One from the history books this time:
Execution by cannon, in Shiraz, Iran, Mid-Late 1800s
Suppression of the Indian Revolt by the English, a painting by Vasily Vereshchagin c. 1884
Nowadays, countries that still apply the death penalty try not to make a show of it (with a few exceptions). However, it used to be the case that the show was just as important as the punishment. People have long been very imaginative in this respect and have always found ways to make executions more horrible than necessary. An infamous example was “death by elephant“. And here’s another one:
Blowing from a gun is a method of execution in which the victim is typically tied to the mouth of a cannon and the cannon is fired. George Carter Stent, in his “Scraps from my Sabretache” describes the process as follows:
The prisoner is generally tied to a gun with the upper part of the small of his back resting against the muzzle. When the gun is fired, his head is seen to go straight up into the air some 40 or fifty feet; the arms fly off right and left, high up in the air, and fall at, perhaps, a hundred yards distance; the legs drop to the ground beneath the muzzle of the gun; and the body is literally blown away altogether, not a vestige being seen.
[T]he nation most well known to having implemented this type of execution is Great Britain in its role as colonial master in India, and in particular, as a punishment for native soldiers found guilty of mutiny or desertion. The British began implementing blowing from guns in the latter half of the 18th century. (source)
And, because human imagination knows no bounds, sometimes the victim was actually put into the gun, and executed in that manner. Either way, the method wasn’t without danger for the onlookers. In one case,
precaution had not been taken to remove the sponge and loadmen from their proper station near the muzzle of the guns; and the consequence was, that they were bespattered with blood, and bruised by the scattered limbs of the prisoners—one man in particular being struck down by a heavy fragment of one of the mutilated bodies, and severely injured by the contusion. (source)
More posts in this series are here.