Think torture is a relic of the Dark Ages? Think again. Torture for sadistic gratification, information extraction, and punishment is intimately woven into the human experience. Even today, horrific acts of torture occur every day in all corners of the globe.
Due to the unseemly elements and tools required, torture is often conducted in specially designed, clandestine rooms, ominously called “chambers.” Some enter these palaces of pain willingly. However, most are compelled against their will. Make no mistake; there is always a political connotation. “Good” people do not need torture chambers.
10 Saddam’s Upper East Side Secret
According to anonymous Iraqi officials, Saddam Hussein operated a secret torture chamber out of the Iraqi mission in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The palace of pain was located across the street from the residence of billionaire and former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Saddam’s Mukhabarat agents reportedly locked dissidents in the chamber for weeks at a time, usually to compel relatives to return to Iraq.
“It was a dark room. The doors were reinforced in a way that no one could break in or out,” noted one official. His colleague followed up, “You’re not going to hear anyone scream down there.” Removal of fingernails and beating with rubber hoses, wooden planks, and copper wires were standard. When victims died, they were packed in US customs–exempt packages and shipped to Baghdad. “This is diplomatic—nobody has the authority to open it or examine it.” In 2014, the chamber was converted into a kitchenette.
9 Massachusetts Chamber Of Horrors
On December 27, 2017, Massachusetts police rescued a missing 16-year-old girl from a “torture chamber” in the basement of an Auburn home. The runaway from New Jersey had been sexually assaulted, burned with cigarettes, and duct-taped to a chair, and her hair was shaved off. “Her hair was in a Christmas bag,” noted Auburn police officer George Vranos. Four individuals have been charged: Yulent Ortiz, 19, Yariel Torres-Abee, 22, Krystal Lugo, 23, and Christopher Lugo, 19.
According to the defendants, the victim helped orchestrate a robbery for drugs. The plot involved two unidentified men, who reportedly entered the residence around 6:00 AM on Christmas morning and pistol-whipped Christopher Lugo while demanding marijuana. After the men fled, interrogations of the runaway began. Prosecutors allege the New Jersey teen was picked up on Christmas in Leominster. Over two days, she was given Xanax-laced marijuana cigarettes and sexually assaulted by various people before the real horror began.
8 Sadomasochist Club Safety Concerns
On June 7, 2017, a British sadomasochist swingers’ club was shut down for safety concerns over its torture chamber. According to a website for the private Vivente club, the subterranean dungeon came “complete with a St. George’s Cross, stocks, sex-swing and plenty of implements to inflict pain.” Sunderland’s magistrate court was less than thrilled to hear that as many as 60 would be crammed into the sex dungeon. Club owner Katherine High pleaded guilty to five counts of breaching the regulations.
“Fire risks were aggravated by the presence of equipment,” noted prosecutor Jim Wotherspoon. A hidden and locked rear entrance, nonfunctioning fire alarm, flammable wall coverings, and extensive candle usage exacerbated concerns. Authorities first became aware of Vivente’s health and safety issues on April 21, 2015. Were authorities genuinely concerned over safety or merely player-hating on sexual vanguards committed to bringing a “whole new modern approach to the swinging lifestyle?”
7 Utah Hellhole
In August 2017, a Utah mother was sentenced to 15 years for locking her special needs child in a bathroom for two years. Brandy K. Jaynes, 36, pleaded guilty to three counts of felony abuse. Her 12-year-old son weighed only 15 kilgrams (33 lb), when his father, Russell Orin Jaynes, 40, turned him over to authorities. During confinement, the boy lost use of some of his limbs, making even walking a challenge.
“It was truly like a torture chamber,” noted Washington County Sheriff’s Office Lt. David Crouse of the filthy second-floor bathroom. Two padlocks secured the door from the outside. All light switches were taped to the “off” position. A baby monitor allowed voices to penetrate the fetid darkness, but no sound was transmitted out. Feces choked the toilet and covered the floor. Empty bean cans were found in the shower. A video camera complete with Wi-Fi allowed remote viewing.
6 Craigslist Killer’s Torture Chamber
On July 16, 2014, Michigan authorities discovered Charles Oppenneer’s decapitated body in an overgrown area near Gezon Park. An investigation quickly connected the 25-year-old victim to Brady Oestrike, who had set up a cash-for-sex deal with the deceased and his girlfriend on Craigslist. On July 17, Oestrike fled in his car before authorities could apprehend him. A self-inflicted gunshot ended the chase abruptly. The remains of Oppenneer’s girlfriend, Brooke Slocum, 18 years old and eight months pregnant, were found in a suitcase in the car’s trunk.
