Game of Thrones fans may recognise this one. A cheap yet effective way to torture someone was with rats. A metal container with a rat inside it was strapped to the restrained victims abdomen, chest, or genitals. The torturer would then gradually heat the container. The rats survival instincts kicked in and they would try to claw their way out through the victims body in order to escape the heat. This process could take several hours.
The knee splitter was used for removing a victims eyes (joke). What this instrument accomplished was to permanently render the knees useless. Although the name implies that this instrument was only used for "splitting" knees, it was also used in other body parts including: the elbows, arms and even the lower legs. As the torturer turned the handle, the claws slowly slammed against each other mutilating any skin in between. The number of spikes the knee splitter contained varied from three to more than twenty.
There were many variants to this instrument. Some claws were heated beforehand to maximize pain - others had dozens of small claws that penetrated the flesh slowly and painfully. Even though this method very seldom provoked direct death, it was often followed by other more painful methods if the victim refused to cooperate.
More a form of execution than torture but gruesome nonetheless. The victim would be held upside down, causing the blood to rush to their heads, thus remaining conscious for more of their impending doom. The executioners/torturers would then proceed to slowly saw the poor soul from groin to neck. While some victims were cut completely in half, most of them were only sliced up to their abdomen, prolonging their agony.
The Breast Ripper
This one was designed specifically for use on women. (Though it was undoubtedly used on overweight men). The breast ripper was used on women who were accused of directing their own miscarriage, adultery, heresy and occasionally witchcraft. The instrument was often heated during torture and it contained four claws, which were used to slowly rip the breasts from women. The instrument would be imposed on a single breast and was designed to shred, or tear off the breasts of the victim. If the woman did not die, she would be horribly disfigured for the rest of her life.
Another variation of this device was known as the iron spider. The Iron Spider would have been attached to the wall, and the woman's breasts were fixed onto the claws of the tool, the victim was then pulled away from the wall, removing her breasts.
Probably the best known medieval torture. Designed to dislocate every joint of the victim's body, it was believed to be the most painful form of medieval torture. The rack was a torture device consisting of a rectangular, usually wooden frame, slightly raised from the ground, with a roller at one or both ends. The victim's ankles were fastened to one roller and the wrists were chained to the other. As the interrogation progressed, a handle and ratchet mechanism attached to the top roller were used to very gradually increase the tension on the chains, inducing excruciating pain. By means of pulleys and levers this roller could be rotated on its own axis, thus straining the ropes until the sufferer's joints were dislocated and eventually separated. One gruesome aspect of being stretched too far on the rack is the loud popping noises made by snapping cartilage, ligaments or bones. One powerful method for putting pressure upon prisoners was to force them to watch someone else being subjected to the rack.
Reportedly used in East and South Asia and by the Japanese during World War 2, the victim was tied securely in place above a young bamboo shoot. Over several days, the sharp, fast growing shoot would first puncture, then completely penetrate the victim's body, eventually emerging through the other side.
The Head Crusher
The head crusher was a brutal torture device commonly used only by the Spanish Inquisition. The person's chin was placed over a bottom bar and the head under an upper metal cap. The executioner then slowly turned the screw, gradually compressing the head between the bar and cap. At first, the teeth were smashed and disintegrated into the jaw, then the eyes followed. Some variants of the head crusher even included a small containers that received the eyeballs squeezed out of the person's eye sockets. The agony could last several hours, until the victim's brain was finally crushed.
This horrendous instrument was an effective way to extract confessions from the victims as the suffering could be prolonged indefinitely if the executioner chose. However, even if the torture was stopped midway, the person, although still alive, often had irreversibly damaged brain, eyes or jaw.
The Lead Sprinkler
The lead sprinkler was a torture device often used to shower victims with molten lead, boiling oil, boiling water, tar or acid. It was essentially a ladle placed at the end of a long, iron handle. At first, the upper half of the sphere was removed, and the lower half was subsequently filled with the liquid of executioner's choice. The perforated upper half was then re-attached, and shaking of the sprinkler showered the victim with the hot liquid inside the ladle.Another variations of this torture method included pouring molten metal to victim's mouth, anus or vagina, causing great deal of pain, serious inner burns, and eventual death. In Mongolian Empire, the worst criminals were sometimes punished by pouring molten silver to their eyes.
Chinese Water Torture
Although not painful or destructive in nature, Chinese water torture is often deemed one of the most debilitating torture methods ever conceived. This type of torture was also often used by Spanish Inquisition, as one of the first "humane" torture methods.
Victims were restrained to a wooden table, and cold or warm water was then dripped slowly onto their forehead, allegedly driving them insane. On a Mythbusters episode, this idea was tried out, and they found out that the combination of restraint, cold water, and the uncertainty when the next drop will fall could become maddening after just few hours. Victims could be easily driven insane as they soon started to perceive a hollow space being gradually formed at the center of their forehead.
The Spanish Donkey
Another device designed mainly for use on women. The naked victim was made to sit on the the main board as if riding a horse, and various weights were attached to his or her feet, to increase the agony and prevent the victim from falling off.
According to historical sources, the wedge occassionally sliced entirely through the victim as a result of too much weight being attached to his or her feet.
This device was allegedly used during the American Civil War by Union soldiers, against their Confederate prisoners, who were forced to sit on the donkey until they passed out.
The Brazen Bull
The Brazen Bull, also known as the Sicilian Bull was designed in ancient Greece. A solid piece of brass was cast with a door on the side that could be opened and latched. The victim would be placed inside the bull and a fire set underneath it until the metal became literally yellow as it was heated. The victim would then be slowly roasted to death all while screaming in agonizing pain. The bull was purposely designed to amplify these screams and make them sound like the bellowing of a bull.
The victim was placed inside the "coffin". Torturers would often use smaller cages for overweight people to increase their discomfort. The period of time a victim was to be kept inside the coffin was determined by his or her crime, serious crimes, such as blasphemy, were punished by death. The coffin was sometimes placed in a public plaza so the local population would congregate around it and mock the unlucky victim. Sometimes death occurred due to the hatred towards the person as others often threw rocks and other objects at the person trapped inside.
The Judas Cradle
The victim would presumably be placed in the waist harness above the pyramid-shaped seat, with the point inserted into their anus or vagina, then very slowly lowered by ropes. The subject is tortured by intense pressure and stretching of the orifice, eventually succumbing to tears in muscle tissue that could turn septic and kill from infection, or simply being impaled.