Torture has been a brutal reality for many unfortunate people. But the most unsettling fact about torture’s brutality isn’t its existence, but the way people have injected a perverted sense of creativity (and even pleasure) into the creation of devices designed to inflict pain. To prove our point here are the 25 most brutal torture techniques ever devised.
Known as the punishment of ‘sitting in the tub,’ the convicted person would be placed in a wooden tub with only their head sticking out. After that, the executioner would paint their faces with milk and honey; and soon, flies would begin to feed on them. The victim was also fed regularly and would end up swimming in their excrement. After a few days, maggots and worms would devour their body as they decayed alive.
Given his name, it should come as no surprise that this was the most favored method of execution by Vlad the Impaler. In 15th century Romania; the victim was forced to sit on a sharp and thick pole. When the pole was then raised upright, the victim was left to slide down the pole with their own weight. It could take the victim 3 days to die using this method and it has been said that Vlad once did this to 20,000 people all while enjoying a meal.
Humiliating and painful, this punishment was something of an endurance test where the victim would be hooked into a neck device, either made of metal or wood, which prevented the victim from adjusting into a comfortable position. The cruelty of this punishment lie within the fact that they were unable to lie down, eat, or lower their head for days!
Principally practiced in antiquity, though it remains practiced in some countries today; it is one of the most well-known execution methods due to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a deliberately slow and painful execution where the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until they die, which usually takes days.
Usually filled with molten lead, tar, boiling water or boiling oil, it was used to torture victims by dripping the contents onto their stomach or other body parts like the eyes. Using this device the torturer would proceed to pour molten silver on the victim’s eyes which resulted in agonizing pain and eventual death.
The most preferred torture technique in the Middle Ages was known as coffin torture. This method involved placing the victim inside a metal cage roughly the size of the human body; hence the name. The torturers also forced overweight victims into smaller cages to heighten their discomfort as they hung from a tree or gallows. Generally, they would be left there until the crows came to feed on their remains.
Though there are many variations of this torture device, the thumbscrew or ‘pilliwinks’ all function the same. They were designed to slowly crush not only the fingers and toes, but larger devices were also used to crush knees and elbows. There is also the Head Crusher, which could do the same for heads. It’s primary intention was to extract confessions from victims and it was first used in medieval times.
One of the most notorious forms of executions, the guillotine was made of a razor sharp blade attached to a rope. The victim’s head was placed in the middle of the frame as the blade dropped, severing the victim’s head from the body. Since the decapitation was considered to be an instant and painless event (at least less painful than the other torture methods), it was often considered the most humane method of execution.
Looking like an oversized pair of scissors, it could effortlessly cut the victim’s tongue. Their mouth would be forced opened with a device called a mouth opener, and then the iron tongue tearer would uncomfortably twitch the tongue with its rough grippers. Once a firm hold was maintained, the screw would be firmly tightened and the victim’s tongue would roughly be torn out.
Being in an enclosure with rats is torture enough; but apparently, this is not enough for medieval times. One of the most sadistic of all torture techniques involved having a cage with one open side strapped against the victim’s body. It would then be filled with large rodents and a heating element which would be placed on the other side of the cage. The rodents’ natural instinct led them to flee the intense heat. In order to escape they would burrow through the victim’s body with fatal results.
The cement shoes were introduced by the American Mafia when they executed enemies, traitors and spies by placing their feet inside cinder blocks and then filling them up with wet cement. Once it dried, the victim would be thrown alive into a river or other deep body of water.
Often used to mutilate those who would attempt to assassinate the king, this iron pincer was heated red-hot before being used to clamp down on the victim’s appendages and tearing them from their bodies.
Besides the guillotine and burning at the stake, this act of torture was employed by Jean-Baptiste Carrier during the French Revolution. It involved binding naked males and females together and then throwing them into icy waters to drown. When water was unavailable, they would just be run through with swords or bayonets. This was the preferred method used to execute nuns and priests during that time.
One of the torture devices during the Spanish Inquisition, this is probably one of the most gruesome of them all. The victim is put astride, naked, on a donkey-like apparatus, which is actually a vertical wooden board with a sharp V-wedge on top of it. After that, the torturer would add varying weights to the victim’s feet until finally the wedge sliced through the victim’s body.
Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered
During medieval times, the penalty for high treason in England was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public and though it was abolished in 1814, it has been responsible for the death of thousands of people. In this torture technique, the victim is dragged in a wooden frame called a hurdle to the place of execution. They would then be hanged by the neck for a short period of time until they are near-death (hanged), followed by disembowelment and castration where the entrails and genitalia are burned in front of the victim (drawn). The victim would then be divided into four separate parts and beheaded (quartered).
25 Most Brutal Torture Techniques Ever Devised In History