Sheer torture at NY auction house
The 252 items include gruesome instruments such as a tongue clamp, a chair covered in spikes and an iron glove used to burn hands.
New York -- It may hurt but a New York auction house is offering a collection of what it says are centuries-old torture instruments.
"These are devices created to cause pain ... very diabolical devices," said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's Auctions.
"There is one pretty much to cause pain to any part of the body. It's fascinating but terrible."
The 252 items include gruesome instruments such as a tongue clamp, a chair covered in spikes and an iron glove that Ettinger said was used to "burn the flesh of your hand."
Ettinger, estimating the collection to be worth three to four million dollars, says the devices date to the 17th century or earlier, and come with rare books showing "early engravings of scenes of torture."
The bizarre collection was well known in the 19th century, touring Europe and exhibiting in New York in 1893, he said.
There is even a register of visitors to exhibitions in England and Germany as far back as the 18th century, he said.
According to Ettinger, the collection "disappeared at the turn of the century until after World War II "when a Norwegian gentleman who was persecuted by the Germans for harbouring Jews acquired the collection and brought it to the states."
"He died in the 1970s. The collection remained in his family hands. They thought that there is so much discussion of torture today that now was the time to bring this public."
The items might have been constructed to deliver pain, but there is a plan to give some of the proceeds to Amnesty International so that their sale helps fight modern torture, Ettinger said.
This a hot topic in the United States where the former administration of George W. Bush is under fire for allowing water boarding and other so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
"Assuming that we will sell the collection, a portion of the proceeds will be going to Amnesty International and other organizations devoted to preventing torture in the future," he said.