Warning: Brutal concept coming up!

The ultimate punishment in a setting of mine is a procedure known as The Emperor's Wrath.

A person subject to that punishment undergoes the following: They have their arms and legs surgically removed, they lose the ability to smell, hear, see or taste (more on that later). They also lose their teeth, and are sterilized (complete removal of the genitals for the physically male, and just sterilization for those physically female), and for good measure the tongue is removed.

This is all I could come up with so far. I don't think it would be possible to rob them of the ability to move their chest as they breathe, for example

This is all done by doctors so as not to murder them or cause complications. They are expected to survive for as long as possible and will be cared for by guards.

The purpose is to put them in the worst possible prison ever by robbing them of all things. Like even hearing or talking.

The technology available to the doctors who perform the torture is roughly 1850. But that is a bit flexible so I can scale it up or down a bit. This does not mean there are no rules. Merely that I can change them if needs be.

Now as I'm no doctor I'm not sure of two things.

  1. Can that be medically done with that tech without murdering them or causing them severe complications as to have them die shortly?
  2. What other senses exist that I can rob them of? Can doctors of the time remove their vocal chords or skin so they can't even feel the air...etc?

Please note that I don't want them to die or be drugged after their "treatment" is done. The purposes is to punish them. Having them in a half awake state of existence is not as bad.

The reason I'm asking here is that I'm not sure a medical place would be welcoming or even help me with the time frame aspect of the problem.

If I have to break it up into 2 different questions, or if it does not belong here just comment please.

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    $\begingroup$ Cutting off limbs would do anything. In fact, thanks to phantom limb syndrome, it might increase sensory perception rather than reduce it. Hanging the body in water or, better, oil equal to body temperature would do a better job of depriving senses. Although just locking them up alone in the dark with a hard floor would probably be enough. BTW, are you feeding them or just letting them suffer for a day or two with hunger/water pains before they die? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 23, 2020 at 4:58
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    $\begingroup$ Note: meta question on acceptability of explicit descriptions of torture. No terribly clear consensus is reached there, but this question currently feels like it’s at least well into the grey area of what many people are uncomfortable having on the site. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2020 at 12:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You really want to read this: creepypasta.com/gateway-of-the-mind $\endgroup$
    – Martijn
    Nov 23, 2020 at 14:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ consider reading the story, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Suggested improvement, courtesy of the Dread Pirate Roberts: Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2020 at 19:40

6 Answers 6


Infection and fantasy

So in US Civil War (10 years after your timeline) the mortality rate of someone getting a single limb amputated was no lower than 23.9%. If the odds of dying are 1 in 4, doing it 4 times doesn't seem wise if your goal is torture. (Actual odds of surviving just the amputation of 4 limbs - 31%).

Your "doctors" will need to know about sterilisation, and you'll probably need antibiotics. But even with 20th century medicine the number of people surviving such a drastic surgery (removal of ear drums? Female sterilisation - also how is that sensory deprivation?) will be disappointingly low.

Also, I'm not sure how effective a torture this will actually be. If you remove all the senses entirely, they'll just disappear into their imagination in a dream-like state. That doesn't sound very torture to me.

An alternative to stop them escaping into their own fantasy world:

Give your surgeon the day off, pay Hans Berger a bit of money to teach you how to measure brain waves, which he discovered in 1875, and use the presence of a brainwave to trigger an electroshock. Every thought above a certain threshold -> zap. They'll become unable to imagine anything complex any more.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure if I should +1 for the last point, but it certainly is genius :). People can adjust to living without a limb or two. But that power of adjustment comes from the brain. This solution tackles the problem at the source. $\endgroup$
    – Mixxiphoid
    Nov 23, 2020 at 9:02
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    $\begingroup$ This is evil of doctor Mengele proportions... $\endgroup$
    – mishan
    Nov 23, 2020 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ That's assuming all four limbs are independent, which I don't think it would be, medically. I would guess the survival rate would be much much lower. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2020 at 19:00

Why go through so much trouble? Why not put them in sensory deprivation tanks while paralysing them from the neck down? With a possible exception of the tongue It results in the same idea of basically being removed from your body. Less chance of complications as well. You might even leave the tongue, ss they will at best just taste one thing. They'll quick enough not notice taste or smell anymore, as there's nothing to compare it to. Proprioception, vision and any touch will go out the window as well.

