Over the years, there have been plenty of inhumane tests and displays of electricity. People have electrocuted monks, and tortured street urchins, but only one electricity display has resulted in an execution. Find out about the dastardly dance of Giovanni Aldini.
Electricity has been seen as a magic phenomenon for centuries. Although its properties and uses were discovered relatively early, the infrastructure to make it a household convenience didn't exist. As a result, it was a mysterious force for many, and a practical tool for a few. These few decided to show off their knowhow in very unpleasant ways. In 1746, Jean-Antoine Nollet had 200 monks put their hands on a long piece of metal wire. He then hooked the wire up to a battery. When the monks yelled, jumped, and swore simultaneously, he smugly claimed that he had demonstrated just how fast electricity was conducted. Then he did the same thing – while the king was watching, and after being supplied with a fresh set of trusting monks. A typical demonstration in the 1800s was to get a ‘street urchin,' charge him up, and draw sparks off his nose. Those people were all heart.
But Giovanni Aldini went above and beyond. He traveled the countryside with human heads, eyes, and legs. This was in the late 1700s, when corpses were still hard (and often illegal) to come by. Sometimes he'd mix it up with an entire dead cow. Whatever he had on stage, he'd shoot through with electricity. Heads would move their jaws, and blink their eyes, and the cow would kick its legs.
One day officials decided to mix it up by giving Aldini the body of a recently executed convict. Aldini went to town on it. He zapped the face until it started contorted into making expression. He then went after the body until it kicked, punched, and started dancing on stage. At which point the entire crowd insisted that the man be executed again.
It's quite something to cause a man to be re-killed, just for entertainment.
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