The Gashlycrumb Tinies: or, After the Outing is an abecedarian book written by Edward Gorey, first published in 1963. It follows the story of 26 children all done in fairly dirty by death. Let’s just say, none of them go gentle into the good night– especially poor Leo who swallowed tacks.
Here are some other ways you should avoid dying, in no particular order, because well, life and death are random.
Whether you came to know crucifixion from nuns, stigmata documentaries, or Mel Gibson, most of us are pretty familiar with its tenants. Nails through the feet and wrists hold the victim to a cross. A punishment that’s believed to have its origins in Persia (modern day Iran), the condemned were originally suspended to keep their feet from touching holy ground. Actual death came from a variety of causes, including asphyxiation, dehydration, a sepsis infection from the nail wounds, or a heart attack.
Death by Elephant
Dumbo the Destroyer would have never made it as a title for a children’s book, or a Disney cartoon, but it might have found a fan base in certain parts of Asia once upon a time. While you might think being crushed by an elephant would be over relatively quickly, if the executioner (and elephant trainer) knew his stuff, he could have the elephant apply pressure to certain parts of the body, break bones, and then for the closing act, slowly flatten your head into a pancake. Don’t blame the elephant. Blame the length people will go to inflict cruel and grisly punishment in order to cower — and oftentimes entertain — the macabre masses.
The Boltons (not the Michael Boltons) of Game of Thrones fame keep the flayed man as their sigil. Slowly peeling the skin off of another human being is a gruesome and painful way to go.
Hanged, Drawn and Quartered
You’ve probably heard the term “hanged, drawn and quartered” referenced in film, especially in movies dealing with England in the past. The specifics of this method of capital punishment are more ghastly than you might have realized. The basics are as follows:
1. Drag an offender behind a horse until he’s almost dead.
2. Hang him, but not to death.
3. Castrate him and stuff his junk into his mouth.
4. Scoop out the internal organs.
5. Chop of his arms and legs.
6. And last, for good measure, chop off his head.
Ling Chi Slow Slicing
Death by a thousand slices. Even a couple of dozen would do it. While Chinese water torture might be a misnomer, Ling Chi, or “slow slicing” definitely belongs to the Chinese. In practice for about a thousand years, this cruel ritual was finally banned in 1905. The victim was dispatched by, well, slow slicing. It’s a very descriptive name. Carried out in public, this kind of death could take a very long time to end — depending on how aggressive the initial slicing or dismemberment happened to be — or be over in a matter of ghastly minutes.
This South African invention is truly terrible. Squeeze a man or a woman into a rubber tire, fill the tire with something flammable, like gasoline, and then set it alight. In essence, this is death by burning, although the flames will char the victim long before smoke inhalation can knock him or her out. You might want to say this is something “inhumane,” but it’s a practice only committed by people. Dogs and bears don’t necklace one another.
The Spanish Tickler
If this was death meted out by Penelope Cruz and a feather duster, it might be all right, as far as executions go. But that’s not the case. The Spanish Tickler is a device used to rip human flesh from bone. That’s right, someone actually sat down, designed this contraption, and said, “Here, look at my cool invention.” The name is very misleading, as it doesn’t tickle at all.
Starvation is an incredibly painful way to die. Sometimes it can be forced on a population through mismanagement (Mao Tse Tung), other times it is a result of willful intent, like the Holodomor terror famine imposed on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin. Think about how cranky you get after skipping a meal or two. Now imagine not eating for 60 days. Death can arrive in various ways from starvation, ranging from a weakness to diseases to a full-blown heart attack. For an obese nation that loves sugar and fatty foods, starvation just might be the average American’s worst nightmare.