Humans are very creative beings. It’s always been the American Dream to be a part of something big (although Americans aren’t the only ones who have dreams). Whether it be something small like the invention of sliced bread or something monumental like building Mount Rushmore, we strive for making improvements in everyday life. Then again, not everything is for the better. People do make things that not everyone gets excited about. While a masochistic painter may get excited over a canvas drawn in their own blood or a serial killer takes pride in the surgical slices they made on their victim, many others do not. But whether it be sickening, sweet, or sickeningly-sweet, creativity is everywhere. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that there were some people out there that used their creative input to think of grotesque ways to sentence people to death, because apparently shooting them, hanging them, or starving them didn’t seem sinister enough.
Today, we have the luxury of only reading about these. In the past, however, being sentenced to one of these tortures was an actual possibility. Whether it be for doing something awful, like attempting the assassination of a king, or something completely illogical, like being accused of witchcraft, these things happened— more than once.
During the Babylonian and later era, one of the harshest punishments was impalement. It was commonly enforced on people who had performed crimes against the states, mostly during wartime, but also for a number of different things, such as culture, sexuality and religion. This version of torture somehow lasted for over two centuries. What they would do is have a person sit on a vertically pointed object (like a stake or pole) and slowly have their body penetrated completely— or until it simply wouldn’t go any further. Evidently, it could take people days to die from this method. One can only guess this was extremely painful for every moment until the very end.
Scaphism is a Persian sentence that lasted anywhere from a week to a month. To put it lightly, scaphism is an all-you-can-eat buffet that you never wanted to attend. The sentenced would be placed in a boat under two frames making them unable to escape. They would be forced to eat nothing but honey and milk for days, and even when they could eat no more or if they refused, their eyes would be poked and prodded until they did. Not only that, but they would be lathered in milk and honey as well. Eventually, they would be sitting in their own excrements. So that, along with the sweet smell of honey, would lure all sorts of insects and creatures to swing by for a treat. Which would slowly eat their way up into the person’s bowels and eventually the rest of their body.
13. Rat Torture
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you’ve already seen it. This form of sentencing (more for getting information than punishing someone) was used in the Medieval times. All you needed was a rat and cage. For you to fully understand the brilliance of this, you should know that rats are resilient creatures. It’s said that their teeth can gnaw through anything, given that they aren’t time restricted. For this torture, a person would be completely bound and a cage be tied to their person with a rat inside. The cage then gets heated and the rat, instinctively going into survival mode, searches for the fastest way to escape. Which happens to be the person’s pink, tender tummy. The digging and biting can go on for hours before the victim dies. While the rat leaves well-nourished and satisfied.
Necklacing originated in South Africa. Now there’s a lot of debate about this, so there’s no real way of telling who was the first person to inflict this awful act on another. Whether it was a rebellious group, a community, or political party, it’s hard to say, but a lot of them have used this method. Necklacing is when you take a rubber car tire filled with petrol and squeeze it over somebody, either setting it on their neck or lowering it down to the middle of their body. The tire is then set on fire. The person is burned by flames and melting rubber while constantly inhaling smoke. Without help, the victim may last up to twenty minutes before succumbing to their inevitable death.
11. Execution By Elephant
Elephants are typically gentle giants. They’ve lived on this earth all the way back to the Ice Age, although back then they were a lot hairier. It’s hard to imagine a creature so magnificent and eco-friendly to be so lethal. They probably wouldn’t be if given the choice. But in the past, people in India used these guys as a means of torture in the Middle Ages. It was mostly sentenced on enemy soldiers, but could also be used on local civilians who committed certain crimes. Simply put, the elephant was trained to stomp someone to death. Crushing their chest, skull, or whatever else the master ordered. The scary thing about this form torture was that the elephants had been trained to kill in two separate ways; either fast and efficient, or slowly.
This method made its debut on the hit series Hannibal, but if you haven’t seen it, then listen up. Luckily enough, this form of torture never existed, because it’s physically impossible for it to work. A necktie is when a person’s throat gets sliced and their tongue is pulled out from the new slit. This doesn’t work because a tongue sits higher up in a person’s mouth and can’t travel down and out of the throat. Technically, it could if you had a world record-sized tongue and opted to getting necktie’d, but don’t expect to see that happening anytime soon. The reason for its creation was to manifest psychological intimidation possibly during wartime. Well, it definitely left an impact on some people.
9. Bamboo Torture
One of the most natural (but sickening) forms of torture comes from China and (possibly) Japan. This sentencing was used on prisoners of war during World War II. If you didn’t know, then you’d be surprised to learn that bamboo is actually one of the fastest growing plants out there. Maybe you’ve seen those stalks they sell individually in IKEA? Bamboo has been recorded to grow over three feet in a single day. So it shouldn’t be hard to imagine what we’re about to depict. If sentenced to this torture, a person would be suspended horizontally over a bed of bamboo. Where they would start to grow very quickly upward. We forgot to mention that the tops of each bamboo had been shaved into a spear. So next time you go to your doctor complaining about gut pain, maybe think of a different euphemism.
