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Top 10 Gruesome Post-Mortem Punishments

by Tyler Parsons
fact checked by Micah Duke

What do you do when your enemy has the gall to die before you can adequately humiliate or exact proper punishment upon him? Well, you need not let mere death get in the way of retribution.

10 Gilles van Ledenberg
Coffin Hung And Dumped In A Ditch


Photo credit: Claes Jansz. Visscher

The Netherlands had an 80-year struggle (1568–1648) with Spain that was interposed with the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609–21). After the decades-long conflict ended, the Dutch immediately engaged in a petty theological dispute among themselves.

They clashed over predestination and the exact time that God decides whether a soul will be admitted to Heaven. There were also political concerns over whether to resume the war, and tensions increased between the centralized government and the provinces.

In the 1610s, the situation began to spiral out of control when the more moderate Remonstrant Party fell from power in the face of pressure from the more strictly orthodox Counter-Remonstrants and Prince Maurice, commander of the army.

One of the arrested Remonstrant leaders was Gilles van Ledenberg. He committed suicide in September 1618 but was sentenced to death the following May.

Thus, the coffin containing his embalmed corpse was hung on a gallows for three weeks before being buried. The night that it was buried, however, a mob dug up van Ledenberg’s remains and tossed them in a ditch.

9 Jacopo Bonfadio
Beheading And Burning


Photo via Wikimedia

Jacopo Bonfadio was an Italian humanist scholar who was noted for his poetry, his conversations about landscapes, and his philosophy. He also wrote a history of Genoa that censured several of the city’s leading families by revealing the truth of their past misdeeds. This was a bad idea because he was living in Genoa at the time.

Those powerful families seized on a rumor that Bonfadio had seduced one of his students. As a result, he was condemned to death for the “crime” of sodomy. This sentence produced a great scandal, and many intellectuals throughout Italy mobilized to save him.

They were unsuccessful, but Bonfadio was given the relative mercy of being beheaded before his burning. In a letter supposedly written before his death, Bonfadio evinced a remarkable calm because “all will be devoured by time” and those condemning him would also die one day.

His death was so well-known that it was used to rebuke the Genoese government over two centuries later when they conveniently “lost” the files of Bonfadio’s trial.

8 Cunimund
Bejeweled Skull Cup


Photo credit: Charles Landseer

In-laws can be a pain—that’s the trope anyway. However, you should not kill your father-in-law and turn his skull into a drinking cup as this will cause marital discord. Alboin, a sixth-century king of the Lombards, learned this the hard way. He had a long-running enmity with the Gepids, partly as a result of his killing the Gepid prince Thorismund in his youth.

In 567, Alboin defeated the Gepids in battle and killed their king Cunimund (probable Thorismund’s brother). The victory was decisive—the Gepids virtually ceased to exist—and Alboin helped himself to two trophies.

The first was the skull of his rival, which was fashioned into a gold-plated, jewel-encrusted chalice. The second was Cunimund’s daughter, Rosamund, whom Alboin took as his wife.

Thereafter, Alboin led the Lombards in their successful invasion of Italy. In celebration of these achievements, he held a banquet in Verona in 572 during which he made his wife drink out of her father’s skull.

As a result, Rosamund murdered her husband. She either carried out the deed herself while he was in a drunken stupor or seduced and blackmailed one of the king’s retainers.

7 Garcia Jacques
Squished By Cars And Burned


Photo via Wikimedia

Garcia Jacques was the commander of the palace guard for both Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, dictators of Haiti from 1957 to 1986. We’ve previously recounted the horror show of Papa Doc’s rule, which included killing all of the country’s black dogs (because an enemy had transformed himself into a black dog) and replacing God’s name with his own in the Lord’s Prayer.

He also engaged in voodoo—examining goat entrails and interrogating severed heads—and had his secret police kill up to 60,000 Haitians. Papa Doc died in 1971.

In 1986, a popular uprising and diplomatic pressure forced his son, Baby Doc, to flee the country. He flew off in a plane full of jewels, Louis Vuitton luggage, and designer artwork. Then he proceeded to live off Swiss bank accounts filled with hundreds of millions of dollars plundered from the Haitian people.

