It’s the Middle Ages and you feel like venting
some of your frustrations.
In those days there were no such things as
social media pages or YouTube comments’ boxes, so what a person might have done is
taken a knife and etched their anger into the side of a wooden building.
They might have written something like, “Down with the King!” or “Satan is my savior!” and for that bit of serious vandalism they would have been in big trouble if it was discovered they were the author of those shocking words.
A suitable punishment might well have been coffin torture, and you’ll soon see why this was one of the worst punishments ever.
Ok, so firstly, we are not talking about premature burial, aka, being buried alive.
That nasty practice has been used as a method
of execution throughout the ages, but it’s not the topic of today’s show.
We’re also not talking about “immurement”
or what is sometimes called being “walled up” or “walled in.”
We’ve been there and done that.
Coffin torture at first sight might not look anywhere near as bad as being walled in, but as you shall see, that all depends on how
it was done.
So, let’s say you lived in that period they
call The Middle Ages.
That’s a pretty long stretch of time, since the period spans from the 5th century to the 15th century.
Maybe in…hmm…1456, a man did indeed vandalize a public building with words that could be said to be a threat to national security or construed as blasphemy.
Maybe a public crime should result in a public
This is where coffin torture comes in.
In some cases this might consist of a person
being confined to a very small metal or wooden cage, and that cage was then strung up to a structure we sometimes call a gibbet.
He could also have just been strung up to a tree.
So, a person might have been put in something
that looked like a bird cage and then strung up in the air.
The cage might also have been something much more uncomfortable, something that looked like a cage fitted around the human body – like a cage suit.
This suit was what you might call “tight-fitting”,
and being hugged by metal is rather more painful than being hugged by expensive soft fabric.
So, let’s say you were the person who wrote
those terrible messages left for the public to see.
In those days, saying that kind of thing would
have offended a lot of people.
They wouldn’t have just said some bad things
about you or blocked you from their yard, and there was no doxxing back then, so the masses of the town might have turned up to see you hanging in your cage.
This is where it can get really bad.
You see, the angry mob might have come armed with rocks, or even wooden spears, and you would have been target practice.
After a few hours of being pelted by rocks and sharp objects, the person in the coffin would either have been seriously injured or even dead.
This might not have happened, though, and let’s say an order had been issued that the public should not throw things at the person.
That’s because there’s another kind of
torture called “exposure.”
We can tell you that if you were merely dressed in rags, or even left naked, a couple of days hanging in a cage during a European winter
would have been brutal, if not deadly.
A hot summer wouldn’t have been very nice,
Some sources tell us that the person would
just be left there to die, and notwithstanding the weather, it only takes about three days
without water to kill a person.
The dead man or woman might then have been left up there while ravenous birds and insects make a meal out of the corpse.
Rats are also pretty good at climbing trees, and there were always plenty of them around in those days.
And by God, we can tell you that blasphemy back in the past was one serious crime, as was stating that you weren’t that keen on the King.
People’s freedom of speech you might say
was somewhat limited.
We imagine at some point in your life you’ve
written something online that could have gotten you killed a few hundred years ago.
Story of The Highwayman John Whitefield
As for real-life cases, there is the story of the highwayman named John Whitfield who it’s said kept part of the English countryside “in a state of terror.”
His death sentence was being chained up and
hung from a gibbet.
The St. James’s Chronicle states that this
happened on August 12th, 1768.
He was just left there to die.
Story of William Kidd
One of the most famous pictures of someone
strapped inside a coffin is that of an Scottish
man named William Kidd.
He was a pirate hunter, but he was said to
be something of a savage himself.
The authorities after a while said this man was not just a pirate hunter, but a pirate himself.
The Parliament of England sentenced him to
death in 1701.
We should say, though, that he was hanged
first and then strung up in a cage just so people could see what happened to wrongdoers.
1701 wasn’t the Middle Ages, so we guess the English improved their stance on human rights somewhat.
Actually, at the time, Gibbeting dead men was a bit of a tourist attraction for people who were visiting London, but the locals complained that it was rather gruesome and the stench of a rotting body was horrible.
Imagine today walking over one of those wonderful bridges in London and seeing a putrefying corpse in a cage.
Oh, how times have changed.
In fact, putting dead bodies on display wrapped in iron was common all over the world, including what we now call the USA.
The practice happened a few times when the
country was still under British rule, although we found one case when this happened to Cuban pirates who were put in cages to rot in New York in 1815.
It seems this public display of the dead happened mostly in the 19th and 18th centuries, and the live coffin torture and exposure happened in the centuries before that.
What do you think about the coffin Torture.
Maybe you missed some of our other gruesome punishment article, so now we’ll give you one which we think are outstanding.