Gallows as we think of them today usually consist of two upright posts and a crossbeam from which a rope with a noose at the end hangs, usually with a trapdoor that will open, or something for the hanged person to stand on that gets pushed or kicked out from under them. But this traditional version of the gallows was not documented until 1760 in England.
Gallows throughout history also refer to crucifixion during the Romans rule, and in the Middle Ages in Paris a square structure with wooden columns from which people would hang in the elements before being dropped into a pit to die.
Gallows in their most notable form are meant to break the persons spine, killing them instantly, but often people died by strangulation or even beheading. Until 1832 in England many people were hanged by being drawn up from the platform by a heavy weight, causing death by strangulation which would have been very slow and painful.
Public hangings were very popular and were even treated as good old entertainment for the whole family. In fact, the last public hanging in the United States was only in 1936, with the last public hanging in the United Kingdom taking place in 1868.
As a tattoo, gallows are often done in heavy blackwork, pointillism or dotwork, American traditional, or black and grey. Gallows tattoos are popular with people interested in the more macabre side of life, and many artists who create darker imagery use gallows as a common theme.
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