Does The Hangman's Noose Really Possess Magical Occult Powers?

One of the most pervasive occult beliefs is the idea that the hangman’s noose possesses mystical powers.

October 23, 2018
Silhouette of Hangman's Noose [iStockPhoto]

Silhouette of Hangman's Noose

Silhouette of Hangman's Noose [iStockPhoto]

Photo by: turk_stock_photographer


Silhouette of Hangman's Noose [iStockPhoto]

By: Catherine Townsend

The blood of a black cat can cure pneumonia. A white hen beaten to death with a black cane can bring good luck. A dead man’s hand will cure goiter.

Throughout history, many occult beliefs have been a part of popular culture.

One of the most pervasive occult beliefs is the idea that the hangman’s noose possesses mystical powers.

In the early 1900s, when executions were public, frenzied crowds would try to grab the noose after the condemned prisoner's body was cut from the rope.

"The five hangings recently taking place in this city have brought out again the superstitious that hangman’s rope is a sure cure for rheumatism, consumption, heart disease, apoplexy, and everything else,"," reads an excerpt from the Beaumont Enterprise from 1911 quoted in Haunted Ohio Books.

"The rope is a sure cure for all the ills that flesh is heir to, if properly applied and adjusted; but that is not the way that great many St. Louis men and women look at it."

The noose – also referred to as the hangman’s knot, Jack Ketch knot, or collar – has been the subject of fascination for centuries. It was reportedly invented in Britain, but has since spread around the globe.

The number of wraps in the coil depended on a number of factors, including the weight of the prisoner and the condition of the rope.

Magical power was thought also to attach to the rope with which a person had committed suicide,” Author Wayland Debs Hand wrote in Magical Medicine: The Folkloric Component of Medicine in the Folk Belief. He wrote that the he found examples throughout history of the noose being used to cure “fits,” headaches, epilepsy and convulsions in children.

In Russia, a hangman’s rope was rumored to bring luck to gamblers.

Rainey Bethea's execution [Wikimedia Commons]

Rainey Bethea's execution [Wikimedia Commons]

Rainey Bethea's execution [Wikimedia Commons]

The last hanging in the United States was in 1936, when Rainey Bethea was executed in Owensboro, Kentucky. The frenzied crowds made national news. Vendors sold hot dogs and popcorn, and people threw hanging parties.

"Every bar was packed to the doors. Down the main street tipsy merrymakers rollicked all night. 'Hanging parties' were held in many a home," Time magazine reported.

Many people maintained these beliefs in modern times.

When veteran Indian hangman Nata Mallick retired in 2004, he sold strands of his noose that broke the neck of the final man he put to death.

The 83-year-old hangman’s last execution took place in Calcutta, and the condemned man was an apartment guard convicted for the rape and murder of a teenage girl.

Mallick turned the strands into lockets, which he sold for around 2,000 rupees (about US $43 each).

And when some activists called his trade “evil,” Mallick hit back. "It is a proven fact that a used noose has magic power, and it works miracles for those having a spate of bad luck, flopped business, and heavy debt," he told reporters.

Even those who do not believe in the knot’s supernatural powers may find that it has more practical uses. It is a staple on many fishing websites – and in boating, it can be used to secure an eyelet on a rope.

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