Depending on the eagerness of the witch hunter, the accused witch may have been taken back to cell for another few days of isolation and sleep depravation, or they were moved right into the second and possibly third phases of torture. These two phases of torture were also referred to as ordinary torture and extraordinary torture. Ordinary torture often involved use of multiple torture devices at one time. The easiest and often favorite starting device was the Strappado. For this torture, the victim's hands were tied behind her back with a rope that was connected to a pulley on one of the sturdier rafters.
The accused witch was then hoisted up to the ceiling, often dislocating the shoulders (lecture Tom). Often the victim would pass out from this torture, and it was common for the torturer to leave the accused witch hanging there while he went for breakfast or lunch. If the victim was still not moved to confess at this point, other torture implements were applied in conjunction with the Strappado. Some of the more common additions to the Strappado torture were the use of Toescrews or Thumbscrews, burning with candles or whipping (Sidky 132).
If this was not enough to persuade a confession or denounce another witch, other techniques were available. In conjunction with the Strappado, the accused witch could receive a forehead tourniquet, the eye gouge, or boots. The forehead tourniquet consisted of a series of serrated bits of steel or iron, strung like a necklace on strong cord. This was wrapped around the forehead and slowly twisted from behind until the skull cracked or the victim lost consciousness. The eye gouge was a metal rod with a hook on one end.
This rod was pushed into the eye, behind the socket, twisted around and then pulled out with sufficient force to tear out the eyeball (Paine 75). The boots were a device that were used alone or conjunction with other devices such as the Strappado. The torturer or his assistant would strap the prisoner's feet from the knees to the ankles into a pair of vice-like metal boots. The boots were then tightened by means of screws or a crude ratchet. The pressure would crush the bones and mangle legs.
If the boots had been fully tightened or the accused witch's legs were too thin, wooden wedges were pounded into the boots at every angle with a large maul. This often caused the blood and marrow to spurt from boots, rendering the legs useless forever. If a confession was still not reached, boiling water, hot oil or molten lead was poured on the bloody remnants of the victim's legs (Sidky 130). Due to varying circumstances, the Strappado was not always available for ordinary torture, which meant the use of other devices such as the Rack, the Metal Chair, the Water-torture, the Judas Cradle or St.Andrew's Cross was necessary.
The Rack was designed to stretch the accused witch's arms and legs in opposite directions. This had the effect of dislocating joints, ripping muscles and tearing ligaments. There were two forms of this torture: one used a ladder, the other a rack. For the Rack, the accused witch was laid face up on a board, and the arms and legs were tied with strong ropes attached to rollers at either end of the device. Once the ropes were stretched, the witch-finder would stand over the victim and ask questions, instructing the torturer to wind the roller repeatedly with each refusal or silence.
The Ladder was set up similar to the Rack, except it was placed at an upright angle, allowing gravity to assisting the stretching of the victim's limbs. Other additions to the rack or the ladder included the use of candles, feathers dipped in sulfur, and branding irons were applied to the underarms, ribs, or groin. The Metal Chair was a relatively mobile device that could be used in public, as well as for normal torture chamber use. On this device, the accused witch would be seated and tied and a small fire would be lit underneath causing the body to burn everywhere it was in contact with the metal.
A variation of this chair had the seats thickly furnished with spikes or nails (Sidky 132). If the witch hunter had not obtained the needed confession, he would instruct the torturer to use a device named the collar. The spiked collar was strapped around the neck and the attached strong cords were yanked and stretched from the four corners of the room. Thrawing, a variation of the collar torture wherein the victim's head is tightly bound with cords then violently jerked from the four corners, often resulted in breaking the accused witch's neck.
For the Water Torture, the prisoner is placed on their back and tied down with small cords so tightly that the bones are almost pierced. A thick yet fine cloth is then placed over the accused witch's mouth and used to plug the nostrils. Next, a long stream in thread-like fashion is poured, into the mouth, driving the cloth down into the throat. The prisoner gags with the anxiety of suffocation and drowning because in this torture the prisoner does not have a chance to draw a fresh breath.
