15 Torture Devices That Forced Confessions Out Of People, Even If They Were Innocent

In the modern era, our leaders debate the use of torture in increasingly complicated conflicts all over the world, but hundreds of years ago, there was no discussion at all — torture was the way to go, and it was brutal.

As much as we humans claim to strive for peace, it turns out that we are insanely good at crating torture devices. Here are some of the worst.

1. Brazen Bull

Phalaris, the tyrant of Akragas, Sicily, had this imaginatively brutal torture device made according to his design. Criminals were placed inside the bull made entirely of bronze, and a fire was lit underneath it, effectively cooking them on a scorching metal surface. He even had it tricked out with a mechanism that turned victims’ screams into bull sounds.

2. Scold’s Bridle

This terrifying mask was forcibly screwed onto the faces of women who were seen as witches. If you look closely, you can see that the mouth has tiny spikes on the inside.

3. Breaking Wheel

The classic breaking wheel form of torture involved strapping a victim to the wheel and beating them until the spokes caused their bones to break, but sometimes, they literally just beat up perpetrators with the wheel itself!

4. Heretic’s Fork

One end of this fork was placed under the chin, the other under the breastbone, and a strap held it in place. Lowering one’s head could lead to serious injury. This device was commonly used against those who said the Lord’s name in vain.

5. Thumbscrew

This one was pretty simple, but super effective. The victim’s thumb was placed in the vice, and as the torturer slowly tightened it, the the digit twisted until it broke.

6. The Boot

Victims’ legs were placed inside of this boot, and an apparatus closed down on their legs until the bones broke. These boots were sometimes fitted with metal spikes.

7. Breast Ripper

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The forks were attached to one breast at a time and then they were ripped off. This method was popular in 16th-century Bavaria, and it was used on women who were accused of adultery or abortion.

8. Iron Maiden

Although some of Iron Maiden’s later albums are fairly torturous, the term was first used to describe a spike-filled metal box that crushed and impaled victims.

9. Pau de Arara

Believed to have been created by Portuguese slave traders, this technique aimed to cause severe joint pain. As you can imagine, hanging from a bar like the guy pictured above wasn’t exactly comfortable.

10. Wooden Horse

People were forced to straddle triangular pieces of wood that caused understandably terrible groin pain. This was made worse by the weights that were tied to their feet.

11. Pillory

Similar to what we know as “stocks,” pillories were used to bind prisoners for the purpose of public embarrassment.

12. The Tub

The tub didn’t actually do much, but the victim was placed inside, and the vessel was filled with milk and honey. Flies took care of the rest.

13. Judas Cradle

See that pyramid? That’s where they put victims’ butts. They tied belts around their waists and slowly lowered them down onto these devices.

14. The Rack

On one end, the victim’s ankles were tied down, and on the other, their wrists. The torturer then moved a crank, slowly separating the boards. The victims’ joints slowly dislocated themselves one by one.

15. Dunking Stool

Using a simple seesaw device and a chair or stool, witches were dunked into bodies of water. Before they passed out, they were thrown onto the ground, at which point they were expected to confess.

As you can see, “humane” was not a word that people threw around a lot in the past. Hopefully we’ve learned from our mistakes, but just know that anyone is capable of inventing the next Judas Cradle.