15 Old Torture Devices That Will Make You Appreciate The 21st Century

Sure, medieval times were filled with wonders like castles, princesses, and barrels full of beer, but you wouldn’t have wanted to get caught stealing someone’s carriage in the Middle Ages…


1. Heretic’s Fork.

This torture device consisted of two metal forks, placed between the breast bone and throat, secured with a leather strap around the neck. The victim couldn’t move their neck or get any sleep. This led to fatigue, which usually ended in confession.


2. Hanged, drawn and quartered.

In this three-part punishment, the victim was dragged by a horse to the wooden frame where they were to be publicly put to death. There, they were hanged by the neck for a short time. After the hanging, the victim was placed on a table and had their abdomen cut open. After removing the prisoner’s intestines and sex organs, their head was cut off and the rest of the body was hacked into four pieces.


3. Rat torture.

Rat torture (as shown on Game of Thrones) was a horrific technique that required a cage with one side open to be strapped to the victim’s body and filled with rats. By applying heat to the other side of the cage, the rats would try to escape by digging their way out, basically eating the victim alive.

4. The Rack.

Maybe the cruelest of all medieval torture devices, the rack was a rectangular wooden frame with rollers on both ends. During interrogation, the victim’s ankles and wrists were chained to the top and bottom of the rack and the tension on the chains was gradually increased. It caused joints to dislocate, muscle fibres to stretch excessively and cartilage and ligaments to snap, resulting in loud popping noises. As if this punishment wasn’t gruesome enough, it was often combined with additional torture like tearing out nails.


5. The Brazen Bull.

Actually used in ancient Greece, the brazen bull was a hollow bull statue that served as a confined space to lock up criminals sentenced to death. A fire would be lit under the hollow bull, causing the victim inside to roast to death.


6. Death by boiling.

Death by boiling was exactly what it looks like. It was a horrifying death sentence where the victim was boiled alive in either water or oil.

7. Spanish Tickler.

This torture device was used to shred through human flesh. A cleverly designed, sharp object: it would cut so deep the victim didn’t die from the actual wounds inflicted, but the infection that would set in afterwards.


8. Tongue Tearer.

Primarily used on blasphemers, the tongue tearer was used to grab the prisoner’s tongue, and brutally tear it out by tightening the screw.


9. The Tub.

The most innocent looking, but one of the cruelest: the tub was pretty much a death bath designed to make the prisoner suffer for as long as possible. With faces painted with milk and honey, the tortured would attract flies. Meanwhile, they would sit in their own faeces until maggots and worms would eventually eat their flesh and their bodies would decay as they were still alive.

10. The Breast Ripper.

Yes, it was as awful as it sounds. The breast ripper, or Iron Spider, was mostly used on women who were accused of adultery or self-abortion. The iron was heated, placed on the female victim’s exposed breast, and the flesh was ripped off her chest.


11. Thumbscrew.

The thumbscrew was feared all over medieval Europe. The torture device was designed to crush thumbs or toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points for extra pain.


12. Death by sawing.

This horrific torturing technique didn’t consist out of much more than just sawing prisoners in two with a big saw. Still though, ouch.

13. The Breaking Wheel.

The breaking wheel was used as a tool to break the prisoner’s bones and ultimately bludgeoning him to death.


14. The Wooden Horse.

During the Spanish Inquisition, female blasphemers were put naked on top of a wooden “horse”. The vertical wooden board with a sharp V-wedge would slice through the victim’s body as the torturer attached weights to the victim’s feet.


15. Cement Shoes.

Designed to drown prisoners, the cement shoes were simply two cinder blocks that were filled up with cement. Once the cement had dried, the prisoner was thrown into the water to sink and eventually drown. To this day, some gangs still use this technique.