The 13th Floor

Morbid History: 8 Real Torture Tactics Used to Tell if You Were a Witch

The witch trials of that took place in the colonies and in Europe were one of the darkest chapters in our human history. By the time they were done, hundreds of people, mostly women, were put to death. And those who didn’t perish would be left with the memory of some of the cruelest torture tactics ever devised. Here are eight tactics witch-finders used to elicit confessions from potential spell-casters.

Sleep Deprivation

One of the oldest and simplest forms of torture, victims would go for days without sleep until they were so delirious they would confess to anything. Although still used to elicit confessions, it has been more recently discovered to be unreliable as people will say almost anything just to get some sleep.


Burning at the Stake

One of the most popular (and least hand-offs techniques) was just burning the supposed witch at the stake. If the fires of hell consumed here, she was clearly a witch. But if she somehow lived through being set on fire, she was innocent.



Contrary to popular belief, torturers were not trying figure out if their victims weighed as much as a duck. When it came to witch dunking, there were several methods employed. There was the more extensive dunking chair which  involved gradually longer immersions in the water until you either confessed or drowned. Then there was the method of having your hands and feet bound and simply tossed in the water. The idea here was that if you were a witch, Satan would ensure that you would float on top of the water and survive. Once it was clear you were a witch you would then be removed from the water and properly hung. If you were not a witch, you would sink to the bottom and drown like a good Christian.


Witch’s Bridle

This device was a metal mask that was affixed to the head which prevented the wearer from speaking. Although mostly a punishment device, it could be used to drive the wearer mad until they were ready to confess.



Victims were laid on slab while weights were gradually added to their chest. As rib bones slowly cracked, a confession would be imminent.  Unless you were particularly badass like accused witch Giles Corey who, according to all historical documentation, repeatedly hollered “More weight!” before being crushed to death.


Pear of Anguish

A real nasty little bastard of a torture device, this metal pear shaped object could be inserted in any orifice. A hand crank on one end would then be turned, expanding the device while inside its victim.


Witch Cutting

Cutting is a simple means of torture, all you need is a knife and a limb. The victim is tied down as the torturer begins cutting a limb slowly until you confess or that limb is removed. The torturer then moves on to the next limb and so on. The final cut starts at the neck.


Heretic’s Fork

The heretic’s fork is a metal device shaped like a fork which is affixed to the face just under the eye. With each blink the metal prongs of the fork stab the victim’s eyelid. Another version of the device has a fork on either end and is strapped to the victim’s neck. One end is positioned under the chin while the other is pointed at the chest. The fork forces the victim to keep their head leaned back at all times. If they don’t then the prongs pierce both the chest and the chin.



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