22 of the Most Barbaric Torture Methods Used Throughout History

People have been coming up with ingeniously terrible ways to torture people throughout history, whether as a form of punishment or as a means to extract information from somebody. Surprisingly enough, the Catholic church was responsible for using a large number of brutal torture techniques during the Inquisitions of the medieval ages.

Just about every culture has used some form of torture as mankind has historically shown a large propensity for inflicting pain and suffering upon each other. The following list will show just how barbaric we can be. The techniques used were often so brutal that death was usually the end result, whether directly or indirectly.

While the techniques are not listed in any special order, below are 20 of the most barbaric torture methods ever used.

22. The Pear

Depending on your gender, the pear was either placed in your vagina or anus in its closed form. Once inside, it was cranked open, blossoming inside of the victim creating intense pain and agony. It was uncomfortable to say the least.

21. Saw Torture

With this method of torture, a victim was hung upside down so that their blood would rush to their heads, causing them to remain conscious during this slow and agonizing torture. The executioner would then saw the victim’s body in half. In most cases, victims were sawed down to their abdomens to prolong their suffering.

20. The Tub

This punishment involved having a victim sit in a large wooden tub with just their head sticking out. The executioner would then paint the face of the convicted with milk and honey to attract flies that would feed upon them. The victim was also fed regularly so that they would end up being in a tub of their own waste. Eventually, maggots and worms would start to devour the body while the victim was still alive.

19. The Brazen Bull

This was also known as the Sicilian Bull and used by the ancient Greeks. Cast from a solid piece of brass, the bull would have a side door that can be opened and locked. The victim was placed inside of the bull while a fire was set underneath until the bull would glow yellow from the heat. This caused an extremely painful death as the victim was slowly roasted inside of the bull. The bull was even designed to amplify the screams of the victims so that they sounded like a bull bellowing.

18. Heretics Fork

This involved the use of a small device with a piece of metal that had two pronged forks on both sides. This metal piece was attached to some sort of strap or belt around the victim’s neck, with one fork pushed under the chin and the other end pushed against the victim’s sternum. The victim was then hung or suspended so that they were unable to fall asleep. If their heads dropped down, the prongs would pierce through their chest and throat.

17. The Judas Cradle

This torture involved having a victim sit on top of a pyramid shaped cradle. The victim was also tied and forced down upon the cradle by ropes with the purpose of stretching the victim’s orifice and slowly impaling them. The victim was usually naked and the device was rarely ever washed. As a result, the victim was sure to die by infection if the torture didn’t kill them first.

16. Impalement

The execution method of choice of Vlad the Impaler in which a victim was sat upon a sharp pole or stick. As the pole was raised upright, the victim would slowly slide down the pole thanks to their own weight. It could take up to 3 days before the victim dies from impalement. It truly is a painful and terrible way to die.

15. Crucifixion

This is one of the most famous methods of execution thanks to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is meant to be a slow and painful death for the condemned as they are nailed or tied to a large wooden cross and left the hang until their death. For most victims, it would take days before the torture ended.

14. Iron Maiden

Consisting of a large iron casket with a hinged door that had a spiked interior, the Iron Maiden was made large enough to hold a human being. The victim would be placed inside while being impaled by a number of metal spikes from all directions.

13. Thumbscrew

Also known as pilliwinks, these devices were designed to slowly crush the fingers and toes of victims. Larger versions of the devices were also created to crush the knees and elbows and sometimes the heads of victims.

12. Coffin Torture

Probably the most preferred method of torture during the Middle Ages was coffin torture. A victim was placed inside of a large metal cage about the size of a human body. They were usually hung from trees or gallows until death, with crows eventually feeding on the remains of the victims.

11. Lead Sprinkler

A device that was often filled with boiling water, oil, tar or molten lead, it was designed to sprinkle its contents over the stomach or other body parts of a victim. Molten lead would be poured over the victim’s body causing severe pain and eventually death.

10. The Rack

This was believed to be the most painful form of torture from the medieval era. Made out of a wooden frame, this device has two ropes attached to the top and bottom handles. The ropes are then tied to the victim’s wrists and ankles and the handles are turned to stretch the victim until their limbs were pulled from their sockets. In most cases, the limbs of the victims were completely torn off their bodies.

9. Rat Torture

This has to be one of the most sadistic techniques on this list. As if being trapped with rats isn’t enough, this brutal torture involved having a cage or bucket placed on top of the victim’s stomach with a rat trapped inside. The cage or bucket would only have one opening and that was facing the victim’s body. With a rodent inside, the cage would be heated causing the rodent to try and escape the cage. With the only opening being against the victim’s stomach, the rat would try to claw its way through the stomach.

8. The Judas Chair

Also known as The Chair of Torture, this was one intimidating and painful device. The chair has up to several thousand spikes layered on its surface with straps to restrain the victim. The spikes were made of iron and often heated up to create even more pain. Those who watched other victims being tortured on the device were usually quick to giving up confessions.

7. Chinese Water Torture

Despite its name, there is no actual evidence that it was the Chinese who developed this method of torture. Whatever the case, it is quite a debilitating method of torture.

The victim is restrained to a table while water was slowly dripped onto their foreheads. The idea was to eventually drive the victim insane. Victims are said to perceive a hollow space being craved into their foreheads by the water dripping.

6. Spanish Donkey

A torture method that was commonly used during the Spanish Inquisition, it is one of the most gruesome methods on this list. The victim is placed naked on top of a v shaped wedge. Weights are then added to the victim’s feet until they are sliced through by the wedge. It is very similar to the Judas Cradle but a lot worse.

5. Breast Ripper

This one was designed specifically for women and one of the most brutal methods used in the Middle Ages. With two claw like prongs, the claws were heated red hot and placed on the victim’s breasts. The spikes would penetrate their breasts and then pulled away, ripping the victim’s breasts apart. Death usually followed due to severe blood loss or infection.

4. Crocodile Shears

This torture instrument was used during the late Medieval times and reserved for men who made an attempt on the king’s life. These metal shears were lined with spikes and heated to a very hot temperature. The shears were then placed on the victim’s erect penis and torn off. A humiliating and painful way to die for sure.

3. Cement Shoes

This method was introduced by the Mafia in order to eliminate spies and traitors. A victim’s feet were covered in cinder blocks and filled with wet cement. Once dried, the victim was thrown into a river or ocean, drowning them alive.

2. Water Torture

Also known as forced ingestion, this one is much worse than it sounds. This method involved shoving a tube down the victim’s throat so that they could ingest large amounts of water within a short period of time.

This may not seem as bad as some of the other methods listed, but taking in too much water will lead to water intoxication and death. Water intoxication causes muscle weakness, nausea, cramping and vomiting. With enough water, your brain cells will start to swell, leading to severe seizures, brain damage and eventually death. Who knew too much water could kill you?

1. The Breaking Wheel

During the Middle Ages, the wheel was the second most common form of execution in Germany. Also known as the Catherine Wheel, this device was meant to kill its victim in a slow and painful manner. The victim’s limbs were tied the a large wooden wheel’s spokes. The wooden wheel was slowly turned while the victim’s limbs were smashed by an iron hammer, causing them to break in various places. With broken bones and mangled limbs, the victim was left on the wheel until they died, often for several days.