Since the dawn of time, man has been obsessed with two things – sex, and devising new, creative ways to hurt, maim, and kill one another. Whether it be punishment for crimes such as theft or adultery, whether it’s used for extracting information and/or confessions, to force political or religious conversions, or just for kicks on a Friday night, man has excelled in dreaming up new and inventive methods and devices to aid in the torture of those who have been perceived as enemies.
That man has the ability to dream up and build devices that can inflict such excruciating pain upon others is truly something to behold. History is literally filled with the bodies – and body parts – of people who have fallen victim to brutal devices designed for one reason and one reason alone – to hurt other people for any number of reasons, real or imagined. The cruelty and torment man inflicts upon man – and often feels unjust, but righteous in doing so – is truly astonishing.
People have always had a real knack for knowing how to inflict maximum pain upon other people. Some of the creations that have been developed through the ages are the stuff of nightmares. That is, if your nightmares include copious amounts of blood, dismemberment, and people screaming in sheer agony and torment.
If that sounds like your kind of nightmare, let’s take a look then, at some of the most terrible and cruel torture devices ever created by man…
10. Thumb Screws
This little nugget of joy was first used in medieval Europe. It’s a simple design really, being little more than a portable vice. Though, with this little contraption, a torturer would insert one’s thumbs, fingers, or even toes into it before cranking down on the screws. As the screws were turned, the victim’s digits would be crushed and pulverized, resulting in what can only be described as excruciating pain. Sometimes, if the victim’s screaming wasn’t loud enough to please the torturer, sharp metal spikes were added to the crushing bars, which would take the pain to a whole new level.
Though, the Thumb Screws weren’t entirely bad – the did serve another purpose. In addition to inflicting massive amounts of pain upon people, Thumb Screws were also used to make women beautiful. It has been said that during the medieval and Renaissance eras in England, the Thumb Screws were also used to help straighten and elongate a girl’s fingers to give her a more elegant and regal appearance – which, apparently the men of the day were really into.
So see? The Thumb Screws have a nice side to them!
9. Brazen Bull
Designed in ancient Greece, the Brazen Bull otherwise known as the Sicilian Bull, took outdoor barbecuing to a whole new level. Not content with merely decapitating or running a criminal through with a sword, the Greeks created a hollow piece of bronze in the shape of a bull. Condemned criminals were loaded into the bull through a door and locked inside. A great big fire was then set below the belly of the bull and the victim was then roasted alive. The Greeks, ever the showmen that they were, constructed a series of tubes that were attached to the bull which made the agonized screaming of the person being roasted to death sound like the enraged bellowing of an angry bull.
They’ve gotta get an A for creativity, right?
8. Knee Splitter
This lovely little device was mainly employed during the Inquisition – shocking, that. Though used primarily on the knees, hence its name, the Knee Splitter could be used on any limb or joint, really. The Knee Splitter consisted of two spiked, wooden blocks – the number of spikes embedded in the blocks ranged from between three to twenty, depending on how naughty one was apparently. One of the blocks was placed in front of the knee and the other behind the knee, and the spikes were driven into the flesh. The blocks, whose spikes were securely embedded into the victim, were then connected by two large screws, which when turned, would draw the blocks toward each other, the spikes biting into the person’s flesh and pulverizing the knee (or whatever other limb may be in the device) caught between the blocks.
While that sounds incredibly painful, we have to believe that being forced to sit through an entire Justin Bieber concert would hurt a whole lot more.
7. Scold’s Bridle
Though the Scold’s Bridle didn’t often inflict death upon its victims, it couldn’t have been anywhere near pleasant for the victim. It was primarily used upon women who were labeled witches, shrews or scolds, as a form of public humiliation. An iron mask was attached to an iron helmet and was locked onto the woman’s head. A bridle-bit that measured about 2” long and 1” wide – and was studded with sharp spikes – was inserted into her mouth. If the offender moved her tongue or tried to speak, she was subject to some intense pain.
Apparently, back in 16th century jolly old England and Scotland, they didn’t tolerate nags or town gossips very well.
