The 13 Most Gruesome Ways Pirates Have Killed People Throughout History

Pirates have often been seen as bloodthirsty and vicious villains who commit evil acts of aggression without a second thought in order to secure treasure or evade justice. This perception can make people wonder about the grisly ways pirates killed people. However, just like with many portrayals of them on screen and in books, the truth is actually something quite different. In the same way that they didn’t walk around with parrots or speak in that infamous accent, the vast majority of pirates tried to avoid conflict whenever possible.

This makes sense when you think about it. After all, if every pirate engagement ended with the crew meeting a gruesome end, it would cause sailors to make life as difficult as possible for the invaders. They would likely fight valiantly rather than submit easily, something pirates wanted to happen so they could make a quick getaway.

That did not stop some of the swashbucklers from committing some terrible deeds. How did pirates kill people? Sometimes they had to torture a person to find out information, end captives to keep them from escaping, or even make an example of a fellow pirate who had turned against his crew. Whatever the case, pirates had some fairly ingenious and gruesome ways of taking out their enemies that will make your skin crawl.

  • Ching Shih Would Nail Her Enemies' Feet To The Decks Of Their Own Ships

    Ching Shih Would Nail Her Enemies' Feet To The Decks Of Their Own Ships
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Ching Shih is one of the most famous pirates who ever lived. Having begun her life as an escort, she was able to rise through the ranks of important Chinese pirate factions and eventually take command of hundreds of ships when her husband perished in the early 19th century.

    Her favorite method of dealing with rival crews and enemies was to nail their feet to the decks of their own ships and proceed to beat them until they perished. The only way out of this horrendous situation was to agree to join her ranks and become part the Red Flag Fleet. This not only sent a message to anyone who would stand against her, but also made sure she had plenty of replacement pirates to bolster her crews.

  • Montbars The Exterminator Nailed His Victims' Intestines To Posts

    Daniel Montbars, who was also known as Montbars the Exterminator for his cruel nature, was a 17th-century pirate. He became one of the biggest enemies of the Spanish Empire during his career and thus developed an intense hatred of any Spaniards he met.

    While he did not like to shed blood without reason, he was merciless to any enemies that fought against him and would brutally punish any surviving soldiers. His favorite method was to cut open the stomach of a captive, pull out their intestines, and nail them to a post while beating them.

  • Some Pirates Really Did Make People Walk The Plank

    Some Pirates Really Did Make People Walk The Plank
    Photo: Howard Pyle / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Media often depicts "walking the plank" as the standard means of punishment for pirates. While it was used very occasionally, it was often considered too theatrical for common use.

    The actual method of making someone walk the plank was also much more horrific than films generally make it out to be. Pirates would bind their captives with rope so that they could not swim and weigh them down with cannonballs to ensure they would sink.

  • Black Bart Burned People Alive On Their Own Ships

    Black Bart Burned People Alive On Their Own Ships
    Photo: Benjamin Cole / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Bartholomew Roberts, otherwise known as Black Bart, was another pirate who developed a reputation for his horrific methods. His extreme aggression and lack of morals certainly seemed to help him, as he is arguably the most successful pirate of all time. He is estimated to have captured up to 400 ships during his career, which spanned from the late 17th century into the early 18th century.

    One of his favorite ways of dealing with ships he had plundered was to simply set them on fire and sail away. Unfortunately, he often did not bother to get passengers or crew off the ships before he set them alight. In one instance, Black Bart burned 80 slaves alive when he didn’t want to waste time unshackling them.