History is filled with famous inventions that we still use today in some capacity. Thankfully, some of history’s most barbaric inventions have fallen by the wayside and can only be found at museums specializing in the macabre. Different forms of torture and executions are an unfortunate reality of every culture’s bloody past. Here are some of the most brutal torture and execution methods that will leave you grateful for living in the 21st century. WARNING: This article is not for the faint of heart.

1. Scaphism

It’s quite a surprise the first torture/execution method up on this list wasn’t featured in either of the 300 movies. Documented by Greek historians, scaphism — from the Greek word skáphe, meaning “anything scooped or hollowed out — was used by Persians to apply as much torture while prolonging the victim’s eventual death. Enemies were bound to the inside of two rowing boats that covered everything save for their head, hands, and feet. After consuming a large amount of milk and honey that resulted in diarrhea, they were covered with more honey to attract insects. While floating (not so) merrily down a stream surrounded by their own feces, insects feeding on the victim’s flesh would cause severe infection while they were repeatedly fed more milk and honey to prolong death by dehydration or starvation. Eventually, they would die due to a combination of dehydration, starvation, and septic shock.   

2. Water Torture

Ever wonder how much water you would have to drink to kill you? Water has actually been used in various forms of torture and execution throughout history. Although you may be familiar with waterboarding, which refers to the torture technique of continually pouring water over the victim's face or head to elicit the fear of drowning, forced water ingestion was force feeding water down the victim’s throat until water intoxication occurred. Water intoxication, also known as overhydration, can lead to fatal consequences by throwing off the body’s balance of water and sodium.

Water Torture Water torture method of execution. Flickr

3. The Rack

A popular method of torture employed in Russia, France, and Medieval Britain, the rack was used to pull (literally) answers out during the interrogation process. The person being interrogated had all four limbs strapped to the ends of a rectangular wooden slab with rollers at both ends. For every wrong answer the prisoner submitted, pulleys and levers would allow the roller to rotate on its axis causing the ropes to pull the victim’s limbs. Too many wrong answers and the ropes would pull the limbs until joints were dislocated and severed. Not only was the prisoner exposed to unspeakable pain, but they also had the displeasure of hearing cartilage, ligaments, and bones snap due to the tension. Prisoners were often made to watch other prisoners experience the rack to speed up the interrogation process.

The Rack The Rack torture device. Flickr

4. Glasgow Smile

If you’ve ever seen The Dark Knight, you may have left the theater pondering the unanswered question: What was the deal with the Joker’s permanent smile? We have a pretty good guess as to what caused it. The Glasgow smile, also known as the Cheshire grin among London street gangs, originated in its namesake Glasgow, Scotland. Two small incisions were made on both corners of the victim’s mouth.  As the victim was beat or stabbed, muscle contractions in the face would cause the wounds to extend upward toward the ears. While many victims were left with a permanent ear-to-ear smile, if left untreated, some would die as the result of a severe infection or exsanguination (acute blood loss).

5. Breast Ripper

This next torture device is pretty self-explanatory. The Breast Ripper, or Iron Spider, was used on women who perpetrated unspeakable acts according to society, namely adultery and self-abortion. Made popular in Bavaria, Germany, during the later 1500s, the Breast Ripper did just that: ripped the breasts off of a woman. Women accused of facilitating their own miscarriage, adultery, heresy, blasphemy, or being a witch were punished using an iron instrument with four claws at the end. After it was heated up, the device would slowly rip the breasts off the accused woman’s body. If the woman did not die as the result of extreme blood loss, she was left horrifically disfigured for the rest of her life.

Breast Ripper The Breast Ripper torture device. Flickr

6. The Pear of Anguish

No matter what end this next device went in, it still spelled trouble. The Pear of Anguish, deriving its name from its pear-shaped appearance, can be found on display in multiple museums around the world, including the Torture Museum in Poland and Museum der Festung Salzburg in Austria. While there are no credible accounts of its use, just by looking you can see what its intended purposed was. The device was slipped into the victim’s anus or vagina before a key was used to open its spoon-like devices. Some accounts assert the torture tool was used on women accused of self-abortion and adultery, homosexuals, and a variation of the device, known as the Choke Pear, was used to prevent a liar or blasphemer from speaking.

Pear of Anguish The Pear of Anguish torture device. Flickr

7. The Breaking Wheel

Pretty sure the inventors of the wheel did not have this in mind. A popular form of capital punishment in the Middle Ages, the Breaking Wheel ensured the victim endured as a much pain as humanly possible before eventually dying. There were various methods of torture carried out using the Breaking Wheel. Two of the more popular involved tying the victim’s limbs to the spokes of a wheel. During the first method, executioners bludgeoned the victim until their eventual death. During the second method, the wheel would turn ever so slowly while the victim’s bones broke one by one. As if the agonizing feeling of having close to every bone broken wasn’t enough, the victim was also left attached to the wheel out in public for rats, insects, and birds to feed off.

8. Rat Torture

While Game of Thrones falls under the fiction category, one scene you may remember is straight out of a historical medieval dungeon. Several forms of rat torture have existed throughout history, but they all involve two things: the human body and a rat’s astonishing ability to chew threw almost anything. A popular method of rat torture entailed placing a rat-filled bucket or container over a victim’s stomach, chest, or genitals. As the container was heated up, the rat would chew through its only available escape route — in this case, the human body. Other versions of rat torture involved bounding the victim and releasing a mischief of starved rats to their exposed face or genitals.