Sometimes, the most fascinating parts of history happen to be the creepiest, too. These are the facts that you’ll never be able to forget — and can recall instantly when asked. If you’re feeling brave, read on. These facts will give you something to think about in the dead of night when you can’t sleep any better than we can.
A Room With a View
It’s a well-known fact that young children thrive in fresh air. It’s why there are so many playgrounds and parks in cities — and a drive to make sure kids get out to play. However, in crowded cities with closet-like living spaces and busy parents, people had to make do with the fresh air they had.
For example, in 1930s London, some families utilized what essentially amounts to a cage attached to a window to give their youngsters some air and sunshine. The photos from this era are truly shocking.
Mother of Rabbits
This one is a real doozy. For some reason, a woman in the 1700s decided that she wanted to become famous. The way she picked to go about this was to convince everyone that she was giving birth to rabbits. That’s right — you read that correctly, though we certainly couldn’t blame you for going back and reading it again to try to make sense of it.
She was eventually found out after the experts of the age moved her to a bigger city to study her. There, they caught a servant trying to sneak a rabbit to the woman, and the jig was up.
Life After Death
We have to admit that part of us is creeped out thoroughly by this historic fact while the other part is impressed by the wonders of the human body. Archaeologists discovered a woman from the 600s who had been buried. However, the strange part about her grave was that a smaller set of bones emerged from her body.
When this woman had been buried, she had been pregnant — most likely with a baby who died in the womb. However, after death, the gases in the body pushed the baby out, resulting in a strange piece of life after death.
Dance Till You Drop
When is the last time you went out dancing? Even if song after song came on that you loved, we’re sure you had to take a break at some point to rest, relax, and rehydrate. That’s why a dancing plague from 1518 in Europe is so creepy and terrifying. When one woman was the first sufferer, others eventually fell ill.
They simply couldn’t stop dancing. Doctors of the time thought they would dance themselves out and even arranged for music. But many people died of overexertion.
She’s a Man Eater
At the beginning of the 1900s, massive habitat loss in India made one tiger do whatever she had to do to survive. Of course, that meant that more than 400 people had to die for her to continue to live. This tiger caused terror in the region, which was in the middle of being developed for farmland and processed for timber.
With the loss of her home and her usual prey, the tiger started selecting sustenance from the villages. She was eventually killed — but only after 10 years.
Some Coffin Concerns
The fear of being buried alive these days is little more than an outdated phobia. But if you were alive during the 1700s, it was a real possibility. It was difficult to tell if someone was really deceased because of a lack of accurate medical tools and professionals available.
Just going by breathing or pulse wasn’t enough. People started going to great lengths to ensure their loved ones were actually dead before burying them. It reached such a fever point that some bodies were kept in a special facility to really make sure it was over.
Worst Babysitter Ever
To this day, there’s only one woman in the entire history of New Zealand who has ever been given the death penalty. Who deserved such a fate? Minnie Dean. This woman took in unwanted babies during the 1800s as a way to make money while relieving the pressure from the parents.
However, these babies started disappearing under mysterious circumstances — or gradually got sick and died. Authorities concluded that she was killing the children.
An Unsolved Mystery
Have you heard of the Hinterkaifeck Murders? This creepy case was never solved — though clues abound as to what probably happened. An entire family was murdered — along with their maid — in 1922, and the killer has never been found. A single set of footprints emerging from the woods led to the house, but there were no other footprints leading away.
And another maid thought the attic was haunted because of the sounds she heard. It was much more likely that the murderer was lying in wait up there.
The Secret Ingredient
Thank you, modern science. If it wasn’t for you, we’d still be adhering to strange treatment and taking ill-advised medications that had very little founding in truth. But it’s still pretty creepy to consider that up until the 1900s, human remains were a common ingredient in medication.
That wasn’t too terribly long ago. People believe that by taking a ground-up substance made from the part of the body of their ailment, they would get better.
Too Much Foreshadowing
Most of the world has seen director James Cameron’s epic retelling of the disaster of the Titanic — the biggest ship in the world during its time. But did you know that there was a story before the movie that featured Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet? A story even before the actual ship sunk?
Nearly 15 years before the real disaster, a book was published with striking similarities to what would happen in the future. One of the strangest coincidences was that both the fictional ship and the real Titanic suffered from a lack of lifeboats. Oh, yes — there’s the name, too. The book was called Titan.
Watching and Waiting
Dennis Rader — perhaps better known as the BTK Killer — behaved just like an opportunistic predator might. He waited in his victims’ homes, staking out the place until he determined when they would be at their most vulnerable. Then, he would attack.
He also gave himself the name he’s known best by — a strange flex that we somehow all let happen. After committing his horrors, he would often take a souvenir from the home.
Where’s the Escape?
