25 Horrifying Tortures That REALLY HAPPENED. I Couldn't Stop Reading.
The Spanish donkey.
During the Spanish Inquisition, this device would be used for torture and eventual death. The person would be placed on a triangular log and weights attached to their feet. They would be pulled downward by the weights as the sharp edge of the log slowly sliced them in half. YOU'RE WELCOME FOR THE NIGHTMARES.
The brazen bull.
The brazen bull was both inhumane and constructed almost entirely for the amusement of an audience. The person being executed was placed inside a hollow bull made out of bronze, which was then heated from beneath. The bull was constructed in such a way that the sounds of the victim were made to sound like bull noises instead of horrifying screams of a human being steamed alive.
Possibly the most painful form of medieval torture, the rack would s t r e t c h the victim's body by pulling on their arms and legs, dislocating and eventually TEARING OFF their limbs.
This form of torture involved putting the victim inside a metal cage about the size of a coffin and hanging them from a tree until crows ate them. Rough.
As the screw on these horrifying terror scissors gets tighter, the blades would press down on your tongue, eventually ripping it out.
This Persian execution method involved stripping a person naked, putting them in a hollow log, and feeding them milk and honey to make them get diarrhea. They were then covered in honey and left to float in a pond, where insects would devour them alive.
A gridiron was basically a human grill: a metal grid with a fire underneath it that would cook a person alive.
Flaying involves removing one or more layers of skin, exposing muscle and even bone to the elements. Death in this manner can be very prolonged and was usually the result of infections or blood loss.
Lingchi, or slow slicing.
This Chinese method, which was used from 900 AD up through the beginning of the 20th century, is generally translated as "death by a thousand cuts." The person being executed has portions of their body cut off one at a time to prolong death as painfully and as much as possible.
Execution by bamboo.
Bamboo grows very quickly, up to one foot a day, and an alleged form of execution in Asia was tying a person on top of bamboo shoots and allowing them to grow through the person's body. Whether or not this actually happened is unclear, but it is definitely possible (according to MythBusters, at least).
Crushing with rocks.
Crushing with rocks, or "pressing" as a means of execution involved placing a plank of wood on the victim, who would lie down on a platform or the ground. Rocks would then be piled atop the plank, pressing them until they died. More weight could be added if needed. One famous example of pressing is that of Giles Corey, who was executed in this manner during the Salem Witch Trials.
Breaking on the wheel.
Also called the "Catherine wheel," this method was used in Europe from antiquity all the way to the 19th century. The person was strapped to the wheel and beaten mercilessly. Since they were on a wheel with spokes instead of a flat surface, their limbs could bend and break in ways they could not if they were just beaten on the floor.
Best known as the method of execution of Jesus Christ, crucifixion involved nailing or tying a person to a wooden cross and allowing them to hang there until they died. Generally, if the person did not have a block to stand on, the cause of death would be asphyxiation, because it is difficult to breathe when your entire body weight is supported by your arms.
The Spanish tickler.
This torture device was used to tear a victim's skin apart prior to execution. They were usually attached to a pole and had several sharp blades arranged like a cat's claws, leading to its alternate name, the cat's paw.
The heretic's fork.
This device forced the wearer to keep their head at a certain angle, or else they'd be stabbed in the chin or chest.
This spiky device made the wearer unable to move into a comfortable position, forcing them to keep their neck straight for days at a time.
The Judas cradle.
Similar to impalement, but more drawn-out, this torture method involved the victim sitting on a pyramid, stretching their anus over a long period of time. You would almost certainly die, either from blood loss or infection.
The lead sprinkler.
This device was filled with hot liquid, sometimes molten metal, sometimes tar, sometimes just good old boiling oil. It was then used to drip the hot liquid on to the victim's flesh and eyes.
The iron maiden.
