Remember when an after-dinner viewing of Unsolved Mysteries
was all it took to get the goosebumps going? These days, we're too busy gobbling up stories of killer clowns, horror flicks inspired by favorite childhood games, and TV tales of leg-barbecuing zombies to take much notice of the fact that, hey, life itself is pretty darn terrifying already.
One need only drop into the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia for proof. Historical serial killers, unexplained disappearances, and ridiculously gruesome forms of torture? Not even Stephen King or Ryan Murphy could dream this stuff up. When you consider that all of it actually happened
, you'll realize that Hollywood-issue horror has got nothing on some late-night Wiki research.
Behold, 30 of the most spine-tingling Wiki entries we've come across. We clutched our teddy bears, cried ourselves to sleep, and wet the bed so you could feast your eyes on these spooky stories. Nighty night!
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Abraham De Moivre
The death of this 18th-century French mathematician reads like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Consider this passage: "As he grew older, he became increasingly lethargic and needed longer sleeping hours. He noted that he was sleeping an extra 15 minutes each night and correctly calculated the date of his death on the day when the additional sleep time accumulated to 24 hours, November 27, 1754." Yes, he was a smartypants math whiz and an expert on the probability theory. But, you know, still eerie.
Axeman of New Orleans
John Wayne Gacy had clowns; the Axeman of New Orleans had jazz. From May 1918 to October 1919, an axe-wielding serial killer terrorized the Italian-American community of New Orleans. In an interesting twist, the killer wrote a public letter stating that he would spare those who were playing jazz. Crank it up!
There are Black Widows, and then there is Belle Gunness. Born in Norway in 1859, this six-foot-tall housewife left a trail of dead lovers, husbands, and children in her wake. Eventually moving to the Midwest, the serial killer is supposed to have faked her own death by arson, a crime for which her besotted hired hand, Ray Lamphere, was charged. Lamphere died in prison, countless bodies were dug up on Gunness' property, and no one quite knows just what became of the "female Blackbeard."
Scotland Yard is used to solving crimes, but, ironically, nobody's cracked the case of a murder that took place on its own grounds. During the building's construction in 1888, police found the dismembered remains of a woman in three different locations. The woman's head, left arm, and right leg were never found, and her identify remains a mystery.
This ancient Persian form of execution almost makes waterboarding sound like a walk in the park. We'll spare you the disgust of going into the very gory details, but let's just say that it involves lots of milk and honey, being stretched, shitting yourself, and being invaded by insects in the worst way imaginable.
Serial killers don't get much more horrifying than Albert Fish, a.k.a. Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac, and The Boogey Man. Ultimately executed by electric chair in 1936, the New Yorker was a notorious child rapist and cannibal who also dabbled in consuming his own urine and feces. Rumor has it the monstrous "family man" even fed his victims to his own children.
Poor Mary was a five-ton Asian elephant who performed in the circus. In 1916, she killed a trainer who was reportedly prodding her behind the ear with a hook. As punishment, the story goes that Mary was first shot five times, then hung in public. During the first attempt, she fell and broke her hip, but died after a second hanging.
Skip this one if you're the least bit squeamish. Still with us? Slow slicing was an ancient form of Chinese torture that involved methodically cutting off parts of a victim's body until the person died. After slices of flesh had been removed and limbs severed, the ritual was typically completed with a decapitation — or a knife through the heart.
What makes this Scottish serial killer from the late 1960s especially troubling? All three of his rape and murder victims were menstruating at the time of death, and were found with sanitary pads and tampons near or on their bodies.
50 Berkeley Square
Described as the most haunted house in London, this posh address has had reports of ghost sightings for about 250 years now. Though stories vary, one legend has it that the attic is haunted by the ghost of a young woman who killed herself after being abused by her uncle. At least two people staying there have reportedly died of fright, and even former resident — and 18th-century British prime minister — George Canning claimed to have had paranormal experiences there. The townhouse is now home to the Maggs Bros. antiquarian booksellers. Shop at your own peril.
Tom & Eileen Lonergan
The 2003 film Open Water was partially based on the disappearance of this American couple during a scuba diving trip to Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 1998. Their boat left the diving area without the couple on board, but nobody realized the Lonergans had disappeared until two days later. Troubling diary entries sparked speculation of a suicide or murder-suicide, but the bodies have never been found and no one knows for sure what happened to the pair. And, this is why we're never scuba diving again.
Bobby Dunbar Disappearance
In August 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar vanished during a Louisiana fishing trip with his parents. Eight months later, a handyman was picked up with a young boy believed to be Bobby. Despite the man's claims that this boy, whom he called Bruce, was the son of a female friend, he was jailed for kidnapping. "Bobby" was reunited with the Dunbars, though many accounts say that he had no recognition of his so-called parents, who couldn't be quite sure whether or not he was theirs. Nonetheless, the boy was raised with the Dunbars, went on to have children of his own, and died in 1966. In 2004, his son underwent DNA testing, which showed that he was not blood-related to his supposed cousin, the son of "Bobby's" younger brother. What happened to the real Bobby? We may never know.
Bubbly Creek sounds like a quaint hot springs, but it's anything but. Those "bubbles" for which the Chicago River's south branch was once known were created by methane and hydrogen-sulfide gases from the decomposing entrails and blood that had been dumped there by nearby meatpacking factories. Gag.
Carroll A. Deering
This schooner was found on the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC in 1921, with one thing missing: the crew. The lifeboats, logs, and all personal effects had also vanished. Though the likeliest explanation is a mutiny, the story of the Rio-bound vessel has given rise to Bermuda Triangle conspiracy theories.
