In Elizabethan England, if you needed to torture a man, there was a cheap and easy method available. The Tower of London was right there. Just let the Thames River flow into a window and create something called the Rat Room.
Rats were washed into the room and when the water went down, the rats were stuck in there. Drop a prisoner in and let the rats rip the skin off his bones.
If the torturer wanted to watch, he could strap a clay bowl to the stomach of the victim. Rats were placed under the bowl. A rat against his bare skin was enough to raise the blood pressure of the prisoner, but that wasn’t enough. The executioner would heat up the bottom of the bowl. The rat would attempt to escape the heat by scratching and gnawing through the skin and into the body of the condemned.
Another form of rat torture was called the recto-scope. A tube was inserted into the rectum or other orifice of the victim and the rat was led down the tube. It would eat its way to the surface to escape the darkness.
Rat torture was said to have been used during the Spanish Inquisition and during the Dutch Revolution.
Writings suggest that Nero threw criminals into a barrel full of rats. In India, special pants were made that were tight around the ankles and loose around the groin. Rats were poured into the pants and forced to eat their way out.
More recently, the dictator Augusto Pinochet punished political prisoners with rat torture.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at