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Creepy-Crawly Torture

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The rat isn't too thrilled about being near the fire either.


Sometimes a Torture Technician isn't content with the usual types of sharp, blunt or other torture implements. Sometimes they decide to employ living creatures to cause pain or terrify the hapless victim.

Insects and spiders are the most frequent creatures used, and there is a certain logic to it. Many people are afraid of creepy-crawly things, and just the feeling of the creatures crawling over the skin can be enough to terrify them. Alternately, the creatures may be the type that bite or sting, inflicting many shallow but painful wounds over a prolonged period of time without killing the victim. Many of these creatures are also venomous or poisonous, and that can cause effects of its own, provided the toxin isn't potent enough to kill or the victim isn't allergic.

Occasionally, other creatures can show up as well. Deliberately keeping them hungry so they'll be inclined to attack more aggressively or, in either case, commanding them with some form of Mind Control may figure in.

Compare Fed to the Beast and Snake Pit, which usually involves larger creatures and Eaten Alive, as well as Animal Assassin, where the animal is not used for torture but as a murder weapon. If it's a harmless prank rather than being used to mutilate someone, see Squirrels in My Pants.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Jojos Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind, Formaggio uses a tarantula to torture Narancia by shrinking him with his Stand, forcing Narancia to fight against the effectively giant spider for his life.
  • Maria no Danzai: Kumiru's ultimate fate is to be dropped into a puddle of honey at the bottom of an empty well festering with cockroaches, centipedes and other insects, which proceed to crawl all over her and enter her orifices while her arms are bound behind her back, leaving her powerless to do anything other than to scream in horror and pain. It's a karmic death for an Asshole Victim known for honey-trapping several men and drawing amusement from watching Okaya Force Feeding Kiritaka cockroaches.
  • An infamous scene from Tokyo Ghoul involves a centipede being put into Kaneki's ear by Yamori as he tortures him.
  • Overlord (2012): The Guardians manage to completely and utterly break a criminal syndicate to their will by having cockroaches repeatedly devour them from the inside and then healing them back to full health before they die. Even once restored they can't eat solid food, but are desperate to do anything to please their masters for fear of it happening again.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Marik traps Mai in an illusion, making her believe she is being covered in insects that feast on her flesh. He explains that, if she is not saved within 24 hours, her soul will be damaged beyond repair, resulting in her death.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Question: Pipeline, The Question and Huntress are captured at one point and tortured in separate ways. Huntress's torture involves her being restrained and having scorpions crawl all over her.
  • In the first issue of the New 52 version of Suicide Squad, the prospective members of the squad are tortured to find out if they'll break. Deadshot has a pair of rats placed on his chest under a cooking pot, with the pot being heated by a blowtorch so that the rats will panic and try to chew their way through him. Elsewhere, Savant has bugs crawling all over his body and in his clothes. Savant ends up cracking under the torture, and gets hauled away after telling the interrogators about Suicide Squad.

    Fan Works 
  • Confrontation (ack1308): The "bugpocalypse" tactic centers on Buzz covering targets in swarms of bugs where no bugs should go, to make the victim flee the building — into an ambush by Shadow Stalker.
    Having bugs crawling into places that one did not know bugs could crawl into tended to seize one's attention.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Zombies are tortured by being infested with worms and plants, due to being counter to their god, as symbols of fertility against a god of death.
  • In the Star Wars fic Important Information, Han Solo endures a variety of brutal tortures at the hands of an information-seeking Imperial. The sequel, My All, reveals that one of the things done to him was that his captor released a group of Cerean Blood Parasites onto his skin, allowing them to burrow into his wounds and make tunnels through his flesh.