The iron maiden was a body-shaped metal container that was covered in inward-facing spikes, meaning that if you moved slightly in any direction while inside it, you'd be poked. However, it was actually NOT used as a real torture device in medieval times - it was made up by some guy in 1793 who wrote a story about it. But still - isn't it gruesome?
Sometimes called a "pilliwinks," which is far too cute a name for such a devious device, was specifically designed to crush fingers and toes. Larger versions were used to crush other body parts.
This nightmarish torture method involved a cage full of rats attached to the victim's body. A source of heat would be placed at the far end of the cage. To escape the intense heat, the rats would BURROW THROUGH THE PERSON'S BODY.
The ducking stool.
The ducking - or cucking - stool was a women's punishment in England, Scotland, and other places from the 14th through the 18th century. They were used to punish "common scolds," which were literally just women who didn't act the way society wanted them to act.
Burning at the stake.
Being tied to a wooden pole to be burned meant that you died not from the fire, but rather of the smoke inhalation, which meant a prolonged and painful death.
The Spanish favored this effective torture technique, which focused on the feet since a prisoner is unlikely to die from damage to the feet (since they are the farthest away from the head and heart). Feet were held over a hot flame or metal object.
The chair of torture.
Used in the Middle Ages through the 1800s, the chair had small spikes covering its entire sitting surface. The victim would be strapped in and sometimes heated from below.
The boot was a metal casing that could be fitted to the victim's leg and gradually tightened, squeezing the leg to create pain.
The pear of anguish.
The pear of anguish is believed to have been used as a gag. The instrument would be placed in the mouth, fully closed, but the "leaves" were rigged to expand when the screw on the "stem" was turned, causing the person's mouth to stretch in a very painful way.
The neck violin.
The victim's neck was placed in the large hole, with her wrists in the front two holes. Generally, this device was used to punish women who did not act "appropriately" according to the rules of society.
The knee splitter.
This device was placed in front of and behind the victim's knee, and then screwed together, destroying the kneecap. The goal was to render the victim's knees useless without necessarily killing them.
The head crusher.
This device was attached to the victim's head and slowly tightened, pressing the jaw and skull together. Permanent facial damage and death were both possible outcomes.
Foot caning, or whipping, also called "bastinado," is actually still practiced in parts of the world. During the era of slavery in the American South, it was used to punish slaves without leaving any visible marks, since those would reduce a slave's resale value.
The victim's hands are first tied behind her back, and then her body is lifted from the ground by her arms, which generally dislocates both shoulders. More weight is sometimes added to increase the pain.
The instep borer.
This device, which resembled a metal boot, included a crank apparatus that extended from the top of the boot, allowing the user to drive a blade into the instep of whomever was wearing it. The existence and use of this device has been debated.
The breast ripper.
As the name suggests, this device was made specifically to rip a woman's breasts from her body. It was used mostly in Germany in the 1600s-1800s against women who were accused of adultery or self-abortion.
Castration, which is the removal of some or all of the male genitalia of the victim, was sometimes used in warfare as a form of torture. Armies might use it to ensure that their enemies died out, by making it impossible for male lineages to have any more heirs.
Riding the rail.
Being run out of town on a rail sounds like the person took the train out of town - but it actually referred to this form of mob punishment, which involved the offender straddling a rail which was then carried by several people. Generally, the mental torture and humiliation of this method outweighed the physical pain.
Scalping is removing the scalp or part of the scalp, with the hair still attached, as a trophy. While it was not fatal by itself, it was frequently only performed on those who were already about to die.
The stocks were used all over the world - and are still used today in some places - as a form of humiliating punishment. The person's feet and/or hands are locked in place through boards and they are left outside to the elements (and the ridicule of their friends and neighbors).
This punishment for sailors involves tying a rope around the victim's waist, then dumping them into the ocean to be dragged alongside the ship. If the dragging happened quickly, the sailor might be cut by barnacles on the ship's hull. If it happened more slowly, the sailor might drown. The Dutch outlawed the practice in 1853.