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How much rope do they need?

Just a technical query - what's with the monstrous thick rope? - the safe load of 1 inch Manila rope is a ton, the breaking strength 9000 pounds. How much did the fat old bastard weigh? I know they didn't want to pop his head off with a cheese wire, but really that rope is overdoing it - maybe the Health and Safety official insisted on it to prevent any nasty accidents....

(Further investigation reveals the operation manual - reproduced below - it seems 3/4 inch Manila rope, steamed and pre-stretched, would be used in the US, not the rough end of a thicker rope as seen here)



Department of Correction
State of Delaware

Delaware Correctional Center
Smyrna, Delaware 19977-1597

May 1, 1990

Fred A. Leuchter Associates, Inc.
231 Kennedy Drive
Unit 110
Boston, Massachusetts 02148
(617) 322-0104





MEDICAL DESCRIPTION.......................................2





EXECUTION PROCEDURE.......................................7

SPECIAL PROTOCOL..........................................9







The author wishes to express his thanks to the Command of the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, whose help was invaluable in the preparation of this Manual.




Hanging has been utilized as a mode of execution for as long as man can remember, There have been more executions by this method than any other means. The procedure is simple; and yet there have been more botched executions by this method than by any other.

Essentially, execution by hanging is strangulation, effected by restricting the executee's air supply at the neck, unconsciousness occurring between two and four minutes and death within ten, resulting in death by asphyxiation. This, however, is not humane.

The correct procedure is when the executee is dropped some distance and stopped by a rope fastened around his neck. The force of this drop and stop breaks the bones in the executee's neck and severs his spinal cord causing him to go into medical shock and be rendered unconscious. At this point the executee strangles to death. This method is the only humane form of hanging.

The force (in foot pounds) of the drop is critical and is determined by the physical stature of the executee, primarily his weight. In general, the heavier the person, the shorter the drop, and conversely, the lighter the person the longer the drop. Generally, weights as low as 120 pounds result in a force of some 950 foot pounds where weights over 220 result in some 1100 foot pounds. A drop of too short a distance will result in a condition where the spinal cord is not severed and the executee will not go into shock and will be conscious during the strangulation period. A drop of too long a distance will result in decapitation. Both conditions are not humane. In general, execution requirements will never result in an execution where the inertia of the drop will greatly exceed l600 foot pounds or be less than 900 foot pounds. In all cases, it is better to utilize an established Drop Distance Table to prevent an error or accident.

The Drop Distance Table contained herein is the established Table utilized successfully by the United States Army for many years. Additionally, the specifications for some of the specialized hardware defined herein are resultant from many years of testing by the United States Army.


The executee will be dropped a distance as defined in the Drop Distance Table and his acceleration will be stopped by the rope around his neck. This will result in the breakage of several neck bones and the severing of the spinal cord within a time period of less than a second. The executee will immediately enter medical shock. He will probably experience one brief instant (measured in milliseconds) of pain before he loses all consciousness and all sensation. His body will go limp with paralysis. He will then strangle due to the lack of oxygen. He should be brain dead in something more than six minutes and heart dead in about eight. The attending medical doctor will determine heart death.

Depending upon the equipment used, there will be some physical trauma to the executee's body. This should be minimized by using the defined equipment.


This Manual, the Protocol, Procedures and Equipment contained herein were written and designed to ensure a competent and humane execution. The equipment and procedures have been taken from long-standing and well-tested protocol and changes and improvements were made based upon expert engineering and medical considerations. It is the author's intent to make the execution as easy and painless as possible for both the Executee and those persons tasked with carrying out the execution. The Protocol, Procedures and the Equipment have been designed to maintain the dignity of the executee, as well as, the dignity of those responsible for the execution.

Up until very recently Execution was an Art employed only by the "Executioner". It is only now becoming a Science with the Training and Certification of other types of Execution Technicians (i.e. Lethal Injection and Electrocution). Those persons carrying out the Protocol and Procedures in this Manual shall be Trained and Certified as Hanging Technicians.

It is further suggested (if the Jurisdiction permits) that the Executee be tranquilized one-half (1/2) hour prior to execution by the administration of Diazepam (Valium) as per the dosage table.


The following items are required for a competent hanging.

1. A Gallows should be utilized having the following basic characteristics.

A. A floor height of at least nine (9) feet to allow for a minimum clearance of about one (1) foot on the drop.

B. A crossbeam height of nine (9) feet giving an approximate clearance of three (3) feet above the executee.

C. An opening and trap door of at least three (3) feet square to allow proper clearance for the executee.

D. Means of releasing the trap door. This is normally accomplished by utilizing two bolts under one side of the door which are actuated by a common mechanism, either linkage rods or cable.

E. Means for stopping the trap door swing after it has fallen. This is normally accomplished utilizing a mechanical metal spring catch or a counterweight and a "rope grabber".

