Journey Through Time: The Medieval Torture Museum in Chicago

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If you’re looking for an unconventional and intriguing experience during your visit to the Windy City, the Medieval Torture Museum in Chicago is a must-see.

This fascinating collection of historical artifacts and detailed exhibits gives visitors an immersive journey into Europe’s dark past.

In this blog post, we will explore the wonders of Chicago’s Medieval Torture Museum and reveal why it should be on your itinerary, the role of torture in the Middle Ages, and some torture techniques that will give you the chills.

medieval torture museum chicago

Why Visit the Chicago’s Medieval Torture Museum

Uncover the Gruesome History

The Medieval Torture Museum showcases a wide variety of authentic torture devices from the Middle Ages, shedding light on the brutal methods used by authorities during this time to punish criminals or extract confessions.

The museum features life-size replicas and interactive displays that bring these horrific torture instruments to life, showing an unparalleled look at medieval civilization’s darker side.

Engaging Storytelling

One of the most compelling aspects of Chicago’s Medieval Torture Museum is its engaging storytelling.

When you visit the museum, there is an option for an audio guide and you can listen to the narratives from your phone (or wear your earbuds).

Each exhibit presents detailed information about the historical context of each device, how it was used, and its effects on victims.

The museum’s expertly designed ambiance, complete with dim lighting and eerie sound effects, further enhances the visitor experience by creating a chilling atmosphere that transports guests back in time.

Chinatown Trivia Quiz

Test your knowledge!

In medieval coats of arms, what animal is commonly featured in heraldic symbols??

Fascinating Educational Opportunities

Apart from serving as an eye-opening historical experience, a visit to Chicago’s Medieval Torture Museum can also be an excellent educational opportunity.

By exploring the consequences of political power abuses and human cruelty throughout history, visitors are prompted to reflect on modern society’s values and ethics.

Each numbered exhibit has a synopsis of the method of torture and how it was used.

The museum is immersive so you can handle torture devices like raising the guillotine, dunking the witch, or entering a prisoner’s cage.

As a result, you can engage in the haunting realities of torture instead of just seeking devices encased in glass.

Furthermore, the museum provides valuable insights into the drastic changes in criminal law enforcement over time.

The Role of Torture in Society

During the Middle Ages laws were not established by a governing office. So, each town created and enforced its laws and rules as punishment to those who practiced or were suspected of wrongdoing.

What is interesting to note is that the punishments were never designed to kill anyone, but only to inflict deep pain which sometimes left sufferers in disfigurement, misery, or mental states of madness.

However, it also served to execute those who were deemed guilty of an accusation and targeted for death.

This museum of torture explains the stories behind the torture devices and the role of torture in the legal system.

Four Torture Techniques That Will Make You Shiver

Cutting off the Tongue

Documented in the Old Testament, this form of punishment was widespread during the time of Feudalism.

Typically, con artists, heretics, and suspected sorcerers were subjected to this punishment, and it is still practiced in some parts of the world.

For writing a poem honoring the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, a Yemeni poet named Walid Mohammad had his tongue cut off.

Bloody Eagle

Sometimes depicted in Viking movies, this method of execution was originally used by Scandinavian warriors in the early Middle Ages.

The name comes from the fact that the lungs would be pulled out of the back and spread out like a bird’s wings after being pulled out of the back.

Among its three purposes, this gruesome act served three functions: execution, intimidation of enemies, and a bloody sacrifice to the Nordic war gods.  

Hand Torture

This punishment was administered to robbers of gangs. The torture included crushing individual fingers with a jacket vice, cutting off their fingers with a cleaver, nailing their hands to the table, or shoving wooden chips beneath the fingernails.  

The mutilated hands were put on display and served as a warning against anyone who tried to steal.

Torture by Rats

Tormentors went to extreme lengths to interrogate and extract the information they wanted from those being inquired.

Their body was strapped to a table and a metal cage without a bottom was put on their stomach.  

Rats were inserted one by one into the cage that was set on the criminal’s chest.

Hot coals were then put on the cage and as the rodents tried to escape the heat, they scratched and ate bloody holes into the stomach, subjecting the body to inhuman torture.

Things to Know Before You Go

How to Get There

Address: 177 N. State St., Chicago

The best way to get there is on foot if you are staying in the loop area. Otherwise, you can take the Chicago L train (Brown, Red, Orange, Pink, or Green line) to the State and Lake stop. If you take the Blue line, exit Clark and Lake and walk two blocks east to State St.

Hours of Operation

Monday thru Thursday: 10 AM to 8 PM

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10 AM to 9 PM

Tips for Visiting

  • Remember to visit with caution. While there’s no doubt that visiting Chicago‘s Medieval Torture Museum is a unique and captivating experience, it may not be suitable for everyone due to its graphic content.
  • There are more than 40 ancient medieval torture methods, plan to spend about two hours to see the entire exhibit.
  • For those who are sensitive to depictions of violence or planning a family visit with young children, it is advised to carefully consider the intensity of the exhibits before deciding to visit. 

Final Thoughts About the Medieval Torture Museum in Chicago

Chicago’s Medieval Torture Museum is a captivating perspective on the ruthless past while providing a thought-provoking historical context.

Torture museums are extremely popular in Europe. The first Medieval Torture Museum opened in St. Augustine, FL and has since spread across the United States to Chicago. It is an interesting concept and curated displays reveal the passion of the owner.

This off-the-beaten-path attraction located in the center of the Chicago loop and it is an ideal destination for anyone wishing to delve into the darker side of medieval history or explore lesser-known Chicago gems.

More gems in Chicago for planning your vacation:

Don’t miss this haunting yet educational experience during your next visit to the Windy City.


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