10 Torture Techniques

By Shelby Hogg and Kennedy Wood

The first step king Ferdinand and queen Isabella took to unite Spain under one religion was to take over the Spanish inquisition from the church. The inquisition became a state run system of courts were church officials put believers of religious idea other than Catholicism on trial. Once the reconquista was complete Muslims and Jews were given a choice-convert or be exiled. some decided to leave Spain, some pretended to convert. Both Muslims and Jews lived in constant fear of being discovered and punished by the inquisition.

The Spanish used torture to get confessions and information out of prisoners! Torture was basically an extreme interrogation!


Known as the “barrel of shame,” the schandmantel was made of wood and worn in public, so that the person was insulted and stoned. It is said that the schandmantel may have inspired the invention of the iron maiden.

Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden is a device so fiendish it was once thought to be fictional. It's an upright sarcophagus with spikes on the inner surfac­es. Double doors open on the front, allowing entrance for the victim. In one example, eight spikes protruded from one door, 13 from the other. Once the victim was inside, the doors were closed. The strategically placed spikes would pierce several vital organs. However, they were relatively short spikes, so the wounds wouldn't be instantly fatal. Instead, the victim would linger and bleed to death over several hours. To add to the horror of it all, two spikes were positioned specifically to penetrate the eyes.

The Breaking Wheel

The wheel was used in the middle ages to the 19th century. The wheel was typically a large wooden wagon wheel, with many radial spokes. In some cases the condemned were tied to the wheel. Their limbs are beaten with a club or a iron cudgel, with the gaps in the wheel allowing the limbs to give way. Alternatively the condemned spreadeagled and broken on a saltire, a cross consisting of two wooden beams nailed in an x shape, after which the victims mangled body might be displayed on the wheel. Sometimes the wheel was used as a cudgel.

The Knee Splitter

The Knee Spliter was a tool favoured by the Spanish Inquisition because of its versatility, was the knee splitter. It was a vice-like instrument with sharp spikes outfitted on both sides of the grip. As the torturer turned the handle, the claws slowly squeezed against each other mutilating and penetrating the skin and bones of the knee. Although its use rarely resulted in death, the effect was to render the knees completely useless. It was also used on other body parts including elbows, arms and even the lower legs.

The number of spikes the knee splitter contained varied from three to more than twenty. Some claws were heated beforehand to maximize pain - others had dozens of small claws that penetrated the flesh slowly and painfully.

The Head Crusher

The head crusher was a popular torture method used by the Spanish Inquisition, among other users. The chin was placed over a bottom bar and the head under an upper cap. The torturer slowly turned the screw, pressing the bar against the cap. The head was then slowly compressed, first shattering the teeth into the jaw, then a slow death with agonizing pain. Some variants of this device included small containers that received the eyeballs as they were squeezed out of the victims’ eye sockets.

This instrument was an effective way to extract confessions, as the period of pain could be prolonged for many hours if the torturer chose to. If the torture was stopped midway, the victim often had irreparable damage done to the brain, jaw or eyes.

Coffin Torture

The victim was placed inside a metal cage roughly made in the shape of the human body. Torturers could force overweight victims into a smaller device, or even make the "coffin" slightly larger than a victim’s body to make him more uncomfortable. The cage was frequently hung from a tree or a gallows.

Serious crimes, such as heresy or blasphemy, were punished by death inside the coffin where the victim was placed under the sun allowing birds or animals to eat his or her flesh. Sometimes onlookers would throw rocks and other objects to further increase the pain.

The Scold's Bridle

The Portable instrument of torture was popular in England and Scotland during the 15 hundreds but was seen as late as the 19th century. The Scold's Bridle (also known as Branks) was a cage that was locked around a woman's head as punishment for nagging and gossiping to often. attached to the iron muzzle was a curb-plate inserted in to a woman's mouth to, literally, subdue her from talking. Most of these metal curb-plates were spiked, averaging in length of about half an inch to an inch. The smaller spikes were a mild discomfort while the longer ones pierced the tongue and caused the victim to bleed continuously.

To make matters worse, some curb-plates had an additional round gag at the end which, when the device was worn, rested in the back of the mouth, irritating the throat. Some of these gags were shaped as animal heads to symbolically refer to her crime (e.g. donkey meant fool).

Wearing the scold’s bridle was far from a private affair. Women were taken through town, led by a leash, for people to see and know of her transgressions so that she may be ridiculed for them. If the verbal assaults weren’t enough, women were stoned and beaten by the townspeople.

The Rack

Who could forget the dreaded rack, commonly believed to be the most painful form of medieval torture? It consisted of a wooden frame usually with two ropes fixed to the bottom and another two tied to a handle in the top. As the torturer turned the handle, the ropes would pull the victim's arms, eventually dislocating bones with a loud crack. If the torturer kept turning the handles (they often went too far) some of the limbs were torn right off the body.

In the later Middle Ages, a new variant of rack appeared. Spikes were added that penetrated the victim's back when he or she were forced to lie on table. As the limbs were pulled apart, so was the spinal cord, increasing not only the physical pain, but the psychological pain of knowing that, even if he or she were to survive, mobility of any kind would be lost forever.

Rat Torture

What could be so terrible about some rats there cute right? Well imagine this your hands and feet are tied down, and your stomach is cover with a metal container with a rat inside. The container is slowly heat and the rat rips through your digestive system to escape.


The basic definition of impaling is to drive a sharp object through the body. The impaling torture is much more graphic. Victims would be pierced with a long, splintered stake through their sides (either stomach or ribcage), anus or vagina. A “perfect” impalement would penetrate the entire body so that the sharp end come out of the mouth.

The cruelest torturers positioned the bodies of the victims in a way so that they wouldn’t die immediately. Multiple stakes were used to suspend the body and keep the weight balanced enough, keeping the person from sliding down. Any movement or struggling, though, forced the stakes further into their bodies, hastening their death.


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