When most people think of torture devices and techniques often they think back to Medieval times and the Spanish Inquisition, where contraptions with ominous sounding names like “the rack” or “the iron maiden” were common to use in the questioning of prisoners. It’s easy to forget that torture is still used, even today, as a means of gaining intelligence against opposing forces. Today we are going to look at some of the most horrific torture techniques used in modern times.
Originating at Arkansas’ Tucker State Prison Farm in the 1960s, the Tucker Telephone was a torture device constructed from an old fashioned crank shaft telephone. The generator of the phone would be wired to two batteries. The ground wire would be connected to the prisoner’s toe, while the hot end of the wire would be applied to the prisoner’s genitals. Prison staff would then crank the phone generator, which would then send electrical currents shooting through the inmate’s body. The inmate often suffered irreparable organ damage after a date with the Tucker Telephone and the practice was retired after 1968.
Several years ago there was a controversy over whether or not waterboarding – a method of torture where a wet cloth is placed over a person’s face and mimics the act of drowning – was ethical in United States run detention facilities. Regardless if you believe that this is an acceptable practice or not, there is far worst methods allegedly sanctioned by the U.S. Government against those deemed as enemies of the state. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, who visited Egyptian prisons where key al-Qaida officials were being detained, men were often tied up in the nude. Officials would then release dogs on the prisoners and allow the animals to have their way with them, including rape. It is in Wright’s opinion that the use of such torture methods were catalysts for the radicalization of many of these detainees. There has since been no verification on whether or not Wright’s claims are true.
In 1999, followers of the spiritual Falun Gong faced persecution by the Chinese communist government. As part of this government crackdown, like the days of the Spanish Inquisition, followers were taken prisoner and tortured. Beatings and other horrific practices were common, but the most heinous of all were force feedings.
Prisoners would have tubes shoved down their throats, sometimes repeatedly, before a slurry of food, garbage, urine, and feces were poured into the detainee’s stomach. Tear gas, hot mustard, as well as common household chemicals have also been used to abuse and torture inmates.
Falun Gong practitioners were not the only group to be persecuted by the Chinese government. In fact, anyone deemed a threat to the government could mysteriously disappear at a moment’s notice. The practice became so common it even has an official name – shuanggui.
Citizens in question are ordered to meet with top party officials at a designated place and time. Typically this place is a hotel room or another secret location. Rumor has it that the interrogation room is always on the first level, so persons under investigation cannot easily jump to their deaths. Suspects are subject to questioning at any time during the day or night. This process can go on for weeks or months at a time. However, it is impossible to know the full extent of what happens during these interrogations. Some claim that there is other physical and psychological torture which occurs in conjunction with the sleep deprivation. Some of these suspects held during these secret interrogations have never made it out alive.
The German Chair
Syria has been in the spotlight for the horrific conditions and torture they subject their prisoners to. Beatings and forcing prisoners to hold their bladders until their one allotted bathroom break a day are only some of the common place methods for brutalizing their detainees. The most horrific method of torture, however, is one taken from the middle ages.
The method is known by several different names, including the German Chair, the Flying Carpet, or simply the Tyre. When a person is captured they are often tied to a metal chair. Their arms and legs are then secured and the chair is tipped backwards and towards the ground. This causes severe stress to the detainee’s back, neck and spine, and often causes permanent damages to the body.