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I am currently searching for a new execution method to be used in my fictional psychotic dictatorship. After introducing methods such as decompression, boiling, surgical torture (being dissected alive without anesthesia) or slow dissolution in acid, the dictator is still not satisfied, saying that "the full potential of the human body to feel and endure pain is not used".

The new execution method should meet the following requirements:

  • Cause pain that is as strong as possible, if possible the maximum pain that can be perceived by a human.

  • Prolong this pain to the longest time possible.

  • Prolong the sanity of the condemned person to at least 3 hours - e.g. the person subjected to the execution method should not go crazy and be fully able to feel the pain for at least 3 hours. Consider pausing the torture if the subject falls unconscious and/or injecting him with stimulants or light painkillers before resuming the procedure.

  • Be an effective deterrent against undesirable actions. Feel free to make it gory and make the subject scream in despair - the executions will be aired on TV.

Please stick to modern or near future technology and biologically plausible. Anything ranging up to high-tech torture robots that back up their victims with stimulants if they feel unconscious is acceptable as long as no magic or other processes or systems that defy the laws of physics and biology are included.

Creative solutions such as using nanorobots are encouraged.

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18 Answers 18

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An electrode wired directly into the brain's pain centers would provide any level of pain you require at the flip of a switch. We have done this with test animals, mostly mice in order to study pain responses and chronic pain treatment methods. Nothing is preventing us from doing this to people other than ethics.

At maximum your subject would eventually die, most likely from heart failure or shock. To prolong this, the victim could be wired into a heart monitor and have the system modulate the intensity and duration of the pain inflicted. Your first few cases might die prematurely, but with additional data you could perfect your execution method to maximize pain over whatever time period you desire.

For added pain you could medicate them with medications to lower their blood pressure, or even put them on a heart bypass machine. The ultimate, not yet achievable with current technology, would be a brain in a support machine experiencing unending pain.

As an evil overlord you could of course pre-wire the entire population and trigger any individual's pain at the push of a button.

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    $\begingroup$ "Not to fifty!" - The real problem is how to avoid inducing shock. +1 $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jul 29 '16 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ Humans have a great capability for getting used to things. Would a random cycle of pain periods and rest periods not be worse in the long run, compared to permanent pain? (And with worse I mean better for the purposes of this question) $\endgroup$ – Falc Jul 29 '16 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Josh King , hope you never become overlord. $\endgroup$ – spark Jul 29 '16 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ @spark, I think that comment just got your name put on a list. $\endgroup$ – TheBloodyPoet Jul 29 '16 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ You probably just gave some really good ideas to some really bad people all over the world. $\endgroup$ – Captain Hypertext Jul 29 '16 at 17:21
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There really is nothing new under the sun, as far as this is concerned. Pain is difficult to measure. Here's some oldies...

Impaling This tried and true method can last for 3 hours, just by using your own weight to slide you down the implement.

Crucifixion There's a reason why the Romans did this. Google it.

The Heretic's Fork Here's a link. Victim can't sleep or move their heads much.

Withdrawal This will take longer than 3 hours to do. First, get your victim addicted to an opiate. Then, take that opiate away. This heightens pain awareness.

I think the Rat Torture method doesn't take long enough for your purposes, but it is quite horrifying. (The rat is put in a cage, the bottom is on the person's body. A heating element is in the top, which is lowered. In a panic, the rat will try to escape, mainly by burrowing through the person's body).

Finally, there's The Tub or The Boat This involves excrement, honey and insects. Enjoy this link. I will not describe it.

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    $\begingroup$ Very good ideas (especially the Scaphism and the withdrawal torture) but all already used in Medwedia. $\endgroup$ – MedwedianPresident Jul 29 '16 at 6:40
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    $\begingroup$ Well impalment can take days, if the pole is not spiky but round. $\endgroup$ – lokimidgard Jul 29 '16 at 10:24
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Going to go with some of my favourite methods - They are old but gold.

Death by 1000 cuts - In the Ming dynasty 1368–1644 there were records of up to 3000 cuts, the total time it seems to only last 15 - 20 minutes. While this only lasts a short while, imagine thousands of paper cuts all over your body.

Water Torture - At first this isn't too bad but after a long enough time the water will feel like a hammer hitting the head each time.

