Most Hardcore Torture Prison in History


It’s pitch black and freezing cold. Your hands are busted from being strung up
and it hurts to wipe the tears from your eyes. The cell you are confined to is four stone
walls and a door. You cannot hear or see anything. Suddenly men arrive at your cell. They muscle you through the prison, take you
outside, and strip off your clothes. A rope is fastened around your ankles. You are to be pulled through London in front
of jeering crowds, all the while the streets shear the skin from your body. You are hanged and then have the limbs cut
from your body, and as your life starts to fade, the last thing you see are your own
insides being pulled out. You’re now dead, but your head will be removed,
preserved in tar, and put on a pike atop London Bridge for everyone to see. Now that’s a tough prison. The story you have just heard is something
that happened to the Scottish Knight Sir William Wallace, a man who fought for Scottish Independence
and was captured by the English and charged with high treason. In case you’re wondering, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart
movie about Wallace didn’t exactly portray the real events, but hey, Hollywood censors
might have had something to say about evisceration and dismemberment on the big screen. Others would share a similar fate to Wallace,
but before we get to life in the cell, or on the rack, and the matter of human rights,
you should know something about the Tower of London. The mighty tower was founded in 1066 after
William the Conqueror had successfully invaded England. This grand edifice was a symbol of his power,
a reminder to the folks of London that things had changed in their hood. It would take about 20 years for William to
finish his fortress, and in the ensuing centuries this place would become a complex network
of startling buildings. It would become perhaps the most impregnable
building on Earth, surrounded by high walls and towers, and also protected by a moat. Before you start imagining things though,
no, there were no sharks in that moat, nor any sharks with fricking lasers on their heads
(animators include Dr. Evil from Austin Powers). Medieval kings would enjoy its luxurious palace
without the threat of danger looming upon them. It surely couldn’t be breached. Well, what’s quite amazing is that when
it was first overrun it wasn’t a bunch of well-trained knights that got into the place,
it was a bunch of peasants who in 1381 started a peasants revolt over harsh treatment by
their ruling masters. They did some executing of their own and even
sat on the King’s bed, as if to mock the ruler. So, yes, the tower of London was a great and
magnificent unbreachable edifice, but not when 400 peasants had had enough of being
treated like animals. The tower became a last line of defense, an
extravagant palace, an armory, a mint where cash was made, and the home of the crown jewels. But today we are interested in one part of
the tower, and that’s where the alleged offenders went. People were sent to the tower prison from
as early as the year 1100, and there have been some big names that had a stay in the
cells of the prison over the years. It’s actually quite surprising that some
of the last people to be imprisoned there were the infamous London gangsters, the Kray
Twins, who did a short stint in the tower in the 1950s after assaulting a policeman. It’s not likely that we are ever going to
do a show on a more historic prison, so we might now ask how conditions changed over
the years in there. What fate beheld someone accused of treason
in the 1500s? Was torture always part of prison life? What was the worst thing that could happen
to a person in the tower of London and did anyone ever make the best of it? We will start with one of the prison’s first
famous occupants, which was one Ranulf Flambard. England’s new king, Henry the First, sent
Ranulf to the tower after accusing him of embezzlement in 1100. You could say that prison security was a bit
lax in those days because as legend has it, Ranulf had managed to get wine smuggled in. He then gave that to the guards and they ended
up catching a few drunken Zzzzs. Ranulf then used a rope to climb down the
tower. He managed to cross the English Channel and
find safety in Normandy. Ok, so we have some early security issues,
but this kind of thing would happen again. In 1597, a couple of imprisoned Catholics
managed to do the rope trick again and get out of the tower. This must have been especially hard because
they had been horribly tortured and had their hands mangled. Imagine climbing down a rope when your hands
are broken. And just to let you know what kind of torture
you might receive as a 16th century prisoner, we have a record of it for you written by
someone at the time. Part of it goes like this:
“Twice he has been hung up by the hands with great cruelty on the part of others and
no less patience on his own. The examiners say he is exceedingly obstinate
and a great friend either of God or of the devil, for they say they cannot extract a
word from his lips…Recently they took him to the rack…” Looking at the rack was enough for this guy
and he pleaded for mercy…and mercy he was granted. In 1716, perhaps the greatest escape took
place when a man named the Earl of Nithsdale got out. He’d been accused of being involved in an
uprising and he was awaiting the head chopping block. But he got one over on those guards after
some female friends visited him in his cell. They quickly dressed him in women’s clothes
and plied his face with make-up. The women confused the guards by coming and
going from the cell, and at one point the cross-dressing man left. There were a few more escapes but we’ll
leave that topic there, because we know you are dying to hear more about prison conditions. We want to tell you about perhaps the worst
kind of solitary confinement known to man, and this was one particularly cramped cell
that got the nickname “Little Ease.” It was called Little Ease because once you
were in there you could find little ease. It was built to be so small that an occupant
