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Top 10 History’s Worst Torture Methods


Humans have been messed up since the beginning of time, the best proof being brutal torture practices cued from history. Torture is defined as the forceful inclination of pain onto someone, physically and/or mentally. While we throw this word around casually today, e.g: “You’re torturing me by ignoring me”, torture meant a whole other deal back then. Modern punishments seem very timid in comparison to the punishments (read: torture) from ancient times. Thankfully modern laws all around the world have almost completely stopped these practices from being continued. The point of torture was never to kill people but to make them suffer to the point where they’d rather choose to die than to escape or live!

As far the human mind goes, there are endless possibilities to carry out innovative torture methods. This list tracks down the Top 10 History’s Worst Torture Methods.

10. Iron Maiden

Torture by Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden was an infamous device of torture that originated in Europe during the 14th century. It was designed to encapsulate a person within a claustrophobic and painful cabinet. Sharp spikes cover the interiors of the cabinet that would penetrate the flesh of the prisoner.  Once someone had been put inside the Iron maiden, it was locked till they were eventually dead. If the prisoners didn’t die immediately due to the spikes, they would consequently die out of suffocation or bleeding.

9. Chair Torture

Chair Torture

“Chair Torture” collectively tolls for all the devices of torture with a chair as the main instrument. This includes the Electric Chair, the Iron Chair, the Chinese Chair of Torture along with numerous other variants. The Electric Chair is the most modern variant of this type of torture; a prisoner would be made to sit on a chair with their arms and legs bound by belts. They would then be electrocuted to death. Other variants mainly feature sharp metal spikes on which a person was made to sit. The spikes were designed specifically in such a way that they would cause extreme pain to the ones sitting without killing them quickly. Many variants feature poisoned spikes which would make the pain all the more agonizing.

8. Crucifixion

Torture by Crucifixion

The image of Jesus Christ nailed on a crucifix is arguably the most popular symbol on Earth and rightfully so. Crucifixion is one of the slowest and most painful torture methods. For this reason the symbol of Christ’s crucifix is a reminder of his sacrifice. This form of punishment can be traced to Ancient Rome and further back. It was adopted by Jewish emperors to punish their prisoners and enemies. Crucifixion involved nailing the hands and feet of the victims to a cross shaped beam where they were left to suffer for days. Death would occur eventually but only after a period of several days of continuous pain. Crucifixes were used as popular warning signs to ward off enemies and criminals.

7. Impalement

Impalement Torture

Impalement is yet another well known method of torture. Reportedly originating around 18th century B.C, it was made popular by the Romanian emperor Vlad III Dracula. Dracula had the reputation of not only impaling people who disrespected & opposed him but also people he personally disliked. Impalement is another slow and painful technique. Victims would be made to sit on a sharp pole which would then be raised, causing the victims to get slowly impaled by the pole. This would eventually result to death but after a long time of having been slowly penetrated to a height. This was the ideal method of impalement although faster methods were also carried out where the victims would be impaled through the body within a few minutes. Impaled bodies were also used as warning signs for enemies and criminals.

6. The Spanish Donkey

Spanish Donkey Torture

The Spanish Donkey refers to a sharp triangular bench on which a victim would be made to saddle. They would usually have a very low surface area which would make it all the more painful to sit on. The bench would be high enough to prevent their feet from touching the ground. The victims would then be bound by ropes and have heavy weights hanging from their ankles. This type of torture would result in the slow, excruciating pain of the victim who would eventually get slit by their weight along with those of the weights that were made to hang from their ankles.

5. Rat Torture

Rat Torture

Rat Torture may sound like a more timid torture method compared to the others on the list…but it isn’t! Being chewed to death by rats, very slowly, is one of the most unimaginably painful ways to die. Rat Torture would usually have a victim tied down parallel to the floor and have them bound to the point that it’d be impossible for them to move. Then a glass enclosure or a cage full of hungry rats would be placed over their chest or stomach area. Soon enough the starving rats would go by their instinct and chew through the flesh of the victim causing pain and eventual death. Sometimes the bodies of the victims were slit beforehand for the rats to chew on.

4. The Rack

Rack Torture

The Rack was a torture device which consisted of a large floor rack with raised frames around its perimeter. Attached to these frames were two rollers on two sides of the rack. These rollers were used to tie the victims with ropes and stretch their limbs slowly. Originating from Ancient Greece, this device was used to torture criminals, slaves and sinners. The victims’ limbs would be pulled to the point where they’d detach from the body. The worst part of this form of punishment was the fact that many would survive the painful ordeal after which they’d be thrown away to die out of blood loss or other causes.

3. Boiling

Torture by Boiling

People have been tortured by being put into giant pots of boiling water or oil since ancient history. This form of torture has no traced origins as it may have existed since the invention of cauldrons! Death by boiling was made slower by putting the victims in a pot full of cold water which would then be brought to boiling point. This form of torture by heat would cause severe boils and burns all over the victim’s body hours before they’d die.

2. Saw Torture

Saw Torture

Saw Torture was one of the most brutal forms of capital punishment in history. Its origin has been a topic of debate as it was practiced in Ancient Rome, Greece, Persia and Egypt. Sawing would usually have the victims tied to an erect beam which would have a gap in the middle for the movement of the saw. Some versions feature the victims tied upside down with ropes. This method was carried out very delicately. The victims were slowly sawed from their heads to the guts in such a manner that it would inflict the most pain without killing them soon.

1. The Brazen Bull

Bull Torture

The Brazen Bull is arguably the most innovative and brutal torture instrument in the history of mankind. Originating from Ancient Greece, this device of punishment features a hallow bronze bull that would almost always be made into the realistic size of an adult bull. The Brazen Bull would have one door that would be locked till the victim was dead. This method of torture had the victims locked in the bronze bull under which a fire would be lit. The fire would then heat the metal to cause fatal burns, boils, suffocation, asphyxia, carbon poisoning and a lot more to the victims who would scream to death. What made this device even more brutal was the fact that an acoustic tube was fitted around the mouth of the bull which would turn the screams of the victims into the sounds of a bull.

Horrific and gut wrenching to say the least, these were History’s 10 Worst Torture Methods ever. From being boiled alive to have limbs pulled out of the body, torturous forms of punishment will forever be a reminder of how terrible humans have been since the point of our existence.