If you’re reading this, sadly, you and everyone one you know are going to die someday. If you’ve already made peace with your maker, and your own mortality, good for you.  If not, well, you’re not alone. Death is pretty scary, and totally unknown. Most of us don’t know when or how we’re going to die. While we may wish for a gentle passing, and a simple “letting go,” that’s not a given for any of us.  Accidents, natural causes and our fellow human beings have it out for us. Here’s a brief list of some of the most gruesome ways you can die — just in case you needed a few more reasons to lie awake at night.


Catching Ebola is a great way to kick the oxygen habit. It’s a deadly virus, and it’s damn frightening. Still largely contained to outbreaks in Africa (that may change soon), Ebola hemorrhagic fever causes many fairly common initial symptoms, like diarrhea, fever and vomiting. The grand finale, where Ebola really shines, may include massive internal bleeding, bleeding from the eye sockets, mouth, nose and rectum (basically every orifice) — and of course, death.

My advice is simple: Steer clear of Ebola.


Crucifixion is an oldie, but a goody. Anyone familiar with the Christian faith should know how a crucifixion generally goes down. Nails through the feet and wrists hold the condemned to the cross. Actual death can come from a variety of causes, including asphyxiation, dehydration, a sepsis infection from the nail wounds, or a heart attack.  It can take hours to die, or days. Either way, it’s not a pleasurable way to exit the living stage.

Death by Elephant

Dumbo the Destroyer would have never made it as a title for a children’s book, or a Disney cartoon, but it might have found a fan base in certain parts of Asia once upon a time. While you might think being crushed by an elephant would be over relatively quickly, if the executioner (and elephant trainer) knew his stuff, he could have the elephant apply pressure to certain parts of the body, break bones, and then for the closing act, slowly flatten your head into a pancake. Don’t blame the elephant. Blame the length people will go to inflict cruel and grisly punishment in order to cower — and oftentimes entertain — the macabre masses.

Flayed Alive

The Boltons (not the Michael Boltons) of Game of Thrones fame keep the flayed man as their sigil. If you’re ever unfortunate enough to be flayed alive, you’ll definitely wish for a speedy death. Slowly peeling the skin off of another human being is a gruesome and painful way to go. It’s a torture and execution technique that has been around for millennia.

Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

You’ve probably heard the term “hanged, drawn and quartered” referenced in film, especially in movies dealing with England in the past. The specifics of this method of capital punishment are more ghastly than you might have realized. The basics are as follows:

1. Drag an offender behind a horse until he’s almost dead.

2. Hang him, but not to death.

3. Castrate him and stuff his junk into his mouth.

4. Scoop out the internal organs.

5. Chop of his arms and legs.

6. And last, for good measure, chop off his head.

And here you thought the English were so civilized. Downton Abbey this was not.

Jumping into a Volcano

Turns out if you jump into an active lava flow you won’t die right off the bat, as death scenes from the cinematic universe (goodbye Gollum) would have us believe.  Apparently you’ll just float on top of the lava for a bit, burst into flames, and then die. If you’re really fat and fall from a significant height, you might be able to penetrate the lava’s relatively thick density, and expire faster than a waify super-model, who for some strange reason decided to fling herself into a pit of fire.

Ling Chi Slow Slicing

Death by a thousand slices. Even a couple dozen would do it. While Chinese water torture might be a misnomer, Ling Chi, or “slow slicing,” definitely belongs to the Chinese. In practice for about a thousand years, this cruel ritual was finally banned in 1905. The victim was dispatched by, well, slow slicing. It’s a very descriptive name. Carried out in public, this kind of death could take a very long time to end — depending on how aggressive the initial slicing or dismemberment happened to be — or be over in a matter of ghastly minutes.


This South African invention is truly terrible. Squeeze a man or a woman into a rubber tire, fill the tire with something flammable, like gasoline, and then set it alight. In essence, this is death by burning, although the flames will char the victim long before smoke inhalation can knock him or her out. You might want to say this is something “inhumane,” but it’s a practice only committed by people. Dogs and bears don’t necklace one another.

The Spanish Tickler

If this was death meted out by Penelope Cruz and a feather duster, it might be all right, as far as executions go. I’m afraid that’s not the case. The Spanish Tickler is a device used to rip human flesh from bone. That’s right, someone actually sat down, designed this contraption, and said, “Here, look at my cool invention.” The name is very misleading, as it doesn’t tickle at all.


Starvation is an incredibly painful way to die. Sometimes it can be forced on a population through mismanagement (Mao Tse Tung), other times it is a result of willful intent, like the Holodomor terror famine imposed on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin. Think about how cranky you get after skipping a meal or two. Now imagine not eating for 60 days. Death can arrive in various ways from starvation, ranging from weakness to diseases to a full-blown heart attack. For an obese nation that loves sugar and fatty foods, starvation just might be the average American’s worst nightmare.