Also, from wiki:

Victims were strapped down so that they could not move, and cold or warm water was then dripped slowly on to a small area of the body; usually the forehead. The forehead was found to be the most suitable point for this form of torture because of its sensitivity: prisoners could see each drop coming, and after long durations were gradually driven frantic as a perceived hollow would form in the centre of the forehead.

Bamboo Torture - This seems to have started in WWII about Japan however there seems to be some roots in China as well.

The victim was tied securely in place above a young bamboo shoot. Over several days, the sharp, fast-growing shoot would first puncture, then completely penetrate the victim's body, eventually emerging through the other side.

Slow Crushing - Couldn't find any wiki links for this, however what you do is strap someone down, a wall or floor doesn't matter, then slowly crush them from the bottom up. For added evilness you can make them walk, or try to, so they are constantly feeling their bones cut into their feet (if memory serves me correctly they don't last more than a few days due to internal bleeding or shock).

Strappado - Essentially you tie someone's arms behind their back and suspend them, tie weights to their ankles to speed up the process. You can keep doing this for a while however their joints will likely give way after a few days or if you want you can keep twisting their arms until they rip off with this method.

OK, so these were my favourite known methods, now for some I think of to pass the time.

False Hope - Give someone hope, if they kill their son/daughter their wife/husband will live, if they will their wife/husband their son/daughter will live, then kill the other one slowly using one of the methods above, or if they refuse then they all get tortured use one of the methods above (a different one for each, but keep them in the same room so they can see it happening).

Make a person do the opposite of what they believe - Say a man refuses to hit a woman, torture him use any method above but keep giving him the option of that if he kills a woman it will stop. This is best if you can have someone he knows/trusts witness it, then keep torturing him and then give him the option of killing the person he knows/trusts if he does then welcome him to your ranks and keep reminding him of what he has done, a recording of it would be best to keep it fresh. You can also make people denounce their God.

Addition

Acupuncture/hitting nerve clusters - Insert a acupuncture needle into the ulnar nerve (funny bone to everyone else), give the needle a wiggle every so often for good measure. (Anyone who has hit the funny bone knows how painful it can be, I doubt I need to say how painful this would be)

For the moment that is all I can say without going into details that would be questionable at best at work.

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    $\begingroup$ "bamboo torture ... seems to [have] roots in China" - I see what you did there. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jul 30 '16 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDvorak that honestly wasnt intentional $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 30 '16 at 20:29
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Fire, Honey, soothe, Repeat

The first step is to slowly burn the victim, making sure that every part of their body is covered in at least minor burns (not too severe or they will not feel it), then cover their body in sections of honey and leave them in the sun, this will attract insects that will bite on the burns, which in turn causes intense pain. Finally soothe them, find a way to make them temporarily forget (or not feel) the pain; when they are no long showing signs of pain, knock them out, heal their wounds and repeat (the temporary relief makes each cycle feel worse). A few points;

  1. When leaving them out, I would suggest rope crucifixion (as nails would cause open wounds and make them bleed, which can cause lightheadedness, which limits pain), the cross itself should be low to the ground (to give false hope). It should also has a step so that the victim can push up to get a breath. This should go on for around 1-3 days to avoid infection of the burns
  2. To avoid having the honey soothe the burns, I suggest mixing in broken glass, this will cut them as the honey melts. Also make sure you stick this pain honey into areas that they will always either have pressure on (under the feet) or they cannot help but move (the eyes)
  3. Since this can go on indefinitely, you will need to feed them. I suggest Duran fruit or Carolina Reapers for the fruits and veggies and live insects for the meat. A fully balanced diet will keep them living longer. Live insects in bulk can cause internal bleeding though, so be careful not to feed them too many at once. Duran fruit is often described as smelling of garbage water and raw sewage, and If I have to explain why the Carolina Reaper is torturous then please say so.
  4. The healing means that this brutal torture will last as long as you want; The ice will also help with keeping them sane and lucid. Although yo cannot avoid them losing hope, they will eventually lose the will to live. I would delve deeper into my thoughts, but I don't want to end up on a list.
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    $\begingroup$ It's not very easy to heal burns, and it takes a lot of time. Having those burns be precise would be easier if you did it chemically. As to insects, take a look at Tub or the Boat, where victims rot and are eaten from the inside out. I have provided a link in my answer. The ice bath won't actually do much to soothe them. Placing ice on a burn actually does more damage. They are more likely to get frostbite and lose feeling because of the prior burns--lessening their pain. The ice baths also cannot last very long because of hypothermia. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 29 '16 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ Frostbite does cause pain initially, but it also causes nerve damage and numbness. That nerve damage often leads to a loss of feeling, which is the opposite of pain. Frostbite happens fairly quickly. Things would have to amputated because of it. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 29 '16 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ @TrEs Once someone has frostbite, the nerve damage cannot be adequately healed. It can create a permanent numbness in those areas where it is effected. Again, the opposite of pain. You are better off using a different method of soothing the victims. I've eaten Durian. It doesn't taste bad, actually. But the smell does attract insects. I have relatives who have had frostbite. As a party trick, they would stab the frostbitten areas (in the summer--it was not frozen at the time). Oh they'd have a hole there, and they would bleed, but they would not feel it. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 29 '16 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @ErinThursby good point, I'll edit to make my point a different way $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Jul 29 '16 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b My point is that is not a false sense of relief, because it does not make each cycle feel worse. It is not temporary numbness. It's permanent numbness. That's not false relief, that's actual relief from pain. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 29 '16 at 16:38
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Hmmm ... where to begin?

