There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.

P. G. WODEHOUSE (1881-1975)


LORD BYRON (1788-1824)

By headless Charles see heartless Henry lies.

Life After Decapitation?

Experiments designed to find the most humane way of killing lab rats indicate that brain functions can continue for 10-20 seconds after decapitation. A famous doctor's report from 1905 relates how the doctor (Beaurieux) yelled at the head of a guillotine victim (Languille) and seemed to get a response until 30 seconds after decapitation. However, the question of consciousness after decapitation remains unresolved.

In theory it might be possible to keep a severed head alive by attaching a cardiac pump to it, but this has never been attempted in practice.

Headless Armies

In 496 bc the army of King Goujian of Yue put three ranks of criminals in the front of their battle formation. Their task was to impress the enemy with their ferocity and commitment by chopping off their own heads as soon as battle was joined. The tactic was a success; while their opponents from the State of Wu were recovering from their astonishment they were overrun by the rest of the Yue army.

The convicts, who were condemned men anyway, had been coerced by the threat that if they didn't comply with this plan their families would also be executed. 

Lyon Court

In 1978, Mr Denis Pamphilon of At Albans, Hertfordshire was arraigned before the Lyon Court for manufacturing illegal bedspreads. The maximum sentence for this offence was decapitation.

To celebrate the Scottish football team's appearance in the World Cup, Pamphilon, managing director of a family linen merchants, had produced souvenir bedspreads bearing a red lion rampant, and advertised it in Scots newspapers. Unfortunately for him, the lion is not only the symbol of Scotland and its football team, but is also part of the Queen's Scottish Arms. Its use was forbidden by an unrepealed Act passed by the Scottish Parliament in 1592 which had escaped the notice of the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act of 1965 - along with piracy on the high seas and arson in Her Majesty's dockyards.

Pamphilion was charged with 'usurpation'. The court was disposed to leniency on this occasion, however, and, instead of demanding Mr Pamphilon's head, the procurator fiscal of the Lyon Court fined him £100 a day for as long as the offence continued.

Jayne Mansfield           

Contrary to popular belief, the actress Jayne Mansfield was not decapitated. Mansfield died in a car crash when her Buick drove into the back of a tractor-trailer near New Orleans in 1967. 

The decapitation myth seems to have arisen from police photos of the scene showing her wig, which had been knocked off in the accident.

Mike the chicken from Fruita, Colorado, lived for 18 months after having his head chopped off.

After failing to cure the daughter of Emperor Yizong (ad 860- 874) of fever, the 20 best doctors in China were beheaded.

A wood ant can manage for 24 days without its head, but a single ant cannot live alone outside the colony, head or no head.


[In Tudor England] Beheading, believe it or not, was a privilege usually reserved for the aristocracy.

The guillotine was the only legal method of execution in France from 1789 until 1981.

Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, was beheaded in 1375. His head is in the vestry cupboard in Sudbury's parish church.

Planarian flatworms store their memories outside their heads; if decapitated, they grow a new head and retain all their old memories.