Most of us are pretty bad at giving gifts. It's hard to know what people want, and making them tell you feels heartless and perfunctory. But below us there is another tier of people who are really bad at giving gifts. They give the kind of gifts that make people wake up screaming in the night ...
#6. James Allen Re-Gifts Himself in Book Form
James Allen was a notorious highwayman in the early 1830s. He robbed and killed people mostly because, you know, in 19th century Massachusetts what else was there to do? The only two jobs were bandits and cowboys, if movies have taught us anything. Anyway, the long arm of the law caught up with Allen when detective John Fenno, Jr. apprehended him and sent him off to be hanged. Allen, having some respect for the man who caught him, decided to give the detective a little gift. One made out of his own skin.
So Allen wrote out his life story and confession and, well, let's just say that he put a lot of himself into the book.
The Late James Allen. Five stars on Amazon.
It was Allen, who had once declared himself to be the "master of his own skin," who specified in his will that a copy of the book was to be bound in his own skin and given to Fenno as a final gift to the man who was skilled enough to bring him down. The detective accepted it and, presumably wearing the thickest pair of gloves he could find, took it home to display on his mantle.
Next to the shrunken head, Satan's antlers and the rusty fishing reel of the dead.
As the years went on, the book was passed on from generation to generation with Allen's descendants supposedly using the flesh-book to spank and/or traumatize children. Perhaps wanting to save on money being paid to trauma counselors, one of the descendants finally donated the book to the Boston Library. Patrons and staff haven't heard any screams or noticed the book levitating and they describe its creepy cover as, "a slightly bumpy texture, like soft sandpaper."
"Inside is also the compacted remains of the cutest Walton child."
So ask yourself this: Would it be creepier if they had a skin book and didn't know whose skin it was? Because that's the case with the ...
#5. The Human Lampshade
When collector Skip Henderson first saw the lamp at a New Orleans store, he knew it was unique. It looked old, and because of the style of the welds that hold the wire frame together, he could deduce that it was from Europe. But what caught his interest was the lampshade. Made of a material that was thin and yet had a strange texture. It was something he had never seen before. He paid the $35 price and took it home.
A lot of short stories in horror anthologies start like this, don't they? The lamp turns out to be cursed or something?
Or belongs to a particularly high-tech genie.
Anyway, over the next few days, Henderson began to investigate and it became clear that not only was the lamp unique, the strange material was probably, as you've already guessed, human skin. The realization was too much for Skip. The lamp creeped him out so much that he decided it would make the perfect gift.
He got on the phone with his friend, Mark Jacobson, who happened to be a reporter. Henderson told him he'd just returned from a professional tanner who told him that animal that the shade was made of had no fur. Oh, and he said, "Since this thing appeared, it's like my face has been shoved into hell." Henderson then dropped the bombshell telling Jacobson that the lampshade was in the mail on its way to New York. Enjoy your new lamp, fucker!
Ooh, it has tassles. Classy.
Jacobson, not content to just stick his new lamp on an end table or re-gift it to his in-laws, sent it off to get tested. When the results came back, the DNA tests "found a 100 percent probability that the profile was human." Whose skin? Who knows? The furthest they can trace the lamp's origins is to an abandoned house in New Orleans. Some of you may be thinking it's a gruesome product of the Nazi concentration camps, but there has actually never been any evidence the Nazis made such lampshades, and no such objects have ever been found -- that's considered a myth.
They were interested in the more delicate arts and crafts, like making lace doilies.
Once he confirmed what it was, Jacobson was also seriously creeped out by the light fixture and refused to have it in his home. He stashed it in a storage shed two states away. He has since written a book about the lamp (The Lampshade) and he has tried to get a museum to take it off his hands but it's useless as a museum piece without some knowledge of the origins. Maybe Jacobson will find out once the hauntings start.
Via Joseph Maida
Eyes of the weary; mustache of kings.
#4. Saddam's Hammers
The 80s saw acid wash jeans, big hair and a huge Middle Eastern war involving regional powers Iran and Iraq. As Iran started to win, the Americans became concerned that Iran would spread their Islamic revolution across the region. So America became friendly with the Iraqis, who were led by a plucky young man named Saddam Hussein. Saddam, up to that point, was well known for torturing prisoners and killing Iraqi civilians, but regional security trumped all and in 1983, Reagan sent adviser Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq. What better way to get on a leader's good side than with a nice, tasteful gift? But what do you get the man who has everything?
Among the presents Rumsfeld brought were a pair of golden cowboy boot spurs and, oh yeah, some medieval spiked hammers.
"These will come in handy! I ... do a lot of D-I-Y."
Saddam -- not being one to be out-gifted by the U.S.'s torture hammers -- rummaged for the perfect gift for America. What do you get for the country that has everything?
Surprisingly skipping over some shocking genital clamps, Saddam settled on giving Rumsfeld a short video showing Syrian female soldiers biting heads off snakes in front of the Syrian President, and Syrian soldiers attacking the greatest threat to the Middle East: puppies. Yes, a video of soldiers stabbing puppies to death. Party time!
This puppy is obviously a Kurdish sympathizer.
Rumsfeld must've been impressed by the gift because during his run for 1988 Republican Presidential nomination, he had the media include his greatest achievements -- one of which was helping to "reopen U.S. relations with Iraq."
"We've learned some very interesting lessons from our Iraqi friends ..."