Cover image for The executioner always chops twice : ghastly blunders on the scaffold
The executioner always chops twice : ghastly blunders on the scaffold
Abbott, G. (Geoffrey), 1922-
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
239 pages, 1 unnumbered page : illustrations ; 19 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Chichester, West Sussex [England] : Summersdale, c2002.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV8551 .A225 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From the strange to the gruesome, from the weird to the completely unbelievable, The Executioner Always Chops Twice is popular history at its best: witty, lively, and wonderfully bizarre.

Author Notes

Geoffrey Abbott served for many years as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Author of sixteen books and contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he has made numerous television appearances. He lives in London

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Abbott's wide-ranging compendium of untoward happenings during executions throughout history is worthwhile just for the engrossing vignettes it relates, and its generous glossary of terms related to the hangman's craft makes it a convenient reference work as well. Its first part, Methods of Torture and Execution, lays a fine foundation for the vignettes, communicating such pertinent information as the specifics of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, and the operational ins and outs of the guillotine and the Scottish maiden. Tales of individual executions include the familiar, such as Sir Thomas More's, with his famous assertion that his tormentors had the right to behead him but no right to harm his beard; and the obscure, such as wife-murderer Henry Thompson's, which he prefaced by blithely jumping off a chair to show how his hanging would proceed. Mere reveling in executions would be unseemly, so Abbott mentions their ostensible merits--deterrence, etc.--but really, what's more fun, gruesome anecdotes or pious apologetics? --Mike Tribby Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A former Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London and author of numerous books on torture and the death penalty, Abbott offers a front row seat to more than 80 bungled executions in his latest volume (originally published by Summersdale in 2002), which comes complete with illustrations, famous last words and a crash course in modes of execution. The grisly tales range from botched decapitations in the mid-1500s to messy electrocutions in the late 20th century. Readers with strong stomachs should be able to get past the gory detail of these stories to root out the morbidly comedic tone Abbott often employs when relating famous last words, such as the flirty admonishments that Mary, Queen of Scots, gave to her executioners, or Sir Thomas More's demand that the guillotine cut off his head but not clip his beard. Such anecdotes show how the condemned maintained their dignity in the face of death. Though not for the faint of heart-or for readers who may feel that the death penalty deserves a more serious consideration-this book offers ghastly trivia and a good chill. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 9
Part 1 Methods of Torture and Executionp. 13
Part 2 The Unfortunate Victimsp. 43
Axep. 43
Boiled in Oilp. 59
Brandingp. 60
Burned at the Stakep. 66
Electric Chairp. 73
Firing Squadp. 85
Gas Chamberp. 91
Guillotinep. 92
Hangingp. 102
Lethal Injectionp. 209
Swordp. 212
The Wheelp. 229
A Happy Ending?p. 233
Select Bibliography