Boot (torture)  

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The term boot refers to a family of instruments of torture and interrogation variously designed to cause crushing injuries to the foot and/or leg. The boot has taken many forms in various places and times. Common varieties include the Spanish boot and the Malay boot. One type was made of four pieces of narrow wooden board nailed together. The boards were measured to fit the victim's leg. Once the leg was enclosed, wedges would be hammered between the boards, creating pressure. The pressure would be increased until the victim confessed or lost consciousness. Newer variants have included iron vises—sometimes armed with spikes—that squeezed feet and metal frames employed red-hot.

References in literature and the cinema

  • In Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the character of Esmeralda is tortured using the boot. Through Hugo's sketchy description, we learn only the following: that the boot is "a heavy block of oak and ironwork" that completely encloses the naked foot; that the device is tightened by a screw; that the torture is so cruel that a single turn of the screw elicits bloodcurdling screams from the prisoner; and that foot-squeezing is such an effective torture that it is the first choice to force a murder confession. In the 1939 movie version starring Charles Laughton with Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda, the boot resembles dissociated planks with spikes scattered here and there; we do not see the device actually fitted over Esmeralda's foot. In the 1956 movie version starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda, the boot is an ornate boot-shaped device of metal into which the front of Esmeralda's foot is inserted (probably the lateral design that grinds the toes together).
  • In Benjamin Christensen's 1922 Swedish film Häxan (lit., The Witch), a boot-like torture is suggested by the juxtaposition of a generalized crusher—a rough stone that can be screwed down toward a metal base plate—to a woman's naked foot. In actuality, the device shown is a shin-crusher, not at all a torture device for the feet.
  • The Malay boot features in a scene from the 1935 film China Seas where it is applied to Clark Gable to force him to disclose the location of the ship's cargo of gold bullion.
  • In Mikhail Bulgakov's 1966 novel, The Master and Margarita, Signora Tofana, a guest at Satan's Ball, arrives wearing a Spanish boot on her left leg.
  • Ken Russell's The Devils shows the priest Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) being tortured with a form of the boot, in which large wedges are driven into his legs with a sledgehammer.
  • The Spanish boot is used to extract confessions from those accused of witchcraft in the 1970 Czechoslovakian film Witches' Hunt (Kladivo na čarodějnice).
  • In the 1987 Stephen King novel The Eyes of the Dragon, the castle's torture chamber is said to contain "racks and manacles and squeezing boots."
  • Robert E. Howard's 1935/1936 Conan story, The Hour of the Dragon, refers to "racks, boots, hooks and all the implements that the human mind devises to tear flesh, break bones and rend and rupture veins and ligaments."
  • In the first episode of the History Channel's program Surviving History, the Scarefactory design team builds and tests a recreation of the boot, this one a classic, spike-lined Spanish boot or Beinschrauben that is tightened around the leg by means of screws.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Boot (torture)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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