During Medieval times, criminals or those disloyal or wrongly accused often didn’t get a trial and if they did have a form of a trial, safe to say there were no appeals if found guilty. Instead, they were persecuted via torture.
Years ago, I visited a torture museum in Amsterdam. They had all the “classics,” but there was one that stuck with me, it was called The Saw. It was just a very long saw, the kind that takes two people to use, like lumberjacks use to chop down big trees. The picture accompanying it had nothing to do with lumberjacks. Again, The Saw stayed with me. There is something about these devices that are especially disturbing and personal.
Dishonorable mentions go to the knee splitter (think the movie Misery, but higher up on the leg), Iron Maiden (not the band), and something called the Breast Ripper which is just…too much. Amputations were also a popular torture technique, but given there wasn’t much of a tool (or creativity for that matter) it didn’t make the list. Here are the 14 most shocking (and terrifying) torture devices of all time:
15 The Tub
The victim is forced to sit in a tub that has a cover only allowing the head to stick out. The head is then slathered in honey. Then comes the buzzing as the bees begin to descend; there is a case to be made that killer bees weren’t always so evil, someone set them up for it. The bees continue to attack the victim until; well I’m sure you get the picture. This form of torture is also known as The Beehive. Okay, I just made that up, but admit it, it does sound better and more torturous than “The Tub.”
13 Chinese Torture
Hey, it’s just a drop of water, right? This form of torture is the least painful, at least physically; mentally though, it may be the worst. This form of torture places a victim braced to a chair or on the floor. A drop of water falls on their head, continuously. A drop of water hitting your head does not allow sleep or really anything and eventually, the drops feel like steel balls hitting your head. The non-stop drops usually kill via sleep deprivation. The victim may also turn insane (due to lack of sleep) and probably wish he had been given a quicker form of torture.
12 The Tongue Tearer
Growing up, my Mom always threatened to wash my mouth out with soap if I cursed or said a dirty word. Obviously, that worked wonders, but it’s possible she would have been more effective if she threatened to use The Tongue Tearer. This torture device is actually a couple contraptions, first, you have something referred to as the mouth opener. I mean, we’ve been to the dentist, that’s enough right there. Secondly, and thankfully finally, there’s the tongue tearer (made of iron) which grabs the tongue and allows a screw to be tightened…eventually tearing, or ripping out the tongue. Okay, the dentist isn’t so bad after all.
11 The Guillotine
A classic, and surprisingly considered humane as far as executions via torture devices go. You need a rope and a very sharp blade. You place the victim down so that the blade will sever the head from the body. It’s supposedly instant and painless, but of course you are putting a lot of faith in the “razor sharpener.” Would be awful to catch him on an off day… There is also debate as to whether you stay conscious for a second or two once your head has been chopped off. I’d probably be thinking “man, that was a sharp blade” right before I checked out.
The guillotine may be a classic, but this is the O.G. of classic torture devices - I mean Jesus, right? This is a very painful and slow death where a person is usually nailed to a cross (wooden) and is left to hang there and die. It can take days before the person dies. Do people stay for the whole thing? If this happened today I’m guessing there would be snack vendors and sponsors. Wait, this still does happen today? Apparently in some countries it is still technically legal to kill someone via crucifixion. This should really be noted on Expedia next time I look at vacations. I need to know if where I’m traveling is pro-crucifixion.
9 The Coffin
Didn’t Quentin Tarantino do this in a movie? If he hasn’t I’m sure it’s coming. The Coffin was very popular during the Middle Ages. The Coffin is pretty much what you think it is – a person is put inside a metal coffin, it is sealed, sometimes hangs from a tree, and they are left for dead. If you were a “larger” person they would purposely put you in a smaller coffin to make you suffer more, as if The Coffin wasn’t enough! Clearly, one more reason to just say no to dessert. Not sure who has to take down the box after the person is dead, but really should be a union job.
