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History of Tickle Torture

Different types of torture techniques have been prevalent since ancient times. Tickling as a form of torture, punishment, and abuse was used to extract information. Tickle torture was used by ancient tribes as a ritual leading to a deadlier punishment. In war it was used as a form of punishment to get vital information from enemies. This article brings to life the history of tickle torture.

Tickle torture was preferred over other forms of gruesome torture in war because it was effective in extracting important information while keeping prisoners of war alive. There have been reports of tickle torture being used in different periods. Although there is no conclusive evidence if tickle torture was carried out as an act of abuse to cause excruciating pain or death, there are few records that indicate tickle torture was used as a form of punishment.

History of Tickle Torture

In Ancient China during the reign of the Han Dynasty tickle torture was prevalent, considered a punishment for nobility. In Ancient Rome the form of tickle torture was diabolic. Feet of the victim on whom the punishment was imposed would be dipped a thick sea salt solution. After keeping the feet immersed in the salt water solution for a while, the feet would be removed and a ram would be brought. The ram would be made to lick of the sea solution on the feet of the person. This form of torture would begin as tickling and gradually get excruciatingly painful for the person going through the punishment. BMJ (British Medical Journal) an open-access medical journal documents this method of torture where a goat is made to lick a person’s feet immersed in salt water solution, in European tortures.

In many American colonial tortures and punishments a person’s legs would be tied to stocks and their bare feet tickled with hands and feathers. Tickle torture using stocks is also mentioned in Jean Kellaway’s book ‘The History Of Torture and Execution’. Tickling as a form of torture and punishment would often lead to seizures and individuals passing out. Also, tickle torture being used in Nazi concentration camps has been mentioned in the book ‘The Men With The Pink Triangle’ by Heinz Heger (Josef Kohout) a survivor at an Austrian-Nazi concentration camp. In this biographical account Heger, describes how a man would be tickled with goose feathers on different parts of his naked body

In ancient Japan private punishments were imposed upon persons who committed crimes and were convicted of that crime that stood beyond criminal proceedings. Only certain individuals attaining a specific position in society had the authority to impose private punishment. Among the many forms of torture was ‘kusuguri-zeme’ a merciless form of tickling.

An early instance of tickle torture is said to have taken place in the court of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, where a woman was ordered to be tickled on the soles of her feet due to indiscretion. Another early instance where tickling was used as a form of torture featured in ‘The Illustrated Police News’ an early British tabloid about crime. The issue dated Dec 11, 1869 carried the headlines “A Wife Driven Insane by Husband Tickling Her Feet” The incident is published in a book called ‘Orrible Murder: Victorian Crime and Passion by Leonard de Vries. The book contains crimes compiled from Illustrated Police News. The account describes a man Michael Puckridge who tickled his wife driving her insane.

While tickling can be fun, it can be diabolic and merciless as well. People can suffer from seizures and pass out if tickled continuously. While there is no evidence of death by tickling, it is believed continual tickling can lead to cardiac arrest.

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