Lilly Likes Explores some of Amsterdam’s More Unusual Attractions.
In truth, we were a little scared to start writing about the torture museum in Amsterdam. We were sort of ignoring it in the hope that it would go away. Unfortunately, humans are cruel and mostly stupid, and torture is not a thing that we can just obliterate from the history books.
On your way to @MedievalMuseum ,planing an amazing trip to Amsterdam? come and visit one of the most scariest museum in europe!— TORTURE AMSTERDAM (@medievaltorture) May 22, 2014
Trigger Warning: Torture.
We won’t go into unnecessary detail, but you might be more comfortable elsewhere. If you do want something that will feed your curiosity without the violence, check out this blog on Ripley’s, or read about Micropia, instead.
Now that we are all comfortable, let’s talk torture… and what exactly you would put inside a torture museum, if you opened one.
What’s Inside the Torture Museum?
The torture museum is devoted to documenting the horrible history of Europe. As they point out, up until the last hundred years or so, every town in Europe would have a rack in the marketplace. Prisoners would be punished by placement in the stocks, gallows would stand in market squares… and the hangman’s role was a paid position.
If we take a hat-tip towards European Aristocracy we see a plethora of dead Kings, Queens, and lesser nobles. In some cities, the guillotine was a normal Friday night experience.
Somehow, the Torture Museum in Amsterdam has managed to acquire and preserve over 40 different instruments of torture. From the inquisitor’s chair to a preserved, working guillotine, they have one of just about everything. Walking around the exhibits is chilling enough – but when you add in the fact that most of these instruments have seen genuine past use, you can’t help but get shivers down your spine.
Punishment Versus Torture Methods
There are (believe it or not) two different types of torture. There is the type used to extract information from a suspect. Then there is torture that is executed as a punishment. Torture methods all have one thing in common, however. They existed to create the most possible pain for the longest possible time. The aim was not to kill, but to tease out the death or cause pain without killing.
As you can imagine, victims often die from their wounds eventually. Either through the torture or after the release. If they don’t die, their minds are never quite the same again. Human beings are cruel. What sort of a mind does it take to be able to inflict that kind of pain on another?
Instruments in the collection
Some of the instruments and gruesome detail of their use included in the collection are:
- The Thumb Screw
- The Pressure Plates
- The Sling
- The Judas Cradle
- The Garotte
- The Saw
- The Sword
- The Skullcracker
As you can imagine, seeing these instruments first-hand is not for the faint hearted. You can learn about each of their instruments of torture over on their site.
Special Events and Sad Stories
As well as providing some 40 varied exhibits on torture methods, the museum holds special events to mark certain morbid occasions in the city’s history. For example, in the summer of 2020 they held a commemoration event of the decapitation of Dutch Statesman Johan van Oldenbarneveld, at the inner court of the Hague. John was held against his will for months without access to pen and paper, in solitude, and was tried without being allowed to form his case. He was 71 years old.
The History of torture
They document the history of torture. How it started, how it evolved, and what the modern world retains from our horrific past. It talks about what we learned from all of this, and about the lives of those who carried out such punishments.
They have an interesting take on the role of the executioners, torturers, and hangmen. It is interesting to learn about life from their point of view. In any given town, the torturers and executioners would be the most hated people in the community. Even so, they would be respected and feared. Their families would receive the best, loathed, treatment in town. They would be despised – yet necessary. It was a weird way to live.
Educational Tours at the Torture Museum
The most gruesome fact that we found out about this place, is that they do school tours. That’s right, you can book your class in for a horrible history lesson, right here at torture central. Let them sit in the inquisitor’s chair and take photos… a great way to spend an afternoon. As far as school tours go it would be up there as one to remember.
Where and When (and Why)?
But Seriously – the Torture Museum is an excellent way to reflect on the past mistakes of mankind. Whether you want inspiration for your next top Hollywood horror film, or whether you just want to scare your friends, this is a great place to visit.
You will find the Torture Museum opposite the flower market on Singel 449. They open for visitors but Covid restrictions may apply so make sure you call and book in advance.
The Lilly Likes Verdict?
Does Lilly like the Torture Museum? If she’s honest, it’s not at the top of her list of places to visit. She also advises that you do not go there if you are high, as you might pass out. When you wake up from a whitey, the last place you want to be is in the torture museum. Decapitated heads, bloody spikes, and rusty weapons are not something you want to wake up to.
The verdict is that the Torture Museum is brilliant for research, a great way to give your students nightmares, and perfect for the morbidly minded. Otherwise, maybe go see the tulip fields. Amsterdam is full of surprises and this place is one of them.