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Incorrigible1

Do Severed Heads Remain Conscious For A Time?

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Incorrigible1

Do human heads retain some semblance of consciousness immediately after being chopped off from the guillotine? I think they probably do, for a short time. Here's a doctor's report, from the year 1905:

" Read this report from 1905. The report is written by Dr Beaurieux, who under perfect circumstances experimented with the head of Languille, guillotined at 5.30 a.m. on June 28th, 1905

" I consider it essential for you to know that Languille displayed an extraordinary sang-froid (calmness) and even courage from the moment when he was told, that his last hour had come, until the moment when he walked firmly to the scaffold. It may well be, in fact, that the conditions for observation, and consequently the phenomena, differ greatly according to whether the condemned persons retain all their sang-froid (calmness/coolness) and are fully in control of themselves, or whether they are in such state of physical and mental prostration that they have to be carried to the place of execution, and are already half-dead, and as though paralysed by the appalling anguish of the fatal instant.

"The head fell on the severed surface of the neck and I did not therefor have to take it up in my hands, as all the newspapers have vied with each other in repeating; I was not obliged even to touch it in order to set it upright. Chance served me well for the observation, which I wished to make.

"Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. This phenomenon has been remarked by all those finding themselves in the same conditions as myself for observing what happens after the severing of the neck...

"I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead. It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. "After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.

"It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead."

"I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds."

http://www.metaphor.dk/guillotine/Pages/30sec.html

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I find this fascinating. The executed man's eyes, according to the doctor, undeniably focused upon his own, more than once.

What do you think? Is this possible?

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Roughneck

According to medical research, yes, you are still alive after you've been decapitated. I think the timespan was about thirteen seconds. I remember the story of Charlotte Corday's execution at the guillotine. When the executioner slapped the cheek on her severed head, it turned red. I think she's also the one that when the executioner held her head up for the crowd to see, the people gasped as the eyes scanned the vast crowd. Though that part may have been some other woman.

Anyways, it's not the decapitation itself that kills you, it's the lack of blood and oxygen going to the brain. The brain is still very much alive during those thirteen seconds or so, but the person may not be conscious depending on if they were conscious or not when they were decapitated. So yes, it's possible for someone to still be fully aware even though his/her head was severed from the body.

Well, I'm glad my first post has been so educational, and about a topic so bloodily awesome. You're welcome.

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Incorrigible1

Hey Roughneck, welcome to U-M, and thanks for the information.

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Undeadskeptic

What Roughneck said. Its not only possible, but likely for a person to be more or less concious after having their head chopped off. One of Henry the Eighths wives was said to clearly blink her eyes and whisper somthing inaudible after being decapitated, then appear totally dead. I'll do a Google for it if you like.

A very creepy idea indeed, to have the head of someone go on living without a body, reminesceant of the story The Head of Jean Claude, which disturbed me greatly as a child and is highly recomended.

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Papaver

Which is why a bullet through the brain would be more humane, not that I believe an execution can ever be humane by definition. The killing of a person can never be the right thing to do or humane unless in the act of self defense, which forms part of everybody's basic rights.

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Undeadskeptic

What he said.

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Pelican_Eel

This is creepy, but such a fascinating topic. Yes I believe there is so. And, as I have already said in some other thread, I remember my friend (who read alot of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas) once told me, that guillotinated heads used to chew through the baskets they are put in after decapitation. Because of pain. I'm not sure if this is truth, though, it doesn't sound like truth, but who knows...

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xCrimsonx

Ive heard that the eyes and mind still see for about 3 seconds after the big chop, dont quote me!

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Jaguat

Heard of that too. Supposedly the brain's nerve centre continues working until it runs out of blood.

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Undeadskeptic
This is creepy, but such a fascinating topic. Yes I believe there is so. And, as I have already said in some other thread, I remember my friend (who read alot of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas) once told me, that guillotinated heads used to chew through the baskets they are put in after decapitation. Because of pain. I'm not sure if this is truth, though, it doesn't sound like truth, but who knows...

