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The history of torture records many devices that worked on the principle of the anthropomorphic container with two doors, fitted with spikes on the inside that pierced the victim upon the doors being shut. The most famous example has always been the so called “Iron Maiden of Nuremberg”, destroyed in the air raids of 1944.

It is difficult to separate legend from fact concerning this contrivance because most published material is based on nineteenth century research distorted by romanticisms and by fanciful popular tradition. The first reference to an execution with the Maiden that has yet come to light stems from August 14, 1515, although the instrument had been in use for several decades by then. That day a forger of coins was placed inside, and the doors shut “slowly, so that the very sharp points penetrated his arms, and his legs in several places, and his belly and chest, and his bladder and the root of his member, and his eyes, and his shoulders, and his buttocks, but not enough to kill him; and so he remained making great cry and lament for two days, after which he died”. Probably the spikes of that time were movable among various sockets drilled into different places on the inside, more or less lethal, more or less mutilating, according to the requirements of the sentence.