8 The Head Crusher
This is not good. The Head Crusher is a nice way to say you are putting someone’s head in a vice. We’ve all seen gangster movies where someone puts a hand in a vice, can you imagine a head? I hope not. Regardless, how it worked was there was a metal plate on top and one on the bottom and slowly tightened. The skull, jaw and facial bones would slowly be crushed as the “vice” is tightened. What about the eyes? Oh, I’m so glad you asked. They pop out from the sockets. Oh, and sometimes I guess they would stop half-way through and not kill the person, just permanently crush the jaw of the victim. Yeah, that’s definitely The Head Crusher.
This one is typically not deadly, but the pain is immense. Again, this one uses a vice type device to jam screws into the thumbs of the victim. The screws are applied and tightened slowly, causing the tips of the thumbs to be severed and lots of blood loss. What’s great about Thumbscrews is that they can also be used on big toes and ears! There are a lot of variations of thumbscrews, but in the end really anyone can do it. Just take a sharp metal point and jam it into an extremity. I suggest making sure the victim is strapped down. I also suggest you don’t actually try this at home.
6 The Saw
So, I already mentioned my first experience with The Saw, but what amazes me is actually how this torture device was used. To me, you would have two guys (lumberjack style) sawing someone in half, essentially like the magicians do it. However, I have learned that this isn’t the proper torture technique. The victim is actually hung from his legs, head dangling. The torturers then begin to saw the victim top-down, I’m assuming starting between the legs and working “down” toward the head. Good practice was to stop at the stomach to prolong the agony and let the victim bleed out. Pretty sure I would black out the first second I laid eyes on The Saw.
5 The Chair
If you think water boarding is inhumane then you are definitely not a fan of The Chair. This torture device was often used to get people to talk, or confess to their crimes. It’s an iron chair with up to 1500 spikes covering it. It also has very tight straps to keep the victim in the chair, not that you’d really want to squirm in this chair. It has another name, the Judas Chair, as if having to sit in “the spike chair” wasn’t enough. Bonus: most also had heating devices underneath so you could get burned while spikes are piercing through your body.
4 Chastity Belts
There were a couple uses for chastity belts. One was to keep a woman a virgin, the other was to keep wives faithful when their husbands went off to war. Question: what happened if the husbands didn’t return? Was there a spare key? Research shows that some men would try to “trespass” and bypass the chastity belt. They were greeted with many cuts due to the spikes and sharp edges of the belt. Now that sounds like torture! Like anything I’m sure there were professionals who knew how to “pick the lock” and bypass this torture. Sometimes it pays to be a criminal, just don’t get caught or you may have The Saw waiting for you.
3 Forced Ingestion
This one is crazy in that why wouldn’t you just beat someone to death or stab them? Forced ingestion is forcing a victim to drink water and then drink more water. You continue to force the water in, no option but to drink the water, until the water swells the tissues of the brain. Not surprisingly this leads to great pain and then the victim dies. Forced brain swelling definitely sounds terrible; especially considering this was the preferred torture by the wealthy Europeans. In case you are wondering, yes, being put to death by wealthy Europeans is worse than just about any other type of person. That’s fact!
Your probably thinking crucifixion would be worse given the amount of time it takes to die, but at least you are hanging. Impalement, the go-to torture method for Romanian Vlad the Impaler (one story says he used this torture method to 20,000 victims while eating, that doesn’t seem possible), forces a victim to sit on a sharpened pole. The pole is place upright and the victim then slides down the pole, using the weight of their own body. This torture method could take up to three days before the victim dies. New meaning to having a stick up your ass, am I right?
1 The Rat Digger
Okay, here we are at number one. Now, you should know I hate rats and yes, I live in New York City. This one is going to give me nightmares. This torture method is done by strapping a victim down and placing a cage of rats on top of their stomach. Not a lot of clever thought went into this device/method, it is how it sounds. The only way the rats can get out is if they dig through the cage and through the victim’s stomach. Yes, organs, intestines, etc… are all eaten or at least destroyed. Is it too late to sign up for impalement? I think I’ll take that over The Rat Digger.