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"More weight!"
- allegedly the last words of Giles Corey, pressed to death at Salem whilst refusing to enter a plea at his trial for witchcraft.

Basic Information

A form of torture, sometimes also used as a punishment or a form of execution. Not to be confused with the form of conscription operated by the British Royal Navy during the early modern and colonial eras.

To be pressed, the victim is staked out on the ground, usually face up and a wooden board is often placed atop him. Weights are then piled onto the board (or directly onto the prisoner, although this is somewhat less efficient as they tend to fall off) until the desired result is achieved. Alternatively a large animal such as an elephant may be enticed to step on the prisoner to much the same effect.

Hypothetically, pressing could also be applied to individual body parts although this is more normally done with thumbscrews (and … other … screws) or instruments such as The boot.

Other items to press a prisoner with could be a thief's stolen goods (although this might be an incentive to steal small, portable items), a miser's gold, a profiteer's stocks or the weight equivalent or a murder's victim. If you wanted to intoduce community participation you could invite bystanders to stand on the board … which might be effective for a deserter, crushed to death by the comrades that he abandoned or a deposed landlord who has been a burden to his tenants.

Historically, pressing was used under English law until the mid 18th century to force a prisoner to enter a plea to court … that there were guidlines for how often to feed and water a prisoner being pressed gives some indication of how long the process could go on. Since a prisoner could not be convicted without entering a plea, it was not unusal for someone to allow themselves to be pressed to death so that the state could not sieze their goods.

Rudyard Kipling's Ballad of the King's Mercy shows pressing being used as a form of torture.

Elephant crushing was popular in East and South East Asia.


Wikipedia on Pressing/Crushing as a form of execution.

1. full source reference

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