Disturbing Stories From History We Hadn't Heard

List Rules
Vote up the heinous historic stories you're surprised to just now hear about.

From disturbing historical events to shocking true crime stories, there are many unsettling corners of human existence. These tales of dark history feature tragedies, disasters, crimes, and callous experiments - and they are all relatively unknown.

How did a Texas high school become the site of one of the worst school disasters in American history? What was so horrific about Japan's Unit 731? And why has a Swedish study on the effects of candy on teeth been labeled an egregious violation of medical ethics?

Unlike unexplained mysteries that were finally solved, many disturbing historical stories don't necessarily have a clear or satisfactory resolution. Instead, their painful legacies continue to reach forward in time and shape the world in unexpected ways.

These disturbing narratives from history may not be as well remembered as others, but they shouldn't be forgotten.


  • In One Of Japan's Most Infamous Crimes, Junko Furuta Was Tortured, Murdered, And Put In A Concrete Barrel 
    Photo: Kamemaru2000 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
    1
    450 VOTES

    In One Of Japan's Most Infamous Crimes, Junko Furuta Was Tortured, Murdered, And Put In A Concrete Barrel 

    In November 1988, 17-year-old Junko Furuta was abducted by a group of teenage boys. They kept her at the home of one of the assailants, and when his family found out, they did nothing to intervene and help her. The boys kept Furuta captive for 44 days, during which time they sexually assaulted, abused, and mutilated her. 

    After killing her in January 1989, they put her corpse into a barrel of concrete. Although four of the abusers (Hiroshi Miyano, Shinji Minato, Jo Ogura, and Yasushi Watanabe) were tried and convicted, they all served limited prison terms and eventually went free. 

    The place where Furuta's body was discovered has been developed and is now Wakasu Park (pictured).

    450 votes
  • 2
    580 VOTES

    A Maternity Home In Canada Secretly Stole, Sold, And Killed Babies

    From 1928 to 1947, the Ideal Maternity Home promised to provide care for mothers and their newborns in East Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada. But the reality was far darker. 

    The Ideal Maternity Home actually sold babies to couples in the US who were desperate for children. Some of the babies had been put up for adoption by their mothers; others were stolen by staff who told the mothers their children had passed in the wake of childbirth.

    The facility even decided that some babies who were supposed to be put up for adoption wouldn't find a home - so they killed them rather than provide care. These infants were buried in butterboxes

    580 votes
  • Japan's Unit 731 Conducted Horrific Human Experiments During World War II
    Photo: Kara Murza Cat / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    3
    538 VOTES

    Japan's Unit 731 Conducted Horrific Human Experiments During World War II

    Nazi Germany's experiments on humans weren't the only horrific medical investigations during World War II. One unit of the Japanese Imperial Army conducted chilling experiments, too.

    Created in the 1930s, Unit 731 sought to explore the effects of chemical and biological weapons on humans, which lead to experiments on thousands of prisoners - mostly Chinese and Korean. The atrocities included purposely infecting prisoners with bubonic plague, and sexually assaulting women to impregnate them, often by men with known venereal diseases.

    After WWII ended, none of the unit's officials were held accountable.

    538 votes
  • After His Car Flipped, Formula 1 Racer Roger Williamson Slowly Burned Alive On The Track During The Dutch Grand Prix
    Photo: Fotograaf Onbekend / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    4
    384 VOTES

    After His Car Flipped, Formula 1 Racer Roger Williamson Slowly Burned Alive On The Track During The Dutch Grand Prix

    Formula 1 racing is a high-octane sport that has claimed the lives of many drivers.

    Among the most memorable tragedies was the crash that took the life of Roger Williamson, a 25-year-old British driving champion who participated in the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix. During one of the laps, his car crashed, flipped over, and burst into flames, with Williamson trapped inside. The race didn't stop - firefighters just watched the horrific scene. 

    Another driver sprang into action, however. David Purley pulled over his car and tried to help Williamson. Purley recounted his attempt to save his trapped colleague:

    I could see he was alive and I could hear him shouting, but I couldn't get the car over. I was trying to get people to help me, and if I could have turned the car over he would have been alright, we could have got him out.

    Despite Purley's efforts, Williamson didn't survive.

    384 votes
  • Unwed Mothers In Ireland Were Sent To 'Laundries,' Supposedly To Reform Them
    Photo: WIKIBB2020 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    5
    420 VOTES

    Unwed Mothers In Ireland Were Sent To 'Laundries,' Supposedly To Reform Them

    Ireland's so-called "Magdalene asylums" or "Magdalene laundries" first began operating in the late 18th century and continued until 1996. The Catholic nun-run institutions took in women who were unwed mothers, orphaned, or born with difficulties, and forced them to work without compensation. Work, the nuns insisted, would reform the women.

    Girls and women were often kept at the workhouses against their will. They also lived and labored under abusive conditions. Some never made it out alive. The Donnybrook laundry, for example, interred no less than 155 women over the course of its existence.

    420 votes
  • 6
    412 VOTES

    Swedish Scientists Deliberately Rotted Patients' Teeth To Study The Effects Of Candy

    Science has improved the world in immeasurable ways: vaccines and medical advancements, for instance, have saved the lives of millions. But people have also done unethical things in the name of science. 

    Take, for example, Sweden's Vipeholm experiments. In a bid to explore the link between sweets and cavities, researchers conducted a study at the Vipeholm Hospital in Lund, Sweden. Patients at the hospital had mental disabilities, and thus could not give consent to be research subjects. 

    Between 1947 and 1951, researchers purposely fed sweets and candies to the patients, whose teeth severely rotted during the experiment. 

    412 votes