The hangman’s fracture is a break of the second vertebra of the spinal column. It is so called as the British method of hanging, the long drop, aimed to kill swiftly and painlessly by breaking the neck at the second vertebra. There are stories of the hangman Albert Pierrepoint feeling the necks of his victims after taking their bodies down to check that he had done his job properly. It was part of the justification of the whole system that death was both quick and painless. This may be a myth. Analysis of the remains of some 34 hanged criminals showed that the hangman’s fracture was present in only a minority of cases. In some there was no cervical fracture at all which suggests that these victims may have died by strangulation (a risk if the drop is too short) and this would not have been either instantaneous or painless. Yet in every case a doctor had written out a death certificate stating that the cause of death was the hangman’s fracture. This, in turn, suggests that the medical profession was complicit in a rotten and inhumane system.
This digression does link to the theme – bear with me! I heard recently that an elderly kinkster I met once or twice at events in the West Midlands had died during lockdown. Derek (not his Fet name and probably not his real name either) was in his mid 80s and I believe his death was peaceful. And we all hope for that don’t we? Not Derek actually. For he had a most unusual fetish. He wanted to die by judicial hanging. He was, of course, old enough to have been hanged but presumably had scruples about committing the kind of offences that might have earned him a death sentence. Unsurprisingly he was unable to find anyone to cater for this fetish, so hanging never became more than a fantasy.
I am sure, too, that Derek was not alone in his death fetish. I know of kinksters whose homes are shrines to death, with skulls, human and animal, adorning their rooms. And many of us kinksters are drawn to darkness. We like to inflict, or receive, pain and suffering. I sometimes think that a submissive moving from agony to ecstasy (it is said that a hanged person experiences orgasm as their last sensation) and into the sweet oblivion of subspace is experiencing a kind of surrogate death. And the return to life has to be managed as carefully as a resurrection, one reason why aftercare is so important.
So it is not surprising that those of us who crave darkness seek out cemeteries. I love to walk in old, abandoned cemeteries, where the headstones have been washed blank by a century or more of weather, and lean drunkenly, the flatbed graves that are opening up, as if there residents might rise again, I long to take a willing submissive, strip him, flog him with nettles I have picked from an overgrown tomb, to make him lean against a stone, to take my whip on his back, my cane on his bottom, to suffer the extremes of pain, and the pleasure that flows from it, there in the last resting place of hundreds of human beings who learned his pain and pleasure resolve their tension in oblivion.
It is in cemeteries that I feel most alive, because I must, we all must, confront death in order to live. to love. It is mortality that gives our kinks sense. The fetish for death is a fetish for life.
Hanged criminals were not buried in cemeteries. They were interred in lime filled coffins in the prison yard, in unmarked graves that denied death as much as they denied life. Derek would never have wanted that, I am sure.
A post for Kink of the Week. Click on the lips to see what other writers have to say on the subject of cemeteries and graveyards