The Judas Cradle is an instrument used to torture or obtain confessions. Created in the Middle Ages by an Italian named Ippolito Marsili, it was considered to be more “humane” than many of the other gruesome torture devices used at the time, such as the rack, the iron maiden or branks. The Judas Cradle is essentially a method of sleep deprivation. The tortured is entered into an iron harness, then using a winch, chains and pulleys, is suspended in the air above a sharp wooden pyramid. If the victim falls asleep, he is lowered onto the point of the pyramid, with the full weight of his body placed upon the anus, testicles, or vagina. At the torturers discretion, the victim could be violently dropped onto the pyramid, or slowly lowered and rocked back and forth.

Shortly after it’s invention, the instrument gained popularity and widespread use in many countries. It has been used throughout history to find heretics during the Inquisition, coerce confessions from witches during the European witch trials, and as a punishment for adulterers in Auschwitz.

The Judas Cradle is still reportedly in use today by some Latin American countries, though slightly modified with electrically charged harnesses and even sharper points on the pyramid.

While its widespread use has diminished, Marsili’s idea of using sleep deprivation as a punishment to elicit confessions is still in widespread use by many countries. The United Nations has officially condemned the practice of sleep deprivation as inhumane.

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