Death by milk and honey, sounds almost pleasant. This is a similar method to the tub. The victim is force-fed honey and milk before being encased in wood so that only their arms, legs and head are visible. The milk and honey caused an explosive bowel movement, which is trapped inside the wood with the victim. The faeces would cause horrific infections to the skin, attracting flies. They would then lay their eggs on the victim and their maggots would feast on the still living victim. Essentially, the victim decomposes alive. For some victims, they’d be kept alive longer by forced feeding until infection killed them. For others, they’d be released from the wood and left to lay out in direct sunlight until they died.
Nero, the ruler of Rome, hated Christians so much that he turned them into candles. The victim would be tied or nailed to a stake then smeared with a flammable substance (tree or plant resin) then set on fire. The victim would slowly burn alive from the feet up. Nero was known to line up numerous victims in his garden and use them as light decorations for his parties. I bet you won’t look at the Roman Candle firework quite the same way again.
A particularly gruesome form of execution which sees the victim hung by their ankles with their legs spread. A double-handled saw operated by two executioners would then proceed to saw the person in half, starting at the groin. Because the victim is hung upside down, all the blood would rush to the head, keeping them conscious and alive until the saw began to cut into the abdomen and major organs.
The Judas Cradle
A stool with a metal or wooden triangle on top, the Judas cradle was created for one horrible purpose. The victim would be stripped, bound with ropes, and suspended above the device. They would then be lowered, usually very slowly, on to the device, making the pyramid enter the vagina, anus or scrotum. The amount of pain the device inflicted could be changed in several ways. The victim could be rocked, they could be dropped repeatedly onto the device, one leg could be lifted, olive oil could be spread on the pyramid, or brass weights could be hung from the victim's legs to slowly impale them. Sometimes to prolong torture the victim would be suspended above the device over night, and torture would continue the next morning. The device was rarely, if ever, cleaned. If victims did not die from the device, they almost always died from infection. Torture with the Judas Cradle could last several hours to several days. Apart from the agonising pain one suffered, the humiliation was the primary attraction for this method of torture. Whenever the victim fainted from the pain, the torturer would lift the victim until the tortured person was "awake" again to commence with the process.
Spanish Donkey/Wooden Horse
The naked victim is forced to straddle the Spanish donkey as if riding a real donkey. Weights would then be added to the victim’s feet. This caused unimaginable agony and some reports detail the victim being sliced all the way up due to the amount of weight added.
In this unusual and somewhat creative form of torture, the victim was either tied to the ground on top of bamboo, or suspended above growing bamboo which had been cut sharp at the end to make a spear. The victim then suffered a slow agonising death as the bamboo, which can grow up to 3ft a day, grew through their body. The TV show, Mythbusters, once covered this topic and proved it was an effective torture method.
According to legends the Brazen Bull was designed in the form and size of an actual bull and had an acoustic apparatus that converted screams into the sound of a bull. The condemned were locked inside the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside was roasted to death. Some modern scholars question if the Brazen Bull ever really existed, attributing reports of the fearsome invention to early propaganda. According to legend, when the bull was reopened after a body was charred, the victim's scorched bones then "shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.
The victim would be tied down to the ground, a rat placed on their abdomen and a bucket or small cage placed over the rat. A fire would then be lit on the top, forcing the panicked rodent to dig their way to safety through the victim’s abdomen.
The Chair of Torture
Used until the late 1800s in Europe, the torture chair ensured a slow and painful death. Spikes cover the whole seating area, including the leg-rests and arm-rests. Some versions of the torture chair even had a hole in the chair’s seat area where the torturer could place burning coals to further the victim’s agony. The time of death ranged from a few hours to some days, or even longer. The spikes weren’t long enough to penetrate organs and the wound was closed by the spike itself, which delayed death by blood loss. It was common to force other prisoners to watch a victim being tortured on the chair to extract a confession.
Perhaps one of the better-known torture devices. The Rack was a large rectangular wooden frame with a roller at both ends. The victim’s wrists and ankles would be tied to the rollers and every turn would increase the tension. The victims suffered excruciating pain as their joints dislocated and their muscles tore. Sometimes, if the torture went on long enough, the victim’s upper limbs would be ripped right off the body. Often, prisoners were forced to watch others being tortured on the rack to extract a confession, the threat being they’d be next if they didn’t confess.
A rectangular metal grid used to torture people with fire. The victim is tied down on the gridiron and a fire is lit underneath them. The victim is slowly grilled alive.
An especially gut-wrenching form of torture. If the victim was to be tortured but not killed, only a small portion of skin was removed, usually from a limb. If the victim was sentenced to die from this method then most of their skin was removed. This method was also used for psychological torture by Assyrians, who would capture the children of their enemies and force their parents to watch as they were skinned alive.
This is a form of hanging, but not by the neck. The victim’s hands would be tied behind their back and another rope attached to their wrists. They would then be hoisted up in the air and suspended there. The weight of the body and the unnatural angle of the arms would result in muscle tear age and tremendous pain. To further the victim’s agony, the rope would be loosened and the victim allowed to fall drop a short way before being jolted to a stop. Sometimes, weights would be added to the victim’s feet.
A form of torture and execution allegedly used during the Spanish Inquisition. The victim would be strapped down to a wooden bench with a crescent-shaped blade suspended about them on a rod. The blade would swing side to side like a pendulum whilst being lowered. As it got closer and closer to the victim’s abdomen, they were encouraged to confess. If they refused they’d eventually be sawed in half by the blade.
Hanged, Drawn, Quartered
Used in England as a punishment for high treason, the victim would be fastened to a wooden hurdle and ‘drawn’ by horse to the place of execution, ‘hanged’ almost to the point of death, then emasculated, dismembered, beheaded, and ‘quartered’ (chopped into four pieces.)
This method of torture leaves the victim blind. One method was to hold a red-hot plate before the victim’s eyes until their eyes melted in their skull. Another method involved placing cups with decayed bottoms over the victim’s eyes as they were strapped to a table. The cups would contain a corrosive agent, usually slaked lime. The corrosive agent from the cups would slowly eat and dissolve the victim’s eyeballs.
Vertical impalement must be one of the worst methods of execution. A wooden stick is inserted into the anus if male, vagina if female. Then, the stick is lifted vertically with the unfortunate victim impaled on the top. They are then left to die slowly as gravity pulls the victim down further onto the pole. There are reports of people taking up to three days to die this way. A favoured method of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), he was known to order mass impalings and enjoy a meal as he watched the victims suffer.
The Breaking Wheel
An execution on the breaking wheel could be carried out for days. Reserved for the most hated criminals, no-one placed on the breaking wheel survived. The victim would be tied to the wheel and the torturer/executioner would begin to beat their limbs with an iron hammer, breaking their bones. Once all the bones were broken, the victim was left to die, often being eaten alive by birds. Peter Stubbe, the first documented case of lycanthropy (being a werewolf) was put to death on the breaking wheel in 1591.
This is exactly what it sounds like. The victim would either be thrown into a cauldron of boiling water, or into a cauldron of cool water which was then slowly heated to boiling point. Sometimes, to prolong suffering, the water would be heated to a high temperature, then allowed to cool, forcing the victim to be boiled alive repeatedly.
This means the forcible removal of nails from the fingers and/or toes. Nails were either torn off or a wedge of wood was hammered between the nail and the nail bed until the nail was almost completely lifted. The nail would then be yanked off. This method of torture is still used in some countries today.