Throughout every period in history, people in society have been driven by panic and hysteria to use their faith in God as a reason to accuse, torture, and murder countless innocent people. Events in this cycle of inhumanity account for some of the darkest stains in human history. All forms of torture and punishment served as the primary means of forcing accused, inocent individuals to confess their involvement in the alleged occurrences and to reveal the names of accomplices. Throughout history, various forms of spiritual rituals, public humiliation, and pain induction, have been used to extract these false confessions from innocent individuals.
Accused heretics could be punished through spiritual purification rituals performed by the church. After being accused of being a heretic, the church considered the body and soul of that individual to be corrupted, filthy, and possessed by the deviled. Because of this, the accused would have to undergo a harsh cleansing of the body and soul. The body would be washed with fire, boiling water, and rags made from harsh material. To cleanse the soul of the individual, he or she would be forced to swallow substances meant to eliminate evil spirits. The church accomplished this by forcing the accused to swallow scalding water, fire brands, coals, and soaps. This ritual evolved into the present day concept of washing the mouth out with soap.1
Severe public humiliation was another method of extracting confessions out of accused individuals. The most common and recognizable form of public humiliation was the stocks or pillories. With the head and hands fixed in the stocks, the accused was put on display for the entire village to jest, insult, and throw things at. Many of the people put into the stocks would die from hunger, thirst, exhaustion, or constant exposure to the elements. Another method of public embarrassment was to placed the accused in a humiliation mask and parade them throughout the village. These masks, which were usually made of iron, were only meant to make fun of the accused, but many people died from suffocation, overheating, and exhaustion.2
While some methods of torture and punishment attempted to extract confessions from accused persons though humiliation and emotional anguish, a vast majority of the techniques used centered on the infliction of pain. The most popular techniques were strappado, thumbscrews, bootikens, interrogation chairs, and tormentum insomniae.
The most common physical torture was strappado. In this, the "victim's wrists were bound behind her/his back, and a rope was tossed over the beam; then victim was repeatedly dropped from a height so that her/his arms and shoulders would dislocate."3 Since this form of torture was relatively easy to perform and required little effort from the administrators, it often accompanied other forms of torture. One method of torture that it accompanied was the use of thumbscrews. These involve "the...