Head crusher

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A head crusher is a torture device used in the early modern period. It is not documented before the 16th century.


This device was used solely in Germany, first recorded in 1530; and called Kranz or Schneiden. This metal device featured a plate that sat below the victim's jaw, which was connected by a frame to the head cap. As the torturer slowly twisted the handle, the gap between the head cap and plate decreased, crushing the skull, including the teeth, mandible and facial bones, and ultimately inducing death. Even if the torturer stopped before death, permanent damage to the facial muscles and structure would have occurred. The victim's head would slowly be crushed, killing the victim, but not before the victim's jaw had been crushed, and their eyes may have possibly extruded from their sockets.[1] To aggravate the pain, the torture master would sometimes amuse himself by tapping on the metal cap with a small hammer.[2] The head crusher was used to extract information from criminals. It would scare them to the point of giving up knowledge that was crucial to solving serious criminal cases.[3]

There were many variations of the head crusher during the early modern period, some of which even had a receptacle in the front to catch the eyes of the victim.[4]

Use as a Political Tool[edit]

The use of the Head Crusher was deliberately used as a political tool during the medieval period. It was a historical use of punishment to try to extract information from an individual involved in a crime. It was considered that the more brutal the punishment, the better, which is why the head crusher was so effective. Torture was used as mass marketing in history, like in England when they would showcase decapitated spiked heads on the gate of the London Bridge.[5] It was portrayed as similar to a theatrical performance. Doing it in front of the public was a crucial part of the marketing. Getting the support for the state was brought out by the collective sentiment of the society. Subjecting individuals to horrific torture in front of everyone reinforced the state's power, reminding citizens who was in control. This was why the Spectacle of the Scaffold was such an important part of mass marketing of torture for the state.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

Megadeth's song "Head Crusher" (from the album Endgame) is about the device.

Popular TV series by Canal Plus and Netflix, "Borgia" has an example of this device in Season 3, Episode 1 ("1495").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "infernal device - Head Crusher". occasional hell. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  2. ^ Donnelly, Mark, and Daniel Diehl. The Big Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment through History. Stroud: History, 2008. Print. Schneiden(headcrusher)
  4. ^ "The Head Crusher". Medievality.com. 2008-11-29. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  5. ^ Druzin, Bryan H.1, and Anthony S.2 Wan. “The Theatre of Punishment: Case Studies in the Political Function of Corporal and Capital Punishment.” Washington University Global Studies Law Review 14, no. 3 (September 2015): 357–98.
  6. ^ Hovey, Jed. “The Spectacle of the Scaffold – Foucault, Corporal Punishment, and the Digital Age.” Blue Labyrinths, January 6, 2016. https://bluelabyrinths.com/2016/01/06/the-spectacle-of-the-scaffold-foucault-corporal-punishment-and-the-digital-age/..

Methods of torture