When the cloth is pulled out from the bottom of the esophagus, blood often comes flowing up with it, and the victim feels as though she has been eviscerated (Sidky 132). There was another technique similar to the Water Torture in which a cloth with knots tied in it was forced down the victim's mouth with a constant flow of water. When the cloth had almost all been swallowed, the torturer would yank the cloth out with such power that the entrails were torn loose and ruptured (Paine 77). The Judas Cradle was a pyramid shaped object onto which the accused witch was hoisted and set on the point.
The victim's weight rested on the point positioned in the anus, in the vagina, under the scrotum or under the last two or three vertebrae. Using the hoist, the torturer, according to the pleasure of the interrogators, could then vary the pressure from zero to that of full body weight. The victim could then be rocked, or lifted and made to fall repeatedly onto the point. To additionally increase the pressure, the torturer could add weights to the prisoner's body (Torture Instruments). The last device used by the Germans for ordinary torture was St. Andrew's Cross.
This device consisted of four iron rings with ropes attached. The four rings were secured to the accused witch's arms and legs, and then were stretched taut to the utmost, pulling the victim in all directions (Paine 73). An added device used with St. Andrew's Cross was a studded steel collar that was fastened around the neck. As the prisoner was being violently agitated by the four rings, this collar would tear the flesh from around the neck. When ordinary torture was not effective enough to yield a confession, extraordinary or final torture took place. This was called final torture because the result was often death.
There were two methods of extraordinary torture used in Germany, Squassation, and the iron maiden. Squassation was a variance of the Strappado (Sidky 137). While the accused witch was hanging from the rafter, weights ranging from fifty to five hundred pounds were tied at the wrists, ankles, and waist. This had the effect of dislocating all the bones in the body. To intensify the dislocation effect, prisoners were often left hanging high with the weights stretching their limbs. The accused witch was then suddenly let down by slacking the rope, but kept from hitting the ground with a sudden jerk of tension on the rope again.
Four applications of Squassation were considered equivalent to a death sentence. The German use of the Iron Maiden is only recorded once; however, this device is worth mentioning. The Iron Maiden was a tomb-sized container with folding doors (Paine 71). In the inside of the doors were sharp spikes. As the prisoner was shut inside, they would be pierced all along the length of their body. The doors could be shut slowly, so that the sharp points gradually penetrated the arms, and legs in several places, the abdomen and chest, and then the bladder, the groin, and finally the eyes, shoulders, and buttocks (Torture Instruments).
The talons were not designed to kill completely; therefore, the immobilized prisoner was left to slowly expire in the utmost pain (Paine 29). Finally, two public tortures commonly used in Germany were the Wheel and Red-hot Pincers. In Germany, the Wheel was considered a form of capital punishment because of its conceptual similarity to the crucifix. The victim, stripped before the crowd, was stretched out supine on the ground or on the execution dock with limbs spread, and tied to stakes or iron rings.
Stout wooden crosspieces were then placed under the wrists, elbows, ankles, knees and hips. The executioner then smashed limb after limb and joint after joint, including the shoulders and hips, with the iron-tyred edge of the wheel, but avoiding fatal blows (Torture Instruments). Each was broken in several places before the job was done. A skilled executioner would smash the bones of his victim without piercing the skin. When it begins, the severity of the injuries looks to be sufficient to bring about death.
If death did occur, this was conveniently blamed on the Devil, not the torturer. Supposedly, the Devil had killed the victim to prevent any secrets from being revealed (Paine 74). If the victim was still alive, the executioner ended the torture by one or two blows to the chest. The wheel was then propped upright so onlookers could appreciate the dying gasps of the victim. The Wheel could also be refined to include other torturous aspects. A suspended wheel might be turned over a fire or a bed of nails. In any event, it meant unbearable suffering for the victim (Farrington 34).