Created By: HellKillUsAll on September 12, 2014 Last Edited By: Exxolon on December 8, 2017

Iron Maiden

A medieval torture device that's full of spikes.

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Trope
An iron maiden is a form of medieval torture wherein a person is stuffed into a man-shaped metal case with spikes all around the insides, causing the poor soul to get stabbed and eventually die. Often, that metal case is also a coffin.

Despite taking hold in popular culture, they probably never existed in real life besides Saddam Hussein's rumored one.

Not to be confused with to the heavy metal group, though they are named after the device.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • Hellboy: Rasputin sacrifices Ilsa Haupstein to become the incarnation of Hecate in an Iron Maiden.

Films - Animated
  • In Despicable Me, Edith goes into Gru's iron maiden, and what appears to be blood drips out of it, much to Margo's horror. The iron maiden then opens, only for it to be revealed that the spikes poked a hole in Edith's juice box, causing the red juice to drip out.

Films - Live-Action

Literature
  • In Matilda, Miss Trunchbull stuffs kids into a closet, dubbed "the Chokey", which is full of rusty nails and broken glass, akin to an iron maiden. The idea here is that the kids must stand perfectly still until released to avoid injury.
  • Raising Steam: A prisoner is kept in a (spikeless) iron maiden with several kittens. If the torturer drops by and doesn't hear contented purring, he opens it and whacks the prisoner over the head.

Western Animation
  • The Popeye short "Can You Take It?" has Popeye enduring abuse as part of his Initiation Ceremony into the Bruiser Boys Club, ending with him encased in an iron maiden. However, the durable sailor survives and the knives in the back are bent.
  • The Simpsons: The opening to "Treehouse of Horror XVII" has Moe stuffed into an iron maiden, with his blood spilling and spelling out the episode's title.
Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • September 12, 2014
    SWFMax
    Possible index: The We Are Not Alone Index, as Wikipedia also has an article about the iron maiden.
  • September 12, 2014
    SWFMax
    In Despicable Me, Edith goes into Gru's iron maiden, and what appears to be blood drips out of it, much to Margo's horror. The iron maiden then opens, only for it to be revealed that the spikes poked a hole in Edith's juice box, causing the red juice to drip out.
  • September 12, 2014
    Daefaroth
    Live Action Film:
  • September 12, 2014
    K.Kloga
    Was also featured in the Mario Bava debut horror The Black Sunday, but it's really just an insertion of a real thing which isn't a trope. Though, it may be retooled in some interesting thing. I've noticed that Iron Maiden and other tortures can be usually seen in the prologue for some reason...
  • September 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Often that metal case is also a coffin.
  • September 12, 2014
    arbiter099
    I swear I've seen an article on these things here somewhere before. Anyway, it should probably be noted that despite taking hold in popular culture, they probably never existed in real life besides Saddam's rumored one.
  • September 12, 2014
    lexicon
    Can this have a laconic?
  • September 12, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Hellboy: Rasputin sacrifices Ilsa Haupstein to become the incarnation of Hecate in an Iron Maiden.
    • Discworld introduces kitten torture in Raising Steam: a prisoner is kept in a (spikeless) iron maiden with several kittens. If the torturer drops by and doesn't hear contented purring, he opens it and whacks the prisoner over the head.

  • September 13, 2014
    Astaroth
    Is the Mathilda example in the books as well? It's been a while since I read it...

    • The first Simon The Sorcerer game has Simon being forced to hide from some goblins inside an iron maiden. Played For Laughs, since he claims the maiden has cured his hayfever via acupuncture, and the first thing he does when he escapes is drink a glass of water, which leaks out of his body through the holes.
  • September 13, 2014
    Someoneman
    Does this count?
  • September 13, 2014
    Psychopompos007
    I think it could be worth mentioning in introduction that the modern discovery of the iron maiden may come from erroneous interpretation of the actual purpose of a real torture device known as "Schandmantel".

    Literature
    • Bram Stoker short-story The Squaw is focused on the iron maiden (refered as "Iron Virgin" in the text) exposed in Nuremberg Castle (the device really existed, it was destroyed by the Allied bombing of 1944). Its protagonist is an American tourist who visits the castle and asks the guid to brievely almost close the iron maiden on him, to know how would have fell a victim of this supplice. Before entering the castle, he unintentionally killed a group of kittens next to their mothers, by throwing a stone. While testing the iron maiden, the guid is attacked by the resentful cat and let go the rope which held the device's doors open; the heavy doors thus slammed shut, killing the protagonist.

