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Top 10 Deadly Tools & Methods of Torture

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Halloween is a day for spirits to come alive.  Many are good and happy ghosts, while
others are dark and eerie, demanding revenge for previous misdoings.  Physical torture
is any act in which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person. History
is full of various instruments and methods of torture. 
These methods have changed and
evolved over the years, with the Middle Ages being infamous for elaborate laws and
torturous punishments.    Many historical governments have conducted acts of torture in
hopes of gaining confessions, or intimidating and punishing individuals.  Let’s take a
look at the history of torture. 

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10. Scold's Bridle (Brank)

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The scold’s bridle is a torture device that was used in Scotland and England during the
middle ages.  It resembles an iron muzzle or a cage for the head.  The device has an iron
curb projecting into the mouth which rests on the top of the tongue.  The curb was
frequently studded with spikes, so the individual would be tortured if they moved their
tongue.  Branks were used predominantly on women to punish slander, cursing, or
irreligious speech.  They were first recorded in Scotland in 1567, although the device
was also used in England, where it may not have been formally legalized as a
punishment.
  The scold’s bridle was originally designed as a mirror punishment for
women of lower classes whose speech was "riotous" or "troublesome.”  It was intended
to prevent gossip.  However, it was also used for corporal punishment.  A brank is on
display in Walton on Thames, England.

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9. Brazen Bull

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Ancient Greece has been credited with developing numerous forms of elaborate torture
and execution.  This includes the Brazen Bull, which was developed by Perillos of
Athens, a brass-founder, who proposed the idea to Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily.
The Brazen Bull was a structure made entirely of brass.  It was hollow with a door on
the side.  The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the
metal until it became yellow hot causing the person inside to roast to death.  It was
created strictly for the purpose of executing criminals of the state.  Phalaris commanded
that the bull be designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense.
The head of the ox was designed with a complex system of tubes and stops so that the
prisoner's screams were converted into sounds like the bellowing of a bull.
  
 

The Romans were recorded as having used this torture device to kill some Christian
martyrs, notably Saint Eustace.  The Brazen Bull was in use for many centuries.
Christian martyr, Saint Pelagia of Tarsus, is said to have been burned in one in 287 by
the Emperor Diocletian.  Ironically Phalaris himself was killed in the brazen bull when
he was overthrown by Telemachus, the ancestor of Theron.   

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8. The Boot

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The boot was an instrument of torture designed to crush the foot and leg.  The boot has
taken many forms in various places and times.  Common varieties include the Spanish
boot
, the Malay boot, and the Instep borer.  The device consisted of pieces of narrow
wooden board or iron nailed together.  It was then measured to tightly fit the victim's
leg.  Once the leg was enclosed, wedges would be hammered between the boards,
creating pressure, and crushing bones.  The pressure would be increased until the victim
confessed or lost consciousness.  The boot was widely used in the Middle Ages and was
an effective form of torture.  The Spanish boot was an iron casing for the leg or foot
that used wood or iron wedges.  A similar implement, the Malay boot, consisted of a
pair of horizontal iron plates tightened around the foot by means of a crank mechanism
to lacerate the flesh and crush the bones of the foot. 

The instep borer was a medieval German instrument of torture that resembled an iron
boot.  It was hinged to permit the removal of the bare foot.  A crank with a long, thick,
serrated and grooved iron blade was used.  As the crank slowly advanced the blade went
into the boot, punching a hole through the center of the instep.

7. Stocks

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Stocks are devices used for torture, public humiliation, and corporal punishment.  The
stocks immobilize part of the victim’s body and expose them in a public place.  The
offender's hands and head, or sometimes their ankles are placed and locked through two
or three holes in the center of a board.  Stocks are similar to the pillory and the pranger,
as each consists of large, hinged, wooden boards.  The difference is that with stocks,
boards are placed around the legs or the wrists, whereas in the pillory they are placed
around the arms and neck.   The stocks were popular with authorities in medieval times
because they were greatly feared by the people.  They were also used as punishment for
military deserters.  The local people would often take to insulting, kicking, spitting and
in some cases urinating and defecating on individuals in the stocks. 

Since stocks served as an outdoor or public form of punishment its victims were
subjected to the daily heat, rain, or cold.  As a consequence it was not uncommon for
people kept in stocks over several days to die from heat exhaustion, malnutrition, or
frost bite.  An excellent example of stocks can be seen in Dromore, County Down, in
Northern Ireland. 

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6. Waterboarding

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Waterboarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on their back
with their head inclined downwards, and then slowing pouring gallons of water over
their face and into their breathing passages.  The forced suffocation and inhalation of
water gives the subject the sensation that they are drowning.  Waterboarding creates an
almost immediate gag reflex.  It can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, and damage to
lungs.  It can also create brain damage from oxygen deprivation, and other physical
injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints.  Adverse physical
consequences can start manifesting months after the event.  In 2007, it was reported that
the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was using waterboarding on extrajudicial
prisoners
.  In January 2009, United States President Barack Obama banned the use of
waterboarding.
  
 

Another famous form of water torture is a method in which water is slowly dripped onto
a person's forehead over time, allegedly driving the victim insane
.  This form of water
torture was first described by Hippolytus de Marsiliis in Italy in the 16th century.  It has
been given the name Chinese water torture, although there is no evidence that it was
ever used by the Chinese.

