History - Other

Tickle Torture



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Tickling has a very mysterious and interesting history; who has not heard of Chinese tickle torture? Well how much of this tickling history is true and how much just myth and legend?

Tickling has a very mysterious and interesting history; who has not heard of Chinese tickle torture? Well how much of this tickling history is true and how much just myth and legend?

Well it is difficult to find records of the use of tickling throughout history so all we can do is to look at some probable evidence.

In art across Asia and into china there are depictions of what seems to be women having the soles of their feet tickled. However, this could very well be related to health and therapy; we all know that reflexology is used today as an effective treatment.

The Chinese tickle torture legends may or may not have any real place in history. Apparently during the Han dynasty, tickling was used as torture and punishment and since it left no physical marks it could be used on nobility.

There is also tales of the Romans using tickling of the soles of the feet as a punishment. The victim would be placed in stocks and would have salt water or even honey rubbed into the soles of the feet. Goats would them be lead to lick the salt or honey from the soles causing intense tickling. Over time this would lead to seizures, madness or turn more painful with the constant abrasion of the soles.

Colonial America apparently used the stocks to punish and humiliate; this would then turn to inevitable foot tickling once the victim’s feet became bare.

How much of this is actual fact or how much of this is merely self perpetuating legend? Again there does not seem to be any direct evidence of tickling as torture or punishment.

The media certainly does have information related to tickling. The Illustrated Police News of 1869 features an entry: ‘A Wife Driven Insane by Husband Tickling Her Feet’.

This story featured a poor woman who was fooled into thinking that being tied to a plank would help her back problems. Once secured the husband made his wife’s feet bare and then through prolonged tickling of the soles of her feet with a feather drove the poor woman to insanity.

The New York Times of 1872 also mention the stocks in ‘old England’ where the soles of the victims’ feet would be tickled relentlessly.

Of course there is endless use of tickling as torture or punishment in cartoons, comics and so on. In fact Charles Dickens in the book: ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, mentions the character Jasper Packlemerton in Mrs. Jarley's waxworks show. Mr Packlemerton was convicted of tickling the soles of the feet of the women who he encountered.

Tickling is a very interesting subject. The science behind tickling is still somewhat misunderstood and the historical documentation of the use of tickling is rather thin on the ground. I guess it really is a ticklish subject!

More about this author: John Hewitt - 510028

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