20 Terrifying Booby Traps That Will Make You Gasp

For centuries, humans have employed booby traps for one reason or another. Much of the time, people have used them for defensive purposes. Hunters also utilize booby traps to catch their prey.

Other than being cheap, booby traps are usually very effective and easy to design and use. Pretty much anyone can make one (Kevin McCallister from Home Alone would definitely approve the aforementioned statement.)

Many booby traps are not designed to kill; however, some booby traps have the ability to kill not one, not two, but a whole military unit of men. If you don’t believe me, this list of 20 Terrifying Booby Traps That Will Make You Gasp will definitely convince you.

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Explosively Formed Penetrators


An explosively formed penetrator (EFP), is a type of charge specially designed to penetrate armor effectively. As the name suggests, the explosive charge is meant to deform a metal plate into a slug or rod shape and accelerate it toward a target.

They were first developed as oil well perforators by American oil companies in the 1930s and were deployed as weapons in World War II.


The Snake Pit


Anyone who’s familiar with Indiana Jones movies definitely knows what we’re talking about here. However, if you’re afraid of snakes, you might want to skip this entry.

So, what is a snake pit all about? Well … it’s a hole filled with snakes. They have been used for centuries as a trap or a place of horror, torture, and even death in Medieval Europe and also in many Asian countries.

The Viking warlord Ragnar Lodbrok is believed to have been thrown into a snake pit and died there once his army had been defeated in battle by King Aelle II of Northumbria.

Any fans of The Vikings TV show here?


Zippo Lighter Bombs


The Zippo lighter bomb was one of the many “contributions” of the Viet Cong. Packed with just enough explosives to decimate a hand, they made the supposedly relaxing activity of smoking a nightmare for American soldiers.

The scariest part was that it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between sabotaged lighters and normal ones. We wonder if many American soldiers quit smoking during the Vietnam War.




One of the most recognized and well-known booby traps is the “mantrap.” From the name alone you can tell that it’s designed by men for men.

This mechanical physical security device was first used for catching poachers and trespassers. Throughout the years, mantraps have taken many forms, the most usual being a large foothold trap, the steel springs armed with teeth that closed upon the victim’s leg.

Since 1827, they have been illegal in most parts of Europe and the U.S. (except in houses between sunset and sunrise as a defense against burglars).




Spring Snare


Spring snares have been used for centuries. They are particularly popular among hunters, as they are much more effective than just a snare.

With a spring snare, ideally, the trap pulls the prey up by the neck. This makes it far more difficult for the animal to chew through.

Sorry, animal lovers and activists … I know you didn’t enjoy this one much.


Exploding Flags


North Vietnamese/Viet Cong armor was virtually non-existent during the Vietnam War, so those fellas had to be really inventive in their battle against the highly-advanced American military.

For practical reasons, most of the booby traps the Viet Cong used worked on their own. One such booby trap was the “explosive” flag, a bomb camouflaged within a flag.


Exploding Helmets


The Nazis are known for having been some of the most sadistic human beings to ever walk on the face of the earth. But you likely knew this, just like you probably know about their concentration camps and horrific scientific experiments with humans.

What you may not know, however, is that they invented some of the most lethal booby traps in history as well. So, in case you ever see a discarded Nazi helmet left lying on the ground, just don’t pick it up. It’s not a helmet; it’s a bomb!


The Bamboo Whip


The Bamboo Whip is a sharpened bamboo trap consisting of spikes over a long bamboo pole. The pole would be pulled back into an arc, using a catch attached to a tripwire.

When the wire gets tripped, the catch gives out and sends foot-long spikes into a trooper’s chest at a hundred miles an hour. They were another popular weapon used during the Vietnam conflict.


The Mace


Mace traps have been used in various different forms during the years. All of them were horrific … and often deadly.

A mace usually consists of a spiked concrete ball, drum, box, or log, suspended in a tree on the end of a rope or cable. When the tripwire is pulled, the mace swings down along the path, striking anyone in its way.


Punji Sticks


These traps were made with sharpened bamboo stakes, often smeared with urine, feces, or another substance that would cause infection in the victim.

