We love learning new facts, but some of the bits of trivia we picked up over the last year took a turn for the macabre. Something about learning dark and creepy things draws us in and fascinates us. It is not a fun exercise, as many of the tidbits are tragic, but the overwhelming awfulness and the earie feelings learning them produce are almost hypnotic.
We can't look away from the darker sides of life, perhaps because they help us to appreciate the light. These were the creepiest and most disturbing history facts we learned in 2021.
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A Teen In Arkansas Swatted A Gnat Out Of His Eye; Later He Was Rushed To The Hospital To Remove A Maggot
A 16-year-old boy in Arkansas swatted a gnat away from his eye and didn't give it a second thought. That is, until two weeks later, when he was partially blinded by a large dark dot in the center of his vision.
It turns out that the gnat laid an egg in his eye, and now something was feeding off his retinal tissue. Doctors removed a burrowing maggot and saved his vision.
- 23,347 VOTES
A Translator Claims The Heir To Jameson Whiskey Bought A Child To Feed To Cannibals
In 1888, James Jameson, the heir to the Jameson whiskey empire, was on an expedition in a trading post in the Belgian colony of Congo, which he had been told was inhabited by cannibals. Jameson was interested in seeing the practice up close.
A Sudanese translator named Assad Farran, who was on the trip, later claimed that Jameson bought a 10-year-old enslaved girl for the sole purpose of watching her be killed and eaten.
"The girl was tied to a tree," Farran's account of the incident stated, "the natives sharpened their knives the while. One of them then stabbed her twice in the belly." The girl was murdered while Jameson allegedly sat and drew sketches of the incident. Jameson’s family, with the help of the Belgian government, managed to keep the incident quiet. Jameson never denied that it took place and died before he could face any sort of justice.
- 33,118 VOTES
Until 1987, Babies Could Be Operated On Without Anesthetics
It wasn’t until 1987 that the American Academy of Pediatrics formally declared it unethical to operate on babies without using anesthetics. Early studies from the 1940s found that babies did not react to pinpricks, and scientists believed they had not yet developed the neurological capability for pain. Plus, they worried about the dangerous effects of anesthesia on infants.
Other studies on infant pain that were not as well known, however, demonstrated that babies did feel pain. Despite these studies’ existence, babies were often only given a mild muscle relaxant before they were operated on to prevent them from moving while a surgeon operated.
- 42,028 VOTES
A Frenchman Named Tarrare Ate Everything
There's a lot that is intensely creepy about Tarrare, a Frenchman born in the mid-1700s known for eating as much as a quarter of a cow's worth of beef per day. Over time, his appetite became extremely bizarre, eating cats, dogs, and even eels. He was hospitalized for his extreme appetite, during which time staff caught him eating corpses and drinking blood.
As if that isn't horrifying enough, it's also believed that Tarrare ate a 14-month-old baby that went missing from the hospital while he was admitted. Tarrare died at the age of 26. It's now believed he may have suffered from a quite extreme case of polyphagia, a disease that causes uncontrollable hunger and eating.
- 52,712 VOTES
Plants Can Grow Inside A Living Person's Body
In two cases where a plant took root inside a person’s body and caused excruciating pain, doctors were convinced the patients had cancer.
Ron Sveden, a 75-year-old Massachusetts man, had been experiencing cancer-like symptoms that progressed to the point where he was rushed to the hospital. When doctors took an X-ray and conducted various tests, they were shocked to uncover a half-inch pea plant growing inside his lung.
Artyom Sidorkin, a 28-year-old Russian man, underwent surgery to remove what doctors thought was a cancerous tumor. Instead, they found a fir tree measuring almost 2 inches growing inside his lung. Doctors believe a seed found its way to the man’s lung through inhalation.
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Richard Marsh Entered A Coma-Like State, But Remained Fully Conscious
Sixty-year-old Richard Marsh suffered a stroke and was hooked to a ventilator in the intensive care unit. After observing him for several days in a persistent vegetative state, lacking consciousnesses and physical feeling, the doctors began to discuss the possibility of turning off his life support machine with his wife Lili.
But Marsh wasn't in a coma. He had locked-in syndrome and was fully conscious. He could hear and feel everything going on, but could not speak or move. The next day, a doctor discovered that Marsh was able to communicate through blinking.
Marsh made a miraculous recovery and eventually regained 95% of his functionality. Locked-in syndrome affects around 1% of people who have had a stroke.