Sleep deprivation is a good one, and it eventually leads to death.

Neural pain stimulation, which doesn't actually harm the body, but can lead to death all the same (your heart gives out, or you burst blood vessels in your brain). This has a lot of potential as the pain you would feel in that situation is absolutely horrific. There's nothing worse than what your own "mind" (read nervous system) can conjure up against you.

You could take a note from Game of Thrones and peel the skin from a person's limbs, amputating them one by one so they don't die, and then have them go insane with the agony of it all.

I think this is a pretty good list to start, but I can probably come up with more if you'd like :-)

What I'd like to mention, however, is that when faced with such an insane regime these tortures will only act as a deterrent for some of the population.

Others will, on the contrary, see this as a reason to fight you tooth and nail.

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    $\begingroup$ Sleep deprivation can only kill someone if they fall asleep while driving, take advice from a hallucination advising jumping without a parachute or otherwise suffer some secondary effect, unless you have a source you can that says otherwise. $\endgroup$ – Sqeaky Jul 30 '16 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Sqeaky en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_familial_insomnia Well, 7 do 36 months is pretty long time, but something like that exists. $\endgroup$ – Elas Aug 3 '16 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Elas I am quoting the first sentence of the article you linked "Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is an extremely rare autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain". The disease kills people by destroying their brain insomnia is a symptom. That is a genetic disease and has nothing to do with artificially induced sleep deprivation. $\endgroup$ – Sqeaky Aug 3 '16 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ Idk what it is that people don't understand about "sleep deprivation" as a torture method. It's a torture technique whereupon the victim is intentionally kept awake (through pain, discomfort, etc.), causing a state of delirium. In this particular case the goal is eventual death - which can be achieved through stress(eventual heart attack, etc.), and/or injury. But the torture part of this experience is the actual sleep deprivation. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Aug 3 '16 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Sqeaky Although there are no documented human test cases, animals who are deprived of sleep in labs die. The same thing probably apply to humans. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_deprivation $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Oct 18 '17 at 19:15
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I think that, if your torture will be aired on TV and should act as a deterrent, it can't be 3 hours of screams and agony. If one day something like that happens on TV, most people will find it revolting and with time even boring. You need something entertaining if you want people to watch it. That's why I think that josh-king answer, while giving the maximum amount of pain possible, is not fit for TV.

However what you can imagine, to continue with josh-king answer, is a wireless device surgically connected to the brain's pain center. This device would be controlled remotely to provoke pain.
I don't have any knowledge in biology so I don't know exactly what power (volt and amps) is needed to give your subject a strong stimuli, but since your talking about nanorobots, I think that with some research and a few prisoners volunteer test subjects, the level of technology in your world is high enough to produce such device.

Once your subject (or subjects) has the device implanted, all you need is to create a sadistic game. Disguising the torture as a game will make it entertaining to your viewers will instilling fear in their mind. And with enough propaganda, your dictator can even be seen as a good guy, giving a last chance of redemption to traitors.


Why don't you create a reality TV show ?

