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The Iron Chair is a torture device that has several different variations depending on its origin and use throughout history. It also has many names - the Chinese torture chair, the torture chair, and the Iron Chair. In all cases, the victim was seated on several strips or plates of brass and placed over an open flame and slowly roasted alive. In other variations, the "culprits" were tied to an iron armchair and then slowly pushed nearer and nearer to a blazing fire." Other versions of this chair had the addition of small sharp spikes which lined the back, seat, armrests and leg rests. The number of spikes ranged from 500 to 1,500.
The iron chair originated from Europe’s middle ages, though it was used around the world in different variations as well.
The Iron chair was a torture device that was added to dungeons in the middle ages. It experienced its prime in popularity in Europe. The iron chair has many different variations depending on its location but they all consisted of 500-1500 spikes covering the whole chair with a hole on the seat for fire and coal to be placed under. “It was common to have a victim strapped to the chair watch the torture of another victim” (Albanese). It was mostly used in a psychological way to coerce confessions out of people by watching other people suffer, “"But although it would bring about a very slow and painful death, it was probably used more symbolically. With this thing in front of you, the chances are that you would comply with your captor pretty quickly” (Moscoso). Although the iron chair was also used as punishment. Crimes that are punishable by the iron chair include adultery, witchcraft, murder, etc. It had many other names too, including the Chinese Torture Chair, Torture Chair, Chair of Torture, and Judas Chair. This instrument was used until the late 1800’s in Europe.
Variations of Iron Chair
Another variation of the iron chair was called the Chinese torture chair because it was a very common torture technique in China. Though the Chinese torture chair is slightly different it was used in the same psychological way as Europe’s version. The Chinese torture chair was used in from 1701 to the 1900’s in China and was “...made from wood with 12 steel blades in the arm, back and foot rests and seat” (Science Museum, London).
This device was used on convicted people or suspects because it instilled fear in a person. It was used to extract confessions from people by watching another get tortured, “ It was common to have a victim strapped to the chair watch the torture of another victim” (Albanese). If that failed, the person them self had to suffer from it as well. The iron chair “...lies primarily in the psychological fear caused on the victim” (Medievality). The iron chair was especially unique because it relied on the psychological effects rather than physical, unlike many other torture instruments. Physically, this instrument punctures the skin while the person is tied down tightly onto the chair. If they do not cooperate, the person gets tied down tighter, digging the spikes deeper into their flesh.The large hole at the bottom of the seat was made to put coal and fire under to burn the victims lower body parts and slowly roast them alive. This torture technique didn’t necessarily cause death itself, it was usually followed with an infection after the person was released. Death was far from instant with the iron chair “This could go on for hours, sometimes days. The spikes did not penetrate vital organs and blood loss was minimized — at least until the person was released from the chair” (Dvorsky).
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