December 09, 2004

*Medieval Torture--The Portable Kind

The rack, for all its effectiveness, was a bit bulky and not exactly easy to transport. If torture on-the-go was required, other devices met the need.

The thumbscrew, as one might imagine, was a ring that fit over the thumb or finger and was tightened by a wingnut screw. It was unsophisticated, but easily transportable and rather painful. Some versions accommodated more than one finger or thumb, and others had sharp spikes inside them to inflict even more pain. This little torture device was seen in Europe from the 14th century until the 18th, but its use was continued at slave plantations well afterwards.

The kittee was a larger version of the thumbscrew, seen in India for centuries before the British colonized it. British tax collectors used the kittee on unwilling Indian taxpayers. The kittee was large enough to be used on hands, feet, genitals, nipples, noses, etc.

Finally, the Scavenger's Daughter (or Skeffington's Irons) was the opposite of the rack. Instead of pulling a body apart, it compressed a body upon itself. Sir Leonard Skeffington invented the iron loop, which held a person in a fetal position...their legs bent and hugged to their chest. An iron clamp on one end was used to tighten the loop until blood came out of the hands, feet, mouth, and nose of the person who failed to confess. The device was invented during the reign of Henry VIII and wasn't used as widely for torture as it was for prisoner transport.

Posted by Jennifer at December 9, 2004 07:15 PM