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Dark History

Rat Torture, Its Origins, and Usage in History

Rat torture has been used for more than a thousand years to torture prisoners
Rat torture has been used for more than a thousand years to torture prisoners

Throughout centuries, rat torture using buckets, and rats, in particular, have been employed in various gruesome methods to torture prisoners and political adversaries. However, certain techniques stand out for their exceptionally horrifying nature.

Human beings possess a unique capacity for cruelty, distinguishing us as the most ruthless species on Earth. While other creatures resort to killing out of fear, self-defense, or necessity for sustenance, humans exhibit a tendency to take one another’s lives over abstract concepts and convictions such as religion and politics.

Observing the paradoxical nature of human behavior is intriguing, wherein we can exhibit kindness and support towards one another, constructing magnificent structures and fostering communities while simultaneously destroying entire civilizations and engaging in lethal conflicts.

Rats elicit a natural fear and disgust response in many individuals. Their ability to chew through almost anything, including human flesh, has made them particularly suitable tools for torture. Mastery of the art of utilizing rats for torture would enhance their effectiveness in inflicting suffering.

Rat torture, a chilling method of inflicting pain and fear, has been practiced across different regions and eras for centuries. This gruesome technique holds a dark and enduring history from its origins in ancient Rome to its prevalence in medieval London and its haunting presence in 20th-century South America.

It is important to note that the account of the rat torture method contains graphic and explicit details; therefore, proceed with caution when reading the associated story.

What is Rat Torture, and How Is it Done?

In this gruesome method of torture, a male victim is restrained on a table while a metal cage, open at the bottom, is positioned on his abdomen. Several rats are then introduced into the cage, causing the victim to feel the unsettling sensation of their tiny legs and noses. Subsequently, the torturer proceeds to pour hot coals onto the cage.

As the metal cage rapidly heats up, the distressed rats frantically search for an escape route. Unable to bite through the sturdy cage, they gnaw through the vulnerable flesh of the victim’s abdomen, tearing into the intestines. The excruciating pain prompts the man to unleash an anguished scream.

Interestingly, the use of rats in torture dates back to Ancient Rome, where a similar method involved a bucket containing starving rats tied to the victim’s belly. By heating the bucket, the rats would attempt to flee by burrowing through the victim’s soft abdomen.

The exact origins of rat torture remain unclear; however, historical evidence suggests its usage dates back to at least 60 C.E. in the Roman Empire. During this time, Emperor Nero infamously employed rats as instruments of “justice” against his adversaries, as documented by the Torture Museum.

One particularly disturbing method of rat torture involved tying prisoners’ ankles tightly with loose pants. Rats were then introduced into the pants, causing them to scratch and bite the captives’ legs and groins as they desperately tried to escape the fabric.

In some methods of rat torture, a metal cage would be placed on a prisoner’s abdomen and heated with coals from the top, causing the rats inside to start digging into the victim’s flesh to escape.

In some methods of rat torture, a metal cage would be placed on a prisoner’s abdomen and heated with coals from the top, causing the rats inside to start digging into the victim’s flesh to escape.

In medieval London, the infamous Tower of London had a designated dungeon solely dedicated to rat torture. Positioned below the water level of the River Thames, this pitch-black chamber was reserved for prisoners who would be thrown into it during low tide, subjected to the horrifying presence of rats.

According to The Pictorial History of England, during medieval times in London, the infamous Tower of London featured a specialized dungeon specifically intended for rat torture.

This dungeon was situated below the waterline of the River Thames, and prisoners would be forcibly thrown into the dark and grim space when the tide was low. In this horrifying environment, they would be subjected to the presence and activities of rats.

As the tide advanced and the water level rose, rats would enter the dungeon alongside it. Although the prisoners couldn’t see the creatures, they would be tormented by the sound of their scurrying feet and the unsettling sensation of rats crawling across their bodies while they lay defenseless on the chilling floor.

In fact, Catholic partisans went so far as to assert that the voracious appetite of these animals would tear the flesh from prisoners’ arms and legs as they slept.

Over time, this method evolved, particularly in Medieval Germany, with the introduction of a metal cage and heated charcoal. It was further refined and utilized during the Dirty War in Argentina during the 20th century.

Confirmed Usage of Rat Torture in History

The first documented instance of rat torture dates back to the 17th century in Europe. During the Dutch revolt, Dutch leader Diederik Sonay employed this method to extract valuable information from captured prisoners.

The efficacy of rat torture as an interrogation technique quickly became apparent to the Dutch. Victims often divulged their knowledge before applying hot charcoal to the cage.

Instances of rat torture have been recorded during the reign of several South American military dictatorships, including Brazil (1964–1985), Uruguay (1973–1985), Argentina (1976–1983), and Chile under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990).

In a number of interviews, serial killer Richard Kuklinski claimed that one of his favored ways of murder was to tie up a victim and leave them in a cave overnight so that rats could eat them alive. Also, he would leave a Super 8 camera in the cave to record the activities. Due to a dearth of supporting data, this assertion has been challenged, like many of Kuklinski’s others.

Rat Torture in South America

Rat torture, a method with a long historical legacy, also found disturbing applications in 20th-century South America. This surprising utilization of rat torture occurred during this relatively recent period in the region’s history.