    Films — Animation 
  • Spoofed on Megamind when the titular villain threatens Roxanne with various death traps, all of which she has seen before and is utterly bored of. Then she notes, "The spider's new." It's just an ordinary house spider that happened to be there, but Megamind decides to roll with it, claiming that it's poisonous. Then Roxy blows it into his face and he freaks out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: The Red Lectroids decide to torture and kill Penny Priddy by tying to a table and having some kind of alien... slug... thing crawl down a track towards her ridiculously slowly (just slowly enough so Buckaroo Banzai can save her at the last minute).
  • A prisoner is tortured by having an overturned bucket full of rats (actually guinea pigs painted black) placed on her stomach and set on fire in The Beast in Heat.
  • Die Another Day: While Bond is being tortured in a North Korean prison after his capture in the opening, his interrogators repeatedly have him stung by black scorpions and watch him squirm before administering the anti-venom.
  • Implied in Flash Gordon, where Aura is reported to have been tortured using things called "bore worms".
  • Hook: Captain Hook sentences a pirate who doubted him to "the Boo Box." The poor screaming bastard is locked into a wooden chest, as his shipmates drop scorpions in through a slide in the top while shouting "Boo!"
  • In The Mummy, Imhotep is punished for murdering the Pharaoh Seti I by being subjected to the "Hom Dai", a torture that involves getting locked in a sarcophagus full of flesh-eating scarab beetles.
  • The camp owner is killed by having his head locked in a cage full of rats in Return to Sleepaway Camp.
  • Solarbabies has two scenes with a torture device that creates illusions of the victim's worst fear - in one of the scenes, the victim is covered with ants.
  • In Star Trek, the Big Bad Nero force feeds Captain Pike a Centaurian slug (a parasitic alien insect that, after being consumed by a human host, latches onto the brain stem and releases a toxin into the host's nervous system that leaves the host forced to always answer any and all questions asked).
  • In Tower of London (1962), Richard tortures (and eventually kills) Buckingham by placing a cage over his head and dropping a rat into.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen: The Decepticons capture Sam to gain the information he has absorbed from a fragment of the Allspark. To do this, the Decepticon Mad Doctor Scalpel inserts two small insect-like robots into Sam's mouth who worm around in his skull. After Sam coughs them up, Scalpel extracts enough information from the robots to confirm that Sam does indeed have the information they want but they need to cut out his brain to get all of it. Fortunately for Sam, the Autobots come to his rescue before that can happen.
  • The unrated version of The Wicker Man (2006) has the infamous scene of Nicolas Cage hamming it up as poorly computer-generated bees are released onto his face.
  • The Djinn tortures a woman by shoving her head into a cage full of rats, which eat her face and eyes, in Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell.

  • A self-inflicted one: According to Spartan legend, a little boy once stole a fox kit and hid it under his tunic. When caught, he repeatedly denied having stolen it up until he collapsed dead, the fox having chewed his way through the boy's guts to escape. The moral here (in addition to The Spartan Way) was less "Don't steal" and more "Don't get caught".
  • According to the Ancient Greeks, the Persians had a method of torture/ execution called "scaphism" whereby a victim would be bound to a shell made of two boats, fed and slathered with milk and honey, and left out in a body of water over the course of several days or weeks — however long it took to be devoured by insects and vermin. Modern scholars consider this to be purely an invention of mendacious Greek "historians", primarily Ctesias (a notoriously unreliable source, even in ancient times).

