Talk:Walking the plank

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Source request[edit]

there is no evidence of this practice ever being widespread - Could we get a source here? I don't doubt this, but... DigitalEnthusiast 21:28, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Surely the total lack of sources for it ever having happened is enough? --RedHillian 01:24, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Errrm... so who would be writing about it? The victim? The pirate? Lack of sources doesn't seem to mean much! King Hildebrand 14:37, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
It could that it never happened, so no-one ever wrote about it, therefore there is no evidence of this practice ever being widespread. --RedHillian 23:11, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
Although there are at least two documented cases where pirates did do this (both in the 19th century), there's no evidence of the famous pirates of the age of Blackbeard and Kidd forcing people to walk the plank. Basically, rescued pirate victims from that time didn't see it done to their fellow prisoners, pirates on trial confessed to other atrocities but not to the plank, and pirates ratting out their comrades in exchange for clemency attributed lots of crimes to their crewmates, but not plank-walking. Hence the lack of evidence. Pirate Dan 20:23, 4 May 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, piratedan. I've added a sentence about this not being a widespread practice. -Sensemaker
The frequency or popularity of walking the plank is certainly a fundamentally important question, but in terms of the Wikipedia process, the above discussion is really in the realms of original research. While such discussions, private opinions and conclusions are fine here on the discussion page, what is essential for the actual article are documented sources that verify statements made in the article. In this case, as User:DigitalEnthusiast initially asked, can someone cite a source that says "there is no evidence of this practice ever being widespread"? Or even better, a source that quantifies the number of times it was used? -- Bricaniwi (talk) 04:36, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Captain Kidd[edit]

I heard a myth about him that he would take the sails of an enemy ship (only if he found them to be useless) and would force the crew of the captured vessel to lay in it. Then, he'd have the sail sewn up and flung overboard. Has anyone else heard about this? -IHouse —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 05:09, 17 April 2007 (UTC).

Execution or marooning?[edit]

I have heard (somewhere - I can't remember the source) that pirates' practice of forcible ejection of persons from their ships without benefit of boat, whether or not using a plank, was usually done in the close vicinity of land, perhaps a deserted island. It was thus a method of disposing of awkward personages, but not necessarily one of execution. --King Hildebrand 14:35, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

Sad to say, a lot of pirate victims were hurled overboard far from land (usually without the use of a plank), and allowed to drown. Marooning wasn't done by throwing someone overboard; the victim was normally put in a boat with some other pirates, rowed to shore, thrown on the beach (at pistol point if necessary), and the pirates would row back to their ship. Pirate Dan 20:23, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Not an execution method[edit]

See article on capital punishment. Execution refers to killing someone according to a judicial death sentence after being convicted of some crime. Walking the plank wasn't reserved for people who had broken some law; it was just a psychologically torturous way of getting rid of prisoners. Pirate Dan 13:40, 6 June 2007 (UTC)


Was there any advantage to making someone walk the plank, as opposed to simply throwing them overboard? If not, does anyone know why was it done (in the few documented cases in which it was)? Daibhid C 18:30, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

This would only be speculation and wouldn't go in the article. One possible reason for using a plank would be that it increases the psychological torture to the victims, as it prolongs the moment before their fatal immersion and gives them a long opportunity to look down into their watery graves. Pirate Dan 18:43, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
If it was done after deliberately attracting sharks I guess the both sadist fun for the audience and sheer "terror value" deterrent effect would increase. Pure speculation of course, but remember that public, painful executions were practiced by the time these incidents were supposed to have happened. -Sensemaker

The original meaning of the term[edit]

There seems to be evidence from the 19th and 18th centuries of pirates making people "walk the plank". However, how much do we know of what they meant by it? Could it not simply be slang for being thrown overboard? The evidence for a carefully fastened plank pointing far out over the sea may not be very convincing. Mlewan (talk) 14:01, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Francis Grose's dictionary explains that they made people walk the plank because they thought that it would avoid them being charged with murder if they were ever caught. Gustav von Humpelschmumpel (talk) 14:32, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
This is the entry from the dictionary:
"WALKING THE PLANK. A mode of destroying devoted persons or officers in a mutiny on ship-board, by blindfolding them, and obliging them to walk a plank laid over the ship's side; by this means, as the mutineers suppose, avoiding the penalty of murder."
Gustav von Humpelschmumpel (talk) 14:36, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! Nothing against good old Grose, but do we know that he knew for sure? Or how he knew it? It is possible that he guessed as well. The Wikipedia article about him does not give the impression that he had lot of personal experience of pirating. And even if people on one or two ships tried this round about way of getting away with murder, surely after a few years or decades, the futility of it would have been known? Still, I am just guessing. Mlewan (talk) 19:13, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Well you'd need to find sources that suggested walking the plank didn't actually involve a plank. I doubt Mr Grose would have just made things up as he would have been quickly found out and some criticism of his work to that effect would survive. Gustav von Humpelschmumpel (talk) 21:18, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Also there are first hand accounts of people that were made to walk the plank. Surely if they were just thrown aboard they wouldn't have said that they were made to walk the plank. I have seen no evidence that suggests walking the plank was not a real phenomenon apart from a few 20th century writers who obviously hadn't done much research. Gustav von Humpelschmumpel (talk) 21:22, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
First-hand accounts? Did they swim to shore? (talk) 02:37, 19 May 2008 (UTC)
It has been known yes. Alternatively they could have been picked up by other boats. Gustav von Humpelschmumpel (talk) 17:42, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

I've been told that 'walking the plank' was a way to avoid the SIN of murder (obviously not the crime) because the victim was not forced into the water. They were supposed to walk to the end of the plank, then walk back to the ship. If they could successfully manage that task, they'd be allowed back on board. Of course, it's impossible to succeed blindfolded on a bouncy plank on rolling seas. Making someone walk the plank was justified as 'putting their fate in God's hands'. I have no source, just what I've been told by older folks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:52, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

Popular culture section[edit]

The pop culture section is ridiculous. All kinds of trivial references from modern-day movies and TV shows, but nothing about Peter Pan? It's that story that made "walking the plank" famous! (Reference: Under the Black Flag, David Cordingly, 1996, Random House). *** Crotalus *** 09:23, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

And your reason for posting that on the talk page instead of directly updating the articles is? Mlewan (talk) 09:28, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
actually, i think a pop. culture section is deserved. even star wars had it, albit modified so the victum fell into the sarlacc pit rather then water. same idea though —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:58, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Walking the plank implied?[edit]

  • In Chaucer's 1385 The Canturbury Tales prologue on the Shipman:

"If that he faught and got the Upper hand By water he sent them home to every land" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:58, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree - the comment on the main page seems to come from a modern translation which translates:

If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.


If, when he fought, the enemy vessel sank,
He sent the prisoners home: they walked the plank".

It's therefore speculation so now removed Le Crapaud (talk) 12:50, 5 December 2012 (UTC)