I was reading a charming little article at New Scientist, called “How Does it Feel to Die?”, and came across the following passage:
Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic “hangman’s fracture” between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.
Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. “What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity,” he says. “And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation.”
I’m so proud of my school. If it weren’t for this fine Western scholar, we’d all lie awake at night worrying about whether hanging victims were conscious while they were strangled to death.
Hanging ain’t so bad after all. Crime, here I come.