When I was in my formative years, I was required to watch Mel Gibson’s classic, vaguely anti-Semitic slapstick comedy, “The Passion of The Christ,” by the members of my church’s youth leadership.
After the movie ended, our leaders came in and gave us a damning tirade about how Christ had given his life for our many sins, and that we deserved his punishment. We were shuffled out in a traumatized silence — not unlike the kind of silence derived from seeing one’s parents during sex, except with slightly more loss of innocence.
The experience instilled two things in me: An unending sense of personal guilt that will haunt me until the day I die and an unnerving fascination with crime and execution throughout the ages — both of which have made me extremely fun on dates.
Fortunately, for me, I recently stumbled upon the book “Hung, Drawn and Quartered, the story of Execution Throughout the Ages,” by Jonathan J Moore.
The book, as its title implies, is a gruesomely thorough examination of execution throughout history, from old classics such as crucifixion and the burning at the stake to forgotten gems such as the boiling pot and hungry lions.
This alone is interesting enough to anyone morbid enough to be curious. The descriptions of the methods, specifications and effects of various executions are written in a hilariously scientific and callous tone.
Quotes such as “Execution by fire” are too simple. Maybe the heat would throw you into unconsciousness, or else you’d die from hypervolemic shock (the description of hypervolemic shock is delightfully unpublishable, don’t Google it).
“Poisonous gases and carbon from the raging fire often led to asphyxiation,” rings of a Big Bang Theory spinoff where Sheldon has finally snapped and is calmly explaining to his victims how they will die.
What made this book an interesting read is more than just the extremely bleak yet strangely endearing descriptions. The book takes the time to examine the cultures of execution that humans from all parts of the world developed. My favorite being the European culture of execution in which they were public events, attended by the whole family. At times in history, it was even encouraged to rush the stage and rub your children against the body and blood of recently executed to cure their ailments.
For any people who are just as strangely interested in the dour history of crime and punishment, or even for simple history buffs, this book is a wonderful read — if you can stomach it of course.