Reading Lovecraft is making my hair move from horror. Not so much because of the stories but because of what I learn from the notes explaining certain allusions he makes.
I just learned about peine forte et dure, the medieval execution by the pressing of rocks. It appeared in England in 13th century and was “applied” to those who stood mute at trial, refusing to say “guilty” or “not guilty.” The reason for that was a potential loss of property, because if they spoke they acknowledged being charged with a capital offense, and regardless of whether they pleaded guilty or not guilty, if they were executed (which was often the case), their property went to the Crown. If they remained silent, their property went to their children. And so peine forte et dure was decreed to “encourage” them to speak. More and more weight was applied until they did. Some victims died within minutes under the weight of 400 pounds or more; for some it took hours and volunteers from the watching crowd would sit on them to help them die faster. This practice was abolished only in 18th century, after about 100 years of fluctuating law jurisdictions that first deemed muteness as a plea of being guilty, then as a plea of being not guilty.
Brrr…just a bit of our lovely humanity for you.