TIL A Scottish woman was sentenced to death by hanging around 1721. Maggie Dickson was hung, declared dead, put in a wooden coffin and carted off. She woke up en route to the churchyard, the law said her sentence had been carried out and she lived another 40 years known as ‘Half-hangit Maggie’.

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Student doctors would get a chance to examine and dissect the bodies of executed criminals but sometimes they’d discover some of them survived. It created a moral problem for doctors and their Hippocratic Oath when they had to decide to ‘finish the job’ or allow the person to live. The phrase “*hanged by the neck until dead*” is part of that process wherein the doctors hoped to ensure people being executed would arrive on their tables ‘truly dead’.


Hanged for the crime of concealing a pregnancy. Sheesh.


Bet she got real tired of being greeted with “hey Maggie, how’s it hangin?”


It just so happens that Maggie here was only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.


There’s a poem called “Half Hanged Mary” by Margaret Atwood about a Mary Webster who was accused of witchcraft in the 1680s. She was hung, didn’t die, and lived another 14 years. (Though, why the town didn’t decide that was definitive proof that she was a witch, I have no idea.). Seems Marys have very strong neck muscles.