back to top

We’ve updated our privacy notice and cookie policy. Learn more about cookies, including how to disable them, and find out how we collect your personal data and what we use it for.

16 Of The Most Fucked-Up Torture Methods From History

Warning: This post is NOT for the squeamish! You've been warned.

Posted on

1. The Heretic's Fork

Public Domain / Via

The Heretic's Fork was a special torture device reserved for those who spoke out against the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. With two spiked ends, the device was attached to the victim's neck and only removed after the wearer had spoken words, "I recant."

3. Rat Torture


Also known as that scene from Game of Thrones, rat torture was popular in both medieval Germany and ancient China. In this method, a pot of hungry rats would be placed against to the belly of the victim. As the pot was slowly heated, the distressed rats would gnaw though anything in their way. Who would blame them!


4. The Brazen Bull

Public Domain / Via

Legend has it that during the 6th century BC, a brass worker named Perilous of Athens designed what is arguably the most sadistic torture method to date — the Brazen Bull. In this device, the victim would be placed inside a hollowed brass bull with a fire lit underneath. A system of tubes inside the statue would then amplify the victim's screams to sound like a raging bull. The story goes that the tyrant ruler Phalaris was so appalled by this device that he tricked Perilous into entering the bull to be its first victim.

5. Keelhauling

Public Domain / Via

During the 18th century, Keelhauling was a popular form of punishment by pirates and Navy men alike. Victims would be tied to the ship and tossed overboard to be dragged. The jagged barnacles on the hull of the boat would rip the skin from the victims, usually enticing any hungry sharks that might be lurking the waters below.

6. Flaying

Public Domain / Via

Throughout history, many cultures have used some form of flaying (also known as being skinned alive) as corporal punishment. There is even evidence that ancient Assyrians would actually hang the skin of their defeated enemies on their city walls as warning to others.

7. The Iron Maiden

Associated predominantly with the Inquisition, the iron maiden was a coffin-like device that was lined on the inside with spikes. The victim would be placed inside the chamber and the executioner would close the door behind them. While many have expressed doubt that it was ever used, it's easy to imagine the fear that this device would have instilled in prisoners.


9. Lingchi

Public Domain / Via

Otherwise known as "death by a thousand cuts," Lingchi rose to popularity during the 14th century Ming Dynasty. It was reserved for the most severe of crimes and was characterized as the slow and methodological slicing of the body over a long period of time.

10. Scaphism


Scaphism is about as nasty as it gets for this list. In this ancient Persian torture method, the victim is forced to eat a large quantity of milk and honey until diarrhea occurs. They would then be dowsed in more honey, strapped to a rowboat, and set adrift to be consumed by insects. If the bugs didn't get them, then the dehydration, exposure, and shock of drowning in your own filth would.

11. The Boots

Public Domain / Via Flickr: britishlibrary

Historical accounts have described the boots as the, "most severe and cruel punishment in the world." With this method, iron or wooden boots would be placed upon the victims' legs and a solid wedge would be inserted between the legs and walls of the boots. A blow from a sledge hammer would drive the wedge deeper into the boot, bringing an excruciating amount of a pain to the victim.


12. The Scold's Bridle

Universal History Archive / Getty Images

The scold's bridle was used as form of public humiliation and torture for those who were accused of infidelity, prostitution, or witchcraft. An iron mask would be locked upon the victims head, while its spiked mouthpiece would usually prevent the wearer from speaking at all.

13. The Chinese Torture Chair

Rex / Shutterstock

Used to interrogate the ill-fated in 19th century china, this blade laden chair would provide a slow and painful death to anyone strapped to it. Luckily, experts now believe that it was more than likely presented as symbol of power rather than a utensil of death.

14. The Rack

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The rack is easily one of the most recognizable torture methods from medieval Europe. The victim would have their ankles and wrists tied to the device while two executioners cranked the rack's gears. Slowly, the machine would pull on the victims limbs in opposite directions until they were eventually dismembered.

15. Chinese Water Torture


In Chinese water torture, the victim is placed under a slow and continuous stream of water droplets over an long period of time. Eventually, the slow and repetitive tapping of water on the victims forehead would be enough to drive them completely insane.

16. The Breaking Wheel

Public Domain / Via

With this medieval device, the victim is tied to a large rotating wheel as the executioner takes swings at them with a gigantic iron hammer. This gruesome display was usually considered entertainment for the townsfolk to gather and watch.