John Ptak, a dealer in rare science books, writes about all the different ways that people in days of yore used to make sure dead people really were dead.
Perhaps the most spectacularly extension of the nipple-pincher was the tongue-pulling idea of Dr. J.-V. Laborde (1830-1903), a research physician with wide credentials, who reasoned that a continued regimen of advanced and strenuous pulling of a patient's tongue would over time bring them back to life if alive. This is what leads us to the point of this post: Laborde established a mortuary, and in this mortuary, where the dead were waiting to die, he employed a man whose job it was to pull the tongues of these bodies. In the misty picture of all of this that is painted in my mind's eye, the fellow working his way from body to body pulling their tongues with a heavy pincer seems far worse than nipple squeezing or even being an anal smoke blower, though to choose between the three in a twisted Purgatorial mandate would be hard to so. Although the nipple pincher wasn't replaced by anything mechanical, the smoke blower was (by a powerful bellows), and so was our friend the tongue puller, who after complaining of the boredom of his task was pushed aside by an electrical device. I am loathe to report that I cannot find a picture of the machine.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.