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A mock execution is a method of psychological torture, whereby the subject is made to believe that he is being led to his execution. This usually involves blindfolding the subject, making him recount last wishes, or making him dig his own grave, and sometimes it can go as far as forcing the victim to watch a single or multiple real executions taking place under the same circumstances to make the victim believe he or she is next. Discharging a firearm near (but not at) the victim, or firing blanks, might end the mock execution.

It is hoped that by making the subject believe that he is to be executed they will be inflicted with severe psychological trauma. This may eventually lead to a break down where the victim would say anything to make it stop, or it might act as a warning that future infractions may bring about a real execution.

Alternatively, a mock execution can be carried out where both a "shooter" and a "victim" collaborate with an interrogator who hopes to coerce a statement out of a subject who is forced to watch. Mock executions are popular in fiction as easy suspense can be created by having the protagonist subjected to what turns out to be only a mock execution, such as in the Spike Lee film Inside Man, or V for Vendetta.

Historical instances

  • In 1849, several Russian dissidents of Petrashevsky circle, including the famous writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky became victims of a now famous case of a mock execution; the pardon of the Czar was not read to them until the moment when the firing squad was already aiming their rifles at them. This traumatizing experience also shows up in Dostoyevsky's literary works.
  • Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, Commander of the USS Pueblomarker, was tortured and put through a mock firing squad by North Koreanmarker interrogators in an effort to make him confess; see [[USS Pueblo (AGER-2)|
USS Pueblo]]. Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented. None of the Koreans knew English well enough to write the confession, so they had Bucher write it himself. They verified the meaning of his words, but failed to catch the pun when he said "We paean the North Korean state. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung" ("We paean" sounds almost identical to "we pee on"). Following an apology, a written admission by the U.S. that Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the U.S. would not spy in the future, the North Korean government decided to release the 82 remaining crew members.

Examples in fiction

  • In the Leo Tolstoy novel War and Peace, Pierre Bezukhov is led to believe that he has been sentenced to death when Napoleon’s soldiers force him to watch the execution of Russian captives.
  • In the 1987 film The Untouchables, during a raid on the Canadian border, one of Al Capone’s bookkeepers agrees to provide Eliot Ness with information after Jim Malone (Sean Connery) pretends to kill the bookkeeper’s friend by putting a gun in his mouth and blowing the back of his head off. The bookkeeper did not know that his friend was already dead. He witnessed the shooting through a window, and Malone made the point of saying, “…I won't ask you again. What's the matter. Can't you talk with a gun in your mouth? One... two... three...”, to explain why the man was not speaking.
  • An episode of the dark comedy series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia centers around the main characters being taken hostage and forced to compete in order to "survive". Near the end of the episode, they are taken to the roof of their bar and held at gunpoint. Their captors then drop their shotguns, revealed to be rubber replicas, and leave the roof, which is a single story high, via a fire escape.
  • In the film To End All Wars, upon being taken prisoner, British troops are blindfolded and lined up. The Japanese fire at them but they are using blanks so no one is killed.
  • In both the novel Fight Club and its film adaptation, mock executions, referred to as "human sacrifices", are carried out by members of Project Mayhem in order to evoke a sense of one's "here and now" existence.
  • In the TV series, 24, Jack Bauer gets terrorist Syed Ali to reveal the location of a nuclear bomb in terrorist hands by carrying out a mock execution of Ali's son and then threatening to "execute" the rest of his family.
  • In the Simpsons episode "The Frying Game", Homer is led to what he believes to be his death, but it turns out to be a reality television show.
  • In The Gods Must Be Crazy a man is blindfolded and led into a helicopter. Minutes later he is pushed out the open door, unaware he is only a few feet above the ground.
  • In one of the earliest episodes of the crime-drama series The Sopranos, a mock execution is performed on the character Christopher Moltisanti.
  • In the 2000 film Traffic, Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio del Toro) is put through a mock execution in order to gain the trust of General Arturo Salazar (Tomás Milián).
  • In the manga/anime Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Light Yagami and Misa Amane undergo a mock execution carried out by Light's father. It was done in order to negate suspicions that the pair were collectively the serial killer known as Kira.


  1. Bush lauded for handling of EP-3 incident WorldNetDaily
  2. End of North Korea? The Palm Beach Times
  3. American Civil Liberties Union : U.S. Marines Engaged in Mock Executions of Iraqi Juveniles and Other Forms of Abuse, Documents Obtained by ACLU Reveal

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