  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith gets tortured by releasing some vicious rats on him. Since Big Brother Is Watching, his torturers know about his secret phobia of rats.
  • In the Artemis Fowl series, Turnball Root's preferred method of torture is force-feeding the victim a Tunnel Blue - a type of spider with two tooth-like claws on the end of its front legs. This leaves the victim with two options - co-operate with Turnball and be given a cup of coffee, which kills the spider by messing with its metabolism, or let the spider cut its way out of their belly, resulting in a very painful death.
  • In The Apothecary Diaries, the main character is threatened with this while held captive. However, considering that she's rather levelheaded and has nothing against most creepy-crawlies, it's not terribly effective.
  • In the first Deathlands novel, the local baron's chief torturer has a mutant insect that he likes to drop into the mouth of his victims and watch it eat its way out of their stomachs. He suffers Laser-Guided Karma when he accidently swallows it during a brawl with the heroes.
  • Discworld:
    • A few of the books mention that Lord Vetinari likes to have mimes locked in the "scorpion pit", across from a sign that reads "LEARN THE WORDS".
    • Raising Steam mentions a variant in the "Kitten Punishment". The victim is locked in a box with a number of kittens, and if the victim moves so as to lead any of the kittens to make sounds of distress, they are hauled out and hit over the head with a club by a large man named Cedric who is very protective of said kittens.
  • In Forever After by Catherine Anderson: Knowing his wife Meredith is an arachnophobe, Dan would punish her by putting spiders in her clothes and bedding, and would have them crawl over her skin while he raped her.
  • The Homing by John Saul starts with a bug-loving Serial Killer whose schtick is kidnapping runaway teenage girls who look like his sister, who punished him as a small child by locking him in a dark room with a bunch of termites. He strips them, locks them in a lightless cell, and has his little friends crawl all over them and sting them to death or eat them alive. He gets his comeuppance in the end when a Pest Controller he was menacing sends millions of insects to kill him in the same way he kills his victims.
  • In Inheritance, the fourth and final book of Inheritance Cycle, Big Bad Galbatorix uses a group of hideous carnivorous worm-like insects that he calls 'burrow grubs' as a means to try to torture a captured Nasuada into giving in and swearing her allegiance to him in the Ancient Language.
  • In the Star Wars Legends novel Darksaber, it's revealed that Palpatine would come up with a new Cruel and Unusual Death for his cheif scientist, Bevel Lemelisk, whenever a new superweapon came a cropper, using a Sith artefact to copy-paste his soul into a new clone body at the moment of death. The first of these executions was being sealed in a transparisteel box and Eaten Alive by pirhana beetles.
  • Downplayed in the Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy. There are several scenes of torture by insects, but in the world the books are set in practically everything is based on genetically-engineered insects.
  • Wulfrik: Wulfrik kills Sveinbjorn by forcing a metal tube in his mouth, putting a viper in the tube, then heating the end of the tube so the viper has no place to go but down. It's apparently one of the most humiliating deaths a Norscan can be given.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bones: Kovac tortures Aldo Clemens with a form of medieval torture involving hearing one end of a cage filled with rats so that the rats burrow into the living victim.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: The sadistic skeksis have the Peeper Beetle when they want to torture and punish one of their own. The subject's head is locked in a cage with the purposely starved insect, which squirms around the victim's face until it finds their eye, which it then eats out. Skek-Tek the scientist suffered this fate early in the series, which is the reason one of his eyes is mechanical now.
  • Criminal Minds: In the season 10 episode "The Itch", the unsub of the episode suffers from an obsessive skin disorder that causes him to hallucinate live insects crawling under his skin. The unsub takes this out on other people, kidnapping his victims and subjecting them to being covered in bugs as a punishment for not helping him with his condition.
  • Fear Factor: The second stage typically involves the contestants being subjected to some sort of creepy bug, either being forced to eat them or being covered in them until a timer runs out.
  • Game of Thrones: The Lannister garrison at Harrenhal use brutal torture methods to discover the whereabouts of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a rebel army operating behind their lines. Gregor Clegane selects a person each day and appends a barrel to their stomach with a rat inside before heating the barrel with a torch so that the rat will claw its way through their flesh to escape, while the Tickler dryly asks every person the same set of questions.
  • The Haunted Hathaways: In one episode, Louie gets upset at Frankie and possesses the stuffed peacock in the living room to hide from her. Frankie, knowing Louie's habits, goes straight to the bird and when talking to him doesn't work, puts her pet tarantula "Tickles" on it to scare him into coming out.
  • One Highlander episode had a plot where a young mortal woman who was trying to imitate Amanda was mistaken for Amanda and kidnapped. Her captor is seen torturing her by letting insects crawl all over her and bite her.
  • For one of Q's punishments on Impractical Jokers, he's chained down and covered with tarantulas. (He is very arachnophobic.)
  • Kaamelott: One episode has Venec display a wide variety of torture implements for sale, with Leodagan enthusiastically suggesting they grab a few (despite Arthur being against torture). At the end of the episode, Arthur is showcasing one to his wife while they're Talking in Bed, a cage with a mobile poker and a stuffed rat. As he explains to his increasingly-squeamish wife, the idea is to stick the open end of the cage against an orifice, then poke the rat's ass until it flees into the orifice, after which it gnaws its way out (Arthur is against torture, but he also would appreciate a quiet night's sleep).
  • MythBusters has used a Downplayed form of this to test a related myth:
    • The idiom of "Getting Cold Feet", meaning to back out on something at the last moment, was tested in the form of Grant and Tory preparing an all-you-can eat bug buffet for Kari.
    • The "Smell of Fear", if the cold sweats from adrenaline and fear is different from regular perspiration, was also tested for all three of the Build Team members by putting them in a glass coffin and having them covered in their most feared animals.
  • Played for Laughs in the very first episode of Pair of Kings: Boomer and Brady get captured by Tarantula People and are tied to boards with tarantulas crawling on them. Technically though, Boomer has only one large tarantula sticking its legs up his nose while Brady has multiple little tarantulas crawling all over himself.
    Boomer: This is intense!
    Brady: Really. That ONE tarantula got you down.
    Boomer: Yeah but this one's digging for gold.
    Brady: Yeah I got one digging too and it's NOT for gold.
    (They shake off the spiders)
    Boomer: Easy! This might be one of their customs.
    Brady: Yeah, well according to my customs me and that spider are now married!