F. An eyelet or fastening mechanism for the rope containing the Hangman's Noose.

2. Body Restraint. This is a waist strap containing two (2) wrist restraints. It is fabricated from 3000 lb. test nylon aircraft webbing two (2) inches wide and is fifty (50) inches long. It contains three (3) quick release fasteners (one [1] for the waist and one [1] for each wrist) all of which are adjustable from each side. The color is black with chrome fasteners.

3. Leg Restraint. This is an ankle strap which binds both ankles together. It is fabricated from 3000 lb. test nylon aircraft webbing two (2) inches wide and is thirty-six (36) inches long. It contains one (1) quick release fastener which is adjustable from both sides. The color is black with chrome fasteners.

4. Collapse Frame. This is a six by thirty (6 X 30) inch frame fabricated of square steel tubing. It contains three (3) body restraints measuring fifty (50) inches long by two (2) inches wide which are made from 3000 lb. test nylon aircraft webbing and contain three (3) quick release fasteners adjustable from both sides. (One [1] for each restraint.) The color of the frame and webbing is black and the fasteners are chrome. This is used in the event of a physical collapse by the executee and enables the personnel conducting the execution to transport him to the scaffold.

5. Hood. The hood is fabricated of black denim and has split sides enabling it to extend onto the chest and back. It is generally used, optionally, to cover the face of the executee. A similar hood is available for the executioner but has a hole for the eyes.

6. Mechanical Hangman's Knot. This is fabricated from a delrin cylinder and has two (2) longitudinal holes and a steel U-clamp to fasten the rope. It comes with a black denim cover which is fastened with velcro. It is a replacement for the Conventional Hangman's Knot to eliminate the problems in tying the knot. It, unlike the Conventional Hangman's Knot, never binds in operation.

7. Noose Sleeve. This is fabricated of denim and fastened with velcro. It is utilized to prevent tissue damage at the neck.

8. Rope. Standard hangman's rope of three-quarter (3/4) inch Manila hemp is available in thirty (30) foot lengths. This rope has been boiled and stretched in drying to eliminate all spring, stiffness or tendency to coil. The rope is also available in six-hundred (600) foot coils but cannot be treated when supplied thus.

9. Knot Lubricant. Knot lubricant must be used whether utilizing the Mechanical or Conventional Hangman's knot. With the Mechanical Hangman's Knot, silicone spray is recommended. With the Conventional Hangman's Knot, melted paraffin is recommended.


Personnel for the Execution must consist of the following persons:

A. One (1) or more Certified Hanging Technicians.

B. One (1) Executioner.

Additional Personnel:

C. One (1) or more attendants or guards.

At least three (3) persons from the above categories are necessary to conduct the execution. Ideally, six (6) persons: two (2) Certified Hanging Technicians, three (3) attendants or guards, and one (1) Executioner would result in an easier execution. The Hanging Technicians, only, will do makeready, test and bind the Executee. The Executioner need not have any special training, as his only function is to release the trap door.


The following procedure should be used in makeready for the gallows prior to the execution. This should be done several days prior to the execution by a Certified Hanging Technician.

Determine the Rope Length for the particular executee. Employ the following formula for this determination and in the event of a multiple execution test with the requirements for the lighter executee and the longer drop. After the first execution, the Rope Length should be shortened for the next execution. Since the test was for the lighter executee, the trap door may be considered to function with the greater weight of the second executee.

Rope Length = (S - C) + Drop Distance

Where: S = Scaffold Crossbeam Height from Scaffold Floor

C = Executee's Chin Height

Drop Distance = the distance the executee is dropped

Rope Length = distance of the executee's drop + the distance of his chin from the scaffold crossbeam

Note: All measurements are in inches.

1. Measure the executee's chin height from the floor and weigh him.

2. Measure the scaffold crossbeam height from the floor of the scaffold.

3. Subtract the Chin Height from the Scaffold Crossbeam Height and add the Drop Distance from the Drop Distance Table to obtain the Rope Length.

4. Mark the rope at the rope length and cut it seven (7) feet longer. If fastener for rope is not at crossbeam but at another location, add this distance to the crossbeam height plus any additional amount needed for fastening.

5. Boil the rope for one (1) hour and stretch the rope while drying to eliminate all spring, stiffness or tendency to coil. Dry thoroughly.

6. Either tie Conventional Hangman's Knot as per included instructions or utilize a Mechanical Hangman's Knot and fasten with U-clamp. Lubricate Hangman's Knot with proper lubricant.

7. Install the Rope with the Hangman's Noose to the scaffold crossbeam and cut off remaining rope. The rope should be stretched tight prior to cutting and only the
Rope Length should hang below the scaffold crossbeam.

