Waterboarding’s Bush League – The Ten Worst Medieval Torture Techniques

Do you hate your life some days? It definitely sucks when you change the channel during commercials and every other channel is also showing commercials, but things could be a lot worse.

Take a moment and be thankful that you don’t live in the Middle Ages. Back then, most people were dirt-poor (not can’t afford a new iPhone poor, but can’t afford a meal this week poor) and punishment for those suspected of stealing food and committing other crimes was ridiculously severe. Depending on where and when you lived, just looking at a person the wrong way could get you labeled a witch and sentenced to death by one of many excruciating torture devices, such as these:

10. The Saw

Pain: 9   Duration: 6   Style Points: 5

There’s nothing too complicated about this method. Victims were hung upside-down and then sawed in half starting from the crotch and working down. Being upside-down would force blood to rush to the victim’s head, keeping him or her conscious (and aware of the pain) for the longest time possible. If the men doing the sawing decided to go slow, death could take several hours.

9. Garrote

Pain: 8   Duration: 5   Style Points: 7

The victim was strapped to a chair and a metal band was wrapped around his or her neck. A metal crank was then turned, tightening the band around the victim’s neck and eventually snapping the spine or causing suffocation. Depending on the torturer’s mood, he could choose to deliver a quick death or a slow, agonizing death.

Sometimes, there were many small spikes on the inside of the metal band. Some bands had a single spike, which would pierce the back of the skull and deliver a quick death. If you got the garrote with the big spike, you were actually kind of lucky.

8. The Catherine Wheel

Pain: 8   Duration: 5   Style Points: 8

Also called a breaking wheel, this method of torture involves tying the victim to a wheel and then spinning it around while someone uses a hammer or other heavy, metal instrument to hack at the victim’s body and break his or her bones.

If you were lucky, you would get a fatal blow to the head after it was determined that enough of your bones had been pulverized. If you weren’t, you would be left on the wheel, half-dead, while birds and insects ravaged your tenderized body.

7. Impalement

Pain: 9   Duration: 7   Style Points: 8

What’s worse than getting a sharp stick shoved through your spine and then out your chest, like something from the movie Alien? How about getting a sharp stick shoved up your butthole and then out your chest?

Death from impalement wasn’t always quick. In some cases, victims were left to slowly slide down a vertical pole–butthole-first–over the course of a few days.

The biggest proponent of impalement was, of course, Vlad the Impaler. He ordered the impalement of between 20,000 and 30,000 people and was even known to sit and eat his lunch while watching a victim slowly die.

Video Credit: Vlad Tepes


6. Judas Cradle

Pain: 9   Duration: 8   Style Points: 8

Medieval folks had a thing for sticking things up criminals’ butts. Like impalement, this torture device was based on a sharp point that was inserted into a particular orifice (usually the butthole, but some women got it in the vagina). The victim was then either lowered down with weights on his or her ankles, or pulled down via ropes and pulleys. This, obviously, would cause the orifice to stretch and tear, leading to a long and excruciating (and probably very messy) death.

5. Flaying

Pain: 9   Duration: 9   Style Points: 8

Ever peeled and orange and tried to keep the skin all in one piece? That’s sort of what torturers did when performing execution by flaying. They would slowly and deliberately remove the victim’s skin, trying to keep as much of it intact as possible. Sometimes, the victim’s skin would then be dried and displayed in public or sent to the victim’s friends or family as a warning.

4. The Rack

Pain: 8   Duration: 9   Style Points: 8

Synonymous with medieval torture, the rack was a very effective interrogation device–provided you didn’t care too much whether your victim’s statements were true (people will confess to pretty much anything when their body is being literally torn apart).

Victims had their arms and ankles tied to opposite ends of the rack and their body was then pulled in opposite directions, causing their joints to dislocate and their muscles and tendons to tear. Eventually, limbs would be completely torn from the body.

Some versions of the rack had protruding nails which cut into the victim’s back and the wounds would open wider and wider and his or her body was stretched.

Video credit: Death Machines on YouTube


3. The Brazen Bull

Pain: 8   Duration: 8   Style Points: 9

The Greeks liked to mix some showmanship with their torture, so they designed this method. The victim was locked inside a large, brass bull and then a fire was lit underneath the device. This would literally roast the victim to death. The kicker is that the bull’s mouth was designed to amplify the screams of the victim in such a way that it sounded like a roaring bull.

2. Intestinal Crank

Pain: 8   Duration: 9   Style Points: 9

The victim was tied to a flat surface and then a cut was made in his or her abdomen–just big enough for a hand to reach in and grab some of the small intestine. A hook was then used to pierce the intestines and they were slowly pulled from the body using a crack–all while the victim was forced to watch it happen. Human intestines can be as long as 18 feet, so it would often take a very long time for the entire length to be extracted from the abdomen.

1. Rat Torture

Pain: 8   Duration: 9   Style Points: 9

This method is so simple, yet so morbidly clever. The victim was tied down or otherwise restrained and a rat was trapped in between his or her exposed abdomen and a metal cage or bucket. The metal was then heated and the rat would chew through the victim’s skin and organs to try to escape the heat. As you can imagine, it was absolutely excruciating to experience (and it probably wasn’t too fun for the rat, either).

Video credit: Game of Thrones



Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.