One of humanity’s greatest strengths is its ingenuity. Men and women can find ways to accomplish nearly anything, and imagine structures and machines capable of things that would once seem impossible. That strength however, can also lead to inexplicable horrors. The human race continually bests itself in means of destruction during a war, building things like:
- The Helepolis, a 130-foot high, moving siege monolith.
- The Gustav Gun, a 1,344-ton artillery cannon capable of firing 29 miles.
- The Tsar Bomba, a nuclear bomb 3,300-times more powerful than the A-Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Because of this propensity of mutual destruction, there have also been much more cruel devices capable of inflicting pain and torture on a single person. Though they very rarely have proven effective means of interrogation, they do impose psychological warfare on an opponent and establish dominance over their subjects.
Here are 16 of the most disturbing torture methods in history:
1. The Boats: Scaphism, an ancient technique used by the Persians to torture and execute their prisoners, consists of placing a person between two boats and covering them in milk and honey. Left floating on stagnant water, the victim would be consumed by insects that were attracted to the sweet liquids over several days.
2. The Brazen Bull: A prisoner would be placed inside a bronze sculpture the size and shape of a bull. Then, a fire would be lit under the statue. When the victim would scream in agony as they cooked alive, the amplified voice would sound like that of a bull’s bellow.
3. Impalement: Vlad the Impaler would force a prisoner to sit on a sharp pole or force it into him while lying down. When the pole was lifted upright, the victim would slowly slide down it, sometimes taking as many as three days to die.
4. Judas Cradle: Like impalement, the victim would be forced to sit on a pyramid shaped cradle and forced down slowly. Instead of the immediate damage of Vlad’s method, the Judas Cradle would work very slowly. Instead of dying due to blood loss, many would die from infections.
5. Heretic’s Fork: Reserved for blasphemers who had spoken the Lord’s name in vain, the fork would be double sided and placed between the victim’s throat and breast bone. They would be hung or strapped upright so that if they dropped their head at all they would impale themselves.
6. Lead Sprinkler: Used to pour molten metal on prisoner’s bodies, most victims would eventually receive a dose on their eyes if they didn’t give in.
7. Iron Maiden: The infamous metal maiden would encapsulate the victim with sharp spikes, forcing them to keep perfectly still. The torturer would often prod them with sharp or hot objects through small openings, making them flinch and impale themselves.
8. Sewn Mouth: Throughout history, prisoners have had their mouths sewn (or nailed) shut during torture to make it even more painful when they try to scream. Because of its relative ease, this practice is still going on today including several incidents over the past few years.
9. Thumbscrew: A very simple device intended to inflict extreme pain but not kill the prisoner, the thumbscrew (and its many offshoots) was a common instrument of torture during medieval times.
10. Horse Quartering: The prisoner was tied between four horses by the feet and hands, and asked to confess. If he did not confess (and sometimes even if he did) the horses were made to run in opposite directions, tearing the victim into four pieces.
11. The Rack: In addition, there was once a device that did something similar but could be controlled at a slower pace. The prisoner would be attached to ropes that could be wound with a lever, first dislocating and then ripping limbs clean off.
12. Tongue Removal: There was once a common punishment that involved losing your tongue if you spoke ill of the King or some other noble. There existed simple devices that would rip the tongue right out of the prisoner’s mouth—under considerable pain.
13. Rat Torture: A bucket or container of some sort was strapped to the prisoners midsection, with several rats or other small rodents placed inside. Then, when a heat source was added to the other side, the rats would scratch, claw and burrow their way into the victim’s stomach trying to get away from the heat.
14. Breast Ripper: Designed specifically for women, the breast ripper would be fired red-hot before being forced into the woman’s chest. It would then be torn out at great force, removing hunks of flesh.
15. Spanish Donkey: For this device, a prisoner would be forced to sit naked on a wedged structure as if you would a donkey. Then, weights would slowly be added to the prisoner’s legs as he would be pulled down and torn in two.
16. Saw Torture: Hung upside down so that the blood in their head would keep them conscious, the victim would be sawed in half from the groin down. They would often be left for a time only partially cut to make the torture last even longer.