Rats can be a real nuisance. They get into our food, our trash, and even our homes.
But when applied in the right (or rather, wrong) ways, they can turn into something far more sinister: a form of torture so cruel that the very mention of it can be enough to compel someone to spill the beans.
Today, we’re looking at the horrifying history of rat torture. After reading this article, you’ll never look at rats the same way again.
Rat Torture Was Incredibly Cruel
The horrors of rat torture typically begin with the victim tied down to a flat surface. The executioner then places a metal cage filled with rats over their abdomen.
Last, charcoal is placed on top of the cage. What happens next is probably one of the worst sights one could imagine.
As the heat from the charcoal spreads to the cage, it becomes unbearable for the rats trapped inside. Desperate to escape, they try every conceivable way to get out.
They claw and bite at the metal lattice of the cage. That is, until they inevitably find a much softer surface right under their feet – the victims’ soft, exposed belly.
With a single-minded purpose, the rats dig their claws into the poor victim’s abdomen. They burrow right through the outer flesh and into their entrails. All the victim can do is scream and writhe as they feel their body being ripped apart from the inside.
You may think that such a cruel method of torture can only really happen in the movies. But I regret to inform you that rat torture has been used for centuries all over the world.
Let’s go back to the very beginning.
Rat Torture in Ancient Times
It should be no surprise that the first recorded use of rat torture is connected to one of the most vile rulers that history has ever known – Emperor Nero.
The troubled young man was known more for his sadism than his ability to govern. It is said that he placed suspected criminals into barrels that were full of rats.
The rats, having been previously starved, would quickly set about eating away at the flesh of the victim until they had been completely devoured.
In India, prisoners were subjected to a no less horrific experience. They were made to put on baggy pants that were then tied shut around the ankles.
The pants had ample room in them into which the executioner could pour loads of scrabbling rats. Who, in their eagerness to escape, would claw and bite at the flesh of the victim’s groin.
Medieval Rat Torture
In the medieval period, the horrors of rat torture didn’t go away. In fact, they were taken to an even more sadistic extreme.
It was in medieval Germany that the method of heating a bucket or cage over the victim’s abdomen is thought to have been invented. But it didn’t stop there.
One gruesome alternative was to save the rats some of the work. Instead of making them burrow into the victim’s body, the executioner would cut the victim open and place the rats directly inside.
Still, another method was to place the cage of rats around the victim’s face instead of the abdomen. They then let the rats eat their fill of the victim’s nose, ears, and mouth.
But the first directly recorded incident of rat torture comes from the Dutch Revolt of the 16th and 17th centuries. During the nearly century-long conflict, one of Dutch leader William of Orange’s allies, Diederik Sonoy, reportedly used rat torture to extract valuable information from prisoners.
He used a pottery bowl rather than a cage. But the end result was the same. As the bowl was heated, the rats would, “gnaw into the very bowels of the victim.”
Unfortunately, the history of rat torture didn’t end there. As is often the case, the 20th century brought with it new, even more, gruesome ways of using rats on enemies.
Rat Torture Was Favored by South American Dictators
During the “Dirty Wars” of South America, leftist guerillas were tracked down and killed all over various South American countries. Rat torture thrived as a favorite interrogation technique.
Dictatorships in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina were all said to have employed rat torture from the 1960 to 1980s.
One example of the ways it was used occurred in Chile. Female prisoners were forced to endure the excruciating experience of having live rats forced into their vaginas.
Later on, tubes were used to guide rats into the vulnerable areas of a victim’s rectum or genitals. While it’s unclear to what extent this extreme form of torture was used, it was one form of torture that was no doubt effective at getting even the hardest prisoners to talk.
In many cases, just mentioning the possibility of rat torture, or perhaps putting the prisoner through the motions of having a cage placed over their abdomen would have no doubt been enough to extract information.
This was the case in one of the most recent examples of rat torture’s modern use.
A Case of Modern Rat Torture
It happened in 2010 in Lakewood, New Jersey. It was used to force a man to agree to a divorce.
Lakewood is an area that is known for its large population of Orthodox Jews. Under Orthodox Jewish laws, a woman can’t get a divorce on her own. The husband has to first sign a document that allows their wife to leave.
For one Jewish rabbi, David Wax, that presented a problem. He wanted another man, Meir Bryskman, to sign one of these documents to free his wife from being what was known as a “chained woman.”
Aided by a team of thugs, Wax lured Bryskman to his home one night and proceeded to knock him out, tie him up and threaten him with all manner of unpleasant forms of torture until he agreed to sign the divorce paper.
After being told he would be eaten by rats if he did not comply, Bryskman promptly agreed to sign the document. As always, the rats performed their job with an effectiveness that has made them one of history’s most fearsome torturers of all time.