10 Most Nefarious Torture Devices


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Torturers are generally an uncreative bunch. Because while the intentional infliction of physical suffering is a long-standing human tradition, the more basic methods tend to stand the test of time. Twist this, stab that and threaten to cut this or that off. Your local hardware store sells all the rudimentary tools.

Yet some torture implements stand apart from the rest, not for their savagery (though most of them certainly are) but for the nefarious way they capture our fearful imagination.

As with methods of execution, torture techniques often served as potent symbols for public consumption in the pre-modern era. It wasn't enough to simply punish; they had to impart a message to the crowded onlookers, thus the macabre theatrics. Make no mistake: human sacrifice and public execution are more alike than you think.

So let's turn our minds darkly to the world of medieval and classical torture devices. Why do they move us so? Why were they so creatively crafted? And which ones were actually used?

Turn back now if you're squeamish.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.