There are countless ways people have been executed in the past. Some are fairly quick, such as being shot to death by a firing squad and, well... actually that's pretty much the fastest way to die in the capital punishment game.
On the other hand, there are some gruelingly slow methods which force the victims to suffer. In that case, one is looking at being buried alive, gassed, disemboweled, boiled to death, or flayed, among countless other gruesome and extremely painful methods.
But is there any punishment that falls right down the middle? A happy medium of death?
The answer may come in the form of one of the oldest methods of execution: hanging.
Put simply, death by hanging is a number of ways a person can die after being suspended by a noose around their neck. And while film and television have made a hanging seem like a quick and easy process, there's actually a lot more to it than most people think.
Read on to find out what happens to the body when you are hanged.
Four Methods, Two Outcomes
While many think the hanging process is a fairly simple affair, there are actually four different methods the executioner can choose, each with different effects on the body.
The standard drop and the long drop are very likely to break your neck, but suspension and the short drop are almost guaranteed not to. With the standard drop and the long drop, a noose is placed around your neck and you're dropped from a height of at least four feet. With suspension and the short drop, you're either not dropped at all or you're dropped from a height of only a few inches, meaning that there's not enough impact to snap your neck. How much you suffer depends on how you're hanged.
Your Neck Breaks If You're Lucky
Well, there's bad news, really bad news, and the worst news: the bad news is you're about to be hanged by way of the long drop. The really bad news is that your death is going to happen so fast that there's no chance anyone will be able to save you as you writhe and kick on the noose. The worst news is that this is the most painless way to die from hanging.
That's because, since you're falling from such a great height, your neck is going to snap almost immediately.
So how does it work? Well, once you've been dropped, the momentum of your body weight is enough to break your neck. You're instantly unconscious, which means you won't suffer as you experience brain death. And that's lucky compared to what happens when your neck doesn't snap.
If You're Not Lucky, Oxygen to Your Brain Is Reduced
As soon as you're hanged, the amount of oxygen heading to your brain is immediately cut short.
If your neck doesn't snap immediately and you're gasping for air, that means you're in the throes of brain ischemia. Put simply, this is when all the veins and arteries that carry blood to your brain are blocked. And you know what blood carries? Oxygen. You won't survive more than ten minutes without oxygen to your brain.
Your Carotid Artery Closes
Your carotid arteries are some of the most important suppliers of blood to the brain, and unfortunately for you, they're located right where you least want them to be: your neck. You know, that part of you that's being squeezed by a rope as you dangle helplessly below.
So all the blood that should be traveling up through your carotids to your brain has stopped in its tracks, which isn't going to help your ever-approaching brain death one bit.