Thursday, October 2, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 2 ~ Terrible Tortures, Part 1

 In this new segment of the Festival of Fear, each Thursday we'll be taking a look at some of the most gruesome, horrifying, downright appalling torture methods that have been used over the centuries.  Because let's face it, we all have a morbid curiosity about the subject. Otherwise, Saw wouldn't have become the wildly successful film series that it was, right?

Originally I was planning just one ten-item list but when I started doing research on it, I found well over 50 different ways to ridicule, hurt, maim, cripple, punish, torture, and execute someone. It's shocking how many various methods there are.  And I didn't even include everything I found.

Nonetheless, enjoy reading about how unbearably cruel people were throughout history.  Gah!

1) IRON MAIDEN - There is some controversy as to whether or not this was used or even existed, but it's obvious how it worked. A man-sized cabinet holds several spikes that are strategically placed to inflict puncture wounds in areas that miss vital organs so it takes longer to die.  Not to mention being entombed in a sarcophagus for hours or days on end, suffering.  Perhaps the worst of it:  two spikes placed right where the eyes would be....not that they could see anything anyway. (In the 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow, Icabod's mother was encased in an Iron Maiden.)

2) THE RACK - In what is perhaps the most painful form of torture, the rack dates well before Medieval times, but it is from that time period that it is most well known.  Generally it was used to coax a confession out of the accused, but it resulted in quick crippling.  It was a long wooden frame, slightly raised off the ground, with rollers and ropes.  Victims are fastened to these rollers and the torturer would turn the handles to pull the victim's limbs out of joint.  I don't imagine it was a very pleasant experience, and even a observer would be repulsed, hearing the joints crack and pop out of place.  And other prisoners were surely convinced to do their captors' bidding by having to watch this kind of torture take place, lest they be next.

3) PEAR OF ANGUISH (a.k.a. CHOKE PEAR - This interesting looking device was used in various ways depending on the crime you have committed, but it produces the same effect.  The instrument was forced into an orifice and then a screw at the top would be turned, opening the four leaves outward, effectively mutilating the area and causing excruciating pain.  Generally, it was inserted into the mouth for liars or blasphemers, the anus for homosexuals, and the vagina for promiscuous women or one found to have been guilty of a sexual sin. Often it was the first line of torture, as it rarely induced death.

4) CRUCIFIXION - While everyone associates Crucifixion with the death of Jesus Christ, this form of capital punishment has been used since ancient times. It involved simply nailing the victim to a cross or tree and leaving them to perish.  It could take days to eventually die.  Oft times they were beaten and tortured further while on the cross, and many victims would have had to carry their own cross to the execution site, as is depicted in the story of Christ.  Once dead, they were left to rot, as a warning to other criminals.

5) THUMB SCREWS - This self-explanatory device consisted of a simple vise, designed to crush fingers until the victim told the torturer what they wanted to hear. It could also be applied to toes as well as fingers, and sometimes even had sharp points to elicit even more pain. Obviously it wasn't something that cause death, but it surely had perpetrators talking to evade such agony.  Sometimes the simplest means can produce results.

6) THE BREAKING WHEEL (a.k.a. THE CATHERINE WHEEL) - Designed for the worst of the worst criminals, the wheel always killed its victims, but did so in a painstakingly slow amount of time.  Victims were tied down to the wheel with each limb attached to a spoke.  They were then beaten and left to die, sometimes placed on poles so the birds could peck at them while they still breathed. Another method that could take days, as the broken and battered victims would eventually die of dehydration, but not before they were subjected to some of the worst pain one could ever endure.

7) WATER TORTURE - While the Chinese get some perhaps undue credit for water torture, it actually dates back to the Middle Ages.  Many forms of torture using water were used, including dunking (which is exactly like it sounds, dunking the victim in water and leaving them until they confessed or died), water drop (dropping water onto the forehead one slow drop at a time until the victim went mad or the area perforated), freezing (in which the victim was continually soaked down and forced outside in the cold until they froze to death), and my personal favorite - the water cure, in which the victim was forced to drink large quantities of water to avoid drowning, resulting in their stomach bursting.  This particular method was supposedly used as late as the 1940's.

8) FLAYING - A pretty straightforward way of executing someone, flaying for torture involves removing the skin of a human while they are still alive. Death, if not from the act itself, arrives via blood loss, infection, and/or shock.  Many horror movies have employed this horrific method, the most terrifying probably being 2008's Martyrs.  Other films would include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Flaying, and Skinned Alive, to name a few.

9) THE BOOT- There are unfortunately, several ways to maim and cripple someone by way of the foot.  In Medieval times, the boot was a boot that encased both legs, with wood or iron hammered down between the feet. The victim would eventually pass out from the pain as the torturer continued to increase pressure. Sometimes these boots would be lined with spikes (ahh!).  Another popular boot torture involved two iron plates that the foot would be placed between, causing mind-numbing pain as the plates were screwed together. These types of tortures were not just reserved for the Middle Ages, they continued nearly into modern times.

10) PENDULUM - This device hearkens back to the days of the Spanish inquisition, but folks in horror circles remember it well from the Edgar Allan Poe story: The Pit and the Pendulum, as well as the Vincent Price movie of the same name.  Generally used to extract a confession from someone accused of a crime, the victim would be laid out flat on a table under a crescent-shaped blade that would be lowered in increments until it started to slice the abdomen.  If no confession came, the victim would be sliced in two.

11) DEATH BY 1000 CUTS (a.k.a. SLOW SLICING) - The Chinese are known for this particularly gory method of execution.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine how this is done:  A sharp knife is used to removed pieces of the body methodically until the victim succumbs to death. Reserved for the most heinous of crimes, slow slicing wasn't outlawed in China until 1905.  The Chinese had strong beliefs that this form of capital punishment would leave the perpetrator unable to have a spiritual life after death, as they would not be "whole". Probably the worst thought involving this type of death is that the victim would be alive as they were cut and tortured, and maybe even as they are dismembered.

I'll be back next Thursday with eleven more dastardly tortures.  Stay tuned....


the sayer of the truth said...

Christine, theres no question that 50 years from now when people look back in time they will be just as appalled by all the sexual repression that still plagues our society (but for them will be a thing of the past thankfully) as we are by these odious methods of torture when WE look back.

Christine Hadden said...

JBH: Sometimes you just need to STFU