As always I wonder why you want "the absolute worst". At a certain moment more harm or torment won't matter. Neither for the person undergoing the torture, or as the example being made of him/her can see much of a difference between a super torture or a super torture with some more pain.


A lot of points.

As has been pointed out by Ash, the odds of someone dying of simple shock, let alone blood loss, in 19th-century surgeries like amputations are extremely high. A quadruple amputation would be wildly unlikely to leave its subject alive. Anaesthesia was only just being developed in the 1850s, and you'd need that, germ theory, and modern antiseptic surgery to make the procedure likely to succeed in keeping its victim alive.

Feeding your victim would also be tricky. Intravenous feeding wasn't developed until the 1960s. A subject without teeth or tongue would therefore likely have to be force-fed, and would subsequently be subject to frequent vomiting and damage due to regurgitating gastric acid. Rectal or vaginal force-feeding doesn't provide complete nutrition, and your victim would starve to death.

I'm curious as to why your victims are sterilized. Removing the genitals for the purpose of sensation is one thing, but sterilizing a physically-female individual does nothing in terms of sensation, and adds considerable risk to your almost-certainly-lethal procedure.

It also goes without saying that the people who would perform this procedure would not be regarded as "doctors" by the general population - even in the 1850s, doctors took the "first, do no harm" part of their training pretty seriously.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought that they would be feed soups or crushed foods in general or anything that does not require chewing. The guards do this job because they have to be kept alive. I remember reading about this guy who had every other teeth of his removed so he can't chew. Nasty stuff. I thought to rob them of all that can be robbed. Again stuff that a madman would do. But like I said I want them long lived and chances of escape is not there. So. Probably have to tune it down. Nah. They are doctors. Obligatory: Nazis had doctors. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 23, 2020 at 16:59

Doing all the things you mentioned would have much the same effects of a life threatening accident. It would mostly likely keep people in a constant state of shock and numbness. They would also go unconscious quite often, or could even fall into a coma. If you wanted them lucid enough to regret angering the powers that be, this kinda defeats the purpose of the torture.

The purpose is to put them in the worst possible prison ever by robbing them of all things.

You wanna know what robs people of all things? Addiction. Crack is one of the fastest addiction inducing drugs, and also one with the worst symptoms. A few forced doses will do the trick to kickstart it. The victims will take care of the rest themselves.


Not necessarily torture

People voluntarily spend time in sensory deprivation tanks. By all accounts, it can be a very restful experience/

Whilst sensory deprivation can be used as part of "enhanced interrogation", the point is not that it forms any kind of torture on its own. Rather, the effect is to encourage compliance and some measure of disorientation, so that the subject's resistance to interrogation afterwards is lower. Note the word "interrogation" - it is a way to get the subject to give up information. It isn't a punitive method of torture.

If you want this to become torture, you need to do something to the resulting torso. That certainly becomes pretty horrific, because not only can they not do anything about it, but they don't know when anything is going to happen to them until it does. But then you don't particularly need to chop bits off them to do that - simply chain them down, blind them, and puncture their eardrums. The rest is irrelevant.

Chopping bits off someone certainly is torture, as practised by every known human society. The issue you have there though is that quite apart from the risk of infection (as mentioned in other answers), you also have the problem of people going into shock from any kind of extended surgery. In the early days of medicine, and especially with battlefield surgery, a good surgeon was one who could conduct amputations fast so that the patient didn't die from shock and blood loss. The more bits you're going to chop off them, the more risk of them dying during it. So if you're going to do this, chances are you're going to have to anaesthetise them during the process - which to a large extent destroys the value of this as a punitive torture.

By the way, I should note that for this kind of body horror, Harlan Ellison was there ahead of you and this is actually a well-recognised trope named after his short story.


This sounds a lot like the brain in a jar trope

enter image description here

  1. The Frankenstein novel was written in 1814

  2. The guillotine was in common use in France after 1792. There would have been a good supply of decapitated heads to experiment with.

I suggest that your surgeons discover a way to keep a decapitated head alive in a jar. They can remove the eyes and block the ears.

enter image description here


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