Compared to Hitler, Mussolini was small potatoes. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a problem in his own right. With gangs of fascist thugs by his side, the dictator often resorted to schoolboy antics to take down his enemies. His favorite? Pouring a bottle of castor oil down the subversive’s throat.
Weapon of choice
There is a famous saying in Italy stating that Mussolini’s power was gained by “the bludgeon and castor oil.” The bludgeon, sure. Gangs have been beating people up since the dawn of time. But castor oil?
For centuries, the cure-all medicine has been used by housewives around the world to treat everything from upset tummies to fungal infections. When ingested, it basically makes everything inside of you come out. Oh, and as a fun aside, it is also used as an industrial lubricant and a biodiesel fuel component . . . so why wouldn’t you want to feed that to your kids?
So, why did Mussolini choose Castor oil as his favorite form of punishment? Because nothing could possibly be more humiliating than pooping your pants. Especially in front of a group of grown men.
Rumor has it that an enemy of Fascism (artists, gays, Jews, and so on) would be captured by gangs, tied down to a chair, and forced to ingest an entire bottle of the golden elixir. The result, of course, was the world’s worst case of diarrhea.
Some people claim that the forced feedings were accompanied by torture and beatings, making recovery even more difficult. Indeed, between the wicked dehydration and the violent bludgeonings, many victims died.
He wasn’t the only one
Torture-by-diarrhea didn’t start with Mussolini, and it probably didn’t end with him either (we’re looking at you, moms!).
Many sources claim that the oil was used by Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s regime at the Fiume in 1919, while others say the Blackshirts used it as a weapon during Italy’s 1919 civil war. And the torture wasn’t unique to Italy–colonial officials used in India to deal with unruly servants, while Belgian officials in the Congo used it to treat employees who were too sick to work. Luckily, it’s a punishment that’s fallen out of favor.