16 Disturbing Facts We Learned In 2021 That Made Us Say 'Ew!'

List Rules
Vote up the ickiest facts that will be making your skin crawl well into 2022.

From history to science, from cannibalism to creepy-crawlies, we learned a lot of disturbing facts this year that we sort of wish we didn't. But you can't un-ring a bell, so instead of keeping these skeletal facts hidden away in the closet, we're sharing the burden of this knowledge in one list of ultimate grossness. And if you can get past the heebie-jeebies, you might find that some of these facts - toe cheese, anyone? - are actually kind of fascinating.

While 2021 has been an unsettling year for many, never fear - these unsettling facts can be used to upset your family and friends into 2022 and beyond.

  • 1
    517 VOTES

    Botfly Eggs Can Get Under Human Skin - Without The Host Ever Going Near A Botfly

    Botflies are possibly one of the most disturbing creatures on the planet, mainly because they are parasites whose larvae grow either in the gut or flesh of the host. Unsuspecting travelers to South and Central America often bring home a stowaway along with their souvenirs, but it isn't until the larva starts causing an infection and pain - as it continues to grow and move inside the skin - that the human host becomes aware something is up. 

    Adult botflies are the size of bumblebees, and hard to miss if one were laying eggs on your skin. However, they are much stealthier than that, "sticking" their eggs onto a mosquito that then carries the eggs to an unlucky victim, either animal or human.

    The warmth of the host's skin, combined with the hole made by the mosquito that stopped to get a drink, creates a perfect "welcome home" situation for a larva. So yes, botfly eggs can quite easily get under your skin (with larvae living there for months) without you ever encountering a botfly. 

    517 votes
  • Toe Cheese Is Real, And People Are Growing More Of It
    Photo: sruilk / Shutterstock.com
    400 VOTES

    Toe Cheese Is Real, And People Are Growing More Of It

    Toe cheese isn't the technical term for the sticky substance that can form between one's toes and under the toenails. Sometimes called "toe jam," the foul-smelling stuff has an odor that resembles stinky cheese (such as blue cheese).

    Toe cheese is made up of lint from socks, bacteria, dead skin, and fungi. Much like actual cheese - which is made from bacteria and other microorganisms - the substance from toes can be used to make real cheese.

    In 2013, the Dublin Space Gallery displayed several cheeses made from microbes from human tears, belly buttons, noses, and toes.

    The results? Scientist Christina Agapakis explained:

    Cheese odors and body odors are similar... [W]e were surprised by how not only do cheese and smelly body parts like feet share similar odor molecules, but also have similar microbial populations.

    For Agapakis and Sissel Tolaas, a scent specialist, the goal was to highlight that human bacteria is very much like the bacteria used to make cheese. That said, "This isn't cheese for eating," noted Agapakis. "This is cheese for thinking." 

    400 votes
  • When Peter I Of Portugal Became King, He Dug Up His Dead Lover
    Photo: Pierre Charles Comte / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    437 VOTES

    When Peter I Of Portugal Became King, He Dug Up His Dead Lover

    Prince Peter of Portugal, heir to King Alfonso IV, married Constance of Castile in 1336 CE, but his real love was for her cousin and lady-in-waiting, Inês de Castro. When Constance passed in 1345 after giving birth to Peter's heir, Ferdinand I, Peter and Inês officially became lovers, to the horror of his father, King Alfonso.

    Alfonso worried that his son would favor his lover's Castilian relatives, unsettling the Portuguese court and even the succession. So Alfonso had Inês slain: His hired assassins removed her head in front of one of her children. Peter was enraged, and fought his father in retaliation. Alfonso was able to defeat Peter, but passed soon after, making Peter king of Portugal. 

    When Peter ascended to the throne, he had Inês's body disinterred, crowned her as his queen, and according to legend, forced his courtiers to kiss her hands. The new king also had her murderers executed, removing their hearts while they were still alive.

    437 votes
  • 4
    263 VOTES

    Mongols Launched Plague-Infected Cadavers To Attack Cities

    Biological warfare is unpleasant business, and it's likely been around for centuries. Although they weren't the first to utilize the cadavers of dead enemies, the Mongols did take advantage of the practice in the 14th century.

    Using their advanced technology, the Mongols launched cadavers of those known to have been infected with plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis) into cities under siege. Some scientists and historians even believe that the use of this biological warfare during the siege of Caffa (in modern-day Ukraine) is what brought the deadly bubonic plague to Europe. 

    263 votes
  • The Dutch Once Reportedly Ate Their Prime Minister
    Photo: Pieter Frits / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    239 VOTES

    The Dutch Once Reportedly Ate Their Prime Minister

    During the 17th century, the Netherlands was booming into a powerful economy. Power scales began to tip in favor of the common man, and Johan de Witt rose through the ranks to become grand pensioner (akin to a prime minister), wielding more power than William II, Prince of Orange.

    But de Witt, who received his grand appointment in 1653 when he was 28, made a fatal mistake. He concentrated all of the Dutch defense into the navy, so the army languished and weakened. In 1672, both the English and the French invaded the Dutch Republic, and it fell without a fight. 

    The same people who called de Witt a hero now called for his blood and asked the new Prince of Orange, William III, to lead the country. They put de Witt's brother Cornelius in prison on a charge of treason. When Johan came to see his brother, the group pounced. The brothers were mercilessly set upon by a frenzied crowd who tore them to shreds. Some reports even claim parts of the de Witts were eaten that day.

    239 votes
  • 6
    272 VOTES

    Some Tumors Grow Teeth And Hair

    As if tumors weren't bad enough on their own, even the noncancerous ones can cause damage and pain to the body, and can also be unsightly. Some even have the superpower of growing tissues and organs, such as hair, muscle, and teeth. 

    Called teratomas, these tumors are rare but can appear in adults as well as children and babies. Although they are usually benign, they can sometimes be cancerous, and even benign teratomas can sometimes grow back after removal. They are most commonly found in the tailbone area or nether regions. 

    Frequently, teratomas are a result of miscommunication in the body's growth process. The neoplasms themselves start in germ cells, which explains why they usually appear where those germ cells live in the body. Germ cells can also morph into specialized cells - hence the teeth, hair, bone, organs, and wax that can turn up inside the tumors. But just because there's a logical scientific explanation doesn't make them any less disturbing. 

    272 votes