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Great to have so many entries – apologies to people who found this a little gruesome. 97% of people chose to be eaten by rats, as there was a tiny chance they might survive. However by a strange quirk of fate, the first answer out of the cauldron this week was Tracy Carpenter of Mint HR who wanted to get it over and done with quickly by being boiled. Do get in touch Tracy to claim your prize!

Death & Disease Quiz - The Highwayman's Choice

The highwayman’s choice

Note: Very vivid (though historically accurate) content

You look back at your life. The glamour. The excitement. The riches. Holding up stagecoaches stuffed with overfed gentry. So arrogant and condescending in their own environment – so terrified and blubbing with a pistol shoved in their face. They could never hand over their jewels and moneybags quick enough. But now you have been caught. You hear heavy footsteps outside – and your cell door opens to reveal a gnarled, dried up old man. He informs you that you will be taken from this place at noon and death will surely follow. But, according to the law of the kingdom, you may choose the manner of your own demise. He hands you a list. “Choose wisely oh highwayman – I’ll be back in one hour precisely.” He chuckles disturbingly, turns on his heel and is gone.

You look down at the list:


The condemned will have his hands and feet clapped in irons. A heavy weight will be chained to an ankle. The condemned will be thrown into a cauldron filled with waist deep icy water. A fire will be lit under the cauldron to slowly heat the water until it boils.

Record held by: Bhai Dayala, Year: 1675, Crime: Refusing to convert to Islam, Survival: 4 hrs 23 minutes (by which time all his skin had peeled off)

Breaking wheel

The condemned will be tied to a cart wheel. The executioner will use an iron bar to strike the outstretched limbs of the condemned as the wheel is slowly revolved. When many bones are broken, the condemned, still tied to the wheel will be hoisted atop a tall pole and left to be pecked by the birds.

Record held by: Christman Genipperteinga, Year: 1581 Crime: Serial Killer, Survival: 9 days.


The condemned is tied to a plank, and the executioner will carefully and gradually cut off the skin of the condemned, using a very sharp knife. The skin will then be nailed, intact, to the city walls as a warning to other miscreants.

Record held by: The Subprior of Westminster Abbey, Year: 1303, Crime: Robbing the treasury in the Abbey where the money of Edward I was held, Survival: 2 days

Rat torture

A large pottery bowl containing rats is placed upside over the condemned’s chest. Red hot charcoal is piled on top of the bowl, gradually heating the inside. The rats, fighting for their own survival, will gnaw their way out through the condemned’s flesh.

Record held by: Unnamed Dutchman, Year: 1572, Crime: Opposing William the Silent in the 80 years’ war, Survival: Did not pass away


The condemned is strapped to a small rowing boat, with head, hands and feet protruding over the sides. A second rowing boat is placed upside down on top of the first. The condemned is then force fed milk and honey. More honey is rubbed over the condemned’s body. The boat is then set adrift on a lake containing many biting insects. Every day, the condemned continues to be force fed milk and honey, resulting in buildup of liquid human waste in the boat. Swarms insects, and their larvae, attracted by a feast of honey and diarrhea, start to eat the condemned alive.

Record held by: Mithridates, Year: 401 BC, Crime: Turning up drunk at court and announcing that Persian King Artaxerxes II was a liar (which he was, though of course that is not relevant!), Survival: 17 days

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