Many tales of particularly gruesome methods of torture circulate, and some are linked below. However, in reality the preferred and most common methods of torture are rather mundane: repeated vicious beatings and, in recent times, electric shocks.
If you get down to it, pain is pain, and these less spectacular methods have the advantage of being far less likely to kill the victim prematurely when you still want information.
Also, contrary to common beliefs, sadists are bad torturers. They get carried away too easily, and don't pay enough attention to their mission, the gathering of information.
These statements are backed by recollections of officers of the former French occupation forces in Algeria, which (this has recently become undeniable) used torture extensively during that country's
war of independence.