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Stocks are devices used internationally, in medieval, Renaissance and colonial American times as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. The stocks partially immobilized its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by, however, is that when a person is placed in the stocks, their feet are locked in place, sometimes their hands may have been chained also.
The victims feet were usually bare, this caused heightened humiliation.
The practice of using stocks continues to be cited as an example of torture and cruel and unusual punishment. Victims may be insulted, kicked, tickled, spat on, or subjected to other inhumane acts at the discretion of passersby.
One of the earliest reference to the stocks in literature appears in the Bible. Paul and Silas, disciples of Jesus, were arrested. Their treatment by their jailer was detailed in the Book of Acts: "Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. The Old Testament's book of Job also describes the stocks, referring to God: "He puts my feet in the stocks, he watches all my paths".
The stocks were also popular among civil authorities from medieval to early modern times, and have also been used as punishment for military deserters or for dereliction of military duty. In the stocks, an offender's ankles, would be placed and locked through two holes in the center of a board. Offenders were forced to carry out their punishments in the rain, during the heat of summer, or in freezing weather, and generally would receive only bread and water, plus anything brought by their friends.
The stocks were popular during the Colonial days in America. Public punishment in the stocks was a common occurrence from around 1500 until at least 1748. The stocks were especially popular among the early American Puritans, who frequently employed the stocks for punishing the "lower class."
In the American colonies, the stocks were also used, not only for punishment, but as a means of restraining individuals awaiting trial.
The offender would be exposed to whatever treatment those who passed by could imagine. This could include tickling of the feet.
England's second Statute of Labourers prescribed the use of the stocks for "unruly artisans" in 1350, and required that every town and village erect a set of stocks. Sources indicate that the stocks were used in England for over 500 years, have been never formally abolished, and were used in Rugby as recently as 1865.
Typically, a person condemned to the stocks was subjected to a variety of abuses, ranging from having refuse thrown at them, tickling to paddling, whipping of the unprotected feet.
Stocks in popular culture
Largely due to their familiarity due to historic uses, the stocks have found their way into modern popular culture and popular media.
In the 1946 movie "People are Funny", Leroy Brinker (Ozzie Nelson) tries his hand at stand-up comedy. Meanwhile, unknown to Leroy, a man in stocks is foot tickled by a bear’s tongue.
In "Escape in Time", the January 28, 1967 episode of The Avengers, Emma Peel is placed barefoot in stocks and faced human branding until she is rescued.
In the 1969 movie Lock Up your Daughters, actress Marianne Stone is depicted barefoot in the stocks being pelted with vegetables.
At the end of an Episode of Roobarb When Roobarb Got A Long Break, the titular dog get locked in foot stocks as punishment for no only breaking the silence but breaking the law while birds laugh at him.
In the "Double goat foot torture" game on MTV's Fist of Zen game show, contestants are placed in stocks and have goats lick food from their feet.