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5. Judas Cradle

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The Judas cradle or Judas chair was a torture device used during the Spanish Inquisition.
It is a pyramid-shaped seat that comes to a sharp point.  The victim was placed on top of
it, with the point inserted into their anus, vagina or scrotum, then very slowly lowered
by ropes.  Some theories suggest that the intended effect was to stretch the orifice over a
long period of time, or to slowly impale, although death would often come from
malnutrition.  The victim was usually naked and would be left in the position for days.
Stretching of the anus or vagina resulted in rips and tears causing pain, death, and mass
infection. 

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4. Pitchcapping

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Pitchcapping refers to a form of torture devised by British forces in 18th century Ireland
which was widely used against suspected rebels during the period of the 1798 Rebellion
and during the Irish war of Independence.  The process involved pouring hot pitch, or tar
into a paper cap, which was then forced onto the victims head and allowed to cool.  The
pitchcap was then torn off, taking lumps of skin and flesh with it, which usually left the
victim disfigured for life.  Another variation involved adding turpentine or gunpowder
to the pitchcap and then setting it on fire. 

3. Iron Maiden

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The Iron Maiden was a torture device, consisting of an iron cabinet, with a hinged front,
which was tall enough to enclose a human being.  It usually had a small closeable
opening door that the torturer could use to interrogate the victim and kill the person by
piercing their body with sharp objects, while they are forced to remain standing and
enclosed in the cabinet.  Iron Maidens were often cased with spikes.  The device is
associated with the Middle Ages, but in fact it was not invented until the late 18th
century.  No account of the iron maiden can be found earlier than 1793.  The most
famous device was the iron maiden of Nuremberg, first displayed possibly as far back as
1802.  It was lost in the Allied bombing of Nuremberg in 1944.

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2. Scaphism

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Scaphism, also known as the boats, was an ancient Persian method of execution designed
to inflict torturous death.  The naked victim was firmly fastened in a back-to-back pair
of narrow rowing boats or a hollowed-out tree trunk, with their head, hands, and feet
protruding.  The condemned was forced to ingest milk and honey to the point of
developing severe diarrhea, and more honey would be rubbed on their body in order to
attract insects to the exposed appendages.  They would then be left to float on a stagnant
pond or be exposed to the sun.  The defenseless individual's feces accumulated within
the container, attracting more insects, which would eat and breed within his or her
exposed and increasingly gangrenous flesh. 

The feeding would be repeated each day in some cases to prolong the torture, so that
dehydration or starvation did not provide the victim with the release of death.  Death,
when it eventually occurred, was most often due to a combination of dehydration,
starvation and septic shock.  Delirium would typically set in after a few days. 

1. The Rack

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The rack is a torture device that consists of a rectangular, usually wooden frame, slightly
raised from the ground, with a roller at one or both ends.  One end of the device has a
fixed bar to which the legs were fastened, and at the other a movable bar to which the
hands were tied.  The victim's feet were fastened to one roller, and the wrists are chained
to the other.  A handle and ratchet attached to the top roller was used to gradually
increase the tension of the chains, basically pulling the person’s body apart.  By means
of pulleys and levers the rollers could be rotated on its own axis, thus straining the ropes
until the sufferer's joints were dislocated and eventually separated.
   
 

Additionally, once muscle fibers have been stretched past a certain point they lose their
ability to contract, so if you survived the ordeal you were normally permanently
disabled.  One of the gruesome aspects of the rack was the loud popping noises made by
snapping cartilage, ligaments, or bones.  Eventually, if the application of the rack is
continued, the victim's limbs were completely separated from their body.

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The Five Techniques

The "five techniques” refers to a certain interrogation practice adopted by the Northern
Ireland and British governments during Operation Demetrius in the early 1970s. These
methods were adopted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.  The techniques were wall
standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and
drink
.  In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the practices were
inhuman and degrading treatment and in breach of the European Convention on Human
Rights.  Sleep deprivation can be used as a means of interrogation and torture.  Under
one interrogation technique, a subject might be kept awake for several days and when
finally allowed to fall asleep, suddenly awakened and questioned.  When an individual
experiences sleep deprivation a haze begins to form, their spirit is wearied, their legs
become unsteady, and the person has the sole desire to sleep.  Many world leaders have
argued that sleep deprivation does not constitute torture. 

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Keelhauling

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Keelhauling was a severe form of corporal punishment given to sailors at sea.  The sailor
was tied to a rope that looped beneath the vessel, thrown overboard on one side of the
ship, and dragged under the ship's keel to the other side.  As the hull was often covered
in barnacles and other marine growth, this could result in cuts and other injuries.  If
pulled slowly, the victim’s weight might lower him sufficiently to miss the barnacles,
but might result in drowning.  Keelhauling was legally permitted as a punishment in the
Dutch Navy.  The earliest official mention of keelhauling is a Dutch ordinance of 1560,
and the practice was not formally abolished until 1853.

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Hans - July 6, 2010

Interesting and fun.

Storm - July 23, 2010

Walling in or immurement (I think is what the technical name is) where they force
someone into the wall starving them to death... And stoning or pressing...Pouring
molten lead or gold into the mouth.  Also the dunking chair!

Amber Coleman - December 2, 2010

That is so cruel.  I would never do anything like that for punishment.

Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted October 23, 2009