15 True Horror Stories From History

1. Cannibals and Presidents

In September 1944 a Grumman TBM Avenger flown by a 20-year-old pilot and with two crewmen took part in an attack on Japanese installations on Chichijima. During the attack, the plane was hit by flak and the engine caught fire. Despite this, the pilot completed his bombing run. He and the crew then bailed out. Several other planes were shot down in the attack and all airmen, apart from the 20-year-old were either killed or captured. Those captured suffered horrendous torture at the hands of the Japanese army, and all were eventually executed. The horrific part is that they were then cooked and parts of them were served to Japanese officers as a delicacy. Meanwhile the pilot was eventually picked out of the sea by a US submarine. The only survivor of the attack, and the only one who did not suffer a grisly fate, the pilot, 1st Lieutenant George H W Bush, went on to become the 41st President of the United States.

2. The Brazen Bull

Phalaris was a tyrant ruling over the island of Sicily in about 570 BC. He was a cruel man and had a particularly horrific way of dealing with criminals. The device was called the Brazen Bull. It was, as the name suggests, a hollow bronze bull in which convicts could be locked. It was then put over a roasting fire and the criminal was broiled to death. As a final touch, the steam the boiling man was funnelled through a series of tubes so that the bull appeared to roar.

3. Unit 731

During the Second World War, Unit 731 was the Japanese equivalent of the unit run by the Nazis’ Dr Mengle. Unit 731 performed a series of experiments on prisoners, both military and civilian. The aim was to chart the limits of what the human body can endure, and involved such activities as removing organs from live, conscious patients, and putting people in pressure chambers until their eyes popped out. Perhaps just as horrific, at the end of the war, the program’s director, Surgeon General Shirō Ishii, was granted immunity from prosecution because the Allies wanted access to his knowledge of microbiological warfare.

4. The Horrific Death of Gregory Rasputin

Tsarina Alexandra, wife of Nicholas II, was inordinately fond of the charismatic monk Gregory Rasputin. She used him as her closest adviser, and after he apparently saved the life of her son, he could do no wrong in her eyes. The thing was, that Rasputin, from peasant stock, was hugely unpopular among the Tsar’s more professional and aristocratic advisers. After a while, Rasputin’s reputation dwindled and the Tsar began to consider him a bad influence. Assassins, presumably on the orders of Nicholas, set out to kill him. They tried poison. It didn’t work. They shot him several times in the head and back. It didn’t work. Rasputin was still able to stand and try and escape. So they threw him in the river, hoping he would freeze to death. He didn’t, and like some Hollywood bad guy, he eventually drowned while trying to climb out of the Volga.

5. Jonestown

Cults are bad, and in one way or another they usually result in death. The People Temple under Jim Jones lived in a compound in Guyana with 900 follows, made up of men, women, and children. In November 1978, following a congressional visit to Jamestown under Rep. Leo Ryan, Jim Jones’s paranoia took flight and convinced all his followers to drink poison. A third of those who died were children and infants. Rep. Ryan was killed in a shoot out at the airport, and Jim Jones was shot in the head. Probably self inflicted. It was the worst US civilian loss of life before 9/11.

6. Nankin
Prior to WW2 the Japanese Empire rampaged across Asia. In Decmeber 1937 the Imperial army took the Chinese city of Nanking. In the following six weeks they murdered up to 300,000 of the 600,000 population. They held beheading competitions using the locals for targets, and up to 80,000 women were raped before being murdered. When it is said that the streets of Nanking ran red with blood, it is the literal truth.

7. Dancing Plague
In 1518 Strasbourg, France, a woman called Frau Troffea began to dance. She danced for over a week, and then more people joined in. The street was filled with dancing people. More and more people took part in the obsessive and non-stop dancing. From July to September the street were full of dancing people who apparently couldn’t stop. Probably caused by a form of mass hysteria, by the end of the phenomenon some 400 people were dead from exhaustion.

8. Horrific coincidence
Edgar Allen Poe is known for his terrifying short stories. In his career he wrote only one novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. A tale of a stowaway on a whaling ship and his adventures. It included a sequence where a shipwrecked crew drew straws to decide which member they are to kill for food. The death straw was drawn by a character named Richard Parker. In 1878, forty years after Poe’s book was published there was a real shipwreck and the surviving crew killed an ate a man called Richard Parker when they didn’t have enough provisions to survive.