    Live Action-Films
    • In Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane has flashbacks about his mother dying inside an iron maiden. She has been condemned to death by her husband, a priest who accused her of sorcery.

    Video Games
    • Amnesia The Dark Descent includes an iron maiden in a late part of Brennenburg Castle. Coming close to it triggers a (hallucinated) Jump Scare when it opens. Using it when you're next to the thing triggers a kind of flashback through the memories of one of its victims.
  • September 13, 2014
    ElectricNova
    Er... on it's own, "Irons maidens exist" isn't really a trope.

    Now if it was about the way iron maidens are frequently used (and misunderstood) in fiction and pop culture, you may be onto something....
  • September 13, 2014
    Psychopompos007
    The iron maiden is a stock (no pun intended) torture device involving very gruesome death, and/or stereotypical medieval violence. I think that the mere fact of using/mentioning them in a fiction work would be tropable by itself. The fact that the device is Artistic License History is just the icing of the cake.
  • September 13, 2014
    jormis29
    The Hellboy example is the from the comics not the film adaption. Have a brief skim of this page.
  • September 13, 2014
    jormis29

    Someone could do an entry on Jeanne from Shaman King, I have not read it
  • September 13, 2014
    lexicon
    Yes, "Irons maidens exist" isn't really a trope. Iron Maiden Torture might work.
  • September 13, 2014
    arbiter099
    Fact checking myself here, it was actually Uday Hussein, Saddam's son who's alleged to have built and used one. More info at The Other Wiki.
  • September 14, 2014
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • Module G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. The steading's torture chamber has an iron maiden that is used to punish humanoid slaves as well as disobedient hill giants.
      • Module G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King. The torture chamber of King Snurre's Hall has an iron maiden. The King's Torturer will grab opponents, throw them into the iron maiden and shut the door on them, inflicting 10-100 Hit Points of damage.
  • September 14, 2014
    MetaFour
    Yes, the Matilda example was in the book before the movie. I think the book specified that it was shards of glass on the three walls and nails through the door. Everyone called it "the Chokey". It was possible to avoid injury inside, if you could stand perfectly upright the whole time you were in there.
  • September 14, 2014
    randomsurfer
    See also Punishment Box, which is a (slightly) more humane version.
  • September 14, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In the "Witch Key" arc of Tarot Witch Of The Black Rose, Tarot is shoved inside an iron maiden as one of the tortures she's forced to endure. She somehow manages to stay perfectly still for several days.
  • October 12, 2014
    Alucard
    Video Games
    • One of Bayonetta's torture attacks on lesser angels is to shove them into one of these.
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Again, call it Iron Maiden Torture.
  • October 13, 2014
    maxwellsilver
    I think the "existed" part should be clarified, to avoid people saying "but I saw one in a museum".

    While they do physically exist, they were specifically built as museum pieces, the earliest dating to the 1850s, centuries after they are said to have been used. There is no evidence one was ever used as a torture device in the middle ages.
  • October 13, 2014
    Generality
    Moved "Matilda" example to Literature, as the torture exists in the book as well.
  • October 13, 2014
    bitemytail
    In Auction Kings, the Garrett brothers bring in an iron maiden to sell in their debut episode. Paul is quick to point out that they did not actually exist in the Middle Ages.
  • October 13, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    There was a Batman comic in which some cult leader had one of these and used it to keep his disciples in line. Can't remember which, though...
  • January 18, 2015
    jormis29
    Bump
  • January 31, 2015
    Alucard
    • In Danganronpa, the first execution we see is someone being trapped in a rocket flying into space that doubles as an iron maiden. Their body burns up upon reentry if the spikes didn't kill them first.
  • February 1, 2015
    randomsurfer
    In The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror for 2014 one of the Three Shorts takes place in a school in Hell. At one point we see two bullies push a smaller demon into a locker with spikes inside and slam it shut, then blood pours out of the bottom of the locker.
  • February 1, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Tim Burton's Batman Returns shows that Bruce Wayne steps into an iron maiden in Wayne Manor to enter the Batcave. The spikes retract, the front closes, and the trap door floor lets Bruce slide down a chute. Fridge Brilliance in that someone who learned Bruce's secret identity would think twice about trying to get into the Batcave this way, because if Batman has a safety feature to detect an imposter, the penalty would be painful indeed.
  • February 1, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    When was the last time things were added to the initial post?
  • February 2, 2015
    jormis29
    ^By the look of things the 2014-09-12 post by Chabal2 was the last added.
  • February 2, 2015
    BinaryStep
    Is this really a trope? It looks like one of those "list of every time an object appears in fiction" pages like Caltrops.
  • February 2, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Cal Trops does have its use: as a trap. It's always used in an act of hindering, which makes it tropable.