6. Breast Ripper
First popularly used in 16th century Bavaria, the Breast Ripper was typically applied to women who were accused of adultery, self-abortion, heresy, blasphemy, or apparently just because somebody didn’t like women very much. The claws of the device, made of iron and usually heated, were clamped around a woman’s breast, the spikes of the claw digging into her flesh. The breast was then quite literally, ripped off of her body. If she didn’t die of blood loss and/or infection, the woman would be permanently disfigured.
Oh yeah, and as a bonus and just to up the a-hole factor, this torture was usually inflicted upon the woman in front of her children.
5. Breaking Wheel
In what is possibly a forerunner of the modern day pinata, the Breaking Wheel was primarily employed during the Middle Ages. And because people of that era loved nothing more than a good public execution, the powers that be back decided that the Wheel was good for some family friendly entertainment. Criminals were attached to the Wheel spread eagle style, with all of their limbs strapped down tightly. To possibly give it a game show feel, the Wheel was then spun and as it rotated, the master of ceremonies – otherwise known as the torturer – used a club or some other blunt object to to bludgeon the victim. The game was over when all of the victim’s bones had been broken, and he was then left – attached to the Wheel – to die. It’s most definitely not the most pleasant way to go out, as some accounts have related stories of victims surviving – in unrelenting agony – for as much as 3 to 4 days after having had their bodies pulverized.
4. Crocodile Shears
Though the historical record is spotty, it is believed that the Crocodile Shears were usually only brought out for very special occasions – to punish those bold enough to attempt to assassinate the king in the most horrific way possible. The inside of this device was a metal tube lined with spikes. Though it was sometimes used on a victim’s fingers, it is believed that more often than not, it was the victim’s penis that was inserted into the mouth of the crocodile. Thus, when the jaws of the croc were clamped down, it was puncture – and likely sever – the dude’s junk. Often, the arterial damage and blood loss of having one’s junk torn off was enough to kill a victim.
So you know, next time you think about assassinating a king, think about the Crocodile Shears and then think again.
3. Head Crusher
The Head Crusher wins the award for the least inventive and creative name for a torture device. At least something like the Cat of Nine Tails has a little flair to it. Anyway, the Head Crusher is exactly what it sounds like – something that crushes your head. When this lovely little piece was put into action, a metal plate was placed below a victim’s jaw – the plate was connected by a frame to a metal head cap. You see where this is going, right? As the torturer turned down the screws, the metal cap descended until it slid over the victim’s head. As pressure was increased, and the metal cap continued to cinch downward, it crushed the skull, facial bones, jaw, and even the teeth of the victim – and if you were lucky, then you got to die. If not, and you somehow survived the head crushing, you would forever be disfigured. And would probably suffer from permanent severe headaches.
2. The Judas Cradle
About all we can say about who invented this little piece of wonder is that they had some very serious issues and likely didn’t get nearly enough hugs from mommy. A steel collar was attached to the waist of the victim, and the sharp pointy end of the Judas Cradle was inserted into their anus. The intense pressure – and stretching of the orifice – was reportedly excruciating. Some accounts depict torturers having the ability to lift a victim with a rope and pulley system, thus easing their pain, or lowering them and driving the point of the cradle deeper into the victim’s orifice, obviously increasing their pain. This form of torture could last for hours or even days, depending upon the crime and mood of the torturer.
1. Pear of Anguish
Like the inventor of the Judas Cradle, the inventor of the Pear of Anguish is somebody that was in dire need of therapy and a lot of group hugs. The device was metal, shaped like a pear, and had four “leaves” that could be spread apart or opened, by the turning of a screw. Primarily used on women who’d had a miscarriage, abortion, or an affair, and men who were homosexuals or having an affair, the Pear of Anguish would be inserted into a woman’s vagina or man’s anus, presumably without the benefit of lube, and then opened by the torturer, the spreading of the “leaves” stretching and even tearing muscles and causing intense pain. Though less common, the Pear was also inserted into the mouths of liars and blasphemers. The amount of pain and/or permanent damage to the victim was left to the discretion of the torturer, as well as the length of time the pear was left inserted. Because death by Pear of Anguish was rare, it was often supplemented with more forms of torture.
Sort of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “opening up to somebody,” doesn’t it?