Curious History : 17 Devious Torture Devices and Techniques

Throughout all my studies and curious findings there has been one thing that has always astonished me and that is the very inhuman ways humans hurt other humans and creatures.  I have never really been “fascinated” by the cruel and terrible ways in which people have invented others to die simply out of power or knowledge since it is a look into the curiously darker parts of ourselves.  A part of ourselves I truly wish we could erase but then that takes away something…something I believe everyone could definitely live without but something nonetheless.

But in the name of curiosity I must continue past the realm of my own comfort!  I believe we’ve come far as a species and should at least learn our past in the hopes that we never repeat it.  Though I would say “enjoy” this list of curiously terrible objects I hope you, my readers, will forgive me when I say “learn” to not enjoy them.

1. The Tub


You might think I’m starting off lightly, but truly I never thought of a small wooden tub (ones used for washing) as a form of torture.  The idea was to bind someone in the tub, smother honey and milk onto their faces and let the bugs swarm them.  To make it worse, they would be left in the tub for so long that they would basically bathe in their own feces…no, I didn’t start off light at all!

2. Pillory or “The Stocks”


Now this is somewhat light.  There are hardly any horrible deaths surrounding this device though it’s purpose was more for shame and humiliation rather than straight out torture.  The hands and head are placed in the wooden device, bent at the torso and the time spent in the device was measured by your crime.  Stealing, fighting, dishonor…small crimes really.

3. The Rack


I am sure everyone has heard of this one.  This device has been used since Antiquity and was first created for interrogation purposes.  A person would be bound at the ankles and wrists and then slowly pulled apart.  As I said, humanity has not always had a “happy” mind.

4. Heretic’s Fork


A double pronged fork set at the chin and chest so that the victim could not move or sleep.  Sometimes, to enhance the punishment, the victim was hoisted into the air making it almost impossible for them to hold their chins up.

5. Impalement


Most of you might think of Vlad the Impaler when thinking of this torture…and you would be absolutely correct.  Though this was a method of torture before Vlad, he made it quite famous, especially in the etchings of his time!  The point was to jam a sharp, thick spike into the victim via stomach, throat or anus and let them slowly slide down until they had died.  To be especially cruel, the spike was dulled.

6. Iron Maiden (Chinese and European)


Quite possibly the most famous of all torture devices given it’s complete uniqueness and total cruelty.  This was made for simply death, not interrogation.  There are only a few spikes (contrary to popular belief that it is filled with spikes) each one aimed at a vital organ…and two especially for your eyes.

The Chinese version is wholly different.  It did not have spikes but a grate at the feet.  From there, fire and water were combined to make steam into the chamber.  This would essentially boil the victim to death.

7. Coffin Torture of “Immurement”


Do you remember that 90’s movie Robin Hood?  Do you recall the instance when he looked up to see his father in a cage?  That is coffin torture.  In it’s simplicity, it is where the victim is locked inside a cage or unbreakable container and left to die.  Unlike being buried alive where you die of asphyxiation, this you die of dehydration and starvation…as animals eat you alive.

8. The Witches Chair


Slightly different from the Chair of Torture which will be later on down the list, this chair was specific in victim.  As it states in the title, it was used for witchcraft confessions.  There were spikes on the arms and on the back panel where the victim would sit until they confessed…and then they died as a result.  The spikes would be heated and seared if more pain was necessary.

9. Crucifixion


I do believe I don’t have to explain this to you but I think all of you know what this is but not quite how it was used for torture.  This form of torture and execution has been used for many centuries and basically the victim is spiked at the wrists and feet to a cross.  After a few days the body would died but they were left there as a reminder to others.  The body would “relieve” it’s bowels and the site surrounding the bodies would be horrific as a best description.  So it was mostly used to terrorize onlookers.

10. The Scavenger’s Daughter


The opposite of the rack, this simple device crushed a person to death.  The victim would crouch inside of an A shaped frame where the device was slowly cranked to “squeeze” a body to death.  Eventually, the body squeezed out displaced blood from the eyes, mouth, nose, and fingernails.

11. The Breaking Wheel


Oh my, this just gets worse and worse and I don’t even have to be curious to tell you all that!  This device was used mainly for execution and was a normal wheel in which a person was tied down, many of their limbs raised on blocks and then bludgeoned with hammers or other instruments thus breaking the bones leaving the victim mangled and in shock.  A mercy was granted to some after a few blows of either landing a fatal blow to the chest or strangulation.

12.Chair of Torture


Now we’re into the more disturbing (if the above was not disturbing enough for you) methods of torture!  This was a chair designed for confession and most likely ended in blood loss and death.  It’s simple enough.  The victim sits on a chair of spikes. I shall not sport with your intelligence any longer.

13. Spanish Donkey


Yes, for the rest of the list I have saved some of the worst for last.  This device was popular during the Spanish Inquisition.  Such curious times!  On the low end, this “contraption” was a simple sharp wooden triangle where a person would be tied above it with weights on their legs.  As more weights were added often, eventually the person was slowly cut in half.

14. Judas Cradle


This was very similar to the Spanish Donkey except it was meant to puncture your rectum (I cannot make that up!) as they slowly lower you on top of it until you confess.  Even if you survived the torture, the infection from the filthy spike almost always would finish the job.  As an added bonus, if you passed out they just waited for you to wake up to start again.

15.Intestinal Crank


It even mentions the body part they are going to torture you with pain!  This wretched device was a hook which a man would slit open the victim’s stomach large enough to put his hand inside to attach it to the intestines.  Then, they slowly turned the crank until you confessed.  However, this always ended in death since by the time the torturer cut them open the victim was already dead from infection and blood loss.

16. The Brazen Bull


I’m going to mention another movie now.  Ever seen Red Riding Hood?  It came out a few years ago and had one of these beauties in it.  A bronze bull (yes, the size of a real one) with a furnace underneath was pulled into a courtyard.  A person convicted of some bad deed would be chained inside while the fire was lit.  As the temperature increased, the victim would thrash about and scream inside the hollow bronze…making the bull sound alive.  Eventually, the victim was cooked alive.

17. Rat Torture


Finally!  The last and final one I shall do and then it’s over!  But, of course, the best was saved for last.  This was not a device but a true means of torture.  A man would lie on his back with his stomach sliced open.  An open cage of starving rats are placed over the wound were the rats slowly eat him alive…going inside his intestines and organs…from the inside out.

And with this, I’ve had enough!  Delving into the darker recesses of the human mind is just as far as I wish to go!  The thing that curiously disturbs me about it is the thought, patience, and pride that went into all of these ideas and creations!  I do not wish to believe that this is all the great human mind from the Dark Ages and before could come up with which is why I tried to avoid it!  Curiosity or not…we must not tread here again.


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