could no way stand or lie down, but even in a sitting position the back would have to
be bent. There was no light in the cell, either. So, you might be left for days with the occasional
bread and water bent in double. This brings a whole new meaning to doing time
in the SHU (shoo). This wasn’t always the case, though, and
nobles at times had a much better experience in the tower of London prison. In 1321, an eleven year old girl named Maud
de Badlesmere, the Countess of Oxford, spent some time with her mother and siblings in
the tower. Her father was hanged, drawn and quartered
for taking part in a rebellion, but during her stay in the tower she wasn’t treated
so harshly. It was the same for the famous English spy
and global explorer who’s known for first bringing tobacco to England in the 1500s. His name was Sir Walter Raleigh and he did
some stints in the tower when he got on the wrong side of the elites. But his cell was more like a cozy bedroom
and he was allowed to read and conduct his scientific experiments. They took his head in the end, and when he
looked up at the axe, he said, “This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for
all diseases and miseries.” That was a positive way to look at execution. So, a stay in the tower of London prison back
in the day could have been absolutely awful or not that bad depending on who you had annoyed
and what crime you had been accused of. A man named Guy Fawkes didn’t get a nice
room with a view, and instead he was confined to the dungeon keep. This was about as low as a man could go, but
Fawkes was one of the conspirators behind something called the Gunpowder Treason Plot. On November 5, 1605, he was found guarding
36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords which is part of the Parliament of the
United Kingdom. If successful, they would have blown the place
to pieces and killed a lot of important people. That’s partly why we have anonymous masks
today and why the sadistic Brits still celebrate each year how this man named Guy cruelly met
his end. Snitches might get stiches these days, but
we think if modern day prisoners were put through what Guy Fawkes endured then they
would give up their friends. At first, Fawkes said his name was actually
John Johnson, but he was proud to admit that he wanted to blow all those people up. He remained quiet as to who his co-conspirators
were. At that time, the worst kinds of torture had
been made illegal, so it was called for that he endure a softer kind of torture first. This included a little bit of beating here
and there and being suspended in the air by the wrists. Fawkes didn’t snitch after that, and the
king even said that the man had a, “Roman resolution.” So, the ante was upped and the torture was
taken further. He was likely stretched on the rack and his
resolution soon faded. Having your limbs pulled out of their sockets
will do that to a person. He did last one day of torture, though, and
only spilled some beans on the second day. Historians don’t exactly know what went
down in the torture chamber, but his badly written signature points to the fact his hands
weren’t really working. He and the other plotters got the same treatment
as William Wallace, you know, the being pulled by the ankles by a horse thing, the hanging
until almost dead and subsequent loss of limbs. It was designed to keep the person alive through
the worst of it, or as was said bask then, to “put to death halfway between heaven
and earth as unworthy of both.” The weakened Fawkes got lucky. He died while being hanged which must have
annoyed some of his haters. So conditions weren’t always great in the
tower of London prison and sometimes the best a person could hope for was a comfortable
cell followed by a quick and painless beheading. Torture wasn’t all that common and it happened
mostly to those charged with the worst of crimes and information to give. The 16th and 17th centuries were particular
bad centuries for torture. During that time period, there were three
kinds of tortures preferred among other tortures, and one was called the manacles. It’s worse than it sounds, but Fawkes apparently
sailed through the manacles and kept his mouth shut. It consisted of putting steel handcuffs on
a person but then hanging them in the air from those cuffs for a certain period of time. This would cause a lot of pain and sometimes
broken wrists. If no information was forthcoming, then the
person might experience something called the Scavengers Daughter, which was basically having
your body parts strapped in irons in a very, very uncomfortable position. It’s been called a kind of inverse of the
rack. You’re not pulled apart, but painfully wrapped
up. Then you had the rack, and you know all about
that. A woman named Anne Askew who supported Protestantism
in the 16th century was so badly tortured on the rack that her shoulders and her hips
were pulled from their sockets and her elbows and knees were also dislocated. She fainted and they stretched her again when
she was conscious, but this woman didn’t snitch. They gave up interrogating her and later had
to carry her body to her execution. On 16 July 1546, aged 24, she was burned at
the stake. In the 20th century the prison was just as
miserable as any other British prison back then. The last person to be executed there was one
Josef Jakobs. In 1941, he was executed by firing squad after
being accused of spying for the Germans. In all, the tower housed royals and nobility
who might even have servants in there. This was more like house arrest, and some
prisoners were even given time out of their luxurious cell to go on hunting trips. But get caught counterfeiting money or rebelling
against the powers that be, and life in the tower was a person’s worst nightmare. After hearing that you might want to watch
some other fascinating videos about medieval times, so choose one of these, “Why You
Wouldn’t Survive In Medieval time” or “Medieval Knights Were NOT Noble, But Cold-Hearted Killers.”

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