Today, if you are unlucky enough to be sentenced to death, in many parts of the world you would have the small consolation that it would be (most of the time) swift – firing squad, electrocution, hanging, or lethal injection.
For much of history, though, many people suffered protracted, agonizing, drawn-out deaths. Some of these killings took hours, others days, and some even weeks.
Here we look at seven of history’s most interminable terminations, with examples of extended executions, and stories of savagely spun-out slayings.
1. Brickin’ It - Immurement
From the Vestal Virgins of Ancient Rome to 19th-century Persia (where criminals were known to have been bricked up alive into city walls head downwards) the ‘walling in’ of the condemned has a long history.
The Vestal Virgins, immured in an underground chamber when breaking their vows, were given a small amount of food and water to take into their tomb. It is not known how long some of them may have lasted – perhaps days or even weeks.
That was two thousand years ago. One notable case of this sinister method of execution was barely more than a century ago. Moroccan shoemaker Hadj Mohammed Mesfewi endured a slow, lingering death in June 1906 for the murder of 36 women.
Into the thick walls of the central bazaar in Marrakesh, workers made a recess just big enough for a man to stand up in. In front of a baying mass of locals, Mesfewi was dragged kicking, fighting, and screaming into the cavity, where it was then sealed up with stonework.
For two days (presumably, there were air holes, to prolong the suffering) his intermittent screams could be made out through the masonry, each one eliciting a cheer from the crowd outside.
After three days the screams stopped.