8. Hanged, Drawn & Quartered
A form of penalty in England in the 13th century, this torture is pretty much explained in its name. If ordered this form of punishment, you would first be strung to a horse and dragged to the hangman’s gallows. Then, you’d be hung but taken down seconds before death. After that, someone would remove your bowels, castrate your ‘man’ parts, and burn them before your eyes. Even if you managed to survive all that, too bad, you get beheaded next. Then, as if being dead wasn’t enough, they tie your limbs to separate horses and have them all run in every direction. This form of execution was mostly used on the worst criminals, like assassins or killers. So as long as you avoided doing those things, you’d be in the clear!
7. Brazen Bull
Without much visual, this was more of a form amusement than a vomit-inducing act. Anyone who was sentenced to the Brazen Bull had their tongue cut out and was shoved into a hollow brass statue that resembled a giant bull. A fire would be lit around the statue, basically cooking victim inside. There was no way out and with no tongue, they couldn’t scream. So all that was left for them to do is physically slam into walls and kick to get anyone’s attention. Doing this gave the effect that the bull was alive. Which is why sentencing someone to this death attracted more of a crowd than any other death sentence.
6. Blood Angel
If torture could be beautiful, this would be the closest thing to it. Blood Angels were done by Vikings in the 13th century. It was performed on many people, even a king. The first step is simply strapping someone face down. Then, the shape of an eagle would be carved into their back. They’d then chop out the victim’s ribs with an axe one at a time, then angle them so that the bones were poking out of their back. Creating a grotesque version of human ‘wings’. Once this is complete, the victim is most likely still alive. His wounds are rubbed with salt and, lastly, his lungs would be yanked out and set on his ‘wings’.
There were two purposes for flaying a person. One is merely to cause pain, and the other is to actually kill them. It’s a simple procedure. The act is quite simple. All you do is make thin slices on a person’s skin. Over and over. Until they die, or until you think they’ve had enough— or you’ve had enough. In the past, Assyrians would kidnap their enemies’ children and flay them in front of their parents. What’s worse, having it done to you, or watching it being done to a loved one? There was no limit where skin couldn’t be removed. In China, it was very common to take skin from a person’s face. While other places that also practiced flaying, tended to lean more towards other parts of the body.
4. Into The Ash
After the events of Pompeii, humans learned that smoke and ash can do a lot more harm than we expected. Even though they may not hurt our skin, they destroy our insides. Whether it be from cigarette smoking or being in a burning building, if you remain in the dusty presence long enough, you’ll succumb to severe lung damage or even death. A slow, simple form of execution is called throwing them ‘into the ash’. Which translates to leaving someone in an ash-filled room for days, slowly suffocating them and killing them. This wasn’t a very popular sentence so it wasn’t used all that often. Maybe because it wasn’t as grisly as the last few we’ve mentioned.
The idea behind stoning is strongly sexist. It was mostly enforced on women who were accused of adultery, even if it wasn’t actually proved that the woman was guilty. Although women were the more common victims, some men and children were also sentenced to this as well. Stoning involves burying the sentenced individual deep in the dirt so that they’re exposed from the chest up; this ensure they can’t move and escape. After that, everyone in the community gathers and they all begin to throw rocks at the person. They’re even mindful of the rocks chosen. They aren’t supposed to be so big that they could instantly kill the victim, but after a hundred average-sized stones are chucked at someone’s face, there’s no real way to come back from that. What makes this practice even more chilling is that it’s still being practiced today.
2. Blowing From The Gun
This sentencing was typically enforced on soldiers guilty of mutiny or desertion. It came to be in the 16th century and lasted for many more to come. The person who was convicted would have their upper back strapped to the muzzle of the cannon and when the gun fired, it took off their head completely. Sometimes shooting it as far as forty feet up. It first came to be in the empire of Ceylon and made its way to British Empire. There are even reports of it recently being used in Afghanistan. It seems like a variant to using the guillotine, as either way, someone’s head gets knocked off— the only difference is where the head lands.
1. Crocodile Shears
If you happened to be born in Europe during the late Medieval times, hopefully you weren’t in an assassination career path, because this was your sentencing. The crocodile shear was an iron pincer-like mechanism that resembled a crocodile’s mouth and was layered with multiple sharp teeth. The device would be heated until the metal was bright red, then it would be clamped onto your ‘Johnson’. Not only that, but they would wait until you were erect, because that inflicted even more pain than when it’s not. Then after a few seconds, it would be torn from your body. Taking away your manhood and forcing you to bleed out from a ruptured artery. It’s kind of odd that they only planned this for men. Was it really all that funny back then to imagine a female assassin?