Chinese water torture

Alice Faber faber at ALVIN.HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 9 20:16:42 UTC 2000

Laurence Horn said:
>At 9:10 AM -0500 12/9/00, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>I don't have any knowledge of this 'water-drop' torture except from casual
>>references in English. I wouldn't be surprised if the putative original
>>referent proved to be apocryphal.
>>There are at least two forms of torture called 'water torture' which
>>regrettably seem to be well documented (in Europe and elsewhere): (1)
>>near-drowning or near-suffocation, with the victim's head repeatedly
>>submerged for uncomfortable periods, or with a soaked cloth applied to the
>>face, (2) a procedure in which the victim is forced to swallow enormous
>>amounts of water to painfully distend the stomach.
>Does everyone else associate "Chinese water torture" with the idea of
>being tied down and having the torturer drip water on your forehead
>drop by drop until your forehead begins to give way under the
>pressure?  Would water really do this?  It does somehow sound a bit
>like the alligators in the sewers or the
>theft-of-suitcase-with-dead-dog-inside story.

No! It's tying someone down with a rag in their mouth and dripping water on
to the rag so that they have to swallow it to keep the rag from swelling up
and blocking the airway. (I've seen descriptions at this level, but never
been quite clear on the mechanism by which the victim was given two
options, either of which would lead to a painful death.)
Alice Faber                                       tel. (203) 865-6163
Haskins Laboratories                              fax  (203) 865-8963
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New Haven, CT 06511                               afaber at

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