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Celtic Radio Community > The Dungeon > What Happened In The Dungeons

Posted by: Rindy 22-Dec-2006, 12:05 AM
Has anyone read up on what really went on in the dungeons?
Or is it all drawn out to make it be a terrible place. I would like to learn all I can about dungeons and why they were put there.

So if there is anyone out there that wants to shed his or her story fell free..

I hope someone comes up with something even spooky stories would do...


Posted by: Rindy 28-Dec-2006, 06:30 PM
I have a feeling this may be to dark of a subject for most people. I am here to try and learn the history of the dungeon, what crimes caused what punishments was it cold down there "ya know I have never been in one" Nor is there any around where I live thank goodness.
Any good book ya'll have read or movies anything...would be appreciated..


Posted by: zeryx 29-Dec-2006, 06:57 AM
We have a castle in St Andrews that has what is known as the bottle dungeon - a 22 foot deep pit with only one entrance and one exit - the top!

More details about the castle can be found here smile.gif

When we visited Bodmin Jail in Cornwall in 2003 we were amazed to see what punishments were handed out to people for what these days we'd take as being a minor offence - one I recall was inprisonment for stealing his neighbour's chicken.

There are several dungeons open as tourist attractions now - I've only been to the Edinburgh one

Posted by: Rindy 01-Jan-2007, 09:01 PM
Thanks so much for adding those Lynda. The prisoners now a days do have it made easy. I think just the dripping of the water- is enough torture for
I can imagine a lot of people went missing and were never found again.


Posted by: zeryx 10-Jan-2007, 04:46 PM
They certainly do rindy. The Edinburgh Dungeon is quite scary and you are taken through some rather gruesome displays including ones telling you about and

When looking at the torture equipment there after seeing these you really do wonder who was worst ... the criminals or the authorities unsure.gif - I've found a link here to a catalogue of all sorts of torture, past and present sad.gif

Posted by: Aaediwen 10-Jan-2007, 06:08 PM
One thing I wonder about with the bottle dungeon... wouldn't it remind someone to clean it out when it started stinking up the place with the smell of rotting flesh?

Posted by: zeryx 11-Jan-2007, 01:29 AM
There are two trains of thought about the bottle dungeon - one is that it was used as a dungeon, the other not quite so exciting - that it was merely a grain store. Whatever though, it's a mightly strange way to store anything.

I'll see if I can get some photographs to show you of the castle and bottle dungeon ( wink.gif got a new digital camera for Christmas!)

Posted by: Rindy 16-Jan-2007, 01:13 AM
Hi Lynda,

Photos would be great. Very interesting. I wonder which castle had the most dungeons. Anyone know?

Slainte smile.gif

Posted by: Aaediwen 16-Jan-2007, 11:22 AM
QUOTE (Rindy @ 16-Jan-2007, 02:13 AM)
Hi Lynda,

Photos would be great. Very interesting. I wonder which castle had the most dungeons. Anyone know?

Slainte smile.gif

I was going to say ask Guinness, but their website comes up with nothing on the subject of dungeons. If anyone has better access to their database, there might still be something there.

Posted by: CelticRose 23-Feb-2007, 05:55 PM
I don't have photos, but from what I have read is that dungeons were very crowded and most people died just from the bacteria and disease they got from others in their cell.

Posted by: Donajhi 30-Jun-2007, 07:52 PM

Perhaps this website will help answer some of your questions
It is called, Medieval Punishment/Torture
Click on the Device link for more information.

I have never been in one and don't care to.
Good luck with your search. I believe under
devices you will find some of what happened
in dungeons. bag.gif

Posted by: CelticRose 01-Jul-2007, 10:04 PM
Oh goodness, Donajhi! Pretty awful. As fascinated I am with that time period, I must admit I am glad I don't have to *really* live in it!

Thanks for the website!

Posted by: Donajhi 02-Jul-2007, 12:59 PM
Good to have you back. Hope the trip was exciting and you got some good pictures to post.
Sorry if the website was to graphic. Didn't know exactly what you were looking for. wacko.gif
Guess I go over the top sometimes, could be interbreeding. HA!HA! wink.gif

Posted by: Lady of Avalon 04-Jul-2007, 05:06 PM
I've seen quite a lot of different castles in Scotland,Ireland,Wales and England and
one must not forget that these "castles" were fortress with a garrison of soldiers
who of course would be under the control of the "lord" of the place.

