HellKillUsAll on Sep 12th 2014 at 7:04:19 PM
Last Edited By:
Morgenthaler on Jul 17th 2018 at 9:17:05 PM
Page Type: Trope
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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, this is a Dead Unicorn Trope. There is no evidence of tortures via iron maidens in the actual medieval era, and they probably never existed at all in real life. The modern discovery of the iron maiden may come from erroneous interpretation of the actual purpose of a real torture device known as "Schandmantel".
Not to be confused with the heavy metal group, though they are named after the device.
Anime and Manga
- 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.
- Hellboy: Rasputin sacrifices Ilsa Haupstein to become the incarnation of Hecate in an Iron Maiden.
- 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.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: From Kept Busy:
"How's dear old Groll doing these days?""Your admirably treacherous and selfish former subordinate remains in the torture chamber. We put him into an iron maiden built from his own teeth," the butler proclaimed, rubbing his hands with glee. "I hope you don't need to ask him anything, Master. His pronunciation has deteriorated quite a bit since we put ants in his mouth."
Film — 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.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas Oogie Boogie's lair is revealed to contain an iron maiden during his Villain Song.
Film — Live-Action
- In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the Royal Ugly Dude threatens to put Bill and Ted in the Iron Maiden, which they do confuse with the heavy metal group.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Elizabeth's ultimate fate in The Pit and the Pendulum is to be locked in an Iron Maiden without any hope of rescue.
- Five Deadly Venoms features an iron maiden variant with the victim's head exposed, which Snake uses to kill Toad. It only takes after Snake smashes Toad's ears and disables his "iron skin" power.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the final illusion of a Halloween special of The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Paul Daniels attempted to escape from an iron maiden rigged to slam shut. It slammed shut before he escaped and the screen faded to black and the credits rolled. The credits were followed by Paul Daniels standing outside of the mansion from which the show was broadcast, as if to reassure the audience that his failure to escape was just an illusion, but he kept the audience guessing by saying that this segment was recorded the night before the broadcast and that he hoped his final illusion would go well.
- Supernatural: The preferred torture device of Alternate Universe Archangel Michael is an iron maiden stored in a backroom of his base (a dilapidated church), which he initially uses to interrogate the captured Lucifer by impaling him on its spikes.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Talking to the Dead", one of the victims is murdered by being shoved in an iron maiden that has a mechanism that automatically extends the spikes.
- The cover of U.D.O. album Solid depicts the singer Udo Dirkschneider emerging from an open iron maiden relatively unhurt.
- Dungeons & 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.
- Module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. One room in Lolth's giant spider ship is a torture chamber devoted to tormenting prisoners. It includes iron maidens which are "in good condition and recently used."
- WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. Deep inside the temple can be found a torture chamber full of decayed and rotted equipment for the infliction of pain. The iron maiden is eaten through and covered with rust spots, no longer useful for the torment of prisoners as it was during the temple's heyday.
- 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.
- 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.
- One of your hiding places for Fiona during the second portion of Haunting Ground is inside an iron maiden. If Daniella finds her, she'll pull a lever and Fiona is impaled.
- Thief Gold: There are several iron maidens in the Torture Cellar under the Mage Towers.
- World of Warcraft: Brother Crowley of the Scarlet Crusade hangs out in the basement of Cathedral of Light with a few maidens lining the walls.
- One of Bayonetta's torture attacks on lesser angels is to shove them into an iron maiden.
- 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.
- Diablo, being a Dark Fantasy series, naturally features these. In Diablo III, monsters will sometimes pop out of them.
- The Noble Phantasm of Carmilla aka grown-up Elisabeth Bathory in Fate/Grand Order is Phantom Maiden, the iron maiden she supposedly used to torture people, though her profile also states that it never actually existed in the first place.
- In Guilty Gear, it is the Instant Kill of Millia Rage. Throughout X and XX, she executes this move by plunging her hair into the ground, then makes it come under and multiple strips of hair let out a golden glow that stabs the opponent. As it stops, two huge twisted hair strands shaped like arrow tips impale the opponent from above while forming an X. Finally, the enemy falls to the ground as the hair disappears. This changes in Xrd, where she surrounds her victim with the strips of her hair, and skewers them to death.
- In Lobotomy Corporation there's an Abnormality called "We can change anything" which is modeled after an iron maiden.
- Darkest Dungeon: One of the curios that heroes may encounter in the Ruins. Interacting with it can range from simply swinging open and revealing nothing but foul smelling air to trapping the hero inside it, having a chance of giving them a claustrophobia quirk and stressing them out or exposing them to tetanus with a low chance for a random disease. Heroes with the bloodthirsty quirk can be compelled to open maidens on their own.
- In Whack The Serial Killer, the title psycho has one of these in his Torture Cellar, which you can use on him.
- In Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, Gibril's level is set in a mansion, with iron maidens as traps that may snap Gunvolt in, causing him to take big damage if he isn't careful. In the boss fight, Gibril herself may sometimes summon an iron maiden to try to trap Gunvolt in. Also, in the third phase of her battle, she proceeds to trap herself in her iron maiden to help her unleash her Limit Break (which required her to bleed enough); the fact that she's a Combat Sadomasochist helps.
- Divinity: Original Sin: In the dungeons of the elemental realm of Heiberheim the party encounters an Iron Maiden that talks. She is quite lusty, beckoning you to enter her embrace, but also lamenting that she can only take life. She wants to be pierced instead of doing the literal, deadly piercing. Destroying her reveals a Star Stone.
- 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.
- SCP-762 ("Immortal Iron Maiden") is an iron maiden that puts anyone inside it into a state of suspended animation, and they do not require sustenance and are immune to the effects of disease or injury, and when they are removed, the injuries caused by the SCP heal instantly. However, the subject remains conscious and the experience is described as being extremely painful.
- 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.
- In 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.
- Shows up in a blink-and-miss scene in episode "Itchy & Scratchy Land", when Marge looks at the map of the amusement park and there is an illustration of the Iron Maiden at the "Torture Land" attraction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Danny Phantom : In one of the darkest bits of humor on the show, the Bumbling Dad built one of these as a punishment for his children. The "Fenton Stockades", he called them - though ultimately, he's the one who gets put inside.
- In parts of the British Isles, a method of execution involved putting the condemned person into a large barrel with lots of nails driven through the wood and facing inwards. The lid would then be fixed and the barrel, plus person inside, would be rolled down a hillside... this is alluded to in a Monty Python sketch about crime and punishment, narrated by Michael Palin...
(Palin, voice-over): But for the lack of any untold circumstances for this secretary to notice, and the total non-involvement of Mr. Mellish in anything illegal, the full weight of the law would insure that Ralph Aulds Mellish would have ended up like all who challenge the fundamental laws of our society. In an iron coffin, with spikes on the inside.
- Uday Hussein, the psychopathic son of Saddam Hussein, is rumored to have ordered the construction of an iron maiden for use in his torture-sessions. More info at The Other Wiki.
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