9 Ancient Torture Methods That Will Have You Jumping Out Of Your Skin

“Being home for the holidays is torture,” I heard my friend say last week. He’s continued saying it in anticipation of Christmas. All I can think of in reply is “nut up, at least you’re not being flayed alive.” Yes, I think that should probably be the standard for complaining about the holidays, especially about having to see the people who created you. Here, in no particular order, are 9 torture methods used in actual torture to help us all get a little perspective.

1. The Pear of Anguish

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This kind of beautiful looking device was used to keep the victim from speaking or, alternatively, possibly tear their jaw from its hinge. The metal parts went in the victims mouth and the screw on the end was turned to spread the “pear” open.

2. The Brazen Bull

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This one is incredible in every way. So the bull is made of Bronze and you place the victim inside it. Then you build a fire under the bull and it heats up slowly cooking the victim alive. The ‘mouth’ and inner piping of the bull was built in such a way that the screaming of the victim inside sounded like the bellowing of an angry bull. Interesting fact, the creator this device was considered so sadistic that he was killed by the very King who he’d created it to impress.

3. The Common Scold

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Sounds like an autocorrect error, right? Well, it’s not. It was a way of punishing a “trifling woman” who created discord in a community through gossip and deceit. The victim was tied securely to a chair and then submerged into a body of water thus causing them to begin drowning. They were, of course, then pulled back out cause this wasn’t an execution method. All in good fun of course…

4. Rat Torture

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Some of you may recognize this from the final chapter of 1984 where Winston finally screams “do it to her” or some such. Truly this is a torture method capable of destroying even the purest of loves. The rats are either starved and then released into the a cage where the victims head is secured or, worse, the rats are placed in a box secured against the abdomen of the victim. A fire is then lit near the rats, often on top of the box, which becomes hot enough that the rats panic and want to escape. What do rats do when they want to escape? They burrow.

5. The Water Cure

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Cousin of waterboarding, this method of torture involves a tube being placed down the victims throat and their nose being secured. Bile or urine is then poured into the tube which they eventually ingest when they’re forced to finally breath. This is done until the victim is full and then the torturers beat the victim’s stomach with sticks until the victim vomits. Then it’s done all over again.

6. A Glasgow Smile

Ok, this one is pretty creative in a Scottish sort of way. Small cuts are made at the corners of the victim’s mouth. The victim is then beaten until the facial muscles contract, the skin tears and creates wounds on both sides of the face all the way up to the ears. Yes, this was the inspiration for Heath Ledger’s Joker. I’m not including a picture because you probably already saw Batman and because if you Google this then you’ll get lots of pics of real victims and I don’t want to post them. Ugly stuff.

7. Keelhauling

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It’s funny, I grew up watching cartoons where keelhauling was sort of a funny cliche as harmless as noogies. Little did I know that it was one of the worst things that could ever happen to anyone. Done during the days of wooden ships, the victim is tied securely and  throw overboard. They’re then hauled under the ship and dragged along the bottom of it. Since the bottom of wooden ships were covered with barnacles, the result was basically live flaying while drowning. I can’t imagine the salt water felt too good either but at that point it’s the least of your worries.

8. The Garrote

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Once seen as “more humane than hanging,” the Garrote involved tying some to a chair and affixing a band over leather around their throat from behind. The band was then tightened until the victim’s throat was crushed and their blood vessels burst. Essentially, a mechanized version of strangulation. Can be used in torture OR execution. A flexible method, really.

9. The Picquet

A form of stress bondage (see Iraq, stress positions) that caused no permanent damage, the victim has one thumb tied above them while they’re forced to balance on a sharpened stick which is sharp enough to cause extreme pain but not to draw blood. The victim then has to shift their weight back and forth from thumb to foot resulting in their thumb likely being torn from its socket. Quaint, compared to most other methods on this list.

I’m gonna be honest, there are a LOT of torture devices and methods that are worse than the ones above and I didn’t include them here because they’re the worst things I’ve ever read about in my life. Enjoy the holidays, it’s not torture you complainer you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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