being cut, or have we measured it somehow?

Yes, like seeing the sun go around the world with your own eyes. Or seeing that the Earth is flat with your own eyes.

Seeing things with your own eyes is a really crummy way to ascertain the truth of anything. That is why science works so well. It demands that all observations be objective and replicable. IOW it demands that anything you claim to have seen can also be seen with anyone else’s eyes.

As a scientist I can say that they almost always do agree, and in those rare cases where they don’t agree it is the perception of the real world that is at fault. Very occasionally the textbook needs to be re-written based , but base don objective evidence, not unverifiable anonymous anecdote

Can you elaborate on this. Can you explain to us how you know it wasn’t just random muscle spasms?

None of us can ever really know anything for sure. We can’t really know for sure that we aren’t all strapped into the matrix and this is all an computer generated illusion. That is why science doesn’t talk about ‘knowing’ and ‘proving’ to the nth degree. It talks about preponderance of evidence and reliability of measurement and probability of concurrence.

We can never really know for sure what the state of mind of a beheading victim is but all the overwhelming evidence points to it being non-existent.

No, it wouldn’t. In almost any discussion of an emotionally traumatic issue being physically and emotionally close to the subject is a massive liability. The simple fact that you were involved in these beheadings and traumatised by them makes it almost impossible for you to be objective about the experience. That isn’t an indictment of your it is simply a statement about the human mind.

That is not to say that your anecdote is worthless in such a discussion, but your involvement and obvious psychological distress are not advantageous in analysing your anecdotes, they are a liabilities.

Well no, they don’t. I know that the carotid artery was severed and I know that the spinal cord was severed and I know that the victim was neither sedated not immobilised while this occurred, and those points were not presupposed, they were stated plainly in you testimony.

No, I am not because I have a sound physiological mechanisms and animal experimentation basis for what I said.

What is the physiological basis that you propose to allow constant pressure to be maintained within the carotid sinus while the neck is being “sawn and sliced” through?

You have never been present at a hydrogen bomb test either. Nonetheless if someone told you that they saw a hydrogen detonation and it took 3 hours for the reaction to complete and that the sky rained violet daffodils all the while you would be able to challenge their claim, wouldn’t you?

One does not need to be present at every event that an anonymous individual claims to have witnessed to be able to challenge it does one?


:confused: How can a body be decapitated without breaking the spinal cord?

What difference do you think that makes?

The one thing about the SDMB is that if you want people to produce their evidence you only need to ask.

What precisely is it that you wish to see corroboration for?

No, it’s only the maximum time that people do remain conscious. In contrast actual cell death doesn’t start occurring until the brain has been oxygen deprived for around 3 minutes. So in theory a person could retain consciousness until the point of death of the cells involved. Note that I have no evidence this has ever occurred, I was simply pointing out that in theory it is possible.

Physiology B.

We’ve measured it. In fact it was one of the major hurdles they had to overcome to study neural physiology.

In simplified terms a neuron works somewhat like an electric cell, with the positive plate outside the cell membrane and the negative plate inside. The cell membrane effectively acts as an insulator between the plates. When the inside and the outside are allowed to reach the same potential the two plates immediately ‘short’ and that causes the nerve to fire. When you cut a nerve, or even stretch it, you remove the cell membrane. That means that the inside and outside equalise and the cell immediately fires.

It is possible to very carefully and very neatly sever a neuron without making it fire, but it requires literal surgical precision. The idea that it could be achieved by “sawing and slicing” with a Bowie knife just doesn’t make any sense.

Okay, I think I see what you’re saying here. Obviously, cells don’t actually start dying at the 10-15 second mark after blood flow to the brain has ceased. So let me flip the question around: do we know people only stay conscious for 10-15 seconds when blood flow to the brain is interrupted? Obviously there probably aren’t any cases of people being beheaded while hooked up to an EEG, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people have had heart attacks or something that similarly stops blood flow to the brain while wired up to an EEG … so do you happen to know if we have any idea why consciousness stops so soon?

Thanks for the information about nerves firing when cut. I’m going to ponder that. I knew I could count on you for a bunch of clear, accurate information.

IANAD, but I would be surprised to learn of any medical theory that proposed that a brain could remain conscious right up until cell death. I would think it is much more likely that consciousness must cease considerably before cell death begins to occur. Actual cell death may not occur until long after the cell ceases to function well enough to maintain consciousness.

blake get a life. you’re sad.

While it’s impossible to ever ask a beheading victim what their experience was, we have examples of immediate (but reversible) blood circulation loss to the brain, so we know how long you remain conscious – maybe 5 seconds.

One example is pilots who pull extreme Gs, causing "G-Induced Loss of Consciousness (GLOC). This deprives the brain of circulation and (absent countermeasures) you become unconscious very quickly, in a few seconds. The general experience is not limited to just fighter pilots. Anybody who’s flown a light plane and pulled over 4 Gs knows your vision greys out very quickly – just seconds.

A key item is that your vision goes first – it’s the most sensitive to disruption of blood perfusion.

A beheading victim’s circulatory perfusion to the brain obviously immediately stops, with blood pressure dropping to zero. While brain tissues can survive a minute or two in that state before irreversible decay, the issue is consciousness.

Therefore I’d expect useful consciousness to be no more than a few seconds, based on total lack of tissue perfusion alone. Pilot GLOC examples indicate vision probably is the first to go.

Based on this, it seems extremely unlikely that consciousness continues for more than a few seconds. In particular accounts of eyes looking about for 15-20 seconds as indicative of voluntary, conscious action are almost totally not correct.

This doesn’t tell us whether the severed head would retain sensory input for a few seconds, but it does bound the upper limit of useful consciousness at no more than that.

And you’re priceless.

You complain that people won’t engage with your argument and dismiss you out of hand, and then when someone takes the times and effort to engage you on a point-by-point basis, you call him sad.

joema . Excellent contribution. Another, and significant, nail in the coffin, IMHO.

joema—welcome to the Board.
An excellent post, carefully reasoned.
I hope you stick around.
enedra–which branch of the Service were you in? What rank? MOS? What era? Current service?

You don’t have to give your name or unit, obviously, but a little background on you would improve your credibility, & help persuade the more cautious Members that you are not a 14-year-old who has seen Faces Of Death 3 one time too many. That is always a risk on the anonymous Web, as you know.

enedra’s guest membership has run out, I presume, so he won’t be replying unless he decides to pay up…

PsyOps Unsubstantiated Rumor Office?