And since in Scotland and Ireland most of them are now in ruins there is not much
anymore left of dungeons. But some still have them and what was explained about it is that it was actually a prison for men who were taken during war and most of the time unfortunately it was the "lord" who would be the judge of their fate.And most of the time it was to be the "traitor" death which is the same fate as William Wallace had. Gruesome death!!! (very spectacular for the villagers.)

The most beautiful monuments I saw and still well preserved are in Wales though.
Wales is the most populated in England with fortresses and they are huge and the architecture is extraordinary. The King's master builders were geniuses, to think and design these fantastic monuments and that today we can still see them in their glory. As for the dungeons there, they called it the "oubliette" where they would just push the prisoner in the deep hole put the very heavy cast iron gate on top and forget about him or her.

So this is in short what I know about dungeons I hope it helps you a bit more to understand what it was use for.

Posted by: CelticRose 06-Jul-2007, 11:41 PM
Lady of Avalon! Absolutely fascinating what you shared here. Most horrific times, were they not? I have several friends in Wales and they send me photos of all the castles and fabulous architecture. Every year in the past I had hoped to go to Scotland, but in the past couple years I realize that when I get over the pond I want to see all of Great Britian! Thanks for sharing, Lady of Avalon! smile.gif

Posted by: Lady of Avalon 16-Jul-2007, 05:22 PM
Sorry for being so late Celtic Rose to say that its my pleasure and if one day you get the chance to go and visit Scotland i say to you go for it you won't regret it.

Posted by: CelticRose 16-Jul-2007, 09:22 PM
Hey LOA! One thing I would really love to do is go on the Diana Gabaldon, Outlander tour. That would be my ultimate dream!

Posted by: Lady of Avalon 17-Jul-2007, 06:32 PM
Well, I read all of her books and in a sense we did this kind of Outlander's tour in Scotland.
We did the hole country and we'll go back again in a few year from now
because there are some places we didn't get to see.

I wish for you that some day your ultimate dream will come true.

Posted by: CelticRose 19-Jul-2007, 02:35 AM
Thanks Lady of Avalon and I wish the very same for you!

Posted by: Mischevious Wench 25-Oct-2007, 02:26 PM
i may be a young lass but that was a beautiful statement. anywhoosit, hopefully when you finally found your goals in the future *coughdungeonscough*.

i know that one of the tortures back then was that if some high and mighty would to interegate someone they would probably threaten and actually commit to rip a victim's apendages and make them eat- woah i am getting definitly way to into this. sorry about that.
Out of every dark moment, a light shines through.

Posted by: Robert Phoenix 29-Oct-2007, 09:41 PM
Speaking of torture I found the article in my old Ren magazine (Vol 7 #4, Issue 28) about the torture of an accused witch back in 1631 in Dreissigacker, Germany. Makes you glad you born when you were. Pretty gruesome reading and not for the fainthearted. Except for number 5.

From Daniel P. Mannix "The History of Torture"
1-The hangman bound the woman who was pregnant and placed her upon the rack. Then he racked her untill her heart would fain break.
2-When she did not confess, he poured oil over her head and burned it.
3-he pourned sulfer in her armpits and burned it.
4-Her hands were tied behind her, and she was hauled up to the ceiling and sudddenly dropped
5-The hangman and his helpers went to lunch
6-On returning the master hangman placed a spike board on her back, pulled her up to the ceiling and then dropped her to the floor.
7-Her toes were put into a thumbscrew and the screw tightened untill blood squirted out of her toes.
8-She was pinced with red hot irons
9-As she would not confess...she ws wipped and put into a vice which was radually closed on her for the next six hours.
10-She was hung by her thumbs and then flogged. This was all that was done on the first day.

Gee, I wonder what they did to the males.

Posted by: valpal 59 30-Oct-2007, 09:28 AM
OH MY!!!!

Posted by: Rindy 30-Oct-2007, 04:07 PM
That makes me day isn't so bad!!! Wow..


Posted by: Robert Phoenix 30-Oct-2007, 09:37 PM
I had the same reaction when I first read it. Of course I still can't help but crack a smile when I hit number five. Makes it sound like a day at the office.

5-The hangman and his helpers went to lunch

Cats meat-red wine!!

Posted by: Rindy 31-Oct-2007, 10:18 AM
lol Robert.


Posted by: CelticRose 02-Nov-2007, 07:21 AM
Thanks for sharing that, Robert. I had heard life in the dungeons were pretty horrible and that torture could be excessive, but WOW! What you posted was pretty horrific! No, worse than barbaric! Sure glad I didn't live back then! unsure.gif

Posted by: Druid_of_Ark 08-Dec-2007, 03:36 PM
It seems that many of the dungeons of old were run by the Roman Catholic Church to deal with heretics, that is those that were opposed to receiving the message that God loves them, and since they would not accept that the Church felt it had a duty to torture them.