You take like 10 prisoners and you locked them up in a manor. In the beginning, the prisoners have nothing (no food, only a few cloth...) and are locked in the main room.
While being in the main room, they feel a mild-strong pain (something equivalent to a toothache).
Every day at the hour of your choosing, a door open. At this point you want to increase the pain level of everyone inside the main room because you want them to enter in the newly opened room.
Inside it, you will have your brand new torture of the day, a sadistic challenge that the prisoners should face to gain something.
You can make them gain food, clothes, even painkiller that'll just be placebo because you're in control of the pain. You can even try to make them betray each other, pledge unending loyalty to you, beg for forgiveness in exchange of personal rewards, whatever fits your need.
The torture of the day shouldn't necessarily be something painful, but something that looks painful, something that the viewers would love to watch. Also, you should design every challenge so that submission to your dictator's and the value he worships are rewarded. It would "educate" your viewers while brainwashing the prisoners.

For example, you can imagine the following challenge. Your prisoners are asked a question with two answer possible. They can choose between betraying their country or putting the supreme leader's life at risk. They have a limited time to answer the question and the more time they take to answer the question, the stronger the pain they'll fell, pressuring them to answer just to stop the pain. Obviously the only right answer is silence. Anyone who answers will be led to a room of suffering (maybe even death) while someone who remain silent until the end to the timer, enduring the increasing pain, will gain something. This way, you're both teaching your spectators that they should not betray your dictator or the country and you're making the prisoners suffer.

Moreover, while inside this manor, your prisoners need to have a goal. An obvious one would be to collect every piece of a key through every day's challenge. This key would then open a big door to freedom (or that what they're told). Without this hope, most of prisoners will want to end their suffering at some point. And even with this hope, it's possible that some of them will want to commit suicide. Be sure to put something to help them. Even with a way out, most prisoners (maybe even all of them) will die before completing the key, but that's not a problem because you just want them to suffer. If someone manages to obtain every piece of the key, you have two choices : You can set him free if he's been obedient and the dictator is feeling generous. Or you can make him face one final challenge while enduring excruciating pain, with death as the only possible outcome.


With this solution the population will see the traitors suffer, but it'll be entertaining (somewhat). You could run this kind of show for weeks, even month. With enough dissidents, you could even have a new edition each year !

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  • $\begingroup$ This was the answer I had first thought of, but after writing it out a couple of times it didnt feel right, +1! $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Aug 2 '16 at 12:58
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The ancient Greeks were masters of brutal execution methods. They would alternately cook people inside a huge metal closed container (long period of time, so maximum pain, also, it turns out that a major burn is about the maximum amount of pain a human can feel before the brain just blocks more "signal" from the nerves), or they would set up what amounted to a gigantic wok in the center of town, invite the victim's entire family, and starting with the youngest member of the family, make every one of them watch as the others were basically fried to death alive. The final family member being the ACTUAL target of the execution.

Romans were pretty nasty too (obviously, this is where we get Crucifixion from) but I think the Greeks really get the gold ring for sheer cruelty.

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    $\begingroup$ I feel like Greeks would get a gold medal, what with the Olympics and all $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Jul 30 '16 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Killing your family before they get to you was pretty typical for ancient times, especially as far as political opponents were concerned. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Aug 3 '16 at 17:23
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I note that most other answers seem to be covering physical pain, and I'd like to add some other types of pain that can be induced.

Be warned, certain methods below may be particularly morbid

There are three primary different kinds of pain: emotional, mental and physical pain. Each one can be equally debilitating and/or fatal.

I'll cover a few methods of inducing each type of pain on your victim.

Emotional Pain

Emotional pain is likely the most damaging and traumatising type of pain. Below are a few methods of inducing emotional pain:

  1. Family members

    • hold the victim in front of their family members as they are being tortured with your preferred method. As long as their family members appear to be in obvious pain, the victim will blame themselves. If left alone, the victims' conscience will gradually tear them apart. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  2. Solitary confinement

    • Humans are social beings. When deprived of social capability, people tend to become withdrawn and some even go barking mad. For a plus point, add bright lights that are on 24/7 (disrupts sleep cycle), or keep them in a room with no clear edges (single-color edgeless walls). Within a week the victims will lose either their sense of time or space.
  3. Deprivation

    • Find an object that your victim really loves or values (could be anything, phone, stuffed toy, book) and give that item to them. After a day or two, take it away. It is important to let them get attached to the object (assuming it is the only other thing in the room). Wait a day or so, then give it back for another day or so. Repeat this process for extended durations of deprivation of the object. As a culmination, you can completely obliterate a duplicate of the object in front of the victim in the most gruesome fashion possible. Never return the original. If your dictator is a slight psychopath, create a shelf and place this object there.

