General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

When the death penalty was to "hang from the neck until dead", were the criminals forced to wear a headcovering, or could they be hung with their face showing?

Asked by elbanditoroso (22420points) April 27th, 2014

What’s the purpose of putting the (usually black) headcovering over the doomed person? Was it to avoid grossing out the people who had come to watch the hanging? Was it to make believe that the hanging was in some way sanctioned by the authorities and by god? Was it to let the hangman sleep better at night?

Or was it for some more mundane reason – to catch spit or vomit?

Why cover the head?

What would you prefer? If it were I, my choice would be to be hund without a black covering, so that I could see the people trying to kill me and hopefully give them a little guilt.

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22 Answers

Smitha's avatar

They mainly covered their heads so that their final agonies would not be seen by others. I would not mind either way, the final outcome is painful death.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

It is both to hide the face from onlookers, and to ensure the drop is a surprise to the prisoner. Any last-second movements from the prisoner may alter the position, and thus the effectiveness, of the noose. If they don’t know it’s coming, they can’t move. Although that did not stop a particular German spy (see Wikipedia, 2nd paragraph).

ucme's avatar

One reason is to minimise rope burn on the neck of the victim, the noose is placed over the hood for this purpose.

Darth_Algar's avatar

It was just a way to sanitize the execution for the public. For a society that loves to put people to death we’re pretty squeamish about it.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Do you know the contortions a face goes through as it is being hanged to death?

The eyes bulging, the tongue lolling…Oh the humanity….

Give em a hood!

jaytkay's avatar

I’ve seen photos of recent hangings in Iran and they do not hood the condemned. Also Saddam Hussein was hung with no hood or blindfold.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Maybe it’s to hide the embarrassment of postmortem priapism.

bolwerk's avatar

Maybe other reasons matter to, but it probably makes the job easier if you dull their senses so they can’t brace themselves before the floor drops out from under them.

@Lightlyseared: that would be in their pants.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Who hangs people without their pants on?

ucme's avatar


Coloma's avatar

I’d prefer having my head lopped off into a basket over hanging.
I’d think the bagging of ones head served a duel purpose, to prevent the subject of the hanging from anticipating the moment of the event and to hide their face from the public.
In the old west it seems most hangings did not involved bagging ones head.

Coloma's avatar

I actually live in “Old Hangtown” CA. and the first women hung in one of the gold mining boomtowns happened here in 1849.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

^^^Why’d they hang her?

Coloma's avatar

@Dan_Lyons She stabbed a man that tried to rape her.
Her name was ” Pretty Juanita” and she have a salute and a laugh before the rope was pulled. Feisty woman.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

You gotta love free spirited women like her!

zenvelo's avatar

Hanging with a drop (to snap the neck) is actually a relatively late invention. 200 years ago one would be hanged to the point of asphyxiation. But that takes a while and the condemned would struggle and move around to try to breathe.

And in merry olde England they didn’t put a hood on the prisoners before hanging. For the more egregious crimes (like mutiny or piracy), they left them strung up as a warning.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Lightlyseared Who hangs people without their pants on?

Sadly, there may be some who do that :( I’m not sure, it’s just some kind of rumor floating around the net…

Lightlyseared's avatar

Weird trivia. Albert Piererpoint (noted British executioner) once managed to hang to hang someone 7 seconds after he left the cell. Fastest execution on record.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Unless the cell was right there on the platform I’m finding that one a little hard to believe.

elbanditoroso's avatar

that’s where the term “hang time” came from, @Lightlyseared

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Darth_Algar That’s pretty much how he did it. link

Darth_Algar's avatar


Yet I still find that incredibly hard to believe. Unless, as I said, the cell was on the execution platform the walk from the cell to the noose alone would probably have taken longer than that.

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