    Myths & Religion 
  • The bible describes Hell as a place where "The worm never dies," implying that the damned are infested with maggots. One of Satan's titles (or one of his lieutenants, depending on who you ask) is "Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies", some species of which are known for laying their eggs in living creatures.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep. In the Shanghai segment, Jack Brady's girlfriend Mei-Ling is kidnapped by the Diabolical Mastermind Ho Fong. Ho Fong tortures her by exposing her body parts to be gnawed by rats, starting with her feet.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: according to their clanbook, the Tzimisce have developed applications for all their clan Disciplines in the field of torture, and while Vicissitude plays the biggest role, Animalism is also of great use. Using this Discipline, Tzimisce interrogators can direct a whole range of unpleasant creepy-crawlies onto their victims or into their bodies.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, Pan/Parne (depending on translation) uses a spider to frighten Tina into complying by using her Thief (Steal items from distant enemy) and Unlock (Open doors/chests from distance) staves to help him steal.
  • In Rule of Rose, the Aristocrats bind Jennifer and force her head into a bag filled with insects. Fortunately, none of them are (fatally) venomous...

    Visual Novels 
  • The final spirit in Spirit Hunter: Death Mark is Red Riding Hood. She was used in a torture session where a live spider was lowered into her mouth. This was a sexualized reenactment of a witch trial where swallowing the spider is the only path to an innocent verdict. It's implied she swallowed it, but the ordeal left her mentally broken and she committed suicide. She returned as a jorugumo with control over normal spiders.

    Web Original 
  • The Creepypasta There's No Detention at my High School. Instead, They Send You to the Wasp Room has this as a school punishment. Not a Boarding School of Horrors, mind you, just a regular school against all logic. The protagonist is put in there to take another kid's punishment for her, then she shoves in the Sadist Teacher who put her in there when he threatens to leave her there over night.

    Real Life 
  • Inverted with some large species of ants, which can supposedly be used to suture a wound: by placing the ant's jaws to the wound and letting them snap shut (then decapitating the ant), the wound is closed to prevent bleeding as if it has been stitched shut.
  • The Maw√© people of Brazil have this as part of a warrior's initiation ritual. Young men must endure about ten minutes of wearing gloves with angry bullet ants, known for having the most painful insect sting in the entire world, sewn into them. Overexposure to the neurotoxins in these stings leave the men's arms temporarily paralysed and can cause tremors for the next several days. And in order to officially prove their manhood, they have to go through this process 20 separate times, which can understandably take years to complete.
  • Rats have actually been used for torture since as far back as The Roman Empire. This is done by trapping one or more rats against the torture victim's bare abdomen with something like a metal basket or bucket and then put a fire source near it like a torch. The main idea of this torture is that the fire would scare the rats into trying to find the quickest escape route or else be burned alive, and with the bucket typically being built to witstand rat bites, that escape route would end up being through the torture victim's abdomen.
  • 'Blooding and sweating' was a form of torture sometimes inflicted by pirates upon captives. It involved making a captive run between a line of sailors who used sail needles to jab the victim as they passed. The victim was then shut inside a barrel full of cockroaches.