There are plenty of theories and myths surrounding one of the most gruesome forms of execution: decapitation. It's hard to truly understand what being decapitated is like, since well, you can't survive being externally decapitated. But science can help us understand what happens to your body when your head is cut off.So how do we know what it's like to be decapitated? Some animals survive long enough while headless for us to study them. One chicken lived for 18 months without a head and some worms can regrow their heads after they've been decapitated. Read through this list to learn more creepy facts about decapitation.
Decapitation Really Hurts (But Only for a Few Seconds)
Bad news: despite Dr. Guillotin's belief that having your head cut off is a humane method of execution, decapitation is going to hurt. Like, a lot. But the good news is that you'll only feel it for a second or two! Or maybe not: it could hurt for as long as seven seconds, which is how long it takes for the brain to use up all the oxygen in the blood. It's a notoriously hard thing to study since, y'know, it requires decapitating someone.
Heads Can Naturally Twitch a Bit After Decapitation
There are plenty of stories out there about severed heads blinking and biting, but modern medical authorities say such accounts - when they're not urban myths or tall tales - are actually due to reflexive twitching instead of deliberate movement. One widely distributed account of supposed consciousness following a beheading comes from a French doctor in 1905, who claimed the severed head of a man responded to the sound of his own name by opening his eyelids "without any spasmodic contraction." However, there are several reasons to doubt the good doctor's account. Modern physicians have determined that consciousness is lost within 2 to 3 seconds of being decapitated.
Internal Decapitation Is Totally a Thing
Decapitation conjures revolting images of bloodless heads in baskets, but that's not always the case. There is such a thing as internal decapitation, which happens when the skull is severed from the spinal column but the head is still attached to the body. This most commonly happens when someone is hanged, but it can also happen by accident, such as the case of a four year old in Idaho who actually managed to survive internal decapitation after a car wreck.
Head Transplants Could Actually Happen (But Might Be "Worse Than Death")
A 30-year-old chronically ill Russian man volunteered in 2015 to be the first person ever to have his head installed on another person's body. The procedure - which would take 36 hours and 150 doctors and nurses - technically isn't possible yet, but doctors at least have a volunteer when the time comes (if the time comes). Experts, however, say it might be a fate worse than death: they have no idea what it will do the patient's mind. It could actually result in "a hitherto never experienced level and quality of insanity." Seems worth it.