There’s nothing we curious humans find stranger or more compelling than crimes that haven’t been solved. In this particular case from the 1920s, a business owner was murdered in his shop — shot three times by an unknown assailant. The catch?
The doors were all locked from the inside, and the only entrance was a window that only a child could fit through. The authorities were puzzled by this case — and the killer was never found.
Let This Be a Warning
Hanging was a common final punishment for the most heinous crimes over the course of history. However, there was an adjacent practice that was even more gruesome called gibbeting. In the Middle Ages, a particularly terrible criminal could be gibbeted to remind others not to repeat his sins.
This practice included leaving the body hanging for a long time — sometimes even for years — for all to see. We think we’d try our best to behave if we had to see that day after day!
The Bottomless Pit
Speaking of appetites, the Frenchman Tarrare is another example of someone we’d never want to join at a dinner party or restaurant. This individual had a strange disorder that made him hungry for everything in sight. That included as much of a quarter of an entire cow every single day.
The longer he went on like that, the hungrier he got — and his menu of choice became even worse. He ate things like cats and dogs. When he was hospitalized, he took advantage of newer and more exotic items — ones that turn our stomachs.
Based on a True Story
Some of the creepiest facts we’re finding are compelling enough to spawn a flurry of fictional retellings in both print and screen. Nowhere is that more true than Dracula. If you didn’t already know, the vampiric character was inspired in part by Vlad Tepes, a real leader in Transylvania living in the 1400s.
Vlad was called “The Impaler” because of the inhumane way he liked to dispatch his enemies. His bloody tastes have delivered a wealth of horror entertainment over the next centuries.
Why Did the Chicken Keep Going?
Don’t lose your head over this one. A Colorado farmer was processing chickens. If you’ve ever spent time on a farm, you’ll understand that cutting the head off of a bird doesn’t necessarily mean everything is done. In one chicken’s case, life went on nearly as normal for an entire year-and-a-half.
When the farmer realized that this chicken wasn’t giving up, he and his family tried to care for it by feeding it. Soon, the chicken became a traveling sideshow. Was it better than becoming fried drumsticks? We’re not so sure about that.
A Church of Bones
We’ve come a long way in how we treat our dead. For example, there are many instances of chapels and churches in Europe that decided to decorate with the bones of the deceased. This was a practice alongside the use of ossuaries.
An ossuary was used to conserve limited space in graveyards. It was essentially a waiting room for the dead. Once the bones were clean, they were incorporated in designs to make room for more corpses.
An Ironic Job Choice
Serial killer Ted Bundy had an odd choice of employment back when he was in college. He worked for a suicide hotline, literally talking people down off the edge from hurting themselves. It seems odd for him to have done such a thing — especially with the horrors that he would eventually cause.
But to one psychologist, it makes sense. As a psychopath, Bundy was simply trying to understand people so he could fit in better.
The Whitener You Never Wanted
Today, we’re lucky enough to have access to an entire host of different teeth whitening products. They fill the shelves at grocery stores. You can even get your teeth brighter and whiter in the dentist’s chair, or at a kiosk in the mall.
Back in ancient Rome, people still wanted whiter teeth. But the choices were much bleaker. Romans utilized ammonia in human urine to whiten their smiles — and rid their clothes of stains.
Faces of Death
When you think of the name Madame Tussaud, you likely recall the ubiquitous wax museums in many major cities. Tourists of all ages visit them to catch glimpses of celebrities and historical figures. But what you may not know was that Madame Tussaud was a real person — and one whose legacy is much more sinister than today’s museums full of selfie opportunities.
During the French Revolution, she was thrown in jail because of her relationship with the royal family. She wasn’t released until she agreed to make death masks for the former rulers — her friends.
Once You Pop
Pringles are the delicious snack chips that come stacked in a tube for easy eating. And as the slogan goes, the hardest part about enjoying Pringles is knowing when to stop. It’s nearly impossible to eat just one. Now, however, we don’t know if we’ll ever eat them again.
Fredric Baur, the inventor of the chips, was so proud of his innovation that he asked his loved ones to store his cremated remains in a Pringles tube after his death.
A Voice Silenced
We’re glad that science has advanced to the point of the highly effective medical solutions now available to us. And we recognize that sometimes, science advances too slowly to serve everyone. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the trend of lobotomies. While scientists believed that it cured many ailments, more often than not, it left people as shells of their former selves.
Perhaps one of the most well-known cases of this practice was Rosemary Kennedy, a sister of former President John F. Kennedy. She completely lost her independence and was hidden away for the rest of her life.
Meow and Goodbye
If we’ve learned about it once, we’re sure we’ll learn about it again. Science and the advancements in the field had extremely dubious beginnings. We count this particular experiment among them. A pair of researchers were studying auditory nerves and the perception of sound when they decided to bring a cat into it.
