Throughout history, humanity has experienced moments of triumph, progress, and achievement, but there are also chapters that reveal the darkest and most disturbing aspects of our collective past. These stories serve as chilling reminders of the capacity for cruelty and inhumanity that exists within us. From genocides and massacres to heinous experiments and unjust persecutions, the annals of history are stained with these horrifying tales.
In this compilation, we will explore ten of the most disturbing stories from different periods and regions, each of which leaves an indelible mark on the conscience of humanity. Be warned, as the following accounts contain distressing content, shedding light on the somber realities of our past and serving as a solemn call to strive for a more compassionate and just future.
In the 13th century, Genghis Khan killed so many peasants that the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were significantly reduced as a result.
During his 21-year reign, Genghis Khan’s destructive armies were responsible for the deaths of up to 40 million people. While his intentions for the massacres were anything but pure, with nobody left to farm the lands owned by the peasants they were eventually allowed to grow back into carbon-absorbing forests. It’s estimated that 700m tonnes of carbon were wiped from the atmosphere – around the same amount of carbon dioxide generated in a year through global petrol consumption!
Melted, ghastly remains of wax statues that were destroyed in a fire at Madam Tussauds, London.
In 1925, a ferocious fire broke out at Madam Tussauds Wax Museum in London. Described by witnesses and newspapers as “the most thrilling fire spectacle London witnessed in years”, the fire destroyed the famous wax inhabitants of the museum. And this photograph is testament to the carnage.
With missing heads and limbs, these melted statues bear an uncanny resemblance to human victims of a devastating trauma.
In 1518 the city of Strasbourg was hit by a ‘dancing plague’ where people would dance uncontrollably for days at a time.
It began with a single woman dancing solo for a few days, before eventually more and more people became affected. Doctors proclaimed that the illness was caused by overheated blood, and recommended that the inflicted should continue to shimmy and sway the fever away – musicians were even called in and a stage was set up in the town centre to give the ‘dancers’ more room. While the idea may seem funny at first, most of them kept dancing till they fell unconscious, and some died from exhaustion, heart attack, or stroke.
Young boy, stowed away in wheel housing, falls to his death from an airplane.
This incident occurred in 1970. A young stowaway, Keith Sapsford, who was 14 at the time, fell 200 feet to his death from a Japan Airlines plane, taking off from Sydney, Australia, and bound for Tokyo. This heart-stopping photo was taken by Sydney-based amateur photographer, John Gilpin.
The story goes that Keith had run away from a ‘boys town’ in Sydney, with a burning desire to see the world. He, apparently, stowed himself away in the wheel housing of the aircraft, several hours before the plane took off. When the door of the wheel housing opened after takeoff so the wheel could be retracted, the boy fell to his untimely and tragic death.
In 1922 an entire family was murdered on their farm under very mysterious circumstances – the killer was never found.
Known as ‘The Hinterkaifeck Murders’, the strange case follows the events surrounding five members of the Gruber family and their maid, who were killed in their home by what appeared to be a pickaxe-like object. In the days leading up to the murder there were footprints in the snow leading from the forest to the house but not back, a set of house keys went missing, and the previous maid was convinced the house was haunted due to strange noises coming from the attic. These suspicious events *probably* suggest somebody was staying inside the house – unnoticed by the family – before the murders took place.
In 1929 a man was murdered in his shop and the killer escaped, somehow leaving it still locked from the inside.
30-year-old Isidore Fink was shot three times inside his laundry business, which had been side-locked from the inside. No money was taken, and no weapon or substantial clue of any kind was found – except for a broken hinge on the small transom window above his door. Police had managed to get in through the broken window, although they used a child as it was too small for an adult to get through. Whether the baffling crime was committed by a kid or a very small adult, it still begs the question: if the killer had managed to crawl back through the transom window, why would they do this instead of simply unlocking and walking through the door?
A novel about a seemingly ‘unsinkable’ ship that was hit by an iceberg was published in 1898 – 14 years before the Titanic sunk.
There are lots of other eerie similarities between the book and the real-life event: both ships suffered from an eventually tragic shortage of lifeboats, and the doomed ship in the book was called – wait for it – Titan.
And while we’re on the subject of strange occurrences from the grave – being buried alive was way more common than you might have thought in the 18th century.
At the time the mortality rate was so high that doctors weren’t always present to make sure the patient was actually dead, so witnesses would often take the apparent lack of breathing or a pulse as enough of a confirmation. The problem got so bad that people started taking additional measures to make sure the corpse was dead before burying them, including shouting in their ear, sticking needles under their toenails, and whipping them with nettles. In Germany they went a step further, and set up ‘hospitals for the dead’ to observe the rotting process before the bodies were buried. Some of these were around till the 1950s!
Dracula was based on a real person who lived in Transylvania the 15th century and had a similarly violent way of killing his enemies.
The original Count Dracula was called Vlad Tepes (AKA ‘The Impaler’) whose gory habit of impaling his victims inspired the story of the fictional character. Leader of Wallachia (a small Transylvanian province), his gruesome methods of defending his land included inserting metal or wooden poles either through the perpetrator’s middle or vertically via their private parts till it pierced through their shoulders, neck, or mouth. The pole was sometimes blunt so as to not pierce any vital organs, making the victim’s death slower and even more painful.