Death is a fact of life; however, some deaths are much more gruesome than others. In this article, I have outlined some of the most horrific deaths in ancient, and not-so-ancient, history.
What Are The Bloodiest Deaths Of All Time?
György Dózsa – A Soldier Appointed to Lead a Crusade
(1470 – July 20, 1514)
György Dózsa is remembered as a Christian martyr as well as a dangerous criminal. Dózsa was appointed by the Hungarian chancellor, Tamás Bakócz, to organize an army and then lead a crusade against the Turks.
As Dózsa and the anger of his peasant volunteers increased toward the noblemen, the war quickly turned into a rebellion, in which vengeance was being sought. The rebellion failed, leading to the capture of Dózsa and his nine followers that remained.
Dózsa’s torture involved sitting on a red-hot, burning throne made of iron, holding a blazing-hot scepter in his hand while wearing a smoldering crown upon his head – these forms of torture were used as a means to mock his ambition to become king.
As he sit upon his throne, executioners used hot pliers to rip into his skin. After tearing into his skin, his followers (who had been starved for days) were instructed to bite Dózsa in the areas where the hot pliers had ripped away the skin so they could consume the flesh. Three or four of his followers refused, which led to the dismemberment of their bodies via the chopping block, which prompted the remaining followers to comply. Once Dózsa had finally succumb to his wounds and expired, he was drawn and quartered. The followers who complied with the orders to feed on Dózsa were set free.
Balthasar Gérard – Assassinated William I of Orange
(1557 – July 14, 1584))
Following the shooting of William I of Orange, who was the Dutch Independence Leader, Balthasar Gérard was considered the prime suspect. He was tried by the magistrates of the city, at which time Gérard quoted, “Like David, he had slain Goliath of Gath.” His sentence was harsh, a brutal slaying by the people of the court as well as the bystanders.
The magistrates ordered that Gérard’s right hand be burned off with a hot iron and his flesh be torn off with pincers. Once his flesh was ripped off in six different places, he was to be quartered and disemboweled, all whilst still alive. Following the disembowelment, his heart was to be torn from his chest, only so it could be thrown into his face. The final act of the torture, was to be his beheading.
The torture that Gérard was forced to endure prior to his execution is nearly unthinkable:
Gérard was placed on a pole, where he was lashed with a whip. Once the whipping was complete, honey was rubbed into his wounds. His tormentors brought out a goat. The goat was supposed to lick the honey with its rough tongue to add to Gérard’s pain; however, the goat refused to cooperate. Therefore, they tied Gérard’s extremities in such a way as to make him resemble a ball: This was done to make sleeping difficult…
For three days Gérard’s hands remained tied behind his back as he dangled from a pole. Shoes were created out of well-oiled, uncured dog skin. After placing these small, ill-fitting shoes on his feet, Gérard was moved to the fire. While sitting in front of this fire, the oil on the shoes dried, causing them to shrink. As the shoes shrunk, Gérard’s feet were destroyed.
While these shoes were being removed, the skin on Gérard’s severely-burned feet was ripped off with them. Next, his armpits were branded and he was placed in a garment that had previously been soaking in alcohol; thus, causing a burning sensation on each of his many wounds. Lastly, as nails were being stuck into his flesh, between his fingers and his feet, his tormentors poured hot bacon fat all over his body. Reports indicate that Balthasar Gérard remained calm throughout this entire ordeal.
Perillos (aka Perilaus) – Invented the Bronze Bull
Perillos was an inventor from Athens, Greece. He designed and created a device to torture and execute criminals. This device was entirely comprised of bronze, it is said that the shape of the device resembled a bull and that its acoustic properties converted the screams of the victim into sounds resembling those made by a bull. For these reasons, Perillos’ device is sometimes referred to as the Bronze Bull; however, this device is also known as the Sicilian Bull or the Brazen Bull.
After Perillos completed this device, he offered it to the Tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, Phalaris. Perillos suggested his device be used to execute criminals. Once the victim entered the device, the door would be closed and locked, then, a fire would be lit beneath; thus, essentially roasting the individual inside. Stories allege that Phalaris was impressed with the device, but he was disgusted with a comment Perillos made during his presentation: “His screams will come to you through the pipes as the tenderest, most pathetic, most melodious of bellowing’s.” It is believed that this comment sealed the inventor’s fate.
Phalaris requested that Perillos enter the bull to show him how well the sound system actually worked; however, once the inventor entered the device, the door was shut and locked. Then, a fire was lit beneath it, allowing Phalaris to hear Perillos’ screams. Before the inventor met his death, Phalaris took him out of the device so he could throw the inventor down a hill, which ultimately resulted in his death.
Some scholars question whether the Bronze Bull ever existed, stating that the reports of this device may be likened to early propaganda. Either way, I still consider it a horrible and gory way to go.
