Chinese Torture Chair – Worst Punishments in the History of Mankind


Try and imagine being arrested for a crime
perhaps you either did or didn’t commit. You’re taken to a room to be interrogated. The experience is overwhelming as good cops
and bad cops take their turn in trying to question you, but you keep your cool and just
keep uttering the magic words, “no comment.” But let’s go back in time and now imagine
when you enter the interrogation room what you see before you is the most horrendous
looking contraption you’ve seen in your short life. It’s a torture chair, or what we might call
a cradle of pain; a device used to extract information from you, and perhaps before you
take your turn in this ghastly chair, you’ll get to see your friend torn apart first. We have called this the “Chinese Torture
Chair”, but seeing as similar devices were used all over the world each country had their
different take on the chair. Sometimes it was simply called the torture
chair, while in Europe during the Middle Ages it was usually referred to as the Iron Chair. In today’s show we’ll try and find examples
of various iterations of this chair, where it was used and how it was used, but let’s
first give you the basics. First of all, this chair unlike many other
torture devices in our punishment shows wasn’t always supposed to torture and then kill a
person. Someone could indeed make it out of the chair,
although they would likely be severely injured after their extremely uncomfortable sit-down. The device was often used to scare the hell
out of people, so in some ways it was used as psychological torture as much as physical
torture. An example being, if a group of people were,
say, accused of heresy or witchcraft, one person would be tortured in the chair first
and the rest of the group were made to watch. After that, the other members would usually
admit to anything they were accused of. If the crime was a big one, the result would
sometimes be execution. This was hardly a great result, but at least
they didn’t have to face the cradle of pain. So, what did these things look like? Well, it was of course a chair and looked
like a chair, with legs and arms and seat and backrest. It might have been made out of wood, but could
have been made of iron. This chair wasn’t your typical lazy-boy
recliner though, and would be adorned with spikes, a design straight from the sadist’s
handbook. There might be as many as 1,500 spikes all
over the thing, on the arms, on the seat, on the backrest. Some of the spikes might not immediately puncture
the skin, but if the person was tied tighter to the chair during the interrogation, the
spikes would pierce flesh and soon the person would be oozing blood all over their body. To make things even worse, sometimes fire
or hot coals would be put underneath the chair, and slowly the accused would feel unbearable
pain as they were essentially cooked. It seems to have been used until the 1800s
in Europe, and the crimes allegedly committed that might warrant the torture chair might
be as bad as murder, but could have also been witchcraft or even adultery. Yep, imagine cheating on your spouse and finding
yourself strapped to a torture chair. That would sure cut down on adultery in this
day and age, although we would think Humans Rights organizations might have something
to say about it. The Chinese had a slightly different version
of the torture chair, with far fewer spikes. Their chair was in use from the 1700s to around
1900 and it consisted of mainly 12 large spikes or blades around the device. If they did not comply, their bodies would
be fastened tighter to the chair and pain would ensue. Such torture might not kill a person immediately,
but let’s remember that in those days infections could not be easily treated. The wounds might eventually lead to death
or if not at least disablement or some pretty nasty scars. We’ve seen a picture of one of these chairs,
because some of them are now in museums, so we will try and describe one. There are three blades on the back, which
look like upright swords. The arms are covered with spikes, which are
like jagged saw teeth. The seat is also lined with blades and the
footrest is lined with blades. Because these are not nails, or thin spikes,
the accused would have to be pressed down for the blades to penetrate the skin. You can only imagine what this would look
like if the person didn’t play along and the pressing down was taken to its final conclusion. The guy would be partly chopped, like a decorative
piece of fruit. Considering back then you could be flayed
alive for defacing a book, you needn’t have committed the worst offense to find yourself
in the chair. Just so you know, in China today there are
still things that are called interrogation chairs, with something called the “Tiger
Chair” still in use. This is more like a normal chair that the
prisoner is tied to, although China has said these things are not used specifically used
for torture but rather to keep people fastened down. In 2015 following global criticism, China
said it now even pads the chairs. Back to the Middle Ages and Europe and the
spikes on the chair, numbering many, were more like large thorns. If pushed down on them the injury wouldn’t
make a person look like a partially chopped potato, but with hundreds of those spikes
much of the body would have been badly damaged. No vital organs would be hit, but there would
have been a lot of blood loss once the person was taken out of the chair. At the same time, if the confession didn’t
come fast enough a fire would be lit under the iron chair and the roasting would commence. We might ask how many people were actually
tortured or killed this way, and one researcher said that the chairs were more likely used
to scare people rather than outright execute them. He said, “Although it would bring about
a very slow and painful death, it was probably used more symbolically. With this thing in front of you, the chances
are that you would comply with your captor pretty quickly.” Unlike the torture device known as the Iron
Maiden, it’s believed that these chairs were definitely used and not just there to
frighten people. One historian and expert in Medieval Times
said this is why such devices existed, “There was an idea in the Middle Ages that you were
really honest when you were under a lot of punishment, under a lot of strain. That the truth comes out when it starts to
hurt.” We did manage to find an account of one person
who was fully roasted in the iron chair, which was detailed in the book, “Europe’s Inner
Demons: The Demonization of Christians In Medieval Christendom.” This was a Christian who was roasted to death
in a chair after he was accused of being a cannibal. He cried out while he was cooking, “What
you are doing is indeed to eat men, but we do not eat men, nor do we do anything wicked.” That’s according to one book, anyway. The Latin has been translated differently
in other books, but his sentiments were the same. Other examples tell us that in the 17th century
the device was sometimes called the Witch’s Chair, because that’s where women accused
of being witches would no doubt admit they were, even though they were not. The witch hunts were very real, and the horrors
inflicted on those women is stomach-churning. How do you think you’d deal with a sit-down
in one of these things? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
The Catherine Wheel – Worst Punishments In The History of Mankind. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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