Investigators discovered that the 31-year-old energy company lineman videotaped Slocum’s torture, which took place over five days in a specially outfitted chamber of horrors. Four surveillance cameras reveal that Oestrike placed a chain around Slocum’s neck and bolted her to the bathroom floor. A pulley system suspended her arms in the air. At 1:00 PM on July 17, Oestrike turned off the cameras. Soon after, Slocum died of strangulation.
5 The Black Stadium
Once a venue for soccer matches, Raqqa’s “Black Stadium” showcased new spectacles following takeover by ISIS. In a subterranean structure which originally housed locker rooms, the terrorist group built a “prison of death.” “Eighty percent of the people imprisoned here were killed,” noted local resident Issa Xabur. “The stadium became known for beheading people.”
One room stands out in the Black Stadium. The names of victims cloak the walls of a cell reserved for those suspected of betrayal and espionage. The graffiti appears in Arabic, Russian, and English. Iron cables, hooks, chains, and restraint straps can still be found in the underground labyrinth. Bare metal bed frames reveal where prisoners were electrocuted. The Amni, the ISIS security arm, even modified gym equipment into torture devices that would bend victims backward. Torture was performed in the shadowy, subterranean corridors. Executions occurred in the stadium’s open air.
4 Swiss Sadist
In 2014, Swiss firemen discovered an illegal marijuana-growing operation while responding to flooding at an industrial site in Hausen. An investigation revealed something far more sinister hidden on the property: a torture dungeon with an extensive video collection of the horrific acts that had occurred there.
Police arrested a 63-year-old electrical engineer referred to as “Urs W.” Prosecutors allege that he would set up meetings with African women on dating sites and then subdue them with Rohypnol. Once in control, Urs would take the women to his subterranean torture dungeon. Footage revealed beating and torture with vacuum pumps, clamps, electricity, and mouth spreaders. The indictment also referenced 48 images of child pornography and 15 images of bestiality. In May 2017, Urs W. was sentenced to eight years. He maintains his innocence. “I have paid for everything and got what I wanted,” he noted. “I had my fun, and the women their money.”
3 Philadelphia’s House Of Horrors
On March 24, 1987, police received a call for help from a drug-infested area of North Philadelphia that led to the ultimate “House of Horrors.” Josefina Rivera, 25, explained that since November, she had been in the clutches of a madman responsible for kidnapping, rape, murder, and cannibalism. What’s more, she reported that three women were still being held captive. Two others had perished from electrocution and starvation.
In the basement of Gary Heidnick’s residence, authorities discovered two hysterical, half-naked women chained to a steam pipe. Another was found in a shallow pit covered with plywood. The kitchen refrigerator contained several pounds of human flesh. A human rib rested in the oven. The victim was Sandra Lindsay. Her remains were ground, mixed with dog food, and fed to the other captives. On July 6, 1999, Heidnick was put to death by lethal injection. He is the last man executed by Pennsylvania.
2 After-School Torture Compartment
In May 2017, reports emerged that staffers at a city after-school program had locked a six-year-old boy inside a “torture compartment.” Four members of the after-school program at PS 84 in New York City were dismissed. The Department of Education shuttered the after-school program, claiming it was not properly permitted. According to the boy’s mother, Porsche Gaddy, he was repeatedly “hoisted by the crotch and lifted headfirst into the pitch-dark compartment as a form of punishment.”
The New York Post is the only outlet to report on the incident. The lone description we are provided of the “torture cabinet” is a “ceiling closet” with a 76-centimeter by 46-centimeter (30 x 18 in) opening. While there are reports of other students complaining about the after-school program, all of these are secondhand sources attributed to Gaddy. This fearmongering could be a veiled indictment of the horrific conditions, low pay, and limited resources for day care workers.
1 Ethiopia’s Palace Of Pain
On January 3, 2018, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced the closure of an infamous prison camp. Torture and solitary confinement are de rigueur at Maekelawi, where political prisoners rot awaiting trial. “Punching, beating, extended physical exercise and flogging” are used to extract sensitive information. “For years, Maekelawi has essentially functioned as a torture chamber,” noted Amnesty International’s Fisseha Tekle. One cell block within the notorious prison goes by the ominous name of “the Dark House.” Also known as Siberia, this pitch-black subterranean unit contains four cells too narrow to sit or stretch.
Given that the Ethiopian government has shown zero tolerance for dissenting voices, the announcement is “quite surprising.” Since 2015, several thousand Ethiopians have been arrested for expressing themselves politically. The Ethiopian government has frequently relied on anti-terrorist laws to quash legitimate dissent. Tekle warns, “The closure must not be used to whitewash the horrifying events that have taken place there.”
A leading authority on occult music, Geordie McElroy hunts spell songs and incantations for the Smithsonian and private collectors. Dubbed the “Indiana Jones of ethnomusicology” by TimeOutLA, he is also front man of Blackwater Jukebox.