The 13th Floor

10 Highly Disturbing Ancient Torture Techniques

Some people have a very twisted imagination when it comes to torture. It can certainly be said that back in ancient times, we really had a flair for brutality. Here are some of the most horrendous torture techniques from long ago.

The Brazen Bull

The design dates back to ancient Greece and was in use all the way up to the 500 A.D.’s. The Bull is made out of brass and shaped like a bull. It is hollow on the inside with a hatch allowing for the victim to be securely locked inside. A fire is set under the bull and the man inside slowly roasts to death. For a bit of added fun, a horn is fitted into the mouth of The Bull which turns screams into a sound resembling that of a bull’s bellow.

Early versions were less bull shaped and far less automated.

Judas Cradle

The Judas Cradle is probably the most poorly designed chair in the world. Used in France, Italy and Germany, this device consisted of a large metal pyramid. The victim would be harnessed naked above the pyramid through the use of ropes and pulleys.  He is then lowered slowly onto the pyramid. As he descends, the pyramid opens his anus wider, eventually tearing it. Victims died of infection or sepsis a few days later if they weren’t impaled to death.



Even though they were a little on the small side of the torture spectrum, the thumbscrew was a pretty good way to get someone to talk. Extremely popular during medieval times, the thumb screw as a small vice that victims placed their thumbs in. Their torturer would then squeeze the vice down on to their thumbs crushing the bones. Thumbscrews were also used with toes. The screws could be added for a little extra damage.

Tongue Tearer

Used in the case of blasphemy, the tongue tearer was a type of slow scissor. Similar to the thumbscrew, the blades on the tongue tearer clamp tighter on the victim’s tongue until it is eventually cut off.

Spanish Donkey

The Spanish Donkey was specifically designed for women, although on some occasions it was used on men. It is a long triangular piece of wood about the height of a saw horse. The naked victim is straddled across the triangle, weights are gradually added to the arms and legs as the victim is slowly pulled downward. A lot like the Judas Cradle, however the Spanish Donkey rarely killed.

Rat Torture

The rat torture was relatively simple. All it required was a bucket a rat and some heat, all of which are pretty easy to pick up in any medieval dungeon. A device, usually a bucket or cage, is placed against the victim’s skin with the open end touching his belly. Rats are placed in the cage and coaxed, usually with fire to find the nearest exit. Unable to get through the confines of the cage or barrel, they seek out a nice soft fleshy patch they can easily chew through. Once inside, they keep digging their way out. Even though its first use was recorded during Elizabethan times, the rat torture has been known to be used as recently as the 90s. It was also on GAME OF THRONES.

Pear of Anguish

The pear of anguish is like the key-chain version of the Judas Cradle for the torturer on the go. The Pear of Anguish, like the name suggests, is pear-shaped. This small-handheld device is then inserted in the mouth, anus, or vagina, but it was mostly used in the mouth. After the device is inserted, a key is turned causing the base of the device to widen. The torturer had the option to tear flesh, break bone and teeth, or just simply cause extreme pain. The Pear was usually used as an interrogation device and rarely killed anyone.

Head Crusher

A very effective torture device with a very uninspired name, the head crusher was a device that crushed heads. However, it did vary in its design, size, shape, and the addition (or lack) of spikes. The head crusher was a slow means of death. However, it could also be used during questioning. In most cases, confessions were rarely extruded before most of the bones in the victim’s head were crushed. Those who held out longer usually had their eyes pop out right before they died.


Knee splitter

A second cousin to the head crusher, the knee splitter did what its name promises it will do. It very rarely caused death, but it did cripple its victims. After all, it’s hard to walk with crushed bone where your knees used to be.

Catherine Wheel

Also known as the breaking wheel, this was often used in those times when you wanted to kill someone, but wanted to do it slowly and make sure you broke every bone in their body. The Catherine Wheel was a means of public execution where the victim was attached to a giant wooden wheel through several spokes. The victim was then beaten with a club by their torturer, the gaps in the spokes insuring that the victim’s bones broke. The broken body is usually left attached to the wheel until they die a slow death from infection, shock, or blood loss.

For those of you daring enough to watch, here is the Catherine Wheel in action…