:unsure2::unsure2: Aw man... its late at night over here... and you had to go say that! :unsure2:

Edited by Undeadskeptic

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Pelican_Eel
Aw man... its late at night over here... and you had to go say that!

sorry :D... but you don't mind late at night reading a thread about decapitation!

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GUNNARY SEARGENT HARTMAN
sorry :D... but you don't mind late at night reading a thread about decapitation!

The head does stay alive for around ten to thirteen seconds, as blood pressure from the head slowly depletes because of severed arteries and veins drain the brain of blood.

Thanks, GUNNARYSEARGENTHARTMAN

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Papaver

Yes, for the same reason that unlike in the movies, people don't just drop down dead even if shot straight through the heart. They can perform meaningful action for up to twenty seconds, until blood pressure drops very low and they have used up the oxygen already in and around their brain.

If the central nervous system is not severely damaged and bleeding is relatively slow they can function for even longer than that.

Don't believe what you see in the movies!

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~ MacDDT ~

During the French Revolution they would raise the heads up for the crowd to see, I remember reading that people swore that some of the mouths on the decapitated heads would move like they were trying to scream. I can't see why everything would stop functioning before the blood runs out

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Papaver
I can't see why everything would stop functioning before the blood runs out

Well that's it, you are correct, there is no reason for the head to die immediately.

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Plainbob13

It's a shame they didn't do a study of this during the French revolution. But if i remember right they said on some the eyes moved. Must have been a heck of a last sight to see a wicker basket from the inside.

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~ MacDDT ~

It's a gruesome way to go if you think of it, the realisation of what just happened to you, the weightlessness of being picked up and held in front of hundreds of jeering faces :no: brutal way to die!

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GUNNARY SEARGENT HARTMAN
Well that's it, you are correct, there is no reason for the head to die immediately.

Exactly, no matter where you slice on the neck, the blood won't just gush out, it would slowly deplete (I say slowly, I mean in the space of 10 to 13 seconds, I think many people think that once you are decapitated, your dead immediately, when its not the case at all.

Thanks, GUNNARYSEARGENTHARTMAN

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Elite

i dont see why u would die straight away as long as u have blood and oxygen u should stay alive

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eqgumby

Google the Russian video of decapitated German Shepard dogs being resuscitated. They surgically removed their heads, and surgically kept some blood flow going for a short period of time. The dogs did indeed exhibit reflexive behavior for quite some time if I recall. They would lick their noses when a wet swab was placed on it. Disturbing, but educational.

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NoahJaymes

I have a question? How does anyone know what a decapitated head can and can't do? How do we know it can still see after its been chopped off? Did someone quickly have a mic up to the decapitated head and be like...quick in 3 seconds or less, explain what you feel or see..........."I can't you dumbass, I am dead" :P

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Incorrigible1
I have a question? How does anyone know what a decapitated head can and can't do? How do we know it can still see after its been chopped off? Did someone quickly have a mic up to the decapitated head and be like...quick in 3 seconds or less, explain what you feel or see..........."I can't you dumbass, I am dead" :P

A first-hand account, from the opening post:

"I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead. It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. "After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.

"It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead."

"I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds."

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NoahJaymes

As crazy and well written as that was....well, kinda changed my stance lol.

However, could it not be coincidence or perhaps the ability to capture in thought of what you wanted to see? Like looking at a picture, you feel as though wherever you go, the eyes in the picture follow you. Not trying to stem an arguement but just wanted to think outside of the box a little I guess....

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~ MacDDT ~
Google the Russian video of decapitated German Shepard dogs being resuscitated. They surgically removed their heads, and surgically kept some blood flow going for a short period of time. The dogs did indeed exhibit reflexive behavior for quite some time if I recall. They would lick their noses when a wet swab was placed on it. Disturbing, but educational.

it would also respond to sudden loud noises that were made behind it

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NoahJaymes

Crazzzzy.

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