Eye for an Eye: The Punishments of 8 Political Assassins

© Brendan Smialowski/Reuters/Corbis

John Hinckley is in the news this week as a judge considers whether the man who shot President Reagan should be able to live as an outpatient. Here's a look at the fates of various people who were more successful at taking down world leaders.

1. Balthasar Gerard

Gerard, a Catholic Frenchman, assassinated William I of Orange, the leader of the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule in 1584. Gerard's attempts to flee the scene didn't work, and the authorities gruesomely tortured him for days. Gerard's captors hung heavy stones from his toes, crushed his feet, and branded and broiled his skin.

As unpleasant as that sounds, it was just the prelude to Gerard's actual sentence that had been prescribed by the local magistrates. His right hand was burned off with a red-hot iron before he was disemboweled alive and had his heart removed and thrown in his face. This sentence might be the definition of "overkill."

2. Francois Ravaillac

Raivallac fatally stabbed King Henry IV of France in 1610, allegedly because he had received a vision instructing him to help convert the whole country to Catholicism. He was saved from lynching immediately after the assassination, but in retrospect Ravaillac probably should have taken his chances with the mob rather than face his cruel official punishment. After having molten metals and boiling oil poured on his body, his four limbs were chained to four horses, which were driven in opposite directions until he was ripped apart.

3. Charles Guiteau

cgIt takes a special kind of nut to become an assassin, but Charles Guiteau, the failed civil servant who shot James Garfield, was crazy by even these lofty standards. He maintained that "the doctors killed Garfield; I just shot him," and planned to run for the presidency when he was released from jail.

Unfortunately for Guiteau, the legal system didn't share his opinion on the real culprit in Garfield's death. He was hanged in June 1882 after reading some truly bizarre last words. If you want to get a look at Guiteau, though, you still can. A piece of his brain is on display at Philadelphia's amazing Mutter Museum. If you don't want to make a special trip to see a piece of just one presidential assassin, they've also got a preserved growth removed from John Wilkes Booth.

4. John Wilkes Booth

Speaking of Booth, he didn't fare too well, either. Although he managed to escape from Ford's Theater and spent 12 days on the lam, the authorities eventually caught up to Booth as he hid out in a Virginia tobacco barn. The soldiers torched the barn and then shot Booth through the spine.

Booth didn't rest in much peace. His body was first buried in a storage room at a penitentiary before being moved to a warehouse. In 1869 his corpse was exhumed again and moved to the Booth family plot at a Baltimore cemetery.

Since Booth's death, theories have swirled that maybe the soldiers shot the wrong man as the real assassin got away, and every so often historians attempt to exhume the body yet again to verify the corpse's identity.

5. Leon Czolgosz


Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated William McKinley in 1901, rode a quick trial and conviction straight to the electric chair at New York's Auburn State Prison just 45 days after firing the fatal shot. After Czolgosz took his jolts of electricity, authorities doused his body with sulfuric acid to disintegrate the remains.

6. Gavrilo Princip

The Yugoslav nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, helped kick off World War I, was too young to be hanged for his crimes. Princip twice attempted suicide in prison, but neither worked. (His cyanide was too weak to fatally poison him, and he couldn't get a shot off when he attempted to shoot himself.)

Just because the authorities couldn't kill Princip meant they treated him well, though. He was held in a squalid prison in what is now the Czech Republic and died of tuberculosis in 1918. He weighed less than 90 pounds when he died.

7. Yigal Amir


Amir, the assassin responsible for the 1995 murder of Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin, received a life sentence plus 14 years for his crimes. After spending several years in solitary confinement, Amir married old acquaintance Larissa Trembovler and has since fathered a son thanks to conjugal visits.

8. Oliver Cromwell

You've got to hand it to the English monarchy; they're as inventive as they are grisly when it comes to punishing regicide. After the restoration of the monarchy to power in 1660, the royal family wanted to punish Cromwell for his part in the execution of King Charles I. There was a slight hitch, though; at that point Cromwell had been dead for two years.

A little thing like already being dead wasn't going to spare Cromwell from an execution, though. Authorities exhumed his body and hanged it in a posthumous execution in 1661. (Two of his co-conspirators got the same treatment.) After the hanging, Cromwell's body was chucked into a pit, but his severed head remained on public display on a pole for another 24 years. After that, the head changed hands several times over the course of the next three centuries before finally being buried in 1960.

This article originally appeared in 2009.

8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3

[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.


The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”


If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”


The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).


The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.


Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”


The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.


We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.


Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

Big Questions
Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?

Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at


More from mental floss studios