There is a scene in Game of Thrones that made my skin crawl, ok there were a lot, but one in particular, and my mind determined there was no way this ever happened. It is almost too gruesome to imagine another human using rats in the most inhumane way possible. But, unfortunately, I was wrong; it was a torture method as recently as the mid-80s, according to research.
Rat torture was first used in the 17th century during the dutch revolt by Diederik Sony, an ally of William the Silent. Rat torture was typically used on prisoners to extract information, force confessions, punishment, frighten opponents, and satisfy personal hatred.
So yes, according to records, this torture was one of the thousands of ways to extract information.
What is rat torture, and how was it carried out?
According to the research, rat torture was used in a few different ways. The first was similar to the game of thrones scene.
The victim was tied down to a rack or a table device, the shirt removed, and the victim's abdomen cut to draw blood. The cage full of rats was placed over the stomach open side down, creating a trap for the rats.
The cage was affixed to the stomach with tight straps, so the rats could not escape through the cage. Then the one delivering the torture would place hot coals on top of the cage or use a fire torch to make the device hot, this would begin to heat the rats, and they would seek a way to escape the heat.
The only way out that was not hot was by burrowing into the victim's stomach. The rats would chew and scratch, and eventually, the torture would end because the victim would talk or die. The rats would typically be starved before this as well, to encourage burrowing into the stomach, so the stomach was an escape and food.
In the 20th century, rat torture was utilized by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. He used this form of torture against his political opponents during his rule. Dictators also used it in Brazil during 1964-1985 and in Uruguay during the civic-military dictatorship of 1973-1985.
It is also reported that in Argentina, during the National Reorganization Process in 1976-1983, a different form of rat torture was utilized, known as the ¨living recto scope¨. Mainly in Jewish prisoners.
The Tower of London was also known to have a rat dungeon. When the Thames river would rise, those in the jail feared for their lives more than usual. They knew the rats would run for safety from the rising water to the dark, damp dungeon. The rats would begin nibbling on the prisoners, and sometimes the fear of the rats would drive the prisoners mad.
Rat torture is no longer used, as far as we know, but who knows what happens in the dark back alleys of those who are in control of extracting information?