Centuries-Old Torture Tools Up For Auction

The artifacts come from all over Europe, most dating back to the 16th century, and together they make up what could be the creepiest collection in the world.

"Once you look at the devices, it's a very sobering moment," said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's Auction House.

The collection, which contains more than 250 torture instruments from the 16th and 17th centuries, will be put up for sale. 

"You look at some of these intricate little objects that on the surface have a certain charm to them until you realize what their purpose was: to cause great pain," Ettinger said during an interview in his Upper East Side office Thursday.

Some of the items include a torture table, a chair dotted with spikes and the infamous iron mask. It's chilling to know these torture devices were made after the dark ages.

"Very much an eye for an eye," Ettinger said while holding a medieval forceps-looking device in his hand. "If you were a blasphemer, your tongue was yanked."

The collection, which Ettinger says is the largest in the world, even comes with a catalog from 1893, when a museum in New York held a torture exhibition. 

"Never have I seen a collection as well documented as this," said Ettinger.

The story of the man behind the collection is almost as interesting as the items on display.

"(He was) a Holocaust survivor who was tortured in a concentration camp and developed a passion to understand torture," said Ettinger.

The collector, who has since died, passed on the collection to his family, who wish to remain anonymous.

A portion of the sale will be donated to Amnesty International.

Ettinger, who hopes to sell the collection in its entirety to preserve its historical value, said at one time it was worth $3 million.

No date has been set for the auction, but plans are to start showing the items to potential buyers in a month.

For more information, visit http://www.guernseys.com/.

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