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Torture Devices Throughout History: Painful and Deadly

Some of the most painful means of torture used throughout history.

There have been many types of torture devices used throughout history, many of which were also execution devices. These means of hurting and killing utilized different tools; some were machines and metal, and some were animals and nature. Over the years, the devices have evolved, and although the original contraption was still used in some parts of the earth, its close cousins were used in a different part. Many of the most gruesome anguish imposing contrivances were used in Europe for various reasons, including gaining information from prisoners, killing witches, and to terrorize the enemy during times of war.

A few torture machines are well known to have been used in the past, but many of the machines and means of torture that are the most terrifying, utterly disgusting, and painful to think about aren’t taught in the normal history classes.

One of the better known means of gaining information from the enemy was the rack. This contraption dislocates many of the joints in the body including the shoulders and hips. The person to be tortured had ropes tied to their hands and ankles; the ropes were then stretched out to where the arms were above the body and all limbs were spread, creating an uncomfortable position. Said person was then questioned, and if the information the torturer wanted to know was withheld, the ropes were pulled, thus stretching the person until their limbs were dislocated. A much worse form of this was called quartering, which was a form of execution. The person’s limbs weren’t being dislocated, but, as the name suggests, the person was being pulled into fourths by having the ropes attached to horses that were whipped and sent off in different directions.

Another rather discomforting device was called the coffin. This means induced claustrophobia by having the person to be tortured put into a coffin or box and left in there for long periods of time. Eventually this form turned into something called the iron maiden, which was essentially the same thing, only with sharp objects attached to the insides of the enclosed space; with the iron maiden, when the said person was shut into the area the sharp objects would puncture the body, usually avoiding major organs so as to not kill the person.

One device with an innocent name, the tickler, is less extreme than those above, but is still torturous. The tickler is an object with extending “claws” which, when scraped against the skin of a person (tickling) long enough, the skin of the person would get worn enough that it is barely there; eventually no skin in the area is left.

A form of torture that eventually lead to execution rather quickly was the saw. In this method, the person was hung upside down, both feet attached to a stable object in different areas; this made the blood flow to the head to keep said person conscious for longer than normal under such distress. A saw was then used to cut the person in half from between the legs to about the navel, or until the person passed out from the pain. A relative to this technique was the horse, where a person was sat on a pointed wedge with their feet weighted down. Eventually the point would wear itself so far into the person that the weight of the body combined with the weights would split the person in half.

In yet another manner of torment, rodents were used, usually rats. The rat was placed against a person’s skin, usually in the abdomen region, and a cage was placed over the rat, trapping it. Since rats weren’t domestic when this torture evolved, the rat would do anything to get out of its entrapment. This usually meant that the rat would burrow into the softest area to find a way out, in this case, the human skin.

This last mentioned device is perhaps the most repulsive to the thoughts. The pear was an object, obviously shaped like a pear, which caused major internal damage. If inserted into the mouth, or the anus or vagina, and then un-tightened by a screw near the smaller end of the “pear”, the larger end would extend, causing the bones around it to shatter.

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