    For Iron Maiden, maybe use Iron Maiden Torture?
  • February 2, 2015
    BinaryStep
    ^Are objects on their own really tropes, though?
  • February 2, 2015
    Daefaroth
    ^I would say not the device itself. But using one or threatening to use one seems tropable to me.
  • February 3, 2015
    erforce
    Music
    • The cover of U.D.O. album Solid depicts the singer Udo Dirkschneider emerging from an open iron maiden relatively unhurt.
  • February 8, 2015
    jormis29
    ^^^ There are a variety of object tropes like The Thing That Goes Doink, Maneki Neko and the Hand Of Glory
  • October 22, 2017
    darkemyst
    Can often be found in a Torture Cellar.

    Films - Animated

    Films - Live Action
    • In Sleepy Hollow 1999 Ichabod Crane remembers that his mother was locked in an iron maiden by his father when he thought the free-spirited woman was a witch.
  • October 23, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Also considered a Dead Unicorn Trope, since there were no evidence of tortures via iron maidens in the actual medieval era.

    Also has nothing to with Margaret Thatcher.
  • October 23, 2017
    LondonKdS
    In the Doctor Who story "The King's Demons", the Master's TARDIS takes on the form of an (anachronistic) iron maiden in thirteenth-century England.
  • October 23, 2017
    NightShade96
    • In the 25th Animorphs novel The Extreme, it's revealed that Visser Three's room on the Blade Ship contains an assortment of torture devices, including an iron maiden.

    Also, corrected "Trenchbull" to "Trunchbull".
  • November 29, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    In a short story by Bram Stoker, the novelist and his wife ventured out to Nuremberg to visit the fabled dungeons. There, they meet an American tourist who was also thrilled to see the dungeons. On the way there, the American threw stones on a black cat and her kittens, killing one of them, and went along their way. Upon entering the dungeon, after being told not to go to the iron maiden, the American went in and tested out how the spikes would hurt. The suddenly, the black cat from earlier leaped in the maiden, toppling it down, crushing the American.
  • November 30, 2017
    Arivne
    Does anyone disagree with changing the name to Iron Maiden Torture to make it more tropable?
  • November 29, 2017
    Omeganian
    The Bugs Bunny short "False Hare" had a wolf trying several ways to kill Bugs, including shutting an Iron Maiden's door on him. The wolf's nephew takes a peek inside once the wolf inevitably falls victim to Hoist By His Own Petard, and apparently doesn't like the result.
  • December 6, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    ^^ I 90% agree on Iron Maiden Torture. The 10% in me will think that some dumbass (or a smartass) would confuse this with being tortured by listening to the whole discography of a metal band.

    But yeah, Iron Maiden Torture it is.

    Also, is the OP still around. If not, then it's Up For Grabs.
  • December 6, 2017
    Mhazard
    In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, the Puppet Master deploys four Iron Maidens in his room, summons a puppet and places it in one of the four devices. You need to destroy the puppet before it enter the Iron Maiden, otherwise you'll be teleported into the Iron Maiden and get stuffed into it.
  • December 7, 2017
    darkemyst
    Iron Maiden Torture sounds like a bit of a different trope than the one that was being developed here which allows for the inclusion of Iron Maidens that are purely atmospheric.
  • December 7, 2017
    Dravencour
    • Diablo, being a Dark Fantasy series, naturally features these. In Diablo III, monsters will sometimes pop out of them.
    • Berserk features a few of these during the Conviction Arc, and Casca very nearly gets shut in one, which is about the point when all hell really breaks loose.
  • December 8, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    • In the Power Puff Girls episode "Abracadaver", the titular Villain of the Episode was a magician who died from an iron maiden-like coffin after a little girl pushed him for losing her toy. After he was revived as a zombie, Abracadaver exacted revenge towards Blossom, who resembles that little girl decades ago, by hypnotizing her and sealing her inside the iron maiden. At the end, the Abracadaver reveals to be Blossom, and Blossom did the switcheroo by sealing the zombie inside the maiden.
  • December 8, 2017
    agentcardinam11
    How is this a trope in media? The description is literally just the device it's named after. If this were to reflect traps in media in general, or reflected something ABOUT the traps, it would make more sense.
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