By Mark McConville

MEET the man who has the largest collection of torture devices in the world and tests their effectiveness on HIMSELF.


Steve Santini /

Author, historian and glutton-for-punishment Steve Santini (53), from Owen Sound, Ontario in Canada, owns 220 antique torture instruments including some British thumbscrews from the 17th century that were used to suspend prisoners in mid-air and an early 1800s British cat o nine tails whip used to flog prisoners with.

He also owns a plaster cast of the face of Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s most prolific hangman. Pictured with Albert is a restraint strap used in numerous hangings at Durham Prison.


Albert Pierrepoint plaster cast face and a hanging strap. Steve Santini/
A painful looking video shows Steve trying out a finger press until he hears a crack. The finger press acts as a vice that can be tightened to increase the pressure on your digits from a serrated metal edge.

“The images of objects in my collection portray a diverse selection of relics designed for judicial torture and execution from the 16th century to the modern day,” said Steve.


Steve with all his torture instruments. Steve Santini /
“There are various devices to crush bone, distend and stretch muscles and ligaments, and cause prisoners of past times to offer up confessions of guilt, be they actually guilty or not.

“When I began to tighten the finger press, it felt uncomfortable but after a while the digit just felt sort of numb.


Great Wide. Steve Santini /

“This should have been a warning sign to stop but instead I tightened the device further and did some rather agonizing damage to myself. And yes, that was my finger cracking.”

Steve worked for many years as an escape artist, during which Ripley’s Believe it or Not! titled him, “The World’s Most Extreme Escape Artist.”


British Cat o Nines. Steve Santini /
He found himself encountering many antique restraints, which eventually led to his collection. So, what device of his does Steve think would be the most painful?

“One comes instantly to mind,” he added. “This is a vice that by screw power slowly crushes the shin bone.

“I have three different versions of the shin crusher in my collection and all of them send shivers up my spine.


Skull gag. Steve Santini /

“We have all slammed our shins into something and have felt the sheer agony that follows. Imagine a machine that delivers that pain bit by bit over time and it does so in a measured capacity by turning a crank. Brutal!”

Steve is currently waiting on Guinness World Records to verify his record for most antique torture instruments.


Steve with all his torture instruments. Steve Santini /
He hopes his collection can act as a living cautionary tale to stop society regressing to the dark ages.

“I do not love these instruments,” added Steve.

“In fact, I find many of them repulsive. That said, I collect them because I am fascinated with the creatures that created and used them.


Electric Chair. Steve Santini /

“We have not changed as a species. Sure, our technology may have evolved but we have not. We are still the greed driven, paranoid, superstitious species we have always been.

“It is these very traits that are the lifeblood of torture. This is the fuel that births it, feeds it, and allows it to somehow become, ‘morally acceptable.’ Yesterday it was the rack and red hot irons and today it is water boarding and electricity.”