Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Instruments of torture from the dark Medieval days

Sunday 28 March 2010

Human beings are sick. Well, you can argue that so am I cause I wanted to go for this exhibition. My colleague was telling me about it and since Jerry hasn't been to Malacca, why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone?

Tortura 2 is an exhibition of torture instruments & methods used during the Medieval days, one of the most violent eras in history. The exhibition has been making its rounds around the world and was featured on History Channel recently. The website said it ends in Feb but when we went there in March, the exhibition was still on (due to popular demand it seems) so try your luck or call them to check. It's at the Malay Museum (opp the square) next to A Famosa.

I don't know why people are so fascinated by gore. Is there a dark beast lurking in all of us? Why does the entire town come out in droves everytime there's a public execution and why do the cheers get louder when someone is further humilated or mutilated? Just think Hostel and you really doubt humanity.

I found this in L.A. Parry's 1975 b­ook "A History of Torture in England" that attempted to explain why people would spend so much time & thought in inventing a device designed to hurt, maim and kill another human being.

­"...What strikes us most in considering the mediaeval tortures, is not so much their diabolical barbarity … as the extraordinary variety, and what may be termed the artistic skill, they displayed. They represent a condition of thought in which men had pondered long and carefully on all the forms of suffering, had compared and combined the different kinds of torture, till they had become the most consummate masters of their art, had expended on the subject all the resources of the utmost ingenuity, and had pursued it with the ardour of a passion."

Some instruments of torture back in the days

Of all the heinous methods, this one was the worse for me - and it used such a simple device. This was simply called The Saw.

It was popular all over the country as tools are easily available and it can be done almost anywhere. Victims, both men and women, were stripped naked and hung upside down with their legs spread apart. It was a cheap way to torture and kill a victim who was often accused of witchery, adultery, murder, blasphemy or even theft.

The torturer will start sawing from the groin and because the victim is hung upside down, blood flow to the brain keeps the victim alive longer. Most pass out when the saw reaches the navel and die when it reaches the heart. The fucking navel! Can't imagine the agony. Don't want to.

The Saw

The rack is the most common one used across Europe, where the victim's hands and feet are tied at each end. A crank will stretch the ropes further, which in turn, pulls on the victim's hands and feet. The muscles and ligaments will tear from the flesh first and after more cranks, the limbs will be dislocated and eventually pulled out of their sockets with an audible pop. Some racks have spike rollers behind the back which maims and paralyses the victim.

The Rack

The Wheel consists of a large wooden wheel with many variations. Victims were tied to the wheel and pushed down a rocky hillside or across metal spikes. The wheel itself could also have spikes mounted on it, so the pain came from all directions. Victims are grilled over fire too.

This one is quite bad - the victim would have the bones in all four limbs broken in two places and the shattered limbs threaded through the spokes of the wheel. The victim might be alive for hours, enduring the agony of his or her mangled arms and legs and the relentless heat of the sun and birds.

The Wheel

The Iron Maiden was an upright coffin with spikes on the doors and insides. Once the victim was inside, the doors were closed and the strategically placed spikes would pierce several vital organs. Two spikes are positioned specifically to penetrate the eyes. The spikes are not long enough to cause death and even blocks the wound, so it might take hours or days before the victim dies an antagonising death.

The Iron Maiden

The Judas Cradle involves placing the victim’s anus or vagina on top of a pyramid-like seat for hours or days. Weights are tied to the legs to increase pain. If the victim did not die quickly enough, they would invariantly die from an infection.

Judas Cradle

On a lighter note, lots of renovation works have been done to Malacca and there are a few new attractions since Malacca was declared a UNESCO Heritage in July 2008. You won't be able to recognise the Portuguese Settlement as they've tiled the pavements, added streetlights, and the wooden jetty is concrete now. Diners sit within a brightly-lit square with proper concrete stalls now. Not sure which one I like better. Oh - and they didn't give a shit about Earth Hour :P


  1. you should check out the ancient chinese torture; i.e. death by a thousand cuts, where there publicly slice pieces of the flesh of the body ... until the final beheading. (sorry for the gory details) ;P

  2. i can not imagine the pain...i don't want to imagine it....


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