Top 10 Cases of Life After Decapitation

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Losing your head definitely equals death. Period. That’s what we’ve been told. There is no life without keeping your precious head on. That’s why for centuries beheading was (and in some places still is) one of the most popular capital punishments. If done properly, it was even considered a rather calm, quick and painless way to get rid of an unlucky doomed fellow. One swift blow of the blade and the victim is happily floating to the afterlife. He’s dead and gone. Some cases, however, suggest that those decapitated don’t die instantly. On the contrary, for a few seconds they have a chance to feel what it’s like to be a bodiless head. Or a headless body.

10. Charlotte Corday

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Without any doubt, the French Revolution was one of the biggest bloodsheds in the history. The heads were rolling continuously. The guys even invented the guillotine at this time — for more efficient and quicker decapitation. Charlotte Corday, a young noblewoman, was also destined to lose her head under the guillotine.  She was a supporter of Girondists, a moderate party of revolutionary France. On the 13th of July, 1793, she killed Jean-Paul Marat, who was a radical journalist and politician of opposing Jacobin party.

That sealed her fate. Corday was tried and found guilty. Four days later she was taken to the scaffold to die. Resigned to her fate, Charlotte was calm, poised, and dignified until the last second of her life. Almost. When her severed head fell into the basket, an assistant of the executioner lifted it and slapped her cheeks. Not only was the mob of spectators horrified by this disrespectful act, it was reported that Charlotte’s head blushed with insult and, as Helen Maria Williams reported, “exhibited this last impression of offended modesty.”

9. Henri Languille

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One summer morning in 1905 was to be the last one for convicted murderer Henri Languille. His crimes earned him a fatal date with the blade of guillotine. It was also an important morning for one particular Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux. He was about to conduct one bizarre experiment, and that involved the poor Languille. Beauriex attended his execution and recorded the observations.

At first, after the convict’s head was separated from his body, the eyelids and lips contracted spasmodically for a few seconds. Then the movements stopped. But wait a minute! There’s more. When Languille’s head finally calmed down, Dr. Beaurieux shouted out his name and, guess what, the eyelids slowly lifted up. Without any spasmodic movements, the convict’s eyes focused on doctor’s face, as if Languille was an ordinary living and healthy person distracted from his thoughts.

A few moments passed and the eyelids closed. Beaurieux called Languille again and the same thing happened. The third attempt to extract some reaction from the severed head, however, was fruitless. This time Henri Languille was certainly dead.

8. Mike The Headless Chicken

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Not only people are known for an occasional survival without their heads on. Meet Mike, the chicken which decided that having no head should not prevent him from having a normal life. This particular bird led a relatively normal chicken life until the 10th of October, 1945. That day the Olsen family, Mike’s owners, were having a chicken for dinner and Mike was the one to be roasted. Lloyd Olsen, the husband of a family, went to deal with the usual routine of chopping off the chicken’s head. He swung the ax and the now headless Mike collapsed.

The chicken, however, did not go to the oven afterwards. Mike stood up and continued his usual chicken business as if nothing happened. He preened his feathers, pecked for food and strutted around with other non-headless chickens. Mike’s owners changed their mind about the dinner, allowed him to live and began feeding him with an eyedropper. Eventually Mike became a national sensation and went on tour around the country. He lived for 18 months after the decapitation when he passed away in a motel in the Arizona Desert.

7. A Friend Of Unknown Veteran

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In June 1989 an unknown US Army veteran was driving with his friend in a taxi. The ride, though undoubtedly a memorable one, was far from pleasant or lucky. The car collided with a truck. The veteran was stuck in the wreckage. His friend was decapitated and his head was lying face up. As the veteran described, the mouth of his friend firstly gasped at least two times. His face looked shocked or confused. Then the expression changed to that of terror or sadness. His eyes moved from his alive friend, to the headless body of his own, and back to his friend before finally passing away.

6. Antoine Lavoisier

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Chemist Antoine Lavoisier was one of the greatest French scientists. Unfortunately, he lived during the bloody times of the French revolution. More unfortunately, he was a rich nobleman. And even more unfortunately, he was an investor in a private tax collection company and had a clash with one of the leaders of the revolution – Jean-Paul Marat. All of that combined ultimately led the famous scientist to the scaffold.

He was executed on the 8th of May, 1794. Lavoisier, however, was dedicated to science until his last breath. He managed to participate in one experiment even during his death. He promised that after beheading he would keep blinking as long as he retained his consciousness and asked his friend to watch him. The friend complied with request. Lavoisier’s head was snatched away by the guillotine. After that he reportedly continued to blink for 15 seconds before succumbing to death.