The Viet Cong would dig a hole and put the sticks in the bottom, then cover it with a thin frame.

The victim would put his foot through the cover and fall on the spikes below. That probably hurt … like an awful lot.




The M14 mine is a small anti-personnel landmine first deployed by the American army in 1955. However, they became particularly “famous” during the Vietnam conflict.

This vicious trap was also known as the “Toe-Popper” due to its low explosive charge, which was just capable of blowing a man’s foot off.


The Thermos Flask


Drawings of wartime boobytrap bombs were rediscovered in 2015, 70 years after the war ended. The drawings had been made by a young artist named Laurence Fish for MI5’s counter-sabotage unit.

In one of the drawings, there’s an incendiary bomb designed as a flask, an army mess tin with a bomb hidden beneath. Apparently, it didn’t contain coffee inside.


Haida Deadfall Trap

Recent discoveries on the northern Northwest Coast of North America provide evidence of bear hunting dating to the Pleistocene/Holocene transition.
The significance of bear hunting during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods on the northern Northwest Coast can be traced to the sophisticated hunting strategies and traps people came up with back then.
One of them was the Haida Deadfall Trap, an enormous mechanism created with heavy tree trunks that were usually deadly for even the largest black bears.

The Arab Palestinian Deadly Traps


During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, some Arab-Palestinian groups made wide use of booby traps. The most widespread use of booby traps took place between 2000 and 2005, the period of the Intifada.

During Operation Defensive Shield, for example, a large number of explosive devices were planted by insurgents. Booby traps were laid in the streets of both the camp and the town, ready to be triggered if a foot snagged a tripwire or a vehicle rolled over a mine. Some of the bombs were huge, containing as much as 250 pounds (110 kg) of explosives.


Northern Irish "Lethal" Traps


During The Troubles in Northern Ireland, booby trap bombs were often used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) to kill British Army soldiers and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers.

A common method was attaching the bomb to a vehicle so that starting it or driving it would detonate the explosive.

According to the Sutton Index of Deaths, 180 deaths that occurred during The Troubles were the result of booby trap bombs, the vast majority of them laid by the Provisional IRA.


The Swinging Log Trap


We have all seen these in various films before, from epics set in Medieval Europe to sci-fi flicks (a-la The Predator).

What we have learned from these films? The wider the log, the less there is a chance of missing the intended target.


Bars of "Chocolate"


The same drawings we talked about before have shown that soldiers had to be really inventive in order to, unfortunately, kill other humans.

An exploding chocolate bar and devices intended to sink ships were rediscovered in 2015. Yep, it was dangerous to even take a bite of a chocolate bar in those dark times.




The Cartridge Trap


The cartridge trap is a type of booby trap devised by the Viet Cong. They were used against American and other anti-Communist forces supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It derives its name from the fact that the wounding component of the trap is a small arms cartridge.

In case you’re wondering what this trap looked like, keep in mind that it was a very simple trap. It was made from four main components: a bamboo pipe, a piece of wood, a nail, and a small arms cartridge.

The device required a cartridge to be stood upright. When a person (usually a soldier) stepped on the trap, the pressure placed on the bullet would force it down onto a nail, igniting the primer, and causing the round to fire.



Qin Shi Huang Tomb Traps


As China’s first emperor’s burial complex, Emperor Qin’s Mausoleum is deemed to be filled with deadly traps. But is this true? It’s not clear if traps are really installed there. After all, there is no official archaeological report of traps so far.

However, there are several credible historical accounts mentioning crossbow mechanisms, turning slates, pools of poisonous mercury, and a sleeping fire waiting for the unlucky visitors of the Chinese king.

Maybe the tomb is way too deadly to explore.


Egyptian Tombs


Thought to have been designed to protect the tomb of King Khufu (2589-2566 BC), the builders created grooves into a small room outside the chamber where the king’s body would be placed.

Granite slabs would have then been dropped down into these when the work finished to block off access to the chamber. Three other giant granite blocks were slid down a ramp to the passageway below to cut off access to the inner sanctum.

As we all know, only one man has survived these legendary booby traps: Indiana Jones. In film, that is!

SEE ALSO: 25 Worst Earthquakes In History »

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