The Brazen Bull
This device was designed in Greece by Perillos of Athens. He was a brass founder and he cast the shape of a hollow bull with a door on the side. This condemned person was shut in the bull. There was a fire lit underneath the device and because it was brass it became yellow hot, which would cause the person to roast to death. It was configured with tubes and stops, so when the person was screaming it would sound like the bull was raging.
The Breaking Wheel
This wheel of torture was used to kill criminals and it did that very slowly. This device was a large wagon wheel. The criminal would be tied to the wheel, where the punisher would proceed to use a hammer to break the bones of the other person. Once that was completed, they were left there to die and even the birds would peck at their flesh until death was complete.
This device is an oblong rectangle with a wooden frame. It was raised from the ground with a roller either at one end or at both ends. One end had a fixed bar, where the feet were locked onto it, and the other end had a moveable bar, where the hands were tied to it. It had a lever that was used as the interrogation progressed. It was on a lever and pulley system that would eventually cause the joints of the person being tortured to dislocate and then separate. Eventually, the muscle fibers userbin, ligaments, and cartilage would break separating the limbs from the body of the condemned.
This torture device is a pyramid shaped seat. The victim is placed on top of it, with the point inserted into an orifice, then they are very slowly lowered onto it. The condemned was usually naked in order to add to their humiliation. This device was thought to stretch the orifice or to slowly impale the person. The stretching of the orifice would cause pain, rips and tears, which would eventually cause death.
This device was used in the Middle Ages. The condemned would be placed in the metal coffin and left there for the appropriate amount of time. Depending on the crime, the person could be left in there to die, while animals ate their flesh or they would be placed on public display, which would cause their death. The people that would surround the person in the coffin would throw rocks and poke the person with objects until they finally became deceased.
Iron Maiden (The Virgin of Nuremberg)
This iron cabinet with a hinged front was made to be a tall upright cabinet that would enclose a human being. It would have a small opening, which was closeable, so the interrogator would be able to open and close it at their will. They would then poke the bodies of the person with a sharp object. They would use knives, spikes, or nails and the person inside was forced to remain standing in one position, ultimately causing their demise.
The Knee Splitter
The whole purpose of this device was to make a person’s knees useless. It was used in mainly during the Inquisitional period of time. This device was faceted with spikes, from three to twenty of them, and depending on the crime committed, depended on the number used. IT had a handle the torturer would use to close the device. The spikes would mutilate the skin and begin to crush the knee. They would also use the device on elbows, arms and the lower legs. There were even instances that they would heat the device to cause a maximum amount of pain. Death wasn’t a result of this device, but it the person refused to cooperate they would use other means.
This device was used during the Spanish Inquisition. It has two forks at opposing ends of a metal rod. One of the forks would be placed under the chin, piercing the skin, and the other end would be piercing the flesh in the upper chest. It didn’t puncture any vital organs, so death would not take place during the use of this method, but it made talking and neck movements impossible. While wearing this device a person’s hands would be tied behind their backs, so they could not escape it. It would harm the person’s neck and, often times, spread diseases.
This method was used to torture and kill the condemned person, which were typically accused of witchery, adultery, murder, blasphemy, or theft. The accused was hung upside down. This slowed down the blood loss by forcing the blood to the brain and it humiliated the person. This type of torture could last for several hours. Some of the victims would be cut completely in half, while some would only be cut up to their abdomen in order to prolong their deaths.
This was used to get a confession from the offenders. The fingers of the person were placed in the device and crushed by the torturer turning the handle on the top. It could last for a very long time and it was very painful. This was also used to crush a person’s toes. They even made bigger versions of this device used to crush feet, knees, elbows and even heads.
The Chair of Torture
Also known as the Judas Chair, the Chair of Torture was a terrible device of the Middle Ages. It was used until the late 1800’s in Europe. There are many variants of the chair. They all have one thing in common: spikes cover the back, arm-rests, seat, leg-rests and foot-rests. The number of spikes in one of these chairs ranges from 500 to 1,500.
To avoid movement, the victim’s wrists were tied to the chair or, in one version, two bars pushed the arms against arm-rests for the spikes to penetrate the flesh even further. In some versions, there were holes under the chair’s bottom where the torturer placed coal to cause severe burns while the victim still remained conscious.
This instrument’s strength lies primarily in the psychological fear caused on the victims. It was a common practice to extract a confession by forcing the victim to watch someone else be tortured with this instrument.
The time of death greatly varied ranging from a few hours to a day or more. No spike penetrated any vital organ and the wound was closed by the spike itself which delayed blood loss greatly.
The Pear of Anguish
The Pear of Anguish was used during the Middle Ages as a way to torture women who conducted a miscarriage, liars, blasphemers and homosexuals.
A pear-shaped instrument was inserted into one of the victim’s orifices: the vagina for women, the anus for homosexuals and the mouth for liars and blasphemers.
The instrument consisted of four leaves that slowly separated from each other as the torturer turned the screw at the top. It was the torturer’s decision to simply tear the skin or expand the “pear” to its maximum and mutilate the victim.
The Pear of Anguish was usually very adorned to differentiate between the anal, vaginal and oral pears. They also varied in size accordingly.
