Thursday, December 8, 2011

Crime and gunishment

Dave curbs his enthusiasm at meeting Uncle Tow

When I was a kid, I loved dungeons, haunted houses and the Chamber of Horrors section of wax museums (I still know the sequence of torture instruments at the Brading Wax Museum on the Isle of Wight like the back of my severed hand). I'm happy to report that I've never grown out of this.

It's no so much morbid curiosity or a disturbing gore obsession as the amusement of someone putting hard work and care into creating dummies and dioramas to really scare the shit out of children - especially when they contain more gore than is strictly necessary (Haw Par Villa in Singapore is the best example I've found in the world, so far).

I've been trying to find 'unusual' attractions in Bangkok on my most recent visit, so I was delighted to find out that there are a few museums devoted to death and suffering in various forms. Excellent! I was going to categorise these next few blog posts as The Dark Side of Bangkok, but then I remembered there are much darker things around here than that, which I have no interest in seeing. No matter how often tuk tuk drivers make the sales pitch.

Corrections Museum,

Time for some more education in the inhumane

Takrow - a ball of rakkan with sharp nails on the inside.

Prisoners were placed inside this zorb of torture and they
let an elephant play football with it.
(Maybe the widespread elephant mistreatment in Thailand is justified after all)

Bed lek - prisoners were hung by the chin and left to hang around for a while.

Eventually abolished in 1908 by the Penal Code, after nearly 500 years of effective use.

It's health and safety gone mad

Nail hammering - self-explanatory. Apart from maybe clarifying that the 'nails' are fingernails. And actual nails. Nailed into fingernails. Self-explanatory

Torturing box - constructed to the exact size of prisoners to ensure a perfect fit.

Then they left you outside for a while in the heat so you could think about what you'd done (or more likely, think mad and sad dehydration thoughts)

Temple pressing - After the elephant kickabout and being cooked alive, this one seems almost polite by comparison.

Especially as they apparently cut your head off first, so you presumably don't feel a lot

These facsimiles of upstanding law officers were the scariest part.

Still, you would, wouldn't you?

Real seized drugs and things. It's like effing Breaking Bad

Some jolly paintings of torture during the Ayutthaya period, again crafted with the same morbid delight as the Haw Par Villa dioramas... or should that be die-oramas?
Oh hang on, I checked and apparently the first one is the correct spelling

Bad man getting beheaded. People in the distant past were barbarians

Bad man getting gunished. People in the not-so-distant past were barbarians

Place where bad men lie and get executed by lethal injection (since 2003). Modern society is so utopian

Uncle Tow who devoted his body to the prison for people is awareness of their mortal lives.

Hey, I'm just reading the sign

Though I'm not sure who this was or what's going on here. I left my donation at the exit - it somehow seemed more ethical than dropping it here and listening to the satisfying sound it would make ricocheting off Dead-O's remaining teeth

Oh dear, apparently it's disrespectful and a criminal offence to take photos of the dead stuff.
Have I learned nothing today?


  1. I intended to follow this post up with a visit the Forensic Museum at Siriraj Hospital where they keep dead foetuses and body parts, but when I eventually found my way there it was closed for renovations.

    Sorry about that, dead stuff fans - here's a mummified foetus I saw at the tomb of Amun-her-khepeshef in Egypt's Valley of the Queens, if you need your premature infant death fix. You make me sick.

  2. Aw man that looks like a fun day out! I have a similar obsession with morbidity, although being stuck in an office I can't visit awesome torture museums and have to do with Wikipedia instead.

    I think scaphism is my favourite method of torture so far:

    "The intended victim was stripped naked and then firmly fastened between a face-to-face pair of narrow rowing boats with the head, hands and feet protruding. The condemned was forced to ingest milk and honey to the point of developing severe diarrhea, and more honey would be rubbed on his body to attract insects to the exposed appendages. He would then be left to float on a stagnant pond or be exposed to the sun. The defenseless individual's feces accumulated within the container, attracting more insects, which would eat and breed within his exposed flesh"


  3. Nice. When I was a kid, my favourite was the one where they impale a cage into your stomach containing a rat and a hot coal, and the rat claws its way through you to get away from the coal. Kind of a more extreme and less stimulating version of the Richard Gere rumour.