9 True Scary Stories That Are Almost Too Creepy To Believe

Published September 13, 2023
Updated March 12, 2024

The Tucker Telephone Torture Device

Scary Stories Tucker Telephone

Encyclopedia of ArkansasThe creepy story of the Tucker Phone became so controversial that it was depicted in numerous films, including Brubaker, starring Robert Redford.

Of all the true scary stories about life inside America’s jails, the Tucker Telephone is surely the most awful. And for inmates doing time at the Tucker State Prison Farm in Arkansas in the early 1960s, there was nothing more terrifying than the Tucker Telephone.

The Tucker Telephone was a sadistic method of punishment frequently used on prisoners at the state prison which is now the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction. The torture device was the brainchild of prison physician Dr. A.E. Rollins and prison superintendent Jim Bruton.

On its face, the device looks like an old crank telephone. But with the addition of an electric generator and two dry cell batteries, it became one of the most notorious torture machines in the history of U.S. incarceration.

Hooked up to a source of immense electric power, the Tucker Telephone functioned as an electric shock device attached to the private parts of victims. Inmates sent to the “hospital room” were strapped down to a table with two wires applied to their skin. The ground wire was wrapped around their big toe while the hot wire — which the electricity ran through — was strapped to the inmate’s genitals.

Once the doctors turned the crank on the Tucker Telephone, their victims were brutally shocked by torrents of electricity. Sometimes these torture sessions dragged on for long periods, known as “long-distance calls.”

Old Sparky At Tucker State Prison

Wikimedia Commons The Tucker Prison Farm also whipped inmates, beat them with five-foot paddles, put needles under their fingernails, and executed them using “Old Sparky,” an electric chair that was used 104 times.

The sheer barbarism of this punishment method was described in Tom Murton’s shocking 1970 book Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal:

“In ‘long distance calls’ several charges were inflicted — of a duration designed to stop just short of the inmate’s fainting. Sometimes the ‘telephone’ operator’s skill was so defective and the sustained current not only caused the inmate to lose consciousness but resulted in irreparable damage to his testicles.”

Tragically, many of the prisoners not only ended up with permanent organ damage but also suffered from mental illness following the torture.

But the Tucker Telephone wasn’t an isolated incident. A Newsweek report from 1967 revealed that prisoners were routinely beaten with paddles, had needles stuck under their fingernails, tortured with pliers, and punished using an electric chair. The brutality of the prison became so famous that the Tucker Telephone eventually found itself depicted in the 1980 film Brubaker.

Unfortunately, even after the torture device was no longer deployed against inmates, the Tucker Telephone was repurposed by the Chicago violent crime unit under Lieutenant Jon Burge to torture suspects in the 1980s. American interrogators abroad have also reportedly used the device to torture their captives.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.