New York auction house selling collection of ancient torture devices

A New York City auction house is selling a large variety of torture devices dating from the 16th century, including so-called shame masks to enforce silence.

NEW YORK — A New York City auction house is selling a large variety of torture devices dating from the 16th century, including so-called shame masks to enforce silence.

The gruesome collection also includes a 4.3-metre rack to stretch a victim’s body, a tongue tearer to punish blasphemers and heretics, and an executioner’s axe.

Guernsey auction house director Arlan Ettinger says the 252 devices may comprise the most complete collection in existence of historical torture devices.

Guernsey says proceeds will go to Amnesty International and other organizations committed to preventing torture. He says that’s the intent of the seller, who has asked to remain anonymous.

Ettinger says he can’t estimate what the devices will bring, though one magazine for historians valued it at US$3 million in the 1970s.

The collection was last on public display in 1893.

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