This torture very rarely provoked death, but was often followed by other torture methods.
The Chastity Belt
This instrument dates back to 1400, when it appears in Italy under Francesco II from Carrara. It was mostly used in Italy, but it suddenly spread all over France as well.
There have always been three different interpretations about its possible use. Some historians even state that the chastity belt was not an instrument aimed at inflicting suffering but on the contrary a particular device to prevent women (for example when their partner was away for a long time) from the possible risk of being raped. As chastity belts were mostly made of precious materials (inlaid silver with engravings), some historians assert they were given to women as a present from their husbands or lovers in order to encourage them to be faithful.
Cat’s Paw or Spanish Tickler
This instrument looks very much like a cat’s paw with very long and sharp claws. It was brutally used to rip the victim’s flesh to shreds. Because of the dimension of the claws, muscles and bones were no obstacle in this barbaric practice. It was, of course, inflicted on victims tied up hand and foot.
Mask of Infamy
The mask of infamy brings about two different inflictions: a spiritual one and a physical one. The victims were both staked out to public ridicule and at the same time they were physically tortured. The masks sometimes had inner devices, such as a ball, which were forced into the victim’s nose or into the mouth, thus preventing him or her from wailing and shrieking.
The mask with long ears represented a silly ass person, while the one with a snout or with a pig face symbolizes the animal being considered dirty.
The Rat Torture
A cheap and effective way to torture someone was with the use of rats. There were many variants, but the most common was to force a rat through a victim’s body (usually the intestines) as a way to escape. This was done as follows:
The victim was completely restrained and tied to the ground or any horizontal surface. A rat was then placed on his stomach covered by a metallic container. As the container was gradually heated, the rat began to look for a way out – through the victim’s body.
Digging a hole usually took a few hours of agonizing pain for the victim. This almost invariantly resulted in death.
The Breast Ripper
Used as a way to punish women, the breast ripper was a painful and cruel way to mutilate a woman’s breasts.
This instrument was mostly reserved for women accused of conducting a miscarriage or those accused of adultery.
The claws were used either hot or cold on the victim’s exposed breasts. If the victim wasn’t killed she would be scarred for life as her breasts were literally torn apart.
A common variant of the breast ripper is often referred to as “The Spider” which is a similar instrument attached to a wall. The victim’s breasts were fixed to the claws and the woman was pulled by the turturer away from the wall; successfully removing them.
Flaying is a very old torture method that was used thousands of years ago in the Middle East, Africa and even America. During the Middle Ages, it was frequently used to torture and execute criminals, captured soldiers and witches.
In one version of the Flaying Torture, the victim’s arms were tied to a pole above his head while his feet were tied below. His body was now completely exposed and the torturer, with the help of a small knife, peeled off the victim’s skin slowly. In most cases, the torturer peeled off his facial skin first, slowly working his way down to the victim’s feet. Most victims died before the torturer even reached their waist.
In another version, the victim was exposed to the Sun until his skin reddened. This was followed by the torturer peeling off his flesh with the same method described above.
In yet another version, the victim was submerged into boiling water and was taken out after a few minutes. He was slowly flayed.
Some cultures believed that human skin contained magical properties. Others used human parts, such as scalps, to show social status.
At first sight, it looks like a holy water sprinkler, but in reality it’s a bit more complex. The torturer poured molten metals in one end and its contents slowly rushed to the other side where they fell on any part of the victim’s body. Many executions occurred with this instrument.
A common way to execute a victim was by pouring molten silver on his eyes. This caused a great deal of pain and eventually provoked death.
The picquet was mostly used in the military as a way to maintain discipline throughout the army. The picquet didn’t require any sophisticated tools as all that was needed was placing a stake in the ground and tying the victim’s thumb far above his head. The stake was never sharp enough to draw blood, but it was meant to be very painful. Sometimes, the victim’s whole hand was tied instead of just his thumb to prevent major injuries.
When the victim felt that his thumb was about to dislocate, he would put his weight on the stake. On the other hand, placing too much weight on the stake would lead to much pain. Although this torture method was never meant to end in death, some draconian commanders ordered their victims to be subject to this torture for up to two days – sometimes incurring death.
Most of the time, this torture method only lasted a few hours, but could be carried on indefinitely. A common consequence of being subject to this torture was a broken thumb, although most often than not the victim experienced no permanent damage.
This method became less popular with the introduction of the guillotine and other more visually-striking torture methods during the Late Middle Ages.
The Head Crusher
The head crusher was widely used during most of the Middle Ages, especially the Inquisition. With the chin placed over the bottom bar and the head under the upper cap, the torturer slowly turned the screw pressing the bar against the cap.
This resulted in the head being slowly compressed. First the teeth are shattered into the jaw; then the victim slowly died with agonizing pain, but not before his eyes were squeezed from his sockets.
This instrument was a formidable way to extract confessions from victims as the period of pain could be prolonged for many hours if the torturer chose to. This could be done by repeatedly turning the screw both ways.
If the torture was stopped midway, the victim often had irreparable damage done to the brain, jaw or eyes.
Many variants of this instrument existed, some that had small containers in front of the eyes to receive them as they fell out of their sockets.