Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/365

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THE QUESTION OF PAIN IN HANGING.

to be able at will to stop the experiment. Luckily, some one came into the room and rescued him. Chancellor Bacon has reported the case of a gentleman who took a fancy to find out for himself whether those who are hung suffer any pain. He put a cord around his neck, and hung himself, stepping off from a small bench on which he had been standing, and expecting to be able to mount it again when he wished. This was impossible for him on account of the loss of consciousness, which supervened immediately. The experiment would have had a tragic ending, if a friend had not by chance entered and released him.

In the New Yorker Allgemeine Zeitung for May 14, 1877, was the following item: "In the village of Brunswick, a bet was made, by one of three young fellows, drinking together, that he could hang for a certain number of minutes. A ladder was brought, put against the wall, a noose placed around his neck, and the end thrown over a round of the ladder. A second drew on the rope, while the third stood by, watch in hand. Just then in came a servant-girl, who saw the situation. At her exclamation that the man was blue in the face, the man with the watch said the time was not up. At her shrieks, however, others rushed in, and the cord was loosened. The poor fellow fell insensible to the ground, and was with the greatest difficulty resuscitated."

Although nothing is said in this account about the young man's sensations, it is likely that he became unconscious immediately; for, if he had felt the pangs of suffocation, as ordinarily understood, he would have certainly either grasped the ladder and relieved himself, or in some way indicated to his companions that he was suffering and wished to be let down.

Two remarkable examples are on record of persons who allowed themselves to be hung for the entertainment of an audience. An account of one of them is given in the Lancet of April 17, 1847. The man's real name was John Harnshaw, but he performed throughout England under the high-sounding professional title of Monsieur Gouffe. He was an athlete, and among other feats it was customary with him to exhibit the process of hanging. In this performance he relied for security on the strength of the muscles of the neck and throat. He had a rope with a fixed knot which could not slip, and passed both ends of the loop up behind one ear. The whole act was so adroitly managed that he prevented any pressure of the rope on the windpipe or the jugular veins, and could even sustain a weight of one hundred and fifty pounds in addition to that of his own body.

On three separate occasions Harnshaw mismanaged the rope, and became unconscious, being luckily rescued each time. Dr. Chowne, who writes the account, says very truly: "It cannot be doubted that, as far as sensation and consciousness are concerned, Harnshaw passed through the whole ordeal of dying; and, had he been permitted to remain hanging until actually dead, he would have passed out of existence without further consciousness."