Back in Haiti, the crowds burst into the crypt of Papa Doc, but his remains had supposedly been flown out of the country. Consequently, they turned on the tomb of his cronies like Garcia Jacques. After the crowds dragged Jacques’s badly decomposed body into the road so that it could be run over by passing trucks, the corpse was set on fire.

6 Harold Harefoot
Sleeping With The Fishes


From 1035 to 1040, England’s king was the unfortunately nicknamed Harold Harefoot, son of Canute the Great, who had ruled the North Sea Empire of England, Norway, and Denmark. Harold only came to the throne by taking advantage of his half brother Harthacnut’s absence in Denmark.

Harthacnut saw this as an act of usurpation. His rage grew when Harold captured, blinded, and then murdered Harthacnut’s half brother (and Harold’s own stepbrother) Alfred Atheling in 1036.

After Harold’s death in 1040, Harthacnut ascended to the English throne. He had Harold’s body dragged from its monastic grave and thrown into the surrounding swamp. In doing so, Harold was equated with a common criminal and denied burial in consecrated ground.

Ironically, this backfired on Harthacnut. The desecration of his half brother’s tomb was seen as an act of petty revenge that exemplified Harthacnut’s poor kingship. Harold’s body was supposedly retrieved by some fishermen and buried in St. Clement Danes, which may be how the church got its name.

5 Lavr Kornilov
Burned On A Rubbish Dump


Lavr Kornilov was a career army officer in Russia. Born in 1870, he served as an intelligence officer in Central Asia before fighting with distinction in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

At the outbreak of World War I, Kornilov was a divisional commander. He rose to fame after he was captured by the Austrians, escaped, and trekked across Romania to get back to Russian territory.

Following this, he was appointed commander in chief of the Russian Army by the moderate government of Alexander Kerensky, who had seized power after the deposition of the tsar in March 1917.

However, the war was still going poorly, and citizens in Petrograd, the capital, were restless. Thus, Kornilov sent troops in the direction of Petrograd to suppress leftist dissension. There is some dispute as to whether Kornilov acted unilaterally or had help from Kerensky.

In any case, Kornilov went too far when he demanded the resignation of the government and the imposition of military rule. Accused of orchestrating a coup, Kornilov was imprisoned.

Then, following the Bolshevik revolution, Kornilov escaped and joined the White forces in the Don region. During the winter, he led them on the epic “Ice March” across the harsh steppe. He died when a shell hit his headquarters at the siege of Ekaterinodar in April 1918.

The White forces retreated. Meanwhile, Kornilov’s body was dug up, dragged into the main square, thrown onto a rubbish dump, and burned.

4 Simon de Montfort
Dismemberment, Castration, And More


Photo via Wikimedia

Simon de Montfort was initially a favorite of King Henry III, with the king granting him the earldom of Leicester and the hand in marriage of his sister, Princess Eleanor. However, Montfort’s relationship with the king gradually soured.

Eventually, Montfort became a leader of the baronial opposition that dominated the king and drastically reduced royal power from 1258 to 1260. But this baronial coalition collapsed, and Montfort was forced from the country in 1261.

He stormed back into England in 1264, captured the king, and ruled as a despot for one year. Unfortunately for Montfort, Prince Edward—Henry’s heir and the future king—escaped, raised an army, and defeated Montfort at Evesham.

Although Montfort died in the battle, the exultant royalist troops did not let him rest in peace. First, they cut off his hands, feet, and head. Then his testicles were removed and hung on either side of his nose before being shoved down his throat.

Finally, Montfort’s head was paraded through the countryside before the steadfast loyalist Roger Mortimer sent it to his wife, Maud, who had assisted Prince Edward in his escape.

Not surprisingly, this left some bad blood between the families. Montfort’s surviving sons saw their chance for vengeance in 1271. When Henry III’s nephew, Henry of Almain, was in Italy on diplomatic business, the Montforts murdered him while he was hearing mass. Then they mutilated his body.

3 Bucer And Fagius
Exhumation And Burning


Photo via Wikimedia

Martin Bucer was a Protestant reformer who spent most of his life on the Continent, particularly in the Holy Roman Empire. There, he fraternized with the renowned humanist Erasmus as well as Martin Luther. Bucer also tried to heal developing rifts in the Reformation movement and encouraged a path of pragmatism and compromise.

