In Medieval times, they sought out ways to cut back on crime. Instead of letting the criminals sit in a jail cell, like today, they would use different torture devices. These devices came in all shapes and sizes and were meant to scare other would be criminals into not doing the crimes committed by the person being tortured. Let’s check these weird torture methods

The Brazen Bull

This device was designed in Greece by Perillos of Athens. He was a brass founder and he cast the shape of a hollow bull with a door on the side. This condemned person was shut in the bull. There was a fire lit underneath the device and because it was brass it became yellow hot, which would cause the person to roast to death. It was configured with tubes and stops, so when the person was screaming it would sound like the bull was raging.

the brazen bull


The Breaking Wheel

This wheel of torture was used to kill criminals and it did that very slowly. This device was a large wagon wheel. The criminal would be tied to the wheel, where the punisher would proceed to use a hammer to break the bones of the other person. Once that was completed, they were left there to die and even the birds would peck at their flesh until death was complete.

the breaking wheel


The Rack

This device is an oblong rectangle with a wooden frame. It was raised from the ground with a roller either at one end or at both ends. One end had a fixed bar, where the feet were locked onto it, and the other end had a moveable bar, where the hands were tied to it. It had a lever that was used as the interrogation progressed. It was on a lever and pulley system that would eventually cause the joints of the person being tortured to dislocate and then separate. Eventually, the muscle fibers userbin, ligaments, and cartilage would break separating the limbs from the body of the condemned.

the rack


Judas Cradle

This torture device is a pyramid shaped seat. The victim is placed on top of it, with the point inserted into an orifice, then they are very slowly lowered onto it. The condemned was usually naked in order to add to their humiliation. This device was thought to stretch the orifice or to slowly impale the person. The stretching of the orifice would cause pain, rips and tears, which would eventually cause death.

judas cradle


Coffin Torture

This device was used in the Middle Ages. The condemned would be placed in the metal coffin and left there for the appropriate amount of time. Depending on the crime, the person could be left in there to die, while animals ate their flesh or they would be placed on public display, which would cause their death. The people that would surround the person in the coffin would throw rocks and poke the person with objects until they finally became deceased.

coffin torture




Iron Maiden

This iron cabinet with a hinged front was made to be a tall upright cabinet that would enclose a human being. It would have a small opening, which was closeable, so the interrogator would be able to open and close it at their will. They would then poke the bodies of the person with a sharp object. They would use knives, spikes, or nails and the person inside was forced to remain standing in one position, ultimately causing their demise.

iron maiden


The Knee Splitter

The whole purpose of this device was to make a person’s knees useless. It was used in mainly during the Inquisitional period of time. This device was faceted with spikes, from three to twenty of them, and depending on the crime committed, depended on the number used. IT had a handle the torturer would use to close the device. The spikes would mutilate the skin and begin to crush the knee. They would also use the device on elbows, arms and the lower legs. There were even instances that they would heat the device to cause a maximum amount of pain. Death wasn’t a result of this device, but it the person refused to cooperate they would use other means.

the knee splitter


Heretic’s Fork

This device was used during the Spanish Inquisition. It has two forks at opposing ends of a metal rod. One of the forks would be placed under the chin, piercing the skin, and the other end would be piercing the flesh in the upper chest. It didn’t puncture any vital organs, so death would not take place during the use of this method, but it made talking and neck movements impossible. While wearing this device a person’s hands would be tied behind their backs, so they could not escape it. It would harm the person’s neck and, often times, spread diseases.

heretics fork


Saw Torture

This method was used to torture and kill the condemned person, which were typically accused of witchery, adultery, murder, blasphemy, or theft. The accused was hung upside down. This slowed down the blood loss by forcing the blood to the brain and it humiliated the person. This type of torture could last for several hours. Some of the victims would be cut completely in half, while some would only be cut up to their abdomen in order to prolong their deaths.

saw torture



This was used to get a confession from the offenders. The fingers of the person were placed in the device and crushed by the torturer turning the handle on the top. It could last for a very long time and it was very painful. This was also used to crush a person’s toes. They even made bigger versions of this device used to crush feet, knees, elbows and even heads.



Written by Harmony Stalter – Copyrighted ©

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The Thumbscrew torture was used during the Middle Ages, most notoriously during the inquisition.

When a victim refused to reveal sensitive information, he or she would be subject to the thumbscrew. The victim's hands were placed in the device (see below) and the torturer would crush the victim's fingers slowly.

Another common application of the thumbscrew was to crush a victim's toes. A (bigger) variant of this torture was used to crush knees, arms and even heads.
Tean Zu is an ancient Chinese torture device originally designed for women, though it quickly appealed torturers for male victims. It's a relatively simple and yet painful torture, where a person's fingers were placed on a flat surface. Wooden sticks were placed between the fingers connected by strings. When a victim refused to talk or deliver information to the torturer, he would tighten the string a bit more causing the tables to crush the fingers.

This torture was sometimes used in the West, for it did not damage the skin nor kill the victim.
Designed in Ancient Turkey (Greece), the Heat Torture was extremely painful and humiliating. After a person was "convicted", he or she would be locked inside a coffin made of brass (sometimes called the Brazen Bull).

The victim's feet were creatively fixed to the ground. Sometimes with ropes, sometimes with nails and sometimes they were not fixed at all. The coffin was placed vertically on top of a fire where it was left for many hours until the brass turned "red hot".

According to some historians including Herodotus, the Heat Torture was the most common torture in Greece. As years passed, the Brazen Bull became more painful and amusing for those outside. At one point, the most sophisticated device had a complex set of tubes so the victim's screams could be heard as an "infuriated ox". Apparently, this amused certain rulers such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian who, according to legend, burnt entire families with the device.
Mostly in early Medieval Times, heretics and witches were condemned to be fixed to the ground with iron nails. Spreading arms and legs while being naked under the sun resulted in having very strong sunburns all around a person's body. If this wasn't enough, wild animals used to eat the victim alive; the pain of having an animal eating burnt flesh is comparable to the wheel and other more recent torture devices.

