One of my friends is a fireman, and told me once that he sometimes would find people in burned houses sitting up in their beds. What happened, he explained, is that hot air rises. People are sometimes sleeping in bed when a fire starts. The hot air produced by the fire rises and accumulates in the upper portion of a room. If the sleeping people are suddenly awakened by the sounds and smells of a fire, they sit up to see what is going on. At that point, their heads enter the region of air that contains the heat and smoke from the fire. When they breathe this air in, their lungs are seared, causing instant death. Add to the heat the toxins from smoke inhalation, and you have a rather deadly mixture.
I’m sure that burning at a stake is a little bit different. There are winds to take into account, which may disperse the heat and smoke from the fire. But if the person bound to the stake breathes in much of the hot, smoky air, their death may be relatively quick.
Addendum: After having written this answer almost three years ago, I found something I can add to it. My answer was predicated on dry wood being used, and calm winds. However, this was not always the case, which I learned after reading the following in Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset (1991, Alfred Knopf).
This regards the accession to the British throne by Mary I, who was a staunch Catholic. After marrying Philip II of Spain, Catholic power was restored in England, much to the dismay of the many Protestants in the country, and leading to horrible persecutions of heretics, leaving Mary with the nickname of Bloody Mary. “Reunion with Rome nevertheless brought with it a terrible corollary, for Parliament revived the ancient laws authorizing the Church to extirpate heresy by burning offenders at the stake. In February 1555 the holocaust began, and before Mary’s death almost three hundred executions had been carried out, sixty of the victims being women. The persecution inspired intense revulsion, not least because the mode of death was so terrible. All too often, a damp or badly constructed faggot pile ensured that the victims were not speedily consumed, and instead literally roasted over a slow fire. Scenes of horror such as the execution of bishop Hooper, who took nearly three-quarters of an hour to die, pleading with the onlookers to fan the flames so as to put him out of his torment, impressed themselves on the public mind. . .” (pp. 47–48).
It would actually depend. How hot is the fire at the beginning? How much of their flesh is burned while the fire is at its hottest?
The human body has this amazing, incredible function when we experience immense pain from injury.
Our brain shuts off the pain.
If the fire is hot enough quickly enough, and burns enough skin fast enough, your brain will go “Oh shit!” and turn off your pain receptors.
If you are lucky for the exactly right conditions to be there, you wont feel anything after a few minutes, and if you die quickly enough you wont feel anything after your brain runs out of happy hormones.
That being said…
Most people burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition…were burned slowly. The goal wasn’t purification, it was inflicting pain. Back then, people knew how to inflict the maximum level of pain for the longest time without killing you.
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Online, on gore related websites, there are numerous video posts documenting people being burned alive. Evidently this is a fairly common event in some regions of africa and south america. Most I’ve seen burnt alive were thieves, while the balance were accused and attacked by crowds of vigilante type people getting revenge against child kidnappers/killers, rapists, and the occasional murderer or someone accused of being a witch.
In most of these videos I’ve seen, the main thing that first comes to mind is, holy shit I bet that hurts. I am a cigarette smoker, and as such I get burnt by either the cigarette or my lighter about once a week. These very minor incidents hurt like hell and may continue to sting for a day or two. I could not even remotely fathom how bad the pain would be as a result of someone beating the hell out of me, then dousing my entire body in a quart of gasoline, then being set on fire by a giggling group of blood thirsty observers.
Secondly, what surprises me is how…. after the initial screaming from pain, how fast they seem to just give in and lie there and roast silently. I dunno if this is the result of loss of consciousness, or if it’s caused by the rumored way the brain is believed to shut off extreme pain at a certain point, or what. But in nearly every video I’ve seen where someone is burnt alive, they dont seem to suffer longer than a minute or two.
Therefore, I strongly suspect that in instances where someone is burnt at the stake, they only suffer for about one minute of excruciating agony before the brain shuts them down and renders them unconscious.
Having said all that…..if someone wants to truly torture someone with fire, seems to me that the best way would be, rather than lighting them on fire, or lighting a fire under them, to suspend them over or beside the fire, and alternate burning them, then taking them away from the heat and dousing them with water, then putting them back in the fire to roast again. I suspect that using this method would inflict the most pain possible for the longest period of time. In my opinion, while lighting the person on fire or putting them directly onto a fire might be visually more exciting to onlookers, those techniques would not actually inflict the most torturous level of pain and agony possible.
First of all you need to understand how we feel pain
Simply there is a receptor on our skin and other parts of body called nocioceptors or pain receptor they detect any tissue damage and transmit this to the brain to measure the intesinty of signal then estimate how much pain you need to feel to awarn you about the site and degree of the problem
Most of pain receptors are located on the skin
Burning a person cause a generalized damage of tissue so this will be transmitted with very high intensity to the brain which i can imagine can lead to very strong feel of pain which mostly lead to fainting
With the damaging of the skin the receptor on the nerve endings will be destroyed too so the pain signal will stop.
