Weird History
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12 True Stories From History That Are Truly Horrifying

Updated June 17, 2021 11.1k votes 1.8k voters 86.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the most horrific true stories from history.

Stories from history come in all shapes and sizes. Some are feel-good tales and may make you smile. Others are literal tear-jerkers, while still others simply expand your pool of knowledge with little to no reaction. Then there are terrifying stories about historical events and people that are so awful, they don't even seem like they could be real.

For the stories here, it might just be the truth behind them that makes them all the more horrifying.

These tales are scary, unnerving, and - at times - kind of bizarre. They may be your worst fears come to life, or something so awful you never believed it could actually happen. From natural disasters to mass murders to unexplained tragedies, vote up the true stories from history that give you chills for all the wrong reasons.  

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    The Imprisonment Of Elisabeth Fritzl, 1984

    When Josef Fritzl asked his daughter, Elisabeth, to help him with a door to the cellar in their family home, she had no idea she was sealing her fate within its confines. At the time, Elisabeth was 18 years old and, for the next 24 years, was held captive in that cellar by her father.

    At first, she was chained to metal posts. Her father reportedly removed the chain a few months later because, according to an indictment, "it was hindering his sexual activity with his daughter."

    During her captivity, Elisabeth was "left alone in total darkness" for multiple days, and threatened with electric shocks and poison if she tried to escape. The same threats were made to the children, once they began arriving.

    In 2008, it came to light that Fritzl committed incest and produced seven children with his daughter. It was only after one of those children needed medical attention and was taken to the hospital that the horrors Elisabeth had faced were revealed.

    Fritzl was arrested and later pleaded guilty to rape, incest, and imprisonment. He was also accused of homicide after authorities learned one of the children he'd fathered by Elisabeth had died. Fritzl ultimately pleaded guilty to that charge too, commenting, "I don't know why I didn't help. I hoped that he would pull through." 

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  • Photo: Butterfly editing / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    The Murder Of Junko Furuta, 1988-1989 

    In November 1988, teenager Junko Furuta was abducted, raped, and murdered by a group of boys in Misato, Japan. In the first hours after being attacked and brutalized by Hiroshi Miyano, Furuta endured additional torture and was repeatedly violated by several of Miyano's friends.

    Miyano, Shinji Minato, Jo Ogura, and Yasushi Watanabe repeatedly sodomized and beat Furuta, later killing her, setting her on fire, and putting her body into an oil drum. Furuta's remains were discovered in early 1989.

    All four youths connected to the crimes against Furuta were teenagers themselves at the time, but were tried as adults in the aftermath of their arrest. Despite this, none of the offenders received more than 20 years in prison. Miyano, who received the longest sentence, was released from prison in 1999.

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  • Photo: Unidentified / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Timothy Evans was hanged for killing his wife Beryl and daughter Geraldine in 1950. He was, however, innocent of those crimes, which wouldn't be proven for more than a decade.

    When Beryl and 14-month-old Geraldine were slain, police focused their entire investigation on Evans, who actually confessed to the crime. He was a nervous man who was known to drink, and the authorities posited he'd done away his pregnant wife and their child over money. 

    The crime actually took place at the hands of John Christie, a WWI veteran who testified against Evans at his trial. This didn't come to light until 1966, when it was discovered that Christie was a serial killer. The Evans family lived in the same building as Christie and, in 1949, he may have been approached by Beryl for an abortion. It's possible that after Beryl died during the procedure, Christie killed young Geraldine, as well. 

    After Evans's execution, Christie moved out of the building. Years later, the new tenant smelled the decaying remains of three additional women Christie had killed and hidden behind his kitchen cabinets. More bodies were found in the yard, including Christie's own wife. 

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  • Photo: Jack Lockwood / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Lake Nyos Disaster, 1986

    Unbeknownst to residents of the area around Lake Nyos in Cameroon, a limnic eruption in August 1986 sent as many as 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Caused by a volcanic eruption or earthquake that shifts the ground, the rare natural disaster killed more than 1,700 people, as well as thousands of livestock within a 15-mile radius of the lake

    One survivor, Ephrem Ngong Kum, described "people dying, people dead all around" him, while another man, Chia David Wambong, recalled, "Everyone started to cough, and some people vomited blood... I saw people on the ground screaming. Everyone was crying."

    More details are described in survivor Joseph Nkwain's account:

    I could not speak. I became unconscious. I could not open my mouth because then I smelled something terrible... I heard my daughter snoring in a terrible way, very abnormal... When crossing to my daughter's bed... I collapsed and fell... I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some... starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds... I didn't really know how I got these wounds....

    I wanted to speak, my breath would not come out... My daughter was already dead... I managed to go over to my neighbours' houses. They were all dead... I got my motorcycle... As I rode... through Nyos I didn't see any sign of any living thing. I was unable to walk, even to talk... my body was completely weak.

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