The guillotine: Not a bad way to go?

Quick and painless (?), No? Sure, it’s horrifying to visualize but wouldn’t being guillotined be about the most reliable and efficient method of ending one’s life?

Well, that’s what the French claimed. Seemed to work well for them.

Compared to what was otherwise available at the time (of the French Revolution)? Sure. It is almost assured that at T+30s you’ll be done with the process.

It’s been said that the most reliable and painless method of execution would be wrapping high explosives around the condemned’s head and setting them off. But modern society requires a certain dignity to the process.

Wouldn’t it depend on how long your head remains conscious afterward?

Guillotining was introduced as an alternative to having the head inexpertly hacked off with a sword or axe. There are controversial, grisly accounts implying that loss of consciousness may not be instant and there is a chance that the unfortunate victim may experience being a disembodied head for some seconds. There is no question that the method reliably induces death, though.

Interesting factoid:

In previous conversations here, the general consensus was that suffocation with nitrogen would probably be the least painful method. But if the goal is simply reliability and efficiency, then the guillotine is a pretty good option.

If reliability is simply # of successes divided by # of attempts, it is indeed hard to beat a track record of 100%. But there are plenty of contenders that come close, while resulting in a less grisly spectacle.

As for “efficient” - what is meant by this term? :confused: Least hours of paid labor to achieve? Least energy? Least cost? Least time from start to finish? Something else?

Mary Roach’s book “Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers” goes into more detail than you may wish about the waning moments of guillotine subjects. :smack:

I call this “The C-4 Helmet” it is my preferred method of exit.

Well, they wouldn’t be smacking themselves in the forehead, that’s for sure.

There was an incident in which Saddam Hussein’s regime executed a couple of guys with explosive charges placed in their shirts’ breast pockets. You can find footage on LiveLeak; I’m pretty sure the shock wave from the detonation rendered them unconscious before any pain impulse reached their brain.

Did the guillotine always sever the neck on the first drop?

Didn’t they also strap a dude to the muzzle a howitzer? :eek:


Don’t recall whether the did that or not, but it’s hardly original.

There is a grainy video of the last “public” execution in France in 1939 of Eugen Weidmann, on youtube if anyone cares to look it up. After this all later executions were done in private. Apparently actor Christopher Lee witnessed the execution.

I think the blood rushing out and spraying was one of the downfalls of the process. Not only was it gruesome, people had to actually clean up afterwards. I always thought that they should have used a heated blade and held the head in place after the cut in order to cauterize both ends and minimize the mess. I think technology wise we could come up with better decapitation method now.

Sounds like a job for a lightsaber.

Well, considering the guillotine was really just a technological advance over a big guy with a sword, I suppose by now we could have come up with a multitude of technological advances focused on decapitation. But I fear there isn’t really a market for it, alas.