The victim was lucky if the closest animal was a bear; for there were smaller animals, such as mice; who would eat him slowly.
The iron maiden is in fact a sarcophagus. The only two main differences are that it has tips all over the front door and that people died after getting in--and not before.

The Iron Maiden was introduced in Germany. Even though it is commonly believed that it was used in the Middle Ages, the truth is that it was invented a few centuries later. Very few people had the misfortune of experiencing what it feels like to be trapped in this sarcophagus.

Normally, the big door would be shut slowly; the tips crushing a person in agonizing pain. There was a tube in the bottom that made the victim see his own blood as it poured out of his body. The few people that did make it to this device, lasted more than 2 days before death finally struck them.

The Stocks

The victim would place his or her hands and feet in the open device later to be closed. Depending on the crime, a person could be sentenced to many days, or even weeks of staying confined by the stocks.

Generally placed near a town, the victim was subject to the public's harm. In a mild case, the sentenced person would leave with just a few punches in the face and a lot of urine in his or her body.

In a more severe case, townspeople acted very harsh and stoning was very common. Some people died and others were left severely injured. Cutting was very common, and some very offensive villagers would cut off parts of the victim (such as a hand) to later be burned; stopping him from dying.

Sometimes, death penalty was sentenced by this device. The victim was to be left confined to the stocks somewhere while the public, sun and animals did their job to kill him.

Even though in movies they portrait the stocks harmless, the reality was quite different. People suffered a lot and sometimes those who wanted to save the victim were also tortured by this method.


This is one of the most humiliating tortures ever designed by the human mind. When a women was accused of being a whore or a witch, she was tied to a horse and grabbed everywhere the rider wanted. When the person was hated by the people, stones (hence the name) and other sharp or hot materials were placed on the floor to increase the victim's suffering while being taken all over town for everyone to see.

When on death penalty, the victim would take a long time to die; normally more than an hour. Villagers would scream things and yell insults to the unfortunate person. If they were bored, they would grab stones and throw them at their victim; thus increasing dying speed--and pain.
Known as "The Keep", this is one of the most embarrassing and painful tortures ever designed by the human mind. A victim would be sometimes fixed with iron nails to the cage and the door would be shut forever. The small openings in "The Keep" were big enough for hungry birds to eat whatever they could. The defenseless victim, having his arms tied with a rope, had nothing better to do than to hysterically stare at the birds--and other animals--eating him alive.

Normally suited for nobles and the alike, this torture wasn't only painful; but socially speaking, it killed whatever honor a person had left. The cage would be hung on the main square--or on a church--exhibiting the victim's fate to a whole town.

After many days of agonizing and severe pain, the unlucky person would finally pass out. Sometimes the townspeople would throw stones or other objects to "awake" him.

In the most severe punishments, the victim would be let down; and after a week or so of resting, he would be put up there again. Sometimes this intermittent punishment occurred three or four times until he was sent to another torture machine or until he finally died because of the birds--and the sun.
Used during Medieval Times, the Pear of Anguish was an extremely painful device used to punish homosexuals, witches and women accused of inducing a miscarriage.

The Pear of Anguish had the shape of a pear; As a handle was turned, the spoon-shaped lobes opened; increasing pain. Even though the Pear of Anguish was mostly used for oral punishments, homosexuals had it fixed in their anus and women in their vagina. Causing severe pain, after this torture was employed on the mouth; the victim's teeth would get destroyed; making blood pour out of the victim's mouth often causing death.

If introduced in the anus or vagina, death was a step away. The Pear of Anguish was rarely washed, thus causing infections very frequently. If the victim didn't die by an infection however, he would die by other diseases caused by the severe damage of his or her intestines.
Not popularly seen as a very painful torture, the whip was in fact a menace.

The whip has been used throughout the millennia to inspire terror to whole nations. From Egypt to France, the whip has been a fearful torture device.

In the Netherlands, kids were the ones who punished their victims. It was said "so they could be better executioners some day."

Pirates seldom used whips to punish offenders. They were very effective as some historians narrate us.

Even today, the whip is used in many countries of the Middle East and Indonesia.
Probably due to the dim amount of suffering, guillotines were widely used. It is common belief that the guillotine is a French invention; nevertheless, its origins are much older. The Scots were the first to use a smaller guillotine as a means of execution for nobles. When the French found out about this very useful device, they decided to employ it officially as a way to punish everyone and not just nobles. It was the physician named Joseph-Ignace Guillotin who introduced this merciless device to France.

Before being used, the guillotine was tested with dead bodies from a hospital. It was ready on April 4, 1792 at Paris. The first official execution in Paris occurred on the 25th of that month.

From 1792 to 1794, France used this machine very often. Louis XVI had his head cut on January 21, 1793. Hence the name "Le Louison" until in 1800 the term "guillotine" was employed.

It has been proven that a person whose head has been cut, is conscious for a few seconds. Probably a little more than the time it takes for the head to fall on the floor. Some people could even blink before dying. This deadly machine was used in many places such as The Papal States, France, Scotland, and other European countries. In France, its use stopped only after the abolition of the death penalty under Mitterrand in 1981.
When a woman slept with a man, who wasn't his husband, she could either continue doing it until someone found out; or she could be sentenced to "The Breast Ripper."

Consisting on ripping a woman's breasts, this torture very often caused infections and death within a few months. If the woman was lucky enough to survive, she would never be the same.

This torture was widely used in the Dark Ages and, mainly, in the inquisition.



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