From 1524 to 1548, Bucer attended almost all major religious meetings in Germany. Unfortunately, political developments forced him into exile in England in 1549, where he was asked to review The First Prayer Book of Edward VI. Bucer died in 1551, but much of his advice was incorporated into The Second Prayer Book.

The young Edward VI died shortly thereafter in 1553 and was succeeded by his notoriously Catholic sister, Mary. She was determined to reimpose Catholicism on England. Although she tried to do this by peaceful means, about 300 Protestants were ultimately burned at the stake. That’s how she earned the posthumous nickname “Bloody Mary.”

However, not all of the barbecued Protestants were alive. In 1557, Bucer and his friend Paul Fagius were exhumed and put on trial. Then their bones were chained up and burned in the Cambridge marketplace when rural peasants were in town to sell their produce. The burning was accompanied by sermons that denounced them. Their books and writings were also thrown in the fire.

Unfortunately for Mary, this didn’t have the desired effect. The peasants were more bemused than anything (especially about bones that were chained up), and many were unconvinced that the punishment was necessary.

Mary died the following year, and her Protestant sister, Elizabeth, rehabilitated the two Protestants. Supposedly, Elizabeth also reinterred them, but it’s unclear what was left to rebury.

2 Rasputin
Fire Zombie


Photo via Wikimedia

Grigori Rasputin’s career was extraordinary. He was a Russian mystic who became a favorite of the Russian Imperial family because of his ability to improve the condition of the hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexei.

Rasputin was notorious for engaging in debauchery and was ultimately assassinated. Famously, he survived being poisoned, shot, strangled, and bludgeoned. Instead, he died by drowning. According to recent theories, the British Secret Service was somehow involved in his death.

After the deposition of the tsar in March 1917, rebel soldiers broke into Rasputin’s tomb, defaced the wall, and urinated on the site. They dug up and opened the coffin in the hopes of finding jewelry, but they were greeted by a stinking, putrefied corpse with a blackened face instead.

Rasputin was secretly reburied. But eventually, his body was exhumed again and sent to a third burial site—allegedly in a piano box. However, the vehicle carrying Rasputin’s body broke down, so his body was set down in a neighboring field, doused with gasoline, and burned.

Then, as if his death hadn’t been weird enough, Rasputin’s burning, rotting corpse supposedly sat up. It’s been theorized that the heat caused his tendons to contract, giving his body the appearance of movement.

If you’re wondering how Rasputin’s giant pickled penis factors into all of these adventures, that appendage was removed during the assassination.

1 False Dmitri I
Incinerated And Fired From A Cannon


Photo via Wikimedia

Ivan the Terrible killed his eldest son and heir in a fit of rage. When Ivan died, this meant that his successors were the mentally handicapped Feodor and the infant Dmitri.

Boris Godunov, regent and brother-in-law to Feodor, promptly had Dmitri exiled. The boy was subsequently killed. When Feodor died, Boris ascended to the throne. But he was opposed by someone claiming to be the dead Dmitri, who began fighting his way toward Moscow.

Boris died of an illness in 1605, and “Dmitri” became tsar of Russia after Boris’s young son was killed. However, Dmitri alienated his supporters through his close affiliation with the Poles and his marriage to the Catholic Polish noblewoman Marina Mniszech.

As a mob stormed the Kremlin, Dmitri tried to escape by jumping out the window. But he broke his leg and was shot dead while hobbling away.

After ropes were tied around his feet and genitals, he was dragged through the streets and strung up in Red Square to be exposed to scorn and ridicule. Finally, his remains were burned and the ashes mixed with gunpowder before being fired out of a cannon.

Then a second Dmitri showed up, claiming to have survived the coup. He was miraculously “recognized” by Marina. The couple had a child, Ivan, who was nicknamed the “Baby Brigand.” After False Dmitri II died in a drunken fight, Marina was starved to death while the four-year-old Baby Brigand was hanged.

Tyler is a bored, cynical, lethargic, self-loathing misanthrope currently stumbling through the glorious catastrophe called life. Email him here or here.

fact checked by Micah Duke