Mental Pain

Mental pain comes with traumatising experiences. While emotional pain is a subset of mental pain, I will discuss some ways to cause specifically mental pain.

  1. Waterboarding

    • TV's favorite torture method. Remarkably effective as the victim needs to live out the experience of "drowning" possibly many times. Having to experience drowning (by no means a pleasant thing) can cause significant mental pain.
  2. Phobias

    • Expose the victim to their phobias, be it heights, insects, speed and so on, but do not let them be directly affected by their phobias (e.g. if they're afraid of insects, place victim in glass tube within insect-infested region). Insanity due to exposure to phobias for extended durations of time can set in quickly with this method.
  3. Confusion

    • expose your subject (first placed in a completely dark room) to an extremely bright light connected to a timer that fires at irregular intervals. For example, the light would turn on every ten seconds for three seconds, the next round would be every four seconds for thirty seconds etc. It helps if it could be in a room with completely black walls in which all walls become illuminated when the light turns on (entire-wall lights). The subject will likely be driven insane after a few days.

Physical Pain

By far the easiest pain to inflict.

  1. Slow slicing/Lingchi

    • link. An ancient Chinese method of torture (which can easily be prolonged to three hours or more) also known as Death by a Thousand Cuts, parts of their body are periodically sliced off.
  2. Systematic Dismemberment

    • Find a body extremity (like fingers) and systematically remove the joints one by one either by cutting or blunt force. If the victim bleeds, cauterization of the wound is a viable way to stop the bleeding (and also cause more pain).
  3. Anything to do with the genitals.

    • assuming your subject is a male, simply repeatedly punch, compress, or do anything that'd cause a male extreme pain. I would propose first the phallus and then individual testicula under a hydraulic press. If there is blood, cauterize.

In conclusion, to cause maximum pain, I would recommend combining all nine methods listed above but not to the extent of fatality.

Also, torture needn't just be made from prelisted methods; you can create your own torture method very easily. How painful it can be depends on your imagination.

I'd also like to point out that torture isn't exactly suited for television as people who are watching it may get turned off. Some other answers have highlighted the possibility of gamification to engage viewer interest, but I would generally advise only airing a few minutes of the most gruesome parts possible (e.g. first cut).

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    $\begingroup$ Great. Now I'm imagining my b... testicula getting crushed. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jul 30 '16 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the Hydraulic Press Channel! $\endgroup$ – Kaz Wolfe Jul 31 '16 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ The cunning warrior attacks neither the body nor the mind $\endgroup$ – Suhrid Mulay Jul 31 '16 at 14:41
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Since nobody mentioned it: Drilling into the nerves of the teeth is a well-tested torture method. While inflicting extreme pain it doesn't damage the body much (a reason it is used in the real world). Since many people abhor dentists it may even be suited for reality TV. Add some show effects, amplify the drill's sound, and the audience will be cavitated, er, captivated.

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Keep them in a constant level of fighting for oxygen. Such as what deadpool had to go through in his movie. Your system could monitor his/her oxygen levels and keep just enough in the room to technically keep him alive but struggling for a full breath of air. Lower it to cause distress and pain, but raise the oxygen levels to not cause brain damage.

Basically he/she will be constantly struggling for air/suffocating indefinately.

Or water boarding to simulate drowning indefinately. May not be the most physical pain but the feeling and mental anguisb of constantly drowning would easily surpass the physical aspect. And mentally I am sure a lot of people would choose to endure physical pain than mental stress of this level.

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  • $\begingroup$ The best part is that this is totally possible with modern-day tech -- heck, I could rig it up with materials that are all commonly available. If I had enough data, of course, to calibrate with. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Jul 30 '16 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ Actually removing oxygen won't cause the suffocation response. That's in response to the amount of carbon dioxide. Removing oxygen would just make them sleepy and euphoric. So increase the level of carbon dioxide in their chamber by whatever amount is needed, and then you'll get the response you desire. Works even if there's enough oxygen. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Alexander Jul 30 '16 at 20:50
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Buliding on @Josh King's answer, one needn't use neural interference to cause pure pain, as there are plenty of other ways to break people once you have complete access to their central nervous system.

