Devices of Death
Implements of execution and their history are cruel but fascinating from many perspectives. Whether you look at the technology that has gone into the design or the history behind it, there is much to learn. Here are some of the contraptions that caught my attention after making today’s drink:
People are always looking to make things more efficient and the French nailed it when they took the age old act of beheading someone and mechanized it. Out were the days of needing multiple hacks of an often worn blade to sever a victim’s head, and in were the new days of “humanitarian” beheading. The guillotine became a popular image of the French Revolution, particularly the “Reign of Terror” period, which caused much upheaval in the country and saw the executions of King Louie XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, among others. The best nickname for the Guillotine had to be ‘The National Razor’. The Sanson family of France was a six-generation dynasty (is that the right word for this!?) of executioners and Charles-Henri Sanson was largely responsible for making the guillotine the country’s next great killing machine.
With the modernization of many death machines, designers were bound to harness the power of electricity for executions. As Thomas Edison worked to launch his direct current (DC) electricity, he publicly electrocuted an elephant and other animals using George Westinghouse’s competing alternating current (AC). The campaign to discourage the use of AC worked in at least one way: it was used for electric chairs beginning in 1890. The chair lost favour with many quickly (including Westinghouse) due to its high degree of cruelty and its failure to execute a criminal quickly. A photo of Ruth Snyder’s execution in 1928 was snapped by photojournalist Tom Howard, who was wearing a camera strapped to his ankle. It has become one of the most famous newspaper photos of all-time. While ‘the chair’ is rarely used today, it is still an option for many death row inmates, depending on the state they are incarcerated in.
The legendary device depicted in so many western movies and used around the world to end the lives of the guilty and sometimes innocent. Victims were more likely to have their necks snapped, rather than asphyxiation through being strangled by the rope. After a series of failed hangings (one dude survived three separate trips to the gallows, earning the nickname ‘The Man They Couldn’t Hang’) in the late 1800’s, a committee was formed to solve the issue and developed the ‘Official Table of Drops’ which examined just how much rope was needed, depending on weight, to terminate a criminal by breaking their neck in the process. Ah, science at its best. If the hangman’s noose had never been invented, we may never have discovered auto-erotic asphyxiation, so I guess you have to thank the device for that!
When I used to play Rollercoaster Tycoon, sometimes for fun you’d build a ride that would launch passengers flying through the air and into a deadly crash landing. While, that’s not exactly what would happen with the Euthanasia Coaster (still a hypothetical invention), the ride has been designed to kill people who wish to end their lives. Using G-force to cause an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain, most people would be brain dead after two of the seven vertical loops. Most interesting about the ride’s design is that they’ll have a body unloading zone… how many people do they expect to go through this? Although, admittedly, it would be my preferred way to go.
Drink #195: Guillotine
- 1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
- 1 oz Irish Crème
- 1 oz Fireball Whiskey
- Garnish with Strawberry (preferably headless)
- Add some Strawberry Syrup for blood effect!
I picked this drink partly because it fits with celebrating Bastille Day (France’s National Holiday), but also because I find these execution devices to be quite intriguing… providing I never end up in or on one.
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Poor little Strawberry all decapitated and all… this was a Sip Advisor art project, and I think it went reasonably well. I wish I had put half the effort I did into this posed photo into my schooling days… maybe I`d be more than a blog jockey then. The drink itself was quite enjoyable with notes of Cinnamon and an underlying Butterscotch flavour.