WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #1

Picture of a mysterious pear shaped metal object from Salzburg Fortress (choke pear)WHAT IS THIS THING? Inspired by a mystery object tweeted by one of my favorite websites, Collectors Weekly, I’ve decided to make a little game out of some of my own ridiculously interesting MYSTERY MUSEUM OBJECTS. Try to guess what this strange thing is before scrolling down for the answer!

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No peeking….

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Keep scrolling….

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Did you figure it out yet?

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A little farther…

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THE ANSWER:

This horrible object is a choke pear, from the Torture Museum in the Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg, Austria. Made out of iron and in the shape of a pear, this torture device is designed to be inserted into someone’s mouth (or other orifice!) as a gag. When the key is turned, the leaves spread apart in all directions so that it can’t be removed without the key. According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable from 1898, the device was used by robbers in Holland in the 19th century. Although choke pears exist in several museum collections (usually Torture Museums; here’s another one from a museum in Amsterdam) there is not really any compelling historical evidence that these were ever actually used…even in the 19th century there was discussion that the choke pear was probably just an urban legend (see pages 285-286 of this book), and that museum objects like this one were essentially just fantastic props. I think that this choke pear just gets more interesting if you consider that it might just be a memento of sick imaginations rather than an authentic instrument of torture.

Did you figure out what this object was before you read the answer? If not, leave your guesses in the comments! For more see: Mystery Museum Object #2, Mystery Museum Object #3, Mystery Museum Object #4, and Mystery Museum Object #5.

// Image: Photograph by Klaus D. Peter (2008), via Wikimedia Commons.

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10 thoughts on “WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #1

  1. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #2 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  2. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #3 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  3. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #4 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  4. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS THING? Mystery museum object #5 | The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

  5. I found this in one of those “lets see what happens when we follow Wikipedia clicks to weird places” searches. I knew it as a “Pear of Angush” and it was supposedly heated up and inserted into… Orifices. Makes me shudder, but glad to hear it’s likely urban-legendary.

  6. I knew this because it was “used” in the fiction drama TV series The Borgias. Horrible! The object, not the TV series.

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