8. Oil, check and verify that all mechanical parts of the Gallows (i.e. the hinges on the trap door and the release mechanism) are functioning properly.

9. Fill two (2) sandbags with the equivalent weight of the executee (half in each bag) and fasten the bags together at the tops. Open the Noose and slip it over one of the bags and tighten it at the point where the bags are fastened together. You are now ready to test the gallows.

10. Close the trap door and reset the trip mechanism. Stand on the door to make sure it is secure. Place the sandbags on the door and loop the rope in such a fashion as to prevent any crimping or catching. Test the gallows repeatedly (at least twelve [12] times) to insure proper mechanical operation of the trap door and that the rope is secure and will not break.

11. You are now prepared for the execution.


Note: The following procedure should be completed by a Certified Hanging Technician.

1. Install the Noose Sleeve and, if using a Mechanical Hangman's Knot, install the cover for the Knot.

2. Install the Body Restraint around the Executee's waist and tightly bind his wrists to the restraint. (His arms may be restrained either in the front or the back.) If necessary, utilize the Collapse Frame.

3. Bring the Executee to the Execution location and up the stairs to the scaffold. Remove the Collapse Frame, if utilized.

4. Place Executee on the trap door and conduct the legal formalities.

5. Bind the Executee's legs with the Leg Restraint. Place the Hood over the Executee's head, if used. Place the Hangman's Noose over the Executee's head and tighten snugly around his neck. Place the Hangman's Knot directly behind the Executee's left ear.

6. All Hanging Technicians shall leave the scaffold and the Executioner, on order from the Warden, shall release the trap door.

7. The Trap door shall open and the Executee shall drop. On order from the Warden some eight minutes after the release mechanism was thrown, the attending doctor shall examine the Executee for heart death.

8. After the pronouncement of death, the Hanging Technicians shall, while supporting the Executee, loosen and remove the Noose and Hood and set the Executee on the floor. Thereupon, the Hanging Technicians shall remove the Leg and Body Restraints. The Executee shall be placed in a body bag for removal.



The following Special Protocol applies:



Weight in Drop Weight in Drop
Pounds Distance Pounds Distance

120 or less........8' 1" 170................6' 0"
125................7'10" 175................5'11"
130................7' 7" 180................5' 9"
135................7' 4" 185................5' 7"
140................7' 1" 190................5' 6"
145................6' 9" 195................5' 5"
150................6' 7" 200................5' 4"
155................6' 6" 205................5' 2"
160................6' 4" 210................5' 1"
165................6' 2" 220 and over.......5' 0"


Note: To be used only in Jurisdictions where legal.

Diazepam Tablets USP, 10 mg (flat, round, white, scored tablets coded WC 143) supplied in bottles of 100 # N0047- 0143-24. (Warner Chilcott)

Diazepam has a central nervous system depressant effect and has no short term side effects which would preclude its use as an execution anxiety and stress suppressant. Warning: will produce ataxia (appearance of being drunk) at high dosages and can cause death. Do not overdose or exceed the dosages in the table. If possible, administration should be by physician.

Weight Dosage in in Pounds milligram

to 160 15 mg
180 20 mg
200 25 mg
220 and above 30 mg


Length of loops: make loop as shown from Standing Part to Running End. A to B should be approximately eighteen (18) inches, and from C to Running End should be approximately thirty-five (35) inches. Wrap running end for six (6) turns. No extra rope should remain.

Tighten wrap (loops) by pulling Running End. Lock loops and form Knot by pulling down at point D and up on Running End. Slide Knot up or down on Standing Part to adjust size of Noose.


Hmm... the safe working load of a 1-inch rope may well be a ton, but you are ignoring the effect of shock loading. You have a certain drop to allow for that will put much more strain on the rope than if you had gently lifted the old bustard off his feet. That said, it's still a fat piece of twine and I imagine they wanted to spread the load over his neck in order to be absolutely certain that head and body stayed together so that he would look nice for the cameras afterwards. Perhaps a professional executioner from among your readership could elaborate with some figures concerning, weight, drop, rope thickness etc.

there is an official book of drops , the heaviest weight i could find was 14 stone and that required a 5 feet five drop (no metric thank you)

I wonder if that thick rope might prevent a proper drop-snap of the neck, that's what breaks the spinal column and initiates the CNS shut-down. The thick stuff might instead result in mere choking...not that I particularly care.

The thick rope is exactly what is required for the Hangman's Noose. The mechanism of injury is the impact of the six-wrap knotting upon the upper vertebrae. When the person is dropped, the rope is subjected to a shock loading, and the knot impacts and breaks the upper vertebrae. If tied and positioned correctly, the impact instantly kills the person being hanged. If the rope used is too thin and/or light, it will not have the energy required to cause such injury, resulting in death by suffocation.

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