12 Disturbing Facts We Can't Believe Are Actually True

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Vote up the darkest facts that are unfortunately all too true.

Sometimes, you just want a collection of uplifting stories. If so, this is not the list for you. There's something about creepy, unfun facts that's just as compelling as a story with a happy ending. Everyone knows human nature has a dark side, and that the world can be a cruel and unforgiving place. Uplifting anecdotes are great, but exploring the darkness can be both informative and satisfying. If there's any theme to be had here, that would be it.

Here's an assortment of bizarre facts involving historical and modern tragedies, psychology, science, sports, and more.


  • 1
    1,443 VOTES

    Centuries After Mutineers Inhabited Pitcairn Island, A Dark History Of Abuse Was Exposed

    Pitcairn Island is about 2 square miles in size and about 1,350 miles from its nearest inhabited “neighbor,” Tahiti. It has just enough vegetation to support a population of a few hundred, and in 1789 became the home of the mutineers from the H.M.S. Bounty, who were effectively isolated until 1808. Those men and their Tahitian consorts formed a small population that still lives on the island today. 

    However, this community was also home to sexual abuse of children to a degree found almost nowhere else. The first complaint came in 1996, when a minister accused mayor Steve Christian's 20-year-old son Shawn of raping his 11-year-old daughter. British authorities investigated. Christian and his defenders claimed the abuse was simply part of Polynesian culture. But eight years later, authorities convicted six men, including Christian, on 33 charges - some going back 40 years. Those six men represented a third of the island's male population.

    1,443 votes
  • A Brazilian Football Referee Was Decapitated By The Crowd After Stabbing A Player In 2013
    Photo: da Silva Cantanhede family / Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use
    2
    1,343 VOTES

    A Brazilian Football Referee Was Decapitated By The Crowd After Stabbing A Player In 2013

    The year before Brazil was set to host the 2014 World Cup, a shocking incident of soccer-related violence called the country's suitability as a host into question. The incident happened in the municipality of Pio XII, in Brazil's Maranhão state, and began like so many other amateur soccer matches do. Otávio Jordão da Silva Cantanhede, 19, biked from his home to a nearby field to play a pickup game of soccer. He played defense during the first half, but after twisting his ankle, he switched to refereeing. 

    During the second half, da Silva Cantanhede (pictured) gave a yellow card to 30-year-old Josemir Santos Abreu, an occasional teammate who was described as his friend. Abreu confronted da Silva Cantanhede, who then gave him a red card. The incident escalated further, and da Silva Cantanhede stabbed his supposed friend twice. Abreu died on the way to the hospital. 

    In retaliation, four of Abreu's friends stormed the field. Fueled by alcohol, drugs, and the anger of the crowd, the foursome attacked da Silva Cantanhede, ultimately dismembering and decapitating him. As the lead investigator put it, “In the first moment, I didn’t believe it happened. I didn’t think human beings had such perverseness to do this.”

    1,343 votes
  • After The Battle Of The Kalka River, The Mongols Feasted Over Their Buried Enemies, Who Were Still Alive
    Photo: Sayf al-Vâhidî / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    3
    1,106 VOTES

    After The Battle Of The Kalka River, The Mongols Feasted Over Their Buried Enemies, Who Were Still Alive

    This entire list could detail the Mongols' elaborate and inventive execution techniques, but one is particularly cruel. In the 13th century, two of Genghis Khan's top generals, Subutai and Jebe (also called Jebei), led an invasion through Georgia and into the Russian steppe. At the time, the strongest regional power was a confederation of Russian princes centered in the cities of Kyiv and Vladimir.

    After the Mongols defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of the Khalkha River, several Russian princes surrendered. For the Mongols' subsequent victory celebration, they erected a wooden platform for feasting - but they also buried the still-living Russian nobility underneath the platform. The ensuing celebration then sealed their fate.

    1,106 votes
  • 4
    1,150 VOTES

    An Ohio Man Was Mistakenly Declared Dead, Petitioned A Judge To Reverse The Decision, And Lost

    Kafkaesque only begins to describe this situation. In 1986, Ohioan Donald E. Miller Jr. was deeply in debt and couldn't pay child support for his two daughters, so he skipped town and headed southeast to find work. Eight years later, his ex-wife Robin Miller, owed thousands of dollars, petitioned a probate court to declare the long-lost Donald deceased. The court agreed. 

    In 2013, Donald returned to Ohio. Needing a driver's license and the reactivation of his social security number, he petitioned a judge to have the declaration of death overturned. However, because Ohio law stated that a declaration of death can't be reversed more than three years after it's made, the judge declined. “I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Judge Allan Davis told Donald. 

    It's a bizarre case, but not unheard of. About 40 people are mistakenly declared dead in the US each year. 

    1,150 votes
  • António Egas Moniz, The Pioneer Of Lobotomies, Received A Nobel Prize
    Photo: José Malhoa / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    5
    984 VOTES

    António Egas Moniz, The Pioneer Of Lobotomies, Received A Nobel Prize

    Before delving into this one, it's worth noting that in 1936, when Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz invented the frontal lobotomy (then called a leukotomy), there were no other treatments for schizophrenia. That being said, by today's standards, the lobotomy could almost belong in the Middle Ages. 

    His technique - which he developed after making a late-career switch from politics to medicine at age 51 - involved creating an incision in a patient's skull and severing the frontal lobe from the rest of the brain. Lobotomies declined during the 1950s when psychiatry saw advances in medication to combat mental illness, but for more than a decade, they were major therapeutic techniques. As a result, Moniz was one of two winners of the 1949 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

    984 votes
  • Nearly 80 People Who Gathered To Watch A Clown Perished When Their Bridge Lookout Collapsed
    Photo: Frederick James Smyth / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    6
    953 VOTES

    Nearly 80 People Who Gathered To Watch A Clown Perished When Their Bridge Lookout Collapsed

    On May 2, 1845, in Norwich, England, a crowd of thousands gathered to watch a clown named Nelson travel down the Bure River in a washing tub towed by four geese (it was a simpler time). As Nelson approached the Great Yarmouth suspension bridge, hundreds of onlookers ran onto it to get a better look. The bridge couldn't sustain their weight and collapsed. Altogether 79 people perished, including many children.

    Despite the crowd, the bridge shouldn't have collapsed, as it had only been built 16 years earlier. A subsequent investigation determined that shoddy welding techniques caused the disaster.

    953 votes