Though not bloody-murder-scary, there's something rather mysterious and chilling about this cryptology organization. Shrouded in secrecy, Cicada has released three sets of Internet puzzles since 2012 (one per year), with the aim of recruiting cryptanalysts. (Nope, solving " The Puzzler" on Car Talk just doesn't cut it.) No company has revealed itself to be behind the puzzles, and no one who may have solved the puzzles has publicly come forward. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Phantom Time Hypothesis
This one isn't just spooky, it's also somewhat mind-blowing. What if Charlemagne never existed? What if there was a conspiracy to rewrite history and make up dates that didn't actually occur? What if AD 614-911 never happened? What if it's not 2014?
Red Rain In Kerala
People living in the southern Indian state of Kerala were understandably disturbed when blood-red rain started pouring on them in the summer of 2001. Various hypotheses have suggested that the downpour is due to algae spores, debris from a meteor, or even signs of extraterrestrial existence.
Just about every horror story (including Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs) was inspired by the case of Ed Gein, Wisconsin's highly disturbed killer and body snatcher. In addition to killing two women, Gein had a habit of raiding graves and creating his own human trophies. Among his gruesome belongings were a pair of leggings made from human skin, an actual face mask, and a belt lined with the nipples of various women.
A ride on this conceptual coaster will be your last. The idea for a steel roller coaster that euthanizes passengers was developed in 2010. A series of inversions would trigger cerebral anoxia, or a lack of oxygen, causing death to those seeking to end their lives. The coaster hasn't been built (yet), but maybe read the warning signs really carefully the next time you hit an amusement park, just in case.
List Of Serial Killers Before 1900
This ghastly list is an exhaustive Who's Who of every baddie from history. Apparently Liu Pengli was the first reported serial killer, with more than 100 victims under his belt. You've also got poisoner Queen Anula, "The Werewolf of Bedburg," and Britain's "Sally Arsenic." A motley crew indeed.
Dugan is the only woman to be executed by hanging in Arizona, and the event was so traumatizing the state was compelled to switch to the gas chamber. By all accounts, the convicted murderer was bold and brassy, telling jurors at her trial that, "Well, I’ll die with my boots on, an’ in full health. An’ that’s more’n most of you old coots’ll be able to boast on.” Not quite. Upon her hanging, in 1930, Dugan's head snapped off, rolling towards the gathered spectators.
Oscar (Therapy Cat)
The resident therapy cat at Rhode Island's Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has a special gift: predicting death. As of January 2010, the feline had predicted an estimated 50 deaths, reaching the point where staff members will notify family members if he is seen sleeping in a patient's room. Don't get any ideas, kitty.
Michael Taylor (Ossett)
After a period of erratic behavior, 30-year-old Englishman Michael Taylor was subjected to an exorcism in 1974. The all-night session was conducted by a local Anglican priest and a Methodist clergyman. At 6 a.m., the men let Taylor go home, though they cautioned him that at least three demons (insanity, murder, and violence, obviously) still resided in him. Sure enough, Taylor killed his wife, strangled his poodle, and roamed the streets naked and covered in blood until a policeman found him. He was later acquitted of his crimes on grounds of insanity.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. That was the case at the Chicago hotel owned by H.H. Holmes, who had the building designed to make murdering his female employees as efficient as possible. The World's Fair Hotel, nicknamed "The Murder Castle," was a labyrinthine construction of windowless rooms, doors leading to nowhere, a soundproof gas chamber, and a secret chute where bodies could be dispatched to the basement. Holmes was eventually caught and executed by hanging in 1896, though it took about 20 minutes for him to die on the noose.
Nine Familial Exterminations
The Persians weren't the only ones who really knew how to punish a person. In ancient China, Korea, and Vietnam, the worst penalty for committing a capital offense, such as treason, was to have all of your relatives murdered. This included the criminal's parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren (over a certain age), siblings, in-laws, uncles, and the criminal himself. The reasoning behind this? Because family members were loyal to one another, each relative was viewed as culpable in a criminal's act of treason.
The Taman Shud Case
On December 1, 1948, the body of a dead middle-aged man was found on Somerton beach in Adelaide, Australia. In his pants pocket was a scrap torn from the final page of The Rubaiyat, a book of Persian poems originally written nearly 1,000 years ago. The scrap carried the phrase "taman shud," which means "ended" or "finished" in Persian. An autopsy determined that the man, rumored to be a Cold War spy, had been poisoned. To this day, the body remains unidentified and officials have denied recent requests to have it exhumed for DNA testing.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, it was common practice to commission someone to photograph your deceased loved ones. Needless to say, the images are supremely sad and nightmare-inducing.
Might want to scratch this one off your list of things to do and see in Japan. This desolate forest at the base of Mount Fuji, also known as the Sea of Trees, is said to be haunted and is one of Japan's most popular suicide spots. Police conduct an annual body search each year. Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe are set to star in a film inspired by the forest next year.
Elva Zona Heaster, a.k.a. the Greenbrier Ghost, was, in a way, the Patrick Swayze of her time. Though the West Virginia native's 1897 death was originally attributed to "everlasting faint," her mother was able to get Heaster's husband, Erasmus Stribbling Trout Shue, convicted for her murder. According to Mama Heaster, her 20-something-year-old daughter appeared to her in a dream and revealed that ol' Erasmus had broken her neck. This prompted an exhumation, which proved that, yep, the corpse's neck had indeed been broken.
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This San Jose, California tourist attraction was the home of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. Story has it that a psychic urged the grieving widow to build a home for herself and the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Though the haphazardly designed home is said to be absent of paranormal activity, its unusual design is filled with the kind of superstitious touches you might expect from a woman who believed in ghosts. For example, every Friday the 13th the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 1300 hours (a.k.a. 1 p.m.).