Metal Ways To Die: Impalement


You, like everyone else, are going to die. But that doesn’t mean your death has to be boring. Fuck being surrounded by weeping family members — leave the world a story! Welcome to Metal Ways To Die, where we take a look at the most killer ways to mosh off of this mortal coil. Death to false death!


History: Impalement was first used as a punishment in Mesopotamia and Babylonia; the infamous Code of Hammurabi lists it as a punishment for a woman who kills her husband. Since then, any warlike empire, from Egypt to Rome, used impalement as a punishment, primarily because, like crucifixion and hanging, it created an automatic deterrent to potential offenders.

Longitudinal impalement
Transversal impalement








Throughout history, two styles of impalement were commonly used. Longitudinal impalement involved impaling someone from the bottom up, with the point of the stake (or ‘pale’) usually emerging from the victim’s shoulder or breast. If done right, the spike misses all the internal organs, and the victim languishes for hours, even days, with their body weight dragging them down. Transversal impalement, meanwhile, involves piercing someone through the front and out the back. The chances of surviving for long after being impaled transversally are slim, as the weight is brutal on the spine, and it’s harder to avoid organs with skewering someone through the middle.


Of course, we can’t talk about impalement without discussing Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, AKA Vlad Tepes (pronounced ‘tseh-pesh’), AKA Dracula. Kidnapped and trained by the Ottoman Empire, Vlad became sadistic–partly through bitterness, but definitely also through the teachings of the Ottomans, for whom impalement was already a commonly-used corporeal punishment–and there was nothing he liked more than impaling his enemies; he earned his nickname ‘Vlad the Impaler’ from the “forests” of impaled victims that would be encountered by soldiers who came across the battlefields on which he fought. Of course, impalement wasn’t Vlad’s only go-to form of torture–the dude also nailed turbans to heads and, according to rumor, drank the blood of his victims, thus sparking the rumor that he was a vampire (when in fact he was a devout Christian)–but it was certainly his specialty.

It’s easy to think of impalement as a lost form of execution, but don’t worry–as late as the 1920’s, during the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, the practice was still being used. During the latter genocide, it was claimed that certain corpses were so firmly impaled that the stakes simply had to be sawed off and the bodies buried with the spikes still in them. Classics never die.

Why It’s So Metal: A mixture of brutality and symbolism. Obviously, having a spike rip your entire body is pretty vicious, and being alive through that while your body weight drags you down onto it is even more horrific. But it’s being made a trophy for public display–a human shish kabob at the mercy of the elements (nothing like getting your eyes pecked out by crows) that inspires instant revulsion in anyone who witnesses it–that makes it especially poetic and horrific.

Ultra-Brutal Version: Gaunching. This process involved being suspended over several metal hooks and then released. If you were lucky, the hooks killed you; if not, you could linger, impaled in several places throughout your body, for days. Siiiick.

False Version: Being gored by a bull. One of the main ways matadors die is by taking a horn to the femoral artery in the thigh and bleeding to death. If you ask me, mocking and slowly murdering a powerful animal in a public arena is pretty shitty. If you die with a big-ass horn in your leg while wearing spangled tights, you die a shmuck.

Famous Cases:

  • The Waldensians, residents of the Piedmont in Italy, who were impaled (as well as burned, torn to pieces, and in certain cases eaten) by the Duke of Savoy and his men in 1655.
  • Suleiman al-Halabi, the assassin of French general Jean Baptiste Kleber, who was impaled as punishment for his crimes in 1800.
  • A tribeswoman in the film Cannibal Holocaust was impaled on a spike, making her one of the most horrifying fictional characters in all of history.


Any famous human satay that didn’t make it into this piece? Let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, here’s a playlist of some impalement music to drive a spike through your day.


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