Impalement can refer to either piercing through an individual with a sufficiently sharp stake or pole or hanging them off it, either by nailing or tying them to it. In this post I will be referring to the type of impalement, used as capital punishment, which involves execution by means of piercing through the central body mass of the guilty individual.

Impalement can be carried out either vertically (through you know where, which would vary depending on the individual's gender) or traversally (through the chest or torso) in order to cause a slow and painful death. This would be typically carried out as a consequence of crimes against the state in various parts of the world. The time taken from being initially "skewered" to death would typically take from a few minutes to 3 days, depending on the exact method.

The most notorious individual throughout history known to have carried out the punishment was Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, the Wallachian prince who lived in the 15th century. He was known to have used impalement not only as a method of punishing his enemies but also as a military tactic to scare off his enemies. Some records claim that mothers would be impaled with their children. While woodblock prints from the era around 1462 portray the victims being impaled only traversally, there is much evidence suggesting that in reality Vlad III carried out vertical impalement. For example, there exists proof that his brother was sexually abused during his captivity in the Ottoman empire while they were children. It is possible that the same thing happened to Vlad. Moreover, some members of his closest family were murdered while he was still young. This would have left him psychologically damaged, and most likely associating the torture of his victims with his own traumatic past experiences.
Vlad the Impaler enjoying a nice meal in a forest of his impaled victims 

During the torture based on vertical impalement the pole would typically be relatively blunt in order to prevent the organs from getting pierced too soon and thus the death being too quick. Instead, the organs would initially get pushed slightly aside as the pole would go in. The top of the pole would be covered in grease to act as lubricant. If the pole was too wide for the impaled individual, their body cavity would be cut open slightly more to make it fit. As the pole would continue to go further, bleeding would begin. The trickling blood covering the greasy pole would begin attracting insects, which in turn would start to feast on the wound. However, if the individual was unlucky enough to have their punishment performed by a skilled executioner, the pole would be driven along the spine and continue missing vital organs for hours or even days. The pain and humiliation is difficult to imagine.

Two torture devices worth mentioning here, which used impalement as a means of torture, was the Judas Cradle, and the "Spanish Horse". The Judas cradle was a stool with a pyramid-shaped top, on which the accused would be lowered slowly, so that the top of the pyramid would effectively impale them, especially if weights were suspended from their legs. However, in many cases the victim would be rocked or repeatedly lifted and lowered to cause additional pain. Since the devices were rarely cleaned, almost everyone who survived this means of torture would die from infection, if the impalement failed to kill them immediately.
Judas Cradle shown in a museum. Image obtained from Wikipedia. 

A similar device was the "Spanish donkey", however instead of being pyramid-shaped, the stool was longitudinally elongated, with a sharp edge protruding upwards, as shown on the image below. It was equally painful and deadly as the Judas cradle. However, interestingly, unlike most torture devices, the spanish donkey is sometimes still used in the modern times for S&M. Nonetheless, the modern sex-toy imitations are normally built in a safe way,  without the sharp edge.
The spanish donkey - the device superceded the Judas cradle


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