Medieval Torture Museum – St. Augustine, Florida - Atlas Obscura

St. Augustine, Florida

Medieval Torture Museum

The largest collection of torture devices in the western hemisphere shows in graphic detail what it means to "get medieval" on someone. 

What the middle ages lacked in scientific progress, it more than made up for with innovations in inflicting pain and cruelty. The medieval torture museum presents these devices in a dungeon-like setting  complete with an unsettling soundtrack, flickering lights, macabre artwork and a cast of unique, life-like mannequins, all of which taken together creates an atmosphere of dread.

Not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. Devices range from masks used for shaming, the gossiper’s violin, the barrel and various “soft punishments” to the truly horrific such as the wheel, the rack, the spiked Armchair of Inquiries and the pear of anguish. 

Displays include humans being flayed, subjected to witches bathing, tongue nailing, and the Judas Cradle as well as being burned at the stake and beheaded. From devices which target just one part of the human body (such as hands, feet and genitals) to those which break the body as whole, the entire collection gives visitors a visceral understanding of what it was like for victims of historical atrocities like the inquisition. 

Several of the displays allow visitors to push, pull or otherwise interact with the machines and see their function. While interesting from an engineering perspective, it might be hard to get past the feeling of being at some twisted “show and tell” with Ramses Bolton.

Attached to the museum is a gift shop as well as a small gallery of even smaller artworks. Microscopic artworks, to be precise. Works include a fish woven from a single strand of hair to modifications made to a flea, to tiny ships and more.