  • Make a prisoner perpetually feel as if they are urinating/defecating themselves without any way to stop it.

  • Close up the esophagus as they fight against their own body to breathe.

  • For advanced treatments, hijack the sensory inputs and make them feel as if they're being smothered with a spooky thing of your choice, whether it be snakes, spiders, or in the case of 1984's Winston Smith, rats.

  • Let them back out into the world while remotely retaining the ability to mess with their head whenever you want. If they attempt to speak to anyone, mangle their words until all that comes out is a desperate gurgle. They will be swiftly ignored and assumed to be a crazy homeless person until they honor your polite requests.

  • All auditory input is processed to sound like tortured screams

  • All visual input is processed to repeat hallucinations of loved ones being murdered over and over.

I could go darker but you get the idea. Presumably maximum pain means maximally prolonged pain, so as fun as the death-by-a-thousand-cuts may be, at the end you're left with a corpse and somebody will have to clean that up.

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Your biggest problem is making it an "effective deterrent". History shows it isn't, and history has plenty of examples of torture going on for much longer than 3 hours. Damiens' torture did not stop the French Revolution from happening 30 years later, for one obvious example.

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  • $\begingroup$ Graham this isn't really a full answer to the question. I'd consider expanding. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 29 '16 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review $\endgroup$ – James Jul 29 '16 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ You are right that it doesn't usually have the effect that it's meant to, but that hasn't stopped evil people from employing it throughout history. Possibly expand on this and see if you can think of ways to make it an "effective deterrent"? $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jul 29 '16 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @James It's a full and complete answer to one bullet-point of the question. In answer to the question of "how do I make it an effective deterrent?", the answer is "you can't". $\endgroup$ – Graham Aug 1 '16 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 The point isn't that it doesn't have the effect that it's meant to - it's that it has no effect at all. It can't ever be made an effective deterrent because human beings don't work like that. People who would be deterred would not have considered rebelling in the first place. People who do rebel are driven by principle, in defiance of the consequences of failure/discovery. Evil people aren't doing it to stop society rebelling, they're doing it because it seems like they should. $\endgroup$ – Graham Aug 1 '16 at 11:42
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The saw method.

The execution method needs to be suitable for a 3 hour television program. It should have a nice build-up, be nasty and have clearly defined phases. There must be something to measure it against, too.

I've got this one as a mere rumour on a medieval practice.

I propose to saw people in half. First step is to strip the subject and put a set of stripes on the torso. Goal is to be able to measure the distance between the crotch and the crown of the head. The subject is strapped to a sawing table. Spread-angled. Saw is at the bottom. It is a mechanical saw going up & down. (Buzz saw would be WAY too fast).

Then put the table in motion. Very slowly.

  1. The subject travels towards the business end of the saw, crotch first.
  2. First contact. Bets can be placed on scream volume.
  3. Bone is touched. Blood flow is limited because all the time the saw presses against the wound. By now urine and faeces have discharged. Should have placed those bets in time.
  4. Organs are impacted. Please disregard the smell. Closing bets on time of death.
  5. Slowly the heart is coming near. Any time now. Out of chips as well.

By reputation if done 'well' the victim would remain alive until the breastbone/heart was reached. This method has the advantage of being pretty straightforward and easy to plan between two other programs.

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  • $\begingroup$ "By reputation if done 'well' the victim would remain alive until the breastbone/heart was reached" <- seems unlikely, as the victim would die due to shock and blood loss. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Aug 3 '16 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ If you hang the subject upside down you prolong consciousness, apparently. Finally found a link: list25.com/25-most-brutal-torture-techniques-ever-devised/5 $\endgroup$ – Bookeater Aug 3 '16 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ I cant see a way this could work without breaching the lower or abdominal aorta or at least very high up on the femoral arteries, either of which would cause the victim to bleed out within seconds. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Dec 28 '17 at 19:12
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No evil overlord would be feared without the headcrusher

The process is quite simple. Strap the unfortunate victim's head, chin forward, on the device. Then place the helmet on his head. Screw the helmet tight on his head, so that it is locked to the device, teeth touching.

