4 Medieval Torture Techniques That Will Make You Glad You Live In The Modern Age

By | March 29, 2022

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17th-century thumbscrew, Märkisches Museum Berlin. (Anagoria/Wikimedia Commons)


It's not known exactly when the thumbscrew was first invented, but historians have traced documentation describing the device back to the 1500s and suspect it originated within the Russian army, where it may have been used to discipline unruly soldiers or deserters. Although not a fatal device, the thumbscrew was effective for all its simplicity. The torturer placed the victim's fingers between the metal screws and then turned them, slowly crushing the victims thumbs, often to the point of breaking. It was popular because it created immense pain with relatively little bodily damage.

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A torture rack in Rothschildschloss castle, Austria. (Shansov.net/Wikimedia Commons)

The Rack

Another popular interrogation method involved placing the victim on the rack, a simple platform and ratchet mechanism which attached to the victim's extremities and slowly pulled them apart by the limbs. It was a slow and extremely painful method of torture that dislocated the victim's shoulders, elbows, knees, and even hips if they didn't spill the beans. While strapped to the rack, the victim could also be subjected to other kinds of torture, which could be fatal.