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Most Inhuman Ways of Torture from Middle Ages

September 21, 2013 Leave a comment

 

 

torture

There are some days that when I read the newspaper, watch TV and go on the internet I am sickened by how the human race treats one another. I often wonder how bad it could get but each time I read it feels at least to me that we are sliding further and further away from what we should be and closer and closer to perverse cruelty. That’s one aspect of what has made me research different periods of history and inspired an interest in how people lived.

This article is to illustrate how people were treated in the Medieval and early modern period in Europe. Torture, whether it was severe or not, was a commonplace thing of this time period. Below is a history of devices that were used in torture during the period. Keep in mind before reading that even though I tried my best with this subject matter that you may find some of these devices quite shocking. But it is history and as such should be remembered if only to make sure we as a people do not repeat the same mistakes.

The Middle Ages are infamous for having encouraged and implemented the most inhuman ways of torture to punish or make prisoners confess their crime. Have a look at some of the most shocking torture methods from the Middle Ages.

Implant

Implant

Implant

Practised in Romania during the 15th century, this torture method tops the list of the most shocking torture methods of the Middle Ages and when you have a look at its technique, you can realise its position on the list is not unjustified. The victim was made to sit on the top point of a sharp and thick poll. The poll would go through the body of the victim and then the victim was left to slide down the poll because of their weight. The legend has it that Vlad enjoyed inflicting this punishment on others. And he did this to about 20,000 to 30,000 victims.

Judas Cradle

Judas Cradle

Judas Cradle

Judas Cradle must also have been one of the most painful punishments of the Middle Ages as it would involve the stretching of the victim’s orifice and flesh was ripped off. A victim would be chained or bound in such a way that when they were forced to sit directly on the point they could not move or get off of the point. Eventually over the course of hours or sometimes days the muscles would tear eventually the spike seat would pierce the lower organs causing death. The victim’s vagina or anus was placed right on the point of the pyramid-shaped cradle and then was lowered down on it with the help of ropes. To impale the victim successfully, weights were also added to the victim’s legs.

This device was used in mainland Europe, primarily France, Germany and a handful of other countries but was present in England as well. Made to be durable many of these can be found in museums throughout Europe.

Coffin Torture

Coffin Torture

Coffin Torture

Coffin Torture was all about torture in a metal cage and pecked at by the prey birds—another case of slow and painful death. The metal cage was roughly made in human body shape and the victim was placed inside it. The case was then hung from gallows or a tree. Generally, those convicted of blasphemy or heresy were punished this way.

The Rack

The Rack

The Rack

The Rack was a unique device to punish a victim by dislocating each joint of the victim. It was highly dreaded, and rightly so, and it is believed to be the most excruciatingly painful kind of medieval torture. Consisting of a wooden frame, two ropes fixed to its bottom and two tied to its handle made it a gruesome way of torturing the victims. As the torturer would turn the handle, the ropes pulled the victim’s arms and possibly separating limbs from the body. Later, in a new version of the Rack appeared which had spikes to penetrate the victim’s back, adding more pain and damage.

The Breast Ripper

Breast Ripper

Breast Ripper

The claws of the Breast Ripper would rip and mutilate a woman’s breasts. Often the claws were red hot as they were placed on the victim’s exposed breasts. Once the spikes penetrated the breasts, they were pulled to shred the breasts. Mostly the victim would die and even if a victim survived, she would be scarred forever.

The Pear of Anguish

Pear of Anguish

Pear of Anguish

Mostly the victims of this brutal instrument were homosexuals, blasphemous, liars and women who exercised abortions. The torture tool was pear-shaped and it was inserted into the victim’s orifices—anus of homosexuals, mouth of blasphemers and liars and vagina of women.

The Breaking Wheel

Breaking Wheel

Breaking Wheel

The Breaking Wheel can simply shock you at first sight because of its terrible design. It was designed to hurt the victim’s limbs in extremely painful way. Also named as The Catherine Wheel, it was a torture method to make the victim die slowly but surely. The victim was tied to the specially designed spokes of the large wooden wheel and then the wheel was slowly revolved. The torturer would smash the limbs of the victim with a heavy iron hammer. This would result in breaking of the victim’s limbs into many pieces.

Saw Torture

Saw Torture

Saw Torture

A medieval torture method which was executed as the victim’s body was sawed into two halves by first hanging the victim upside down. Mostly, the unfortunate victims of this easily available device were accused of blasphemy, adultery, witchery and also theft.

The Head Crusher

Head Crusher

Head Crusher

The Head Crusher would compress the victim’s skull, squeeze out eyes and shatter teeth. The torture device was more in practice in Spain for Inquisition.

The Knee Splitter

Knee Splitter

Knee Splitter

The Inquisition in Spain saw the use of another torture device because it was versatile and would inflict pain—The Knee Splitter. It had sharp spikes fitted on its both sides of grip. When the handle of the Knee Splitter was turned, the claws would slowly squeeze against each other resulting in the mutilation of the victim’s bones and skin.

