Throughout history, people have been punished for the crimes they’ve committed by horrific methods of torture and executions. Today, these punishments seem so cruel it's hard to believe they were used for centuries. Check out 10 of the most brutal methods of execution in history.
During the 10 years long civil war in Colombia, also known as La Violencia, there was a method of execution so terrifying it instilled fear into the hearts of all. This method was the infamous Colombian Necktie. The executioner would first make an incision under the convict’s chin using a blunt knife and then pull out his tongue, leaving him to choke to death. The Colombian necktie is often associated with Pablo Escobar – he’s considered to be its creator, but that couldn’t possibly be true because he wasn’t even born when the civil war started.
The next method comes from the end of the 18th century – it’s an iron cabinet designed so that a person can stand inside of it. It had a small door loaded with sharp spikes on the inside, usually made of nails or knives. This brutal device was called the Iron Maiden, so it's not surprising that a famous British heavy metal group decided to use it as the name of their band. The device was used for interrogation and torture of suspects so they would confess their crimes. When the victim was inside of the cabinet, the executioners would close the door. However, the torture didn’t stop there, because the spikes were designed so that their sharp tips couldn’t pierce through the vital organs. In that way, the victim would stay alive and die slowly unless they answer executioner’s questions. Most of the victims didn’t even get to confess since they would bleed to death too quickly.
Bamboo is the fastest growing evergreen plant from the grass family. Some types of bamboo can grow up to 20-40 inches in only one day. During WWII, the Japanese used this plant to torture their prisoners. They would tie a victim above a young bamboo shoot, and the fast-growing and sharp plant would penetrate the prisoner’s body, eventually growing through them in a couple of days. Many people were skeptical about this, so the popular “Mythbusters” created a replica of a human body out of a material with the highest resemblance to human flesh. They proved that the bamboo took only 3 days to penetrate their replica.
Scaphism (The Boats)
Scaphism was invented by the ancient Persians, and it’s one of the most brutal execution methods on this list. The victim was placed inside of a small boat, and another boat was screwed on top of it. The victim's torso was inside the boat, and their arms, legs, and head were sticking outside through specially designed holes. Executioners would then force-feed victims with milk and honey to induce violent diarrhea, which would eventually fill the boat’s interior, enabling insects and parasites to feed on victim’s flesh. This led to gangrene since the insects would penetrate the victim’s body and cut off the blood flow. The body was also covered with honey, especially sensitive body parts such as the face, eyes, ears and mouth, to attract even more insects. The victim was then left to decay exposed in the sun. This process was lengthy and could be prolonged if the executioner wanted. According to some sources, a famous Persian soldier was executed by this method, but before he died, he survived the terror of the Scaphism for a whole 17 days.
Impalement was a common way of performing death sentences in Turkey. The victim was laid down facing the ground, and their hands and feet were tied with ropes. The ropes were pulled in the opposite direction, straining the victim’s body. The executioner would then grease up the stake – its end wasn’t sharp so it wouldn’t damage vital organs and cause immediate death. The stake was slowly inserted into the anal cavity, which was stretched beforehand so the stake would be able to fit inside. The executioner would then slowly hit the bottom of the stake with a mallet, impaling the victim. Their body and spine would bend under the pressure, but the executioners would use ropes to keep them in a straight position. They kept doing that until the stake went through the victim’s mouth, and then they would raise the stake vertically and leave it in that position while the victim was dying in agony. The person most famous for using this method was Vlad, the Wallachian Duke, who earned the nickname Tepes (which translates to the Impaler) because of the way he dealt with the Turks. He first saw this method when he was imprisoned in Istanbul. A well-known legend says he cut down a whole forest and used the wood for stakes, committing mass impalement of 20,000 Turks and leaving them like that to intimidate the enemy. Upon seeing this horrifying scene, the Turkish sultan who marched on Vlad with five times more soldiers than him immediately ordered his army to retreat.
This incredibly cruel method of execution was used during the middle ages in Europe, and it was often connected with the Roman emperor Caligula since it was popular during his reign. He was so inclined to this method of torture that he even used it to execute some of his family members. The victim would be hanged on a tree by their feet, then, the executioner would cut the victim from the crotch to the head with a saw. Since the victims were hanging upside down, there was enough blood flowing to their brains to stay alive and conscious until the saw hit the main artery in the abdomen. The executioner would sometimes even pause when reaching the abdomen so the victim would experience even more pain.
This particularly horrendous method of execution originating from medieval China is described as the most brutal type of torture ever created. Rat torture included placing live rats on a prisoner’s naked body, usually the abdomen, and then covering them with a ceramic bowl. A vast amount of burning charcoal was then placed on the bowl, heating it gradually. The rats, terrified by heat, would instinctively start trying to find a way out by clawing and biting through the victim’s flesh. An extremely small number of victims would survive this – most of them would die of intense internal bleeding or blood poisoning from the infected wounds.
The blood eagle method is mostly associated with Nordic countries. The executioner would stab the victim from the back, then carefully slice through their ribs and pull the lungs through them, after which they would look like wings. They were extremely cautious while pulling out the lungs so they wouldn’t damage them. They wanted the lungs to remain functional and to achieve the look of fluttering wings. To increase the pain, they would even put salt on the wound. The victims would die in agony shortly after being tortured like this.
Slow Slicing (Lingchi)
Another method of torture which required the victim to stay alive as long as possible comes from China. This kind of torture was intended for those who committed heaviest of crimes, such as murder or treason. This method of execution was named Lingchi, which translates to slow slicing. The victim was tied to a tree in a public place, and the executioner would start by slicing the victim’s fingers and toes, moving to hands, feet, ears, nose, and eventually cutting off whole limbs. After all of that, the convict would be killed by a stab to the heart. This method was also used as a spiritual punishment because according to Confucius if the body wasn’t whole, the soul also wouldn’t be whole in the afterlife.
The Brazen Bull
In a Greek colony in Sicily, the criminals were punished in an unusual and extremely painful way. There was a brazen device shaped like a life-sized bull, hollow from the inside and with a door on its side large enough for a grown person to go through it. The prisoner would be locked inside the bull and then, the executioner would light a fire under it. The fire would burn until the bull turned red, or the temperature went over 700 degrees. The victims would die a slow and painful death. The interior of the device had special pipes constructed so that they made the prisoner’s screams sound like a roar of a raging bull. The interesting thing is that the inventor of the device bragged so much about his creation that the ruler tricked him into going inside to prove his invention worked. They lit the fire and let him scream to test if it really sounded like a raging bull. When they saw that everything was working properly, they opened the door and let the half-roasted man out.