Creepy And Disturbing Stories From History That Unnerved Us In 2021

Voting Rules
Vote up the stories that freak you out.

The best history stories tend to stay with us. They are the ones with our favorite characters or perhaps a funny event, or a memorable lesson was taught. But there is another type of history story that stays with us as well: the one that totally creeps us out.

Some true tales from ancient to recent history could easily slide in among the ghost stories told around the campfire to terrify listeners. Tragic deaths, horrific experiments, and evil corporate actions reveal the darkest side of humanity in a selection of these stories. These are the creepiest and most disturbing history stories we heard in 2021.

  • 1
    1,766 VOTES

    Tom And Eileen Lonergan Were Abandoned While Scuba Diving And Never Seen Again

    On January 25, 1998, Tom and Eileen Lonergan headed to the Great Barrier Reef to scuba dive and were never seen again. The Lonergans were serving in the Peace Corps in Fiji when they decided to stop and scuba dive on the way back to their home in Louisiana.

    Thirty-three-year-old Tom and 28-year-old Eileen joined 24 other passengers on a boat manned by Geoffrey Nairn of the diving company Outer Edge to dive St. Crispin’s Reef in the Great Barrier Reef. The Lonergans entered the water with everyone else, but when the divers returned to the boat and headed back to shore later that day, the couple was not on board.

    In fact, it would be two days before the crew discovered the Lonergans' belongings on the boat and realized they had abandoned their passengers 25 miles off the coast of Queensland.

    Search and rescue teams recovered the Lonergans' diving gear, as well as their dive slate, which read: 

    To anyone who can help us: We have been abandoned on Agin court reef Reef 25 Jan 1998 03pm. Please help us come to rescue us before we die. Help!!! 

    The Lonergans' story inspired the 2003 horror film Open Water, and speculation continues as to what happened to this young couple. They may have drowned or been eaten by the aggressive tiger sharks that populate the waters.

    1,766 votes
  • Amelia Dyer Was A Victorian Nurse Who ‘Took Care Of Babies’ By Tricking Their Mothers
    Photo: Wells Asylum authorities, 1893 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    When Amelia Dyer was a nurse in Victorian England, unwed mothers were ostracized for having children out of wedlock. They turned to "baby farmers" to secretly find adoptive parents for their infants, and Dyer was one of the women who claimed to provide this service.

    However, instead of turning the infants over to couples seeking to adopt, Dyer murdered the babies and pocketed the money. 

    Dyer advertised for her services, with one of her sample ads in a newspaper reading, "Married couple with no family would adopt healthy child, nice country home. Terms - £10." However, after collecting the money, she did away with the children by starvation, strangulation, or poisoning them with "Mother's Friend," an opioid concoction.

    Early in her career, Dyer claimed to foster children and then reported the infant's deaths to the coroner. When the coroner became suspicious of the amount of casualties among Dyer's charges, she was sentenced to six months in jail for neglect.

    Once free, Dyer avoided seeking death certificates and instead began throwing her victims into the River Thames. The body of one baby pulled from the river was found with tape wrapped tightly around her neck, and a clue on the papers around her body led the police to Dyer. 

    On May 22, 1896, Amelia Dyer was found guilty and then hung at Newgate Prison on June 10, 1896. It is unknown just how many infant lives she took, but her demise helped generate official venues where unwed mothers could safely put their children up for adoption.

    2,317 votes
  • Dupont Knowingly Dumped Dangerous Contaminants In Drinking Water For Decades
    Photo: Annemarie Schwarzenbach / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    1,438 VOTES

    Dupont Knowingly Dumped Dangerous Contaminants In Drinking Water For Decades

    Dupont's plant in Parkersburg, WV, had been contaminating the local water supply with perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C-8, which is used to make products such as Teflon for many years.

    Dupont first started using C-8 at that factory in 1951 and it's believed they knew of their harm to humans, namely kidney and testicular cancer, since the 1980s. Yet, even with that knowledge Dupont did not phase out the chemical's use until 2006.

    The company settled 3,500 lawsuits related to deaths and illness for $671 million in 2017. The case is documented in the film Dark Waters

    1,438 votes
  • 4
    1,649 VOTES

    Quaker Oats Fed Radioactive Oatmeal To Children

    During the 1940s and '50s, Quaker Oats took part in experiments with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and approved by the Atomic Energy Commission to feed radioactive oatmeal, milk, and calcium injections to unknowing boys from the Fernald State School. The school, originally called The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, was home to mentally disabled children and those who had been abandoned by their parents.

    These were just a part of dozens of Atomic Energy Commission experiments that ultimately exposed more than 210,000 unknowing civilians and military members to radiation. Quaker Oats took part to form their own research to counteract the advertised health benefits of their rival Cream Of Wheat. The experiments were made public finally in 1993.

    1,649 votes
  • The 'Little Albert' Experiment Tried To Condition Fear Into A Toddler
    Photo: Vibha C Kashyap / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    1,781 VOTES

    The 'Little Albert' Experiment Tried To Condition Fear Into A Toddler

    The "Little Albert" experiment was carried out by John B. Watson and his graduate student, Rosalie Rayner, at Johns Hopkins University around 1920 and attempted to condition a response in a child. It was similar to Pavlov's dog conditioning experiments, but with a human child subject. 

    Little Albert, a 9-month-old, was given a white lab rat to play with. Behind him, a steel bar was struck with a hammer each time he touched the rat, making a loud, startling noise that caused him to cry. Eventually, Albert would cry upon only seeing the rat. With further conditioning, his distress carried over to other furry objects, such as a rabbit, a dog, a seal-skin coat, and even a Santa Claus mask.

    Looked at today, the experiment was not only unethical, but the researchers also had no objective way to interpret the child's reactions. Little Albert's true identity is still debated.

    1,781 votes
  • An Accident In An Oil Rig's Decompression Chamber Resulted In Gruesome And Explosive Deaths
    Photo: Josef Pavlik / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
    1,996 VOTES

    An Accident In An Oil Rig's Decompression Chamber Resulted In Gruesome And Explosive Deaths

    One of the worst saturation diving accidents in history occurred on the Byford Dolphin drilling rig in a decompression chamber. During this accident, a dive tender and four deep-sea divers lost their lives.

    Saturation divers live underwater for several days to several weeks. They live in special pressurized tubes after they are lowered to the correct depth in a diving bell. This allows the divers to complete long jobs deep underwater without having to decompress to return to the surface every day and risk illnesses such as the "bends." They only have to decompress once, after the job is done.

    In this unfortunate instance in 1983, four divers and a diver tender perished when a faulty airlock caused a dramatic change in pressure. The almost instant pressure shift caused the five men's blood to reach its boiling point within seconds, causing one man to be torn apart.

    1,996 votes