Nobody really wants to die. It is almost universally agreed upon that the best way to die is in your sleep, of natural causes, at roughly 98 years of age. What is not quite so cut and dried are the worst ways to die. It can vary from person to person, and be greatly influenced by individual fears and experiences. While there is no real scientific measure of what’s truly the most traumatic way to die – there is no way to ask anyone who’s experienced it how bad it really was – these are all genuinely awful.Viewer discretion is advised.
Burning alive is one of the few deaths that we actually do have a preview of. Burn victims describe their pain as sheer agony. A living victim of a fire will suffer first, second, or third degree burns – the slightest of which causes pain, redness, and swelling, and the more severe of which extends into the deepest muscle tissues, causing the skin to blister and eventually char. The pain is excruciating and it continues until the internal organs begin to liquefy, death finally occurring either by the layers of your body literally burning away bit by bit, or your brain shutting the body down because it can no longer function in the intense heat. If a fire is large enough, lucky victims actually die of carbon monoxide poisoning before the flames ever reach them. So, fingers crossed for carbon monoxide!
Death by drowning is one of the most common fears shared by people. A drowning person will attempt to hold their breath as long as possible, but eventually, the body will demand oxygen, and when it receives only water, the oxygen deprivation brings on cardiac arrest; consciousness is lost after 2 to 3 minutes, and after 6, brain death occurs. It can take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes for the body to die by drowning. It is one of the most panicked deaths a body can experience.
Disease seems vague, but the truth is, there are millions of ways for sickness to kill us. As painful as they are, conditions like Cancer and AIDS are actually not the worst ways one can die. Flesh eating viruses gift the victim with truly terrible deaths, complete with their flesh slowly decomposing while they’re still alive. The Ebola virus slowly thins your blood and breaks down your internal organs until your body can no longer contain it and it begins to leak out of every pore. Ebola victims technically bleed to death.
The act of being flayed alive was once common used as torture, first as punishment if someone was believed to have betrayed or defied their ruler, and later, as a form of information extraction. The skin is literally peeled away from the muscle, usually with an attempt to keep it intact. This is a popular method of crafty-minded serial killers interested in making their own flesh suits.
The electric chair, once the most common method of execution in the correctional facility, is now considered by many to be far too barbaric a punishment. Volts of electricity passing through the body causes fatal damage to the internal organs and the brain until death occurs. In theory, the first volt of electricity would cause an immediate cessation of brain function, but this is not always the case. To date, only the United States and the Philippines remain the only countries in the world to use the electric chair to put convicts to death.
Trauma occurs many ways. A blunt object can strike the cranium, causing a hemmorage. If the bleeding cannot be stopped, the wound is fatal, but only after a bout with great pain and disorientation, as well as the certain knowledge that you are going to die. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, and other violent crimes fall into the category of trauma where numerous wounds are inflicted and the body is simply incapable of coping.
As was the fear with the miners trapped in Chile, the body maintains a certain pressure that changes the deeper we move into the earth, or sea. Scuba divers emerge from deep, deep exploration in pressure chambers designed to gently ease the return to normal conditions. When something goes wrong, and pressure re-stabilizes suddenly, it causes all the air in the body to expand up to 9 times its current orientation, ending in combustion. The pieces go on for miles.
Everyone has experienced the feeling that they’re being pulled in a million different directions at once, metaphorically. Well, imagine that feeling being literal, and you’ve an idea how awful a way to die this is. Dismemberment is another form of punishment in days of yore. The practice of simultaneously pulling at the body’s limbs – which are surprisingly sturdy – until they disconnect from the torso after several minutes of agony is, thankfully, no longer practiced outside of the worst S&M clubs.
Falling is the most common dream. Usually it’s a bottomless fall. In the case of death, it can be the most terrifying and powerless. There is nothing to knock you out as you freefall – only the inevitable knowledge that the second you hit the ground, it’s over. You cannot save yourself. You can only resign yourself to going the way of Wyle E. Coyote.
The psychological ramifications of being buried alive are actually far worse than the physical, but the mental effect is so severe that being buried alive still makes the cut. Physically, you will eventually run so short on oxygen that your body passes out before you die. Mentally, however, your panic becomes so great that you will likely break fingernails attempting to claw your way out of the tomb in which you’re imprisoned. Bet you’ll never look at elevator rides the same way again.