Human history has two sides to it and one of them is not so humane. As more inventions were made during medieval times, humans invented more than just medicines and farming methods. They also invented harsher ways of punishing perceived offenders as well as interrogation techniques. Most of the offences that were punishable by these gut-wrenching tools would not pass as punishable offences today, but these were medieval times and human rights were not at their best. In most cases, the victims of torture died or were maimed forever and that was the exact purpose why these tools were invented.
The Brazen Bull
Phalaris, the tyrant of Athens ordered Perillos to create this bull between 570 and 554 BC. The Brazen metal structure was designed in the size and shape of a mature bull. The victim would be fitted inside the bull’s belly and then a fire was lit below the bull heating it up to temperatures that burned the victim alive.
The bull was also inserted with tubes that ensured that the smoke came out through the nose and the screams of the victim sounded like a bull’s bellows. The first victim of this torture was Perillos himself whom Perillas pushed into the bull and burned halfway before removing him and throwing him off a cliff. It was all funny in the end as Perillas himself was killed in the bull.
The Pear Of Anguish
Adultery, abortion, homosexuality and witchcraft were all crimes that were punished using the pear of anguish. The victims didn’t always die but the pain was unbearable and most of them would be subjected to further torture which could result in death. It was shaped as a pear, but it had metallic leaves that expanded upon the turning of a screw. It was inserted in the orifices or the mouth of the victim depending on the crime.
It was inserted in the mouth for liars, the anus for homosexuals and the vagina for women that induced miscarriages or were perceived to be witches. As the screw was turned, the pain would be excruciating as the tool impaled the victim from inside causing irreparable damage. Some would die from shock or the infections that resulted from it. If one survived, they would be permanently impaired.
The Iron Chair
This should actually have been named the spiked chair rather than the iron chair. It was just a regular looking chair, except it had hundreds or spikes all over. It was mostly used as an interrogation tool for criminals, spies, witches and other criminals that needed coercion. The victim would be forced to sit on the chair then their thighs, back and hands would be fastened onto the spiked chair with straps. As the interrogation continued, the straps would be tightened causing the spikes to dig deeper into the victim’s flesh. If the victim didn’t bleed to death, they risked an infection or permanent impairment.
The Head Crusher
This is one of the most horrifying tools even when you look at them in medieval torture museums. The device was made of a metallic head cap hanging above a metallic plate that was meant to hold the victim’s jaw. A torturer twisted the screws, the cap would crash the victim’s head starting with the lower jaw. The device was also designed to make the eyes pop out as the victim died. Some designs were created to hold multiple victims between them so the one with the biggest head would die first. It was mostly used as a torture device with the victims expected to cooperate before their head was crashed.
The Bucket of Rats
Game of Thrones replicated this torture device in the second season as Gregor Clegane tortured captives asking them about the Brotherhood Without Banners in Harrenhall. The torture involved tying a bucket full of starved rats onto a victim’s stomach so that the stomach completely blocked the rats’ exit. The rats would then be provoked by hitting against the bottom of the bucket or lighting a fire on the bucket. In a frenzy, the rats would chew through the victim’s stomach causing a slow painful death. It was used for interrogation, and the only way to survive was to cooperate before the rats were provoked.
This torture tool was actually used in royal executions in Britain as well. The rack was just a rectangular board fitted with rollers on both ends that could be retracted using a pulley system. The Victim would be fastened onto the rack by the ankles on one end and wrists on the other. The pulleys at the different ends would then be retracted slowly causing pressure on the victim’s joints at the elbows, shoulders, hips and knees. The ligaments and tendons would pop as the retraction continued causing excruciating pain. If it continued unstopped, the victim’s joints would be dislocated. The worst part of this was watching another victim being tortured, which would, in most cases, force victims to cooperate.
The Breast Ripper
The ripper or the iron spider was just a crude torture tool that didn’t have any sophistication. It was used as the punishment for women accused of adultery or abortion. It was just like a pair of tongs, except this one had four claws that would be attached to one of a woman’s breasts. The pain was unimaginable and the damage on the victim permanent. Some unlucky victims would die from excessive bleeding or infection afterwards.
This was one of the most common tortures and execution devices in medieval days but it is mostly associated with France. It was used to execute St. Catherine of Alexandria, which is why Europeans called it Catherine’s wheel. It was mostly used on the worst of criminals, especially murderers, spies and deserters. Torture on the wheel took many different forms that almost certainly ended in death.
The most common one was Cudgeling on the wheel where the victim would be hit with the cudgel as the wheel was rotated with their limbs tied to the spokes. The victim would either die from the blows or would be left to die of bleeding, dehydration or animal attacks. Sometimes, the wheel would be dropped on the victim as many times as the sentence had stated before the victim was tied to it and left for dead.
This was another impaling tool used on religious crimes such as homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery and abortion. It is believed to have been invented in the 16th century Spain, used alongside the Wooden horse in case more victims needed to be tortured. It was a pole fitted with a pyramid-shaped top with a sharp peak meant to enter into a victim’s orifice. The wooden horse was simply a longer version of this pyramid. The victim was placed on top of the pyramid with their hands and legs tied so that they couldn’t shift their weight. In some cases, weights would be attached to the victim to cause more pain and a quicker death. Survivors suffered massive internal injuries and infections.
The Knee Splitter
The knee splitter didn’t just split knees, it could be used to tear through wrists, elbows, ankles or even fingers. Its main purpose was to shatter through the victim’s knee and render it useless. It worked just like the head crusher, except this time, it was two sets of spikes mounted on opposite metal or wooden boards that would lock in as the screws were turned. The number of spikes on the board would vary from six to several dozen depending on the torturer and the nature of the victim’s crimes. It was mostly used during The Inquisition in 16th century Spain.