The Persian Execution Method – ‘Scaphism’
Scaphism is the term used for a particular Persian execution method:
The victim is ordered to lie down in one boat, a second boat, of the same size, is then placed on top of the individual; however, the victim’s head, feet and hands remain outside the boat. He is offered food, if he refuses to eat, they prick his eyes until he does. Once he has finished eating they force him to drink a mixture of honey and milk, and then cover his entire face with what remains. Throughout the day, the executioners ensure that his face remains turned up towards the sun. The milk and honey that was poured on his face attracts swarms of flies: As time passes, his face becomes completely covered with these insects.
Since he is forced to eat and drink, he must defecate, and urinate within the boat, which attracts even more insects. As these various kinds of insects enter into his bowel, his body is essentially consumed from the inside out. Death in this manner is extremely slow as it can take up to 17 days for an individual to take his last breath.
Michael Malloy (aka Iron Mike or Durable Mike) – The Man Who Would Not Die
(1873 – February 22, 1933)
Michael Malloy was an alcoholic who lived in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. Although he was homeless, he still had financial worth – to his five ‘friends’ that is: They hatched a plan to kill Malloy to collect life insurance money. Between the five men, they took out several policies. In the event that Malloy died accidentally, the group would inherit $3,500, which is equal to about $61,000 (in 2011).
Here are the names of the five men plotting to kill Malloy:
- Joseph “Red” Murphy
- Tony Marino
- Francis Pasqua
- Daniel Kriesberg
- Hershey Green
Once the three policies were purchased, the next part of the “Kill Malloy” plan could be implemented. Tony Marino offered Malloy a credit line at his speakeasy, in the hope that he would consume so much alcohol that he would die from alcohol poisoning. However, despite the fact that Malloy drank continuously, all day long, he never sustained alcohol poisoning.
Since the alcohol poisoning plan was falling through, Marino decided to replace the alcohol he was giving Malloy with antifreeze; however, even the antifreeze did not work. Malloy just drank, passed out and, upon waking, he began drinking again.
Once the group of men determined that the antifreeze was having no effect on Malloy, they began using a variety of substances in their attempts to kill him.
Some of these substances included:
- Horse liniment
- Rat Poison
Even though they added all these poisons to his alcohol, Malloy would not die and he continued drinking nonstop for most of the day. As desperation set in, the men became somewhat creative, they took raw oysters and soaked them in wood alcohol as a special treat for Malloy, they created sandwiches with spoiled sardines, poison and even carpet tacks – none of which fazed him.
Finally, the men let Malloy drink until he passed out, they carried him to a nearby park, then, after throwing him into the snow, the men poured water over Malloy’s chest. Since the temperature was -14° Fahrenheit, they were sure that this would finally put an end to Malloy. However, once again, Malloy arrived at the speakeasy to begin his day of drinking. Can you imagine the frustration that these five men are feeling? Serves them right! But, they have yet to play their last card…
A new plan was created: The men decided to slam into Malloy while driving Hershey Green’s taxi at a speed of 45 mph. After the hit, Malloy suffered several broken bones, which landed him in a hospital bed; however, since Malloy was not around, the men assumed that this ‘accident’ had finally led to his demise. Therefore, they attempted to cash-in on their insurance policies, to no avail. Then, after spending several weeks in the hospital recovering, Malloy arrives back at the speakeasy.
On February 22, 1933, once Malloy was down-for-the-count following his excessive alcohol consumption, the men took Malloy to Joseph “Red” Murphy’s room where they intended to suffocate Malloy using gas. They placed a hose into Malloy’s mouth and, after connecting the hose and turning on the gas, they watched as it dripped inside Malloy’s mouth. After about an hour, he finally died due to suffocation.
As the police visited speakeasies around town, they had heard stories about ‘Iron Mike.’ When they found out that he had passed away, his body was examined thoroughly and analyzed, obviously telling the secret of poor Iron Mike’s demise. All five of Malloy’s ‘friends’ were convicted of murder, with four of the men receiving the death penalty: Murphy, Pasqua, Marino and Kriesberg were put-to-death via an electric chair: Green was spared the death penalty, but he did receive a prison sentence.
My grandfather was crushed at the waist between two railroad cars, with his bladder and bowel smashed, his chances of survival were grim; therefore, his employer waited for my grandmother to arrive at the site to say her goodbyes before they pulled the cars apart. I would think that a death in this manner would definitely be a gruesome way to go; however, my grandfather actually survived!
After this incident, my grandpa was told that he would never walk again, but he did. Even though grandpa smoked a pack of non-filter, Pall Mall cigarettes every day, he still lived to be 91-years-old. He worked on cars up until about 6 months before his death. Although my grandpa passed away and is no longer with us, for my family, his endurance and strength will always live on.
Death of the body is inescapable; however, as a Christian, I believe that the soul lives on. For me, my only fear of death is the process of dying and after reading these horrific accounts, I will continue to pray for a peaceful departure from my body. I would think that one of the least painful and most peaceful ways to die is while sleeping; therefore, I pray that it is during this time that I take my final breath.