Heretic Fork

Heretic Fork

Heretic Fork

The Heretic’s Fork was a medieval torture device that was placed between the breast bone and the underside of the chin. It was strapped to the throat with a strap. The victim was generally bound, chained or otherwise restrained. If the victim fell asleep and his head dropped the fork would pierce his throat or chest.

Scold’s Briddle

Scold's Briddle

Scold’s Briddle

The Stocks

Stocks

Stocks

The stocks were used throughout Medieval period Europe and made it into the new world as well. It was primarily used as a restraining the victim so that other tortures could be applied or just as a public humiliation.

Categories: Incredible Past

Dorothy Counts – A Victim of Racism

Dorothy Counts was one of 4 black students selected to integrate all white schools in Charlotte, North Carolina. On September 4, 1957, Dot as the then 15 year-old was known to her friends and family thought it would just another school. She had no idea of the hostile crowds that awaited her. She was mocked, harassed, bullied and spat upon, in other words terrorized as those students did not want her there. Amazing that Emma Warlick, wife of the White Citizen’s Council President John Z. Warlick walked with the crowd ordering the boys to keep her out and the girls to spit on her. Dot’s parents feared so much for her safety that they pulled her out after just 4 days of attending. Dot’s parents sent her to Philadelphia were the schools were already integrated.

Dot has her head held high. She is not reacting to the terrorism surrounding her. Walking beside her is Dr. Edwin Tompkins, a friend of the family and a professor at the black college Johnson C. Smith University.

Fast forward 50 plus years and you will find Dot Counts-Scoggins has not only forgiven but has also become friends with some of the very men in the background jeering her. Today, they are cheering Dot. Dot was busy running a faith based child care center right there in Charlotte as she returned to pursue a college education. She is frequently asked to speak about her experience and was eventually honored with a diploma from Harding High School where over 50 years ago, Dorothy Counts broke the color barrier and integrated an all white school. In 2010, Harding named a building in Dorothy’s Honor. What a courageous young lady Dot was, and what a brave soul she is today!

Categories: Incredible Past

The Horrors of the Manchurian Plague

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

When plague broke out in Manchuria in 1910 as a result of transmission from marmots to humans, it struck a region struggling with the introduction of Western medicine, as well as with the interactions of three different national powers: Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. This plague killed as many as 60,000 people in less than a year.

Bodies of plague dead held in storage awaiting scientific research

Bodies of plague dead held in storage awaiting scientific research

The makeshift hospital – really just three rooms in a converted temple courtyard – was packed with the infected. Within walls covered in blood and sputum, patients lying side-by-side on wooden platforms coughed and spluttered in the frigid air. If you weren’t sick when you were brought here – a fate that befell some unfortunate patients – you soon would be. At the time, this must have surely been the most horrific situation ever witnessed by the northeast Chinese region of Manchuria.

There was little comfort in these improvised hospitals for the sick – no running water, no gas, and little in the way of medical attention; all that was provided was the food and water needed to sustain the body – for the short duration before it inevitably expired. Of the many men, women and children who were admitted to these wards, virtually none would leave alive.

A suspected plague case is rounded up by workers dressed in protective clothing

A suspected plague case is rounded up by workers dressed in protective clothing

Such scenes were typical at the height of the Manchurian Plague, an epidemic that began in October 1910, and which by spring of the following year had claimed the lives of between 45,000 and 60,000 people. Of those who caught the disease, there were few, if any, survivors.
American doctors Strong and Teague perform an autopsy on a plague victim

American doctors Strong and Teague perform an autopsy on a plague victim

Bodies being taken to a cremation pit in Harbin

Bodies being taken to a cremation pit in Harbin

A medical team in protective clothing examine a man suspected of having the plague

A medical team in protective clothing examine a man suspected of having the plague

Medical workers put a plague victim into a coffin

Medical workers put a plague victim into a coffin

Chinese medical staff disinfect themselves after work

Chinese medical staff disinfect themselves after work

Over 1,400 bodies are burnt at the first large cremation of plague victims

Over 1,400 bodies are burnt at the first large cremation of plague victims

As the body count mounted, there were more corpses than could be disposed of efficiently. Some were left in makeshift coffins lying out in the thick encrusted snow; others were simply dumped into pits and blown up with explosives. During this early stage, cremation – not a practice traditionally accepted in China – was still avoided.

Males inmates at an institution for the homeles

Males inmates at an institution for the homeless

One of the reasons the plague was so devastating in Manchuria was that there was little in the way of infrastructure to deal with an outbreak of this severity and magnitude. There was a serious lack of medical knowledge regarding how to take care of – much less treat – the patients, and the authorities were similarly ignorant about how to safely dispose of the bodies of the dead.

