May 28 201532 There’s No Such Thing as an Iron Maiden

Imagine a medieval dungeon. You probably imagine prisoners chained to the wall, a torturer in a black mask tormenting the occupants, several machines of torture such as the rack or the Catherine wheel, and, most imposingly, the dreaded iron maiden, a casket lined with spikes that would slowly bleed a prisoner to death in a grim mockery of an embrace.

In all probability, though, the iron maiden was never an actual torture device, at least not in the middle ages. There may have been machines that resembled the famed spiked sarcophagus, but in all probability the most famous and feared resident of the medieval dungeon was probably a hoax dating back to the late 1700s.


Related Links:

The Museum Scholoss Kyburg’s listing for their replica iron maiden.

A reference to the iron maiden in the New York Times in 1863.

Polybius on Nabis’ iron “wife.”

Time Magazine on Uday Hussein’s iron maiden.