9. Torture in NOLA
Delphine LaLaurie was a Creole socialite in 19th century New Orleans. In April 1834 there was a fire at her house. Responders found a torture studio in the attaic and a group of male slaves chained up with spiked collars, some mutilated, others hanging by their necks, half dead. The fire had started when LaLaurie’s cook, chained to the stove, had set a fire in an attempt to kill herself. An angry mob demolished the house and LaLaurie fled to France and lived her life in exile.

10. A Twin Thing

The twins June and Jennifer Gibbons of Wales were identical. They made a pact while children that they would only ever talk to each other, and they developed a secret language to do just that. The twins turned delinquent and took to arson, and they were sent to Broadmoor mental hospital for 11 years. Finally released in 1993, within moments of gaining their freedom Jennifer dropped dead of an unknown cause. Slowly over time June re-socialised and began to live a more normal life. She eventually revealed that she and her sister had decided that one of them had to die in order that the other can live normally. In some unknown way, Jennifer was chosen, and she, apparently, simply died.

11. The Dyatlov Pass incident

In 1952 a hiking expedition in the Ural Mountains camped for the night. Several days later, rescuers came upon the campsite. They found nine bodies at varying distances from the tents. According to the investigation, the hikers torn their tents from the inside to escape from a threat. They run away in the middle of a heavy snowfall. Although their bodies didn’t show signs of struggle, two of the victims had broken ribs and fractured skulls. As there were no survivors, the chronology of events and the ultimate cause remains unknown.

12. The Sodder Children
Christmas night 1945 and there was a fire at the Sodder family home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Husband and wife George and Jennie Sodder were able to escape with four of their children, but another five children were trapped inside the burning house. After the fire was extinguished, investigators went to find the inevitable bodies. They found nothing. No bodies, no bones, no sign that the children had escaped, In the years that followed there were no confirmed sighting of the missing children, and their parents died without solving the mystery.

13. The Sarah Joe
The Sarah Joe was a 17-foot Boston whaler, In February 1979 with a crew of 5 it set sail for a fishing trip in the Hawaiian islands off Maui. Soon a storm came up, The father of one of the men grew concened and took to the sea to find the Sarah Joe. He found nothing and returned home. The next day he tried again and again the third day inconjunction with the Coast Guard. Five days later the search was suspended after 73,000 sq miles had been searched. 9 years later a man called John Naughton was on a wildlife expedition to a deserted atoll called Taongi approximately 2000 miles from Maui. He discovered a small boat washed onshore it appeared to be registered in Hawaii. Several feet from the boat, he found a shallow grave with a human jawbone protruding from a pile of rocks.The Coast Guard linked the boat to the Sarah Joe and dental records proved the jawbone was part of the remains one of the missing fishermen. It is likely that the boat made it to the island within three months of its disappearance, but a Government survey of the island six years previously should have found the boat and remains on the island. Instead it found nothing. There was no trace of the other men, and it remains unknown whether it was they who buried their shipmate before disappearing for good.

14. The Man from Taured
In the summer of 1954 a man arrived at Tokyo airport. He declared that his country of origin was Taured, on the border between France and Spain, location of the real country Andorra. The officials told him that Taured didn’t exist, but he had a passport issued by Taured—which also showed visa stamps corroborating his previous business travels to Japan and other countries. The authorities called the company the man claimed he worked for, but they hadn’t heard of him. The hotel where he claimed to have reserved a room had not heard of him. And the bank that had issued his checkbook didn’t exist. In return, the man had not heard of Andorra. The police rented him a hotel room and posted a guard outside while they conducted enquiries. When they went into the room to get him he wasn’t there. The guard swore he had not left through the door, and the room was on a high floor and had no balcony. To this day, no one knows who he was.

15. Tamam Shud
1 December 1948 two children made an horrific disocovery: the body of a man on Somerton Beach, Adelaide, Australia. He was lying well away from the water, and looked as if he had fallen asleep. He had nothing to identify him, but the words ‘Talman Shud’ printed on a piece of paper found later in his pocket. The phrase comes from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and means ‘finished’ in Perisan. The book from which the paper was torn was found in a car parked relatively close to the body, and police were able to find a local phone number of a woman who claimed not to know the man, and an encrypted message which has never been deciphered. Seventy years later, the man is unidentified, his cause of death is unknown, and how and why he was where he was remains a mystery

Following a public appeal by police, the book from which the page had been torn was located. On the inside back cover, detectives were able to read – in indentations from handwriting – a local telephone number, another unidentified number and a text that resembled an encrypted message. The text has not been deciphered or interpreted in a way that satisfies authorities on the case.

Join the discussion.