Posted by: Gracen 05-Apr-2008, 09:28 AM
Hi Rindy. I guess from what I've read and seen (movies are not the best or most point-on interpretation of history - in case you didn't know biggrin.gif ) about dungeons and torture devices, I guess it's right to assume they would interogate prisoners in the dungeons. I would think they would hold them in the dungeons and use torturous devices in order to get them to divulge the info they were after. I think it was also a way of confining the "enemy" until they decided the fit punishment. I think the reason that the dungeons were so dark, dank, cold, filthy, vermin infested, etc. is because they didn't see it reasonable to go to any great lengths to keep their enemies or evil doers of the community in comfort and peace.

Have you seen "Elizabeth"? In one scene they are torturing a prisoner who was thought to be involved in the plot to overthrough Eliz. Her men report back that he was indeed guilty of helping in the plot and Eliz. says somthing to the effect of "A man will confess to anything while on the rack!" What a cool, if not telling, statement. If you are pulling my joints out of socket and snapping my bones, yes, I'll confess to whatever deed you lay at my feet.

Rindy, I hope you find the information you are looking for on dungeons and please keep in mind that this is just my humble opinion from what I've picked up on in my readings, etc. and is in no way presented as factual research results.

Best of luck! angel.gif

Posted by: Rindy 08-Apr-2008, 05:27 PM
Thank you so much for you opinion Gracen. And welcome to the Celtic Radio forums. I have learned so much already and I did see the movie Elizabeth. I agree with you the movies are not always historically correct as well. What I am in amazement over is the torture that went on. Things and devices I've nver heard of.
I don't know who in shall we say their right mind could harm a human period.
Guess I wouldn't make a good torturer. I'd be saying "run like the wind run" and know I'd best run as well or I'd be next.


Posted by: Patch 21-Apr-2008, 07:58 PM
This would be a much more recent "Dungeon." In the 1950's, my high school psychology class took a field trip to the Indiana State School for the Mentally Retarded. That would not be politically correct today. I thought the conditions were terrible during the early part of the "tour." We finished by visiting the second level under ground which was referred to as the Dungeon." We were told that it had not been used for MANY years! Then only for the most "dangerous" and "disruptive" cases. It obviously had not been maintained and to describe the conditions as abysmal would be totaly inadequate. A sane person placed in that environment would have trouble maintaining their sanity! It was a quiet bus trip back to our school. Some time in the early 60's the institution was closed and the private sector took over. Those images have remained with me for many decades. We take care of our animals better than that!

Slàinte, Patch

Posted by: Rindy 22-Apr-2008, 03:54 PM
Hi Patch. You gave me a idea. I am going to start a Mental Institution thread in the Special Intrests-Health topics as there is so much to talk about on this issue. I hope you will post your experince over there as well. I can't imagine what these places were like.
Thanks for posting this.


Posted by: thecelticgiraffe 31-Jul-2008, 06:42 AM
...A famous American Dungeon is the Provost Dungeon in Charleston, South Carolina, used during the Revolutionary War. It is the cellar, with heavy barrel vaulted ceilings, under the Old Exchange Building. Visiting it would give you a good idea of what an American dungeon looked like! It was described as a damp and unwholesome place that caused many illnesses and deaths among the prisoners. Imagine no electricity or running water! Prisoners of all types (many innocent), men and women, were indiscriminately thrown together in one room to suffer the consequences....

Posted by: celticlord 04-Feb-2009, 04:30 PM
The word dungeon was derived from the Old French donjon, which came from the Latin dominus, "lord".

However, in French the term donjon means "keep" (a form of tower), and the term oubliette or cachot (a form of prison) is a more appropriate translation of the English "dungeon". This word is a false friend.

In its original medieval usage, the dungeon was the keep, the main tower of a castle which formed the final defensive position the garrison could retreat to when outer fortifications were overcome. It was also a safe, if not comfortable, place to keep prisoners. Once more luxurious housing for the lord of the castle was constructed, the dungeon was used mainly for this purpose. Its meaning has evolved over time to also mean an underground prison or burial vault, typically built underneath a castle.

In 1613, Anton Praetorius described the terrible situation of the prisoners in the dungeons in his book Gründlicher Bericht über Zauberei und Zauberer (Thorough Report about Wizardry and Wizards).

