Despite being an accomplished double bassist and composer, Frantisek Kotzwara gained more notoriety for the way in which he died.
On February 2, 1791, in the mood for some masochistic jollies, Kotzwara headed to London’s Vine Street, where he approached a prostitute named Susannah Hill with the offer of a lavish dinner. When the meal was done, he casually requested that she castrate him. Hill refused but, Kotzwara was undeterred. He had a compromise: erotic asphyxiation! Unfortunately for both parties, Hill accepted and the musician proceeded to tie a noose that extended from his neck to a doorknob. The two began to copulate but the fun did not last long. Kotzwara was soon dead and Susannah Hill was brought before a judge on murder charges. She was found innocent, but Kotzwara’s name became forever accompanied by snickering.
This is one of the first recorded cases of death by erotic asphyxiation and has been used as a case study by psychiatrists ever since. “Modern Propensities; or, An Essay on the Art of Strangling” was published six years later and uses Hill’s testimony to discuss the “acts of the grossest indecency.” This unfortunate man was seeking an enhanced orgasm, by cutting off the oxygen to his brain, leading to pleasurable hallucinations. Despite the obvious danger, asphyxiation was used by doctors as early as the 1600s to cure erectile dysfunction. Scholars suspect that the idea originated from watching hanging victims develop erections, which turned out to be nothing more than a result of spinal cord trauma. It even became en vogue in the 1800s, when Victorian gentlemen could frequent “Hanging Men’s Clubs,” brothels that specialized in the rarefied fetish. Luckily today have Viagra but, there will always be those who will seek out the deadly appeal of the rope.
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