Iron Maiden – Torture Device

What was the Iron Maiden Torture Device?

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Another brutal device reportedly used during medieval times in Europe was called the Iron Maiden. The device consisted of double doors on the front with an upright sarcophagus and spikes on the inner side.

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture

The device was so tortuous that initially it was considered to be a fictional device with no real existence. However, various documented proofs of the device were subsequently found and thus it was confirmed that the device was actually in vogue, although not perhaps during the medieval times.

Various other names were also used for Iron Maiden, including Virgin or Jangfer, the latter a German word.

When was it Used?

Although it is associated with medieval times, there is hardly any concrete proof of it being used as a torture device during that era. While a variety of brutal torture devices were used in medieval Europe, there isn’t any account of it being used before the late 18th century.

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According to some sources, the construction of Iron Maiden was inspired by a medieval device called Schandmantel which literally meant “coat of shame” or “barrel of shame”.

But while the outside structure of both devices was quite similar, the old device, unlike Iron Maiden, did not have any iron spikes which made quite a difference.

How did the Torture Device Operate

The mechanism of operating it was quite simple. It had two doors that could be opened and shut. The victim was forced to get inside which was more like a standing coffin with the difference that it had sharp spikes on the inside.

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Once inside, the doors were shut on the victim and the spikes would pierce several organs of the body. However, in order to make sure that the victim would not die instantaneously, the spikes were not made too long.

This meant that they would only result in relatively small wounds and the victim would bleed to death over the course of several hours.

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture

How were Victims Tortured using the Iron Maiden Torture Device

The positioning of the spikes inside the Iron Maiden was crucial to the torture. The spikes were so placed as to cause damage to various bodily organs, although never as much damage as to cause instant death. For instance, two spikes were placed specifically to penetrate the eyes. Similarly, other spikes were placed for the chest, genitals, and other organs of the body.


The number of spikes inside the Iron Maiden varied from device to device and it was carefully ensured that the spikes would not pierce very deep inside the organs in order to prolong the torture

Iron Maiden Summary

The authenticity of Iron Maiden as a real device is disputed by some scholars. While it is disputed that the device was used during medieval times, it is generally agreed that some variation of the device was used at some point in history.

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The device also had an influence on modern popular culture. For instance, the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden was named after the device. Similarly, the same name was given to a device used in experiments for alleviating the effects of High-G acceleration at Johnsville Naval Air Development Center.