Machines of Malice

Season 1 Episode 2

Going Medieval

Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Oct 06, 2008 on Discovery Channel
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Episode Summary

Going Medieval
As mankind's ability to build more complex machines grows, so does his ability to inflict pain and fear. This episode explores such torture devices such as The Rack, The Skull Crusher, The Iron Maiden and the infamous Pendulum.

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    Eric Nelson

    Eric Nelson

    Himself - Historian, Pacific Lutheran University

    David Zamorano

    David Zamorano

    Himself - Orthopedic Surgeon

    Michael Carroll

    Michael Carroll


    Eric Strauss

    Eric Strauss

    Himself - Engineer

    Michele Boyd

    Michele Boyd

    Herself - Neurobiologist

    Tony Swatton

    Tony Swatton

    Himself - Blacksmith

    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


    • TRIVIA (2)

      • Ironically, the rack was used in many cases to purify the soul of the person tied to it. The torturer, in many cases, thought they were doing the victim a favor.

      • The following people provided their expert opinions and insights into the material covered in this episode:

        Javier Guerrero – Cultural Anthropologist
        Erik Ruhling – Author of "Infernal Device"

    • QUOTES (3)

      • Michele Boyd: (during a demonstration of the Skull Crusher) Once your jawbone starts fracturing, you're going to be in amazing amounts of pain.

        (After the demonstration skull actually shatters)

        This completely obliterates your skull. When the skull actually fractures, you're actually going to be pretty insensible because you're dead.

      • Narrator: But what makes the rack so insidious is its precision. An operator can stretch out a torture session for days.

      • Narrator: Without a doubt, technology has pushed society forward. But along the way, the invention of torturous machines has made executions easier and incredibly cruel. And there is no time period with a worse reputation than the middle ages, when punishment went hi-tech.

    • NOTES (2)

      • Despite its fearsome reputation, there is no actual evidence that Iron Maidens were ever used as torture devices or methods of execution.

      • During the Spanish Inquisition, it only took two unconfirmed and uncorroborated accusations of heresy or blasphemy to condemn someone to a session on the rack.

    • ALLUSIONS (0)

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