5. Dietz von Schaumburg

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In 1636, one certain Dietz von Schaumburg and his four landsknechts (mercenary foot soldiers) were sent to die for raising a rebellion against King Ludwig of Bavaria. According to the custom, the king asked the condemned what his last wish would be. Von Schaumburg came up with a very unusual request. He asked that his four comrades would be formed into a line, 8 steps between each other. Then Dietz asked to be beheaded first and made a bargain: he would run headless past his landsknechts and requested the king to pardon those that he would manage to overrun. King Ludwig agreed.

Von Schaumburg placed his head on the block. Immediately after his head was severed, the headless Dietz stood up and ran past his astounded landsknechts. He collapsed only after running past the last man in line. The king had no choice but to pardon the condemned mercenaries.

4. An Enemy Of Captain T. Mulvane

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In the early XIX century a British military commander, Captain T. Mulvane, was fighting in India. Here he met the Grim Reaper when he was killed during combat. Looks like an ordinary story of someone that was unlucky enough to be killed in a military campaign, doesn’t it? Except that it isn’t.

Mulvane was fighting hand-to-hand with his enemy during the assault of Fort Amara. He swung his sword and the man was made a head shorter. Nevertheless, the lack of head did not prevent the enemy of captain from finishing his job. The headless fellow took his rifle, aimed at Mulvane and squeezed the trigger. The British captain was hit through the heart and died instantly.

3. Unknown Mushroom Picker

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Once upon a time, there was mushroom picker who went to get some mushrooms near the Petergoff city in Russia. That’s where the nice part of the story ends. As journalist Igor Kaufman claimed, apparently the man found a bomb or other explosive device in the forest. Boom! The trinket exploded in the guy’s hands. His head was shredded to tiny pieces.

The mushroom picker, however, wasn’t ready to leave this world. Not yet. Reportedly, although headless, he kept wandering for a while and even managed to cross a narrow bridge over the creek during the course of his last walk.

2. Anne Boleyn

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We all know the tragic story of Queen Anne Boleyn. From a mere English noblewoman she rose to be a favorite of infamous King Henry VIII. This king cast his first wife away and broke with Catholic Church – all for his love for Anne and desire to make her his queen.

But once Anne and Henry reached their goal and were married, their happiness quickly faded away. After three years of marriage the king was bored and disappointed with his wife. Under the trumped up charges of incest, adultery, witchcraft and treason Anne was sent to die.

The morning of the 19th of May was the last for unfortunate woman. A specially comissioned executioner from Calais was waiting for her. She was to be beheaded with a sword, not with an ax which was more common in England.

Anne made a short walk to the scaffold, gave her final speech and prepared for the death. Her head was snatched in a single swift blow. The swordsman then lifted her head and the crowd saw that Anne‘s lips still moved in prayer.

1. Unknown Russian Lieutenant

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World War II is another period in history known for countless deaths. One of them, reported by Russian Boris Luchkin, is particularly strange and interesting. Luchkin was an officer who served in a reconnaissance unit of the Soviet Army during the war. One mission behind enemy lines was destined to be stuck in his mind forever.

A lieutenant, who was in charge of his unit, had a stroke of bad luck and stepped on a land mine. The explosion took most of the officer’s head, except for the part of the chin and lower jaw. No big deal! Before collapsing, lieutenant unbuttoned his jacket and handed over a map, already smeared with blood, with a mission itinerary to Luchkin. Only then he succumbed to death.


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4 Comments

  1. I’m from the town that Mike the Headless chicken was from. It’s very weird your town hero being a headless fowl.

  2. About Dietz von Schaumburg’s story: I think it’s a bit ridiculous to call it a “case” of life after decapitation, because the story is a legend. It’s not, like the other stories, something that might be true and was told by witnesses, but something that was completely fabricated over the time.
    How I know this? Well, some accounts tell that Dietz von Schaumburg lived in the 17th, others say that he lived in the 14th century. It’s also claimed that he was executed in several towns, including Munich.

    Furthermore, exactly the same story is told about the north sea pirate Klaus Störtebecker, head of the infamous Vitalienbrüder. The problem with his story is, however, that he was moste likely never beheaded but died of natural causes as a renowned merchant. That didn’t keep a museum in Hamburg from having his skull on display until in was recently stolen. Well, it was some executed pirate’s skull at least, and they called it Störtebecker’s skull for better publicity.

  3. Dear joan,

    This was a nice peace of work but you failed to mention the big daddy in this category- BABA DEEP SINGH SHAHEED. He was a sikh saint in the 18th century who, according to history, woved to avenge the desecration of the holiest of sikh places – Golden Temple, by the hands of moslems. During his battle with the moslems, he was not decapitated, but also carried over his head for quite some distance while fighting the armies of the moslems. Here is more about him:
    1. http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Baba_Deep_Singh
    2. http://www.badassoftheweek.com/babadeepsingh.html

    Please update your top ten list basis these facts.

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