While the cat was under sedation, the two scientists were able to communicate via the cat’s ear and a telephone receiver thanks to its auditory nerves. The experiment didn’t work once the feline was dead, however.
Real Monkey Business
In this strange but true historical fact, there was a small town in northern England that was so isolated as of the early 1800s that no one had ever seen anybody from France before. So when a French ship washed up on their shores with only a monkey aboard, the people leaped to the conclusion that France was full of monkeys instead of people.
They went so far as to put the poor monkey on trial for such an affront to humanity, subsequently hanging it.
An Experiment Off the Rails
Here’s another example of our understanding of science taking a while to catch up to where it needs to be. Scientists trying to understand the inner workings of the human brain sometimes designed experiments that, by today’s standards, could be seen as unethical and immoral. One well-known example of this was the Stanford Prison Experiment.
This experiment had to be called off because the students assigned to act like guards began viciously abusing the students assigned to act like prisoners. It showed that people will do anything to follow orders.
Over the Rainbow
Standing on the highest peak of planet Earth has long driven people to want to take on the challenge of climbing Mt. Everest. However, as the peak becomes more and more popular, it hasn’t gotten any less dangerous. What’s even worse is that more inexperienced climbers are tempting fate. When people die on the trek upward, it is often too dangerous to retrieve the bodies.
A particularly grim portion has been nicknamed Rainbow Valley for all the coats of the souls lost. It serves as a landmark for those continuing the climb.
Massive Loss of Life
You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about the People’s Temple Agricultural Project — better known as the Jonestown cult. The leader of the commune encouraged and then forced its members to drink Kool-Aid mixed with a variety of deadly poisons.
It’s where the saying “don’t drink the Kool-Aid” comes from. The resulting carnage saw more than 900 people dead — a large portion of them children.
Fountain of Youth
Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China, decided that he liked the gig so much he wanted to keep it … for all eternity. He tasked his doctors to find the right formula that would let him retain his life for all time. And their punishment for failure?
Death, of course. Luckily for the doctors, they found something they thought would work. Unluckily for the emperor, it was liquid mercury. He eventually died of poisoning.
Up Close and Personal
Think twice before you crack open that next bottle of Jameson whiskey. One of the distiller’s heirs, James Jameson, has a dark past that he never even tried to deny — in spite of his family’s attempts to keep everything as secret as possible. While on a trading trip in Congo, Jameson wanted to see cannibals up close.
A translator who was there said that the heir purchased a child to give to the cannibals — and sketched while everything happened. That makes us lose our appetite.
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Maybe you didn’t like being assigned reading dozens of pages for homework. We’re certain you’d like it even less if your textbook was like one of these creepy books. There were certain times in the 1700s and 1800s that were actually bound in human skin.
Is it such a stretch to consider that as a medium considering that there are plenty of leather-bound volumes in circulation today? Of course it is! There are less than 10 of these kinds of books that we know about today.
Something to Cry About
The most disturbing part about this particular creepy fact of history was that it was relatively recently disproved — in the 1980s! Up until then, doctors believed that babies couldn’t feel pain. Therefore, they wouldn’t anesthetize them during medical procedures.
The babies were given medication to keep them still, but they were awake and aware during the entire operation. We are so glad that doctors have finally figured out that even the youngest among us can feel pain — and are treated as such.
No Glow Ups Here
In the 1920s, the element radium was commonly used in paints and watches since it glowed in the dark. However, it took a very long time for people to realize just how dangerous it was to deal with radium on a daily basis.
Since the work was very detailed, the women who worked painting watch faces at a highly coveted job used their mouths to get their brushes as fine as possible. By ingesting so much radium and being around it for so long, they suffered devastating consequences.
Dubious Climate Control
Genghis Khan was a prolific warrior who reshaped the world he knew in many different and surprising ways. He was a bloodthirsty conqueror whose armies ended up killing tens of millions of people. By taking so many souls off the map, he actually reduced the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
The loss of so many farmers also happened to restore forests and natural habitats for wildlife. We’re not saying what he did was good. But those consequences to his actions are awfully surprising.
Give Us a Smile
We didn’t always have access to the kinds of dental advancements we enjoy today. In fact, false teeth and dentures used to be made out of the teeth of soldiers who had fallen on the battlefield.
What makes this creepy fact somehow even worse is that it was the upper class who were most often in need of dentures because of their sugary diets and vanity. They were looking for brighter smiles, and the whitening they undertook damaged their enamel.
Just Say Cheese
Early photography was pricey — so expensive, in fact, that people would often only get photographed a few times in their life. Unfortunately, one of those times might be after they died. Particularly in Victorian times, photos of the dead were taken and kept as mementos to preserve their memories.
While this was widely practiced during this time, today, it’s downright creepy. We’re also troubled by the practice of painting on eyes after the photo was developed to make it look more real.