Coffins stacked in Changchun

Coffins stacked in Changchun

A medical team takes blood from a man's ear to test for plague

A medical team takes blood from a man’s ear to test for plague

Dr. Young and Dr. Chai in a vaccine lab

Dr. Young and Dr. Chai in a vaccine lab

However, for Dr. Strong, performing autopsies in Manchuria didn’t simply involve cultural issues. “The examinations were sometimes performed under difficulties owing to the extreme cold,” Strong said. “The water in the buckets would sometimes freeze while the necropsy was being performed, and the blood formed icicles as it flowed upon and over the edges of the table.”

One significant lesson we can perhaps all take from the Manchurian Plague is that it pays to be cautious in our dealings with nature. The indigenous communities who hunted the marmot with care for centuries did not suffer rodent-spread epidemics like the ones that came later. It seems to be another example of the way not treating the environment and wildlife with respect can have serious, far-reaching consequences.

Courtesy: Yohani Kamarudin

Categories: Incredible Past

The torture of Junko Furuta

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

junko_furutaThe afternoon of November 25, 1988, Junko Furuta left Yashio-Minami High School for what turned out to be the last time. She didn’t even make it back to her home in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Instead, the 17-year-old senior ran into a gang of 7 boys around her age. The youths overwhelmed her, and brought her to the house where two of the boy’s family lived in Ayase, Adachi, in north-central Tokyo. They made her call her parents and tell them that she was safe and that she would be staying with friends awhile.

That was the beginning of 44 days of abuse. She didn’t know her assailants. They had no grudge against her and there was nothing specific that they were after. They attacked her because they could, and because they wanted to; and they embarked on weeks of atrocities because they could, and because they wanted to.

At least four of the boys raped her repeatedly.

They beat her regularly.

They dropped weights on her body. They burned her with cigarettes. They stuck lit fireworks in her mouth, ears and anus and watched them explode. They shoved still-hot light bulbs in her vagina. At some point, they tore off one of her nipples with a pair of pliers.

The boys starved her—when they weren’t forcing her to eat cockroaches and drink her own urine. She was so weak near the end that it took her an hour to crawl downstairs to the bathroom.

And yet she’d almost escaped. One time she reached the telephone—but one of the boys intercepted her just in time and ended the call for help.

More than once she encountered the boy’s parents at the house. But they didn’t help her. Their excuse during the trial was that they were afraid of their violent son and his unpredictable criminal associates.

junko_house

House where the torture of Junko Furuta took place

On December 1, 1989, the boys hung Junko from the ceiling and literally used her as a punching bag until her damaged internal organs made blood run from her mouth. The abuse had destroyed her bodily systems; when she tried to drink water, she immediately vomited. Then they taunted her with a candle flame, and finally doused her legs in lighter fluid and set her on fire, as punishment for trying to run away. She survived this round.

A few days later, they beat her with bamboo sticks and golf clubs. They brought the weights back out, this time using them to crush and destroy her hands after they tore off her fingernails.

By January 5, 1989, Junko had begged her captors to just kill her. They gang members had attacked her with a barbell after she lost a game of mah-jongg. Again they beat her torso until she bled from the mouth. She went into convulsions; the boys would later say that they thought she was faking the seizure. They set her on fire again, then put it out.

Junko Furuta finally died a few hours later.

The thugs who’d abducted her hid her corpse in a 55-gallon drum, filled it with concrete, and left it in an empty factory lot in Koto, a waterfront area just east of Tokyo’s center

It took a year for anyone to find her body.

When Junko’s mother was informed, she fainted—and needed to be admitted for psychiatric treatment.

Justice?

Police arrested three young men, each 17 or 18 years old, shortly after identifying Junko Furuta’s body, but at least five more perpetrators had been involved. In the end, four of the youths were indicted, two more went to reform school, and another was released on probation.

The four indicted boys were tried as adults, but the court protected their identities as juveniles. Attempts at anonymity for the under-age perpetrators failed; magazine Shunkun Bunshun released their names.

The four pleaded guilty to committing bodily injury that resulted in death.

The Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office sought a life sentence for the leader of the gang, due to the horrific, protracted series of crimes against Furuta, his record of delinquency, and his known association with professional criminals. His lawyers successfully presented him as a remorseful young man trying to overcome a destabilizing childhood brain injury. In July, 1990, a lower court sentenced him to 17 years in prison. In July 1991, Judge Ryuji Yanase in a higher court later revised the sentence to 20 years.

The 1990 lower court gave the leader’s three accomplices relatively short terms: 3-4 years, 4-6 years, and 5-10 years. The boys receiving the two shorter sentences appealed their sentences; in response, a higher court raised the terms giving one a 5-7 year sentence and the other a 5-9 year sentence.

Junko Furuta’s family and friends and their supporters were dismayed by the young killers’ short sentences. The public, too, were shocked—and some were sickly fascinated by the sadistic saga.

As part of the sentencing, the boys’ parents had to sell their homes to pay Furuta’s parents, passing on an estimated 50 million yen, or a little over $600,000, to the grieving family.

Categories: Incredible Past