Although many real dungeons are simply a single plain room with a heavy door or with access only from a hatchway or trapdoor in the floor of the room above, the use of dungeons for torture, along with their association to common human fears of being trapped underground, have made dungeons a powerful metaphor in a variety of contexts.

Modern criminal individuals who have built dungeons
John Jamelske, USA
John Esposito (Criminal), USA [1]
Josef Fritzl, Austria [2]
Josh Stannard, England
Marc Dutroux, Belgium
Wolfgang Priklopil, Austria
Viktor Mokhov, Russia[3]
Blaze Brigade, PLB

Posted by: englishmix 06-Feb-2009, 11:16 PM
We need 'em in America! Dungeons can be a great deterrent to crime and even an end of some criminals... thumbs_up.gif

It is also the place from whence the profession of chiropractery arose - the rack.

In your research, I would start with the Tower of London. The trouble with those days was the lack of justice and fair trial for the peasantry and serfs.

Posted by: seamusmaccorcrain 18-Feb-2009, 08:42 AM
The smell<s> in dungeons were nothing extra-ordinary for folks living back then. Remember, our "sensitivities" such as smell etc, are a product of our "enlightened" society and nothing more.

The reality of remains of human bodies......well the rats and other vermin would pretty well take care of most of that, long before the bodies began to stink too badly, in most cases.

Also, and sorry if this offends anyone, oft times fellow prisoners would also contribute to the disposal of the dead, and even help their weaker fellows along on their trip to providing fodder, shall we say?

That is, of course, in jails/dungeons where there were provisions made for crowding the poor etc together that way.

MOST older dungeons were just a hole in the ground that you threw someone who had offended the Lord for whatever reason and NO ONE cared about them after that.

Human life in those days consisted of two varieties......those who had power and wealth and those who didn't.

Guess who's life was worth nothing at all?

Lord Seamus

Posted by: InRi 19-Feb-2009, 01:15 PM
I found at a German website an extensive description of different torture manners and a lot of punishments which was in use in medieval Germany. I can say that my ancestors was very fancy in this case... really hard stuff.
If somebody is interested I'll translate this into English. I ask before I do this, because it will be a lot of work...


Posted by: shiny 28-May-2009, 03:49 PM
I am interested, but if it would cause you trouble to translate then don't worry about it.

Posted by: InRi 29-May-2009, 11:39 AM
QUOTE (shiny @ 28-May-2009, 10:49 PM)
I am interested, but if it would cause you trouble to translate then don't worry about it.

Hi shiny,

my trouble to translate isn't the problem... but I'm worry about your mental condition after reading this... wink.gif

Okay, okay I'll begin to translate within the next days.

Best regards


Posted by: LibraryJim 29-May-2009, 12:08 PM
"What happened in the dungeons
Stayed in the dungeons!"

Well, it would make a good SCA bumper sticker. tongue.gif

Posted by: InRi 29-May-2009, 01:07 PM
QUOTE (InRi @ 29-May-2009, 06:39 PM)
I'll begin to translate within the next days.

I began to translate already today.

Here are the first four torture manners in disordered sequence - the relativly easy manners first... giljotiini.gif (Translation fails I please to excuse)

lead press, crown squeezer
Torture or execution. For using this instruments the head was layed into a vise and this was screwed down more and more until – akin the squeezing of grapes – heavy pressure weighed on the crowm of the accused until the crown broke.

to drown
Torture or execution. The tortured was, shackled on hands or within a cage on a rope launched to water (sea, river harbor) again and again so that he couldn't breath less or longer time. This was made by using a crane frame. Every time he was lifted above the water there was the ability to admit something. If he didn't he was launched again.

Torture or execution. The tortured was laid on a table and strapped down. On his chest was placed a plank. Oin this plank was laid heavy weights, those took him the breath. If the tortured didn't admit was put more and more weights on the plank – until the chest broke.

to broil
Torture or execution. The tortured was affixed above a fire place in a kind (eighter erectly fixed by a picket or layed on a frame) that you could ingnite a small fire below his feet. The feet lubed up by grease and the fire ignited. First burned up the skin on the feet until the substance was visibly. The smell of the own burned substance ingressed into the nose of the tortured. The torture could take so long until the feet-bones was visibly.


Posted by: Rindy 31-May-2009, 12:34 PM
Thanks for posting that InRi I think unsure.gif laugh.gif


Posted by: shiny 01-Jun-2009, 01:41 AM
Thank you InRi for the translations!

Posted by: InRi 01-Jun-2009, 02:32 AM
That's the begin only. If I have a bit more time in my hand I'll continue...


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