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Rats may be used to torture a victim by encouraging them to attack and eat him alive. This is supposed to be a traditional form of Chinese punishment. [1]

The "Rats' Dungeon" or "Dungeon of the Rats" was a feature of the Tower of London alleged by Roman Catholic writers from the Elizabethan era. "A cell below high-water mark and totally dark" would draw in rats from the River Thames as the tide flowed in. Prisoners would have their "alarm excited" and in some instances have "flesh ... torn from the arms and legs".[2]

During the Dutch Revolt, Diederik Sonoy, an ally of William the Silent, is documented to have used a method where a pottery bowl filled with rats was placed open side down on the naked body of a prisoner. When hot charcoal was piled on the bowl, the rats would attempt to escape by "gnaw[ing] into the very bowels of the victim".[3]

Rat torture appears in the famous case study of a patient of Sigmund Freud. The Rat Man obsessed that his father and lady friend would be subjected to this torture. [4]

Contents

In fiction

An account similar to the Sonoy torture appears in the 1899 Octave Mirbeau novel The Torture Garden, and psychologist Leonard Shengold has identified this as the possible source of the story that the Rat Man told Freud. Part of the book, an imaginary dialog between a torturer and a beautiful woman who is sexually excited by the accounts, is set in China.[5]

The threat of the torture occurs in Nineteen Eighty-Four.[6] The central character, Winston Smith, is arrested by the Ministry of Love and undergoes a process of mental reprogramming. When it is clear that this programming has been unsuccessful, the ministry imprison him in Room 101. Here Winston must face his greatest fear: rats. A cage filled with rats is placed over his head, their only source of food or escape being by eating their way through Winston's face. At this point Winston breaks and begs that the method actually be used on his lover Julia, a sign that he has finally been broken.

Rats also feature in the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Pit and the Pendulum". The narrator lies on the rack and can only watch as a scythe swings back and forth, approaching closer each time, and rats swarm over his body.[7]

This form of torture was used in the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious. Carter Verone (the main antagonist) tortures a police detective into distracting cops so Brian, Roman Pierce and two thugs can escape with several bags of money. Carter takes a rat and holds it with a bucket on top of the stomach of the detective that is being restrained. He then takes a butane torch and proceeds to heat up the bucket to make the rat claw into the detective's skin.

It was also used on a victim in The Bone Collector.

References

  1. ^ Cameron, Mary (1931). Merrily I Go to Hell: Reminiscences of a Bishop's Daughter. "the Canton Rat torture, in which enormous half starved rats are put into a box with the victim, who is rapidly eaten alive"  
  2. ^ George Lillie Craik and Charles MacFarlane (1848). The Pictorial History of England. Harper & Brothers. http://books.google.com/books?id=FSosAAAAMAAJ.  
  3. ^ John Lothrop Motley (1883). The Rise of the Dutch Republic. Bickers & Son. http://books.google.com/books?id=mDcOAAAAQAAJ.  
  4. ^ Leonard Shengold (1971). "More about Rats and Rat People". International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 52: 277–288.  
  5. ^ Jorge Ahumada (Summer 2005). "Review of Mental Zoo: Animals in the Human Mind and its Pathology". Publications: Book Reviews (American Psychological Association Division of Psychoanalysis). http://www.division39.org/pub_reviews_detail.php?book_id=7. Retrieved 2008-01-27.  
  6. ^ Christopher Boorse, Roy A. Sorensen (March 1988). "Ducking Harm". The Journal of Philosophy 85, No. 3: 115–134.  
  7. ^ Kevin J. Hayes (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521797276. http://books.google.com/books?id=W755ymfap4sC.  

External Links

See also








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