According to The Harvard Crimson, there are reports indicating that Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator who ruled during the 1970s, allegedly resorted to the use of rat torture as a means to torment his political adversaries.

During Argentina’s Dirty War (1976–1983), a period marked by state terrorism backed by the United States, right-wing death squads refined rat torture using tubes to guide rats into victims’ rectums or vaginas.

One woman recounted a harrowing experience where she endured sexual assault involving trained dogs and live rats. Her recollection reflects the extreme and dehumanizing forms of abuse individuals have tragically suffered.

It is worth noting that there are limited documented instances of rat torture, suggesting that the concept of encouraging a rat to devour its way into a person’s stomach was so horrifying that even the most hardened sadists may have been hesitant to employ it.

A 1919 illustration of a prisoner covered in rats.

A 1919 illustration of a prisoner covered in rats.

It is important to note that rat torture also constituted a form of animal cruelty, as innocent creatures were trapped in cages and coerced to gnaw through entrails contaminated with feces.

Numerous other variations of rat torture exist. One such method, known as the rat chair, originated in Medieval Germany. Victims would be restrained in the chair while a metal cage was placed on their faces.

Starved rats were introduced into the cage, feasting on the victim’s nose, ears, and face until death ensued. This torturous practice involved rats residing within the cage until the victim’s demise.

Another variant involved cutting openings in the victim’s abdomen and inserting live rats into the wounds. It comes as no surprise that this method also originated in Medieval Germany.

In ancient Rome, individuals were often bound, and their abdomens opened, exposing them to rats that would consume their flesh. However, this approach posed a risk, as the rats could potentially chew through the ropes, aiding the victim’s escape.

Nevertheless, rats’ most common torture application involved confining prisoners in rooms teeming with rats. The rodents would bite the helpless captives and crawl over them while they attempted to sleep, instilling fear and coercing them to provide information.

Rat Torture in Fictional Settings

There are many incidents of rats being used for torture in fictional settings. Obviously, based on their nonfictional counterparts, they accurately portray the inhumanity of using these animals for the mindless torture of fellow human beings. Some of the most prominent instances of rat torture in stories, movies, and shows are:

  1. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe includes a rat. Rats crawl over the body of the narrator, who is lying on the rack, and he can only watch as a scythe swing back and forth, getting closer each time. Then, the narrator gets the rats to chew through the restraints.
  2. Psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold has suggested that the Octave Mirbeau novel The Torture Garden, published in 1899, may have inspired the Rat Man’s tale of the Sonoy torture. China is the setting for a section of the novel that features an imagined conversation between a tormentor and a stunning woman who is sexually aroused by the descriptions.
  3. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is a possibility of rat torture. Winston Smith, the main character, gets detained by the Ministry of Love and undergo mental retraining. For the purpose of finishing the reprogramming, the ministry locks him up in Room 101.

Here, Winston must confront his worst phobia: rats. Above his head is a cage packed with ravenous rats, which can only find food or escape by gnawing through Winston’s face. Winston ultimately snaps at this point and pleads for the technique to be applied to his lover Julia, showing that he has been broken.

  1. In Bret Easton Ellis’s book American Psycho, Patrick Bateman uses a pipe to implant a starving rat into the vagina of an abducted lady.
  2. The main antagonist Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), utilizes rat torture to persuade a detective to let his men carry out their illicit activities unhindered in the 2003 sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious to The Fast and The Furious. In a metal bucket, he captures a rat and sets it on the detective’s tummy.

Then, using a blow torch to heat the bucket, he starts to stress the rat, making it try to flee. The rat tries to burrow to escape the rising temperature within the bucket but has no choice but to scratch the detective’s stomach. The bucket is removed after the detective accedes to Verone’s demands, exposing a number of extensive, bloody scratch scars.

  1. Gregor Clegane’s prisoners in Harrenhal were subjected to rat torture by the Tickler in Season 2 of the HBO dark fantasy series Game of Thrones in 2012.
The Tickler using rat torture in Game of Thrones

The Tickler using rat torture in Game of Thrones

  1. A snuff film called “Sunday Service” from the horror movie Sinister 2 shows a family nailed to the church floor, rats placed on their tummies, and cups fastened on top to keep the rodents in place.

In order to escape the heat, the rats are encouraged to tunnel through the victims’ chests by placing hot coals on top of the cups.

  1. The Riddler kills corrupt Commissioner Pete Savage by putting a gadget in Savage’s skull that causes rats from a maze to dig their way into his face in the movie The Batman.

Conclusion to Rat Torture

Based on the available historical records, it is evident that rat torture stands out as one of the most macabre and horrifying interrogation methods throughout history. The extreme nature of this technique, involving using rats to inflict pain and terror, has left a lasting impression as one of the darkest chapters in the history of interrogation methods.

It is clear that fear is more effective than pain.

Next, read about the Chilling Case of the Watcher of Boulevard 657. Then, about the Horrifying Curse That was Placed on Christopher Chase by a Witch!


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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Marta P.

    June 12, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    This is beyond horrific and I am absolutely sickened by the descriptions of torture and death. My fellow humans can be the biggest monsters of all. Excellent writing and this will definitely leave a lasting impression on me.

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