Weird History

A Look Inside Some Of History's Most Terrifying Prisons

Prisons have held lawbreakers for as long as there have been laws to break. Facilities come and go as centuries pass, but the most notoriously scary historical prisons tend to haunt the pages of our history books with tales of unspeakable suffering, violence, and crime. They contributed to war efforts, impacted revolutions, and affected the history of the cities and countries that surrounded them.

The concept of prisons as we know them today is relatively modern. In antiquity, jails served less as places of penitence and more as a purgatory before the final judgment of guilt, which was often punished either by enslavement or execution. Before the mega jails and super-maxes of today, historical prisons took on many forms, from isolated islands to underground dungeons. Excluding any prison that is currently open and also the horrifically depressing sub-genre of concentration camps, this list reveals some of the scariest prisons in history.