Now begins the torture. The tighter you screw the helmet, the harder the teeth are clenching, until they break apart from the pressure. The victim is now choking on its own teeth, shattered in its mouth, but it is not over yet.

After the teeth are broken, you can tighten the device even more, breaking the bottom jaw as well. The cutting edges of the helmet are now deeply penetrating the poor bastard's skull.

I know I'm a bit afraid of dentists, but I honestly can't think of a worse pain than dental pain.

Fear the Headcrusher !

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Decapitation via Nail Cutter

not much explanation needed I'm sure the person subjected to that method of torture would beg to be killed after the first pinch of his neck flesh, just be sure to avoid major arteries as much as possible to avoid premature death from blood loss.

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    $\begingroup$ As nice as the title sounds to your answer I feel death by 1000 cuts (or more depending on the cutters skill) would be worse $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 29 '16 at 9:48
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Medically speaking, the most intense pain possible for a human to experience is to place the body under physiological or psychological pressure sufficient to force a drop of blood from a single pore, if done in such a manner without breaking the skin.

Most humans would die from just this. Assuming you had a method to keep the person alive, you could repeat, or up the number of pores.

An MD told me this, I'm trying to recall the specifics, but have not successfully done so yet.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this has happened to you. $\endgroup$ – Revetahw Jul 30 '16 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ Dare I follow that link? I'd rather have some idea of your intent before I click on it. $\endgroup$ – nijineko Jul 31 '16 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ It leads to Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – Revetahw Aug 1 '16 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ That link was regarding your username. $\endgroup$ – Revetahw Aug 1 '16 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ Funny story about that.... I'll be fixing it as soon as I can. $\endgroup$ – nijineko Aug 2 '16 at 5:38
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A Literary Approach

“To the pain means this: if we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms. The first thing you lose will be your feet. Below the ankle. You will have stumps available to use within six months. Then your hands, at the wrists. They heal somewhat quicker. Five months is a fair average. Next your nose. No smell of dawn for you. Followed by your tongue. Deeply cut away. Not even a stump left. And then your left eye—"

And then my right eye, and then my ears, and shall we get on with it?" the Prince said.

Wrong!" Westley’s voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep, so that every shriek of every child shall be yours to cherish—every babe that weeps in fear at your approach, every woman that cries 'Dear God, what is that thing?' will reverberate forever with your perfect ears.”

― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

In a similar sense, by constantly mutilating, acutely burning, and crushing bits and pieces of your subject(s) whilst broadcasting the carnage for all to take heed, I think you inflict a palpable amount of terror upon a population. This has been said by others in their answers of course.

The thing I'd like to add is that you could take this much farther if keeping your victims in constant and varied turmoil is your goal. The most sinister thing I could ever bear to hear used as a torture technique for a small population of diverse subjects would be to force them into a situation where cannibalism and/or copulation are forced. Take anything you like from the other answers, but I think that borrowing depravation from perhapsmaybeharry's book of disturbing tactics (https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/48973/23770) and adding a human element would be the pain icing on the emotional turmoil cake. Just imagine a severely and systematically physically and psychologically damaged community being allowed just that - some twisted sense of community - only to have individuals from that community be randomly (or not so randomly if your overlord reeeeeeally has a psychopathic grudge to settle) selected to be obliterated in horrific ways while the rest of the subjects watch, forced into compromising social/pseudosexual scenarios, be fed only sometimes secretly to the other subjects, and (in my opinion the most deplorable of all) deprive recently pregnant women of their children in one way or another (use your imagination because explaining that is enough to make anyone want to cry, including me).

A cycle of sorts which both individually tortures and allows contact between subjects, only to rip that contact away in the most despicable, terrifying, or downright psychopathic ways would seem to be the most effective, sustainable, and ... profitable method to do what you want to do.

Just remember:

"To the pain."

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The vikings had a good one, that was probably extremely painful and would make for great viewing on TV.

The Blood Eagle, Possibly fictional but sounds gruesome as heck.

The victim is placed prone and an eagle shape is carved on his back. Eventually the bone is exposed and the ribs are broken away from his spine and removed. His lungs are then pulled out carefully in a parody of wings.

There are all kinds of ways you could make this worse, too. Shallow, slow cuts to stretch things out. Slow leverage to break the ribs away...There is now need to rush. You have viewers to impress!

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protected by James Aug 1 '16 at 13:07

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