Here’s a little macabre story for you (reader beware):
On June 28, 1905, the prisoner Henri Languille was decapitated by the guillotine in France. In the interest of science, a doctor named Beaurieux observed the execution, and immediately retrieved the fallen head.
Beaurieux then called out the man’s name three times. Twice, over the course of many seconds, the beheaded Languille responded to hearing his name by opening his eyes and looking up at the doctor. From his written report on the event:
“It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: ‘Languille!’ I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.”
Languille’s eyes, Beaurieux continued, looked directly into his own. “I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me,” he wrote. Then, the eyelids closed.
Beaurieux called his name a second time, and Languille looked up again. When he tried a third, the man no longer responded.
There have been other anecdotes of such things happening, people remaining conscious just a bit longer after a decapitation. Not much, but it’s perhaps enough to make you feel a bit queasy at the thought.
Today, scientists are still exploring this question of how long a person remains conscious after “death.” A lot of the problem actually has to do with how we define it – to a doctor calling time of death, for example, that’s when the heart stops (or “irreversible cessation of heartbeat and breathing”). But it’s not quite as simple as that.
Don’t Fear the Reaper
According to The Independent, a group of researchers at the NYU Langone School of Medicine have been hard at work studying people who have technically died from cardiac arrest, only to be revived. They poured over verified accounts from the patients themselves, as well as medical staff, and what they found is more than a little troubling.
Their research indicates that some people may remain alert and conscious after their body no longer shows signs of life, to the point where they “may even hear their own death being announced by medics.” This may be caused by a “burst of brain energy” that occurs as a person is dying.
Well, how’s that for a happy thought? That it isn’t just lights out when it’s all over. You may just get the chance to think about it.