Theortically the man will stop feeling pain when the receptors are damaged but in the reality the sense of pain will stop before this as the intensity will mostly lead the man to lose his consciousness this may take some minutes according to the intensity of fire and how many parts of the man are exposed to it
The pain DOES NOT stop. It still hurts after you are dead I bet. Thermal burns are intensely painful as they involved all the senses present in the skin: hot, cold, pressure, pain and any others. The special cruelty of burning at the stake is that they are deliberately burning the parts farthest away from your heart and central core body. That means you suffer LONGER. It has been suggested that the person will die of a fatal heart rhythm due to the pain before burning entirely.
There is no one unique answer. It varies a great deal on how it was done.
Judges would vary the pain and the duration of the pain in their sentences. The executioners were often trained on how to do different effects. Sometimes they could be bribed to make it faster or slower.
Mostly, the person would shriek until he was obviously unconscious or dead. Or maybe conscious but rendered mute. When the flames reach the nose-mouth area, the person inhales the hot air. The hot air burns the throat and trachea of the condemned. So the person can’t makes sounds. He suffocates eventually. However, the pain that comes before death must be horrible.
It also varied with the physiology and psychology of the executed. I don’t know why. However, some people that were burned slowly stopped feeling pain. The feeling of pain was replaced by a euphoria.
So in these cases, the person remained conscious for a while after the pain stopped. However, I suspect these were altered states of consciousness. Some of these stories sound a lot like ‘out of body experiences’.
Obviously, the euphoria had something to do with pheromones. Nerve endings on the skin were destroyed. Normally, there would still be pain since the bare nerves were still sending out signals even without the nerve endings.
However, for some of the condemned had a euphoric vision before they died. Some of these narratives may have been exaggerations made for political reasons. ‘Martyrs’ tend to have visions, for example. Followers make up stories.
However, some of these claims may very well be true. The body does strange things to a person near death.
This doesn’t change the general fact. Burning is a horrible way to die. I can’t imagine the insensitivity of judge that would burn people alive. Especially burning old people, or children. Or for offenses that are largely fantasy, like witchcraft. Or even for heresy.
Being burned alive at the stake was designed to cause maximum pain over a maximum period of time. Because these burnings took place out of doors, it’s doubtful that the victim would have quickly become unconscious due to smoke inhalation; however, their bodies would probably go into shock very quickly as they started to burn – rendering the victim unconscious due to shock.
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My uncle’s youngest brother was heating up a pot of oil on the stove to make french fries. Unfortunately he put the lid on the pot.
When he went to check on the heat of the oil, he lifted the lid and the pot burst into flames. The coroner said that in his surprise he inhaled lungs full of flame.
He was found in his living room slumped on his couch. He had apparently lived long enough to stagger over to the couch before he passed away from the severe burns to his face and lungs. I am sure he felt pain after such a shocking accident.
Hi my names Hayley I’m 22 and about 11 months ago I almost burned to death. I was trapped in a house fire with 5 other people. When I woke up in the house my first thought was not about my own self but instead the others in the house. I tried to run to help them to no avail. I did not feel the fire or smoke until after I tried getting out myself. As soon as I stepped foot into the living room it felt as if someone had thrown a bucket of acid directly on my face. the screams that left my body were enough to terrify someone. I remember being focused on how bad my face hurt but my thought process was to get out of the house. After awhile of searching the walls for a door I fell down unable to go on. I would not wish that pain on anyone. I truly felt as if all my skin was melting off. But after I collapsed the pain had passed all my nerves were burned to the point of not working. While laying there as the pain left the fear left I was okay in that moment I accepted that that was going to be my last moment alive I knew what was happening and I was at peace enough to let go. I had a seizure right before being pulled out so I thought I had truly died you can imagine my shock when I opened my eyes to the outside world while being put into an ambulance. I don’t remember feeling pain at that point I was more concerned about all the lifeless bodies being pulled out around me. I was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life I don’t remember looking at my body while I payed there only focused on the lifeless 11 year old next to me. I passed out in the ambulance and woke up about a month later in the hospital to a new reality. I got burned 60–70 % of my body and lost 6 fingers due to the damage. I was in the hospital for exactly four months, if were being honest I’d have gone through the fire again vs being in the hospital. The healing process and the surgeries are enough to break a persons sanity. The fire will be the hardest thing I’ve had to go through and over come but I’m doing it. Rest In Peace Robert and Jalen.
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