Gambling and Wagers

How Much Power is in a Drop of Water?

Water torture, Chinese Water Torture, Strange Bets

Every schoolchild learns about the power of water, and how a simple stream has the ability, over time, to cut through stone and form deep chasms. How often do we consider the power of water on a much smaller scale?

One notorious form of torture in the medieval period was the “ordeal of dropping water.” Sometimes we hear of it as the “Chinese Water Torture.” This consisted of allowing water, drop by drop, to fall on a bound victim. Generally, people assume this was torturous because the monotony would eventually drive the prisoner insane. In reality, it was an extremely painful experience.

The January 1907 issue of Popular Mechanics reported a curious story about an American acrobat who made a wager with a Vienna athlete that the latter could not endure the falling of a pint water on his hand, drop by drop, from a height of only three feet.

The athlete had an enormous hand, and the spectators pronounced the American’s bet a foolish one, as far as the American was concerned.

You will have already guessed that the American won his wager, but at what point in the experiment? A pint of water contains 9,463.53 drops. According to the account, after about three hundred drops had fallen, the athlete’s face became red, and he appeared to be in great pain. At the 420th drop he gave up, declaring he could no longer endure the torture. The palm of his hand was swollen and inflamed, and in one spot the skin had broken and exposed the raw flesh beneath.

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Read about more interesting wagers.

Read about more methods of torture.

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