6 True Stories from History Creepier Than Any Horror Movie

#3. The British Pet Holocaust of World War II

A. J. O'Brien/Hulton Archive/Getty Image

There are so many horror stories in war that some just get lost in the pile. That's too bad, because often by discussing things in broad, heroic strokes -- the bombings, the invasions, the cities reduced to rubble -- you lose sight of the more personal horrors that occurred day-to-day. For example:

Fred Morley / Stringer / Hulton / Getty
Awww, look at the ... wait, what the fuck does that sign say?

During the run-up to WWII, the British government formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee in 1939 to decide what to do with all their animals once war broke out. The committee's primary concern was food shortages made worse due to people feeding their pets, so to curtail this potential problem, they sent out a pamphlet called "Advice to Animal Owners" ... which came with an advertisement for a specific type of gun. You can see where this is going.

UK National Archives
Keep calm and kill your cat.

The pamphlet advised the population that if they could not send their pets into the countryside, "it really is kindest to have them destroyed" (the wording suggests that it was written by an early Dalek prototype). How did the British population take this order? With protests across the Isles, surely? Not exactly. Within the course of a week, 750,000 family pets were "destroyed."

Also, please note that this took place during the summer of 1939 -- i.e., before Germany invaded Poland, and during a time when the British government could have done a lot more damage to Nazi Germany if they simply attacked them instead of massacring all family pets and printing posters for when the Nazis conquered London.

#2. The World's First Documented Serial Killer Did as She Pleased During the Pax Romana

Joseph-Noel Sylvestre

The Pax Romana is known for being one of the most peaceful periods in history: The Romans figured, "Meh, the empire is big enough now," and took it easy with all the head-chopping and back-stabbing (as much as they could, anyway) to focus on more productive things like fine-tuning the laws we still use today. How else could Rome have held itself together for so long without routine garbage pickup and laws designed to keep people like serial killers off the street?

Bibliotheca Augustana
And every potential killer on the street went to Rome eventually. All roads led there.

Actually, scratch that last part. The first recorded serial killer in history reigned like a mad queen for 15 years during this period: Her name was Locusta, and her career reads like what would happen if Hannibal Lecter was given his own state college.

Locusta's macabre story starts in the mid-first century A.D., where she was arrested for poisoning people. Fortune smiled upon her when Agrippina decided to poison Emperor Claudius, and can you guess who she turned to for help on that one? That's right, Locusta, who subsequently received a pardon for her lethal dose of girl power.

Luis Garcia
She used the "He looked pretty dead even before I killed him" defense.

So, what did Locusta do with her freedom? She got busted one year later in 55 A.D. for poisoning people. (Again, serial killer.) Fortunately, the new Emperor Nero needed her for another job, and Locusta was pardoned once more so she could whip up a deadly milkshake for Nero's 13-year-old step brother Britannicus. After that hit, Locusta was awarded a sweet villa and even pupils to aid her in her arts. That's right, even though she was a known murderer and repeat offender, Locusta was given everything she needed to open her own goddamn school for murder.

However, Locusta's luck ran out when Nero committed suicide, leaving her with few allies and a reputation akin to that of a sorceress. The madwoman was arrested and promptly executed by Emperor Galba in 69 A.D. How did she die? Perhaps an ironic "taste" of her own medicine? Nope: She was supposedly publicly raped to death by a wild animal [some sources say a giraffe]. That's Roman law for you.

#1. Joan of Arc Battled Alongside (Not Against) a Prolific Child Killer

Pierre Christian

We're not going to lie: We at Cracked have a nerd crush on Joan of Arc. She was real. She was badass. She didn't take shit from anybody. And it's well-documented that she was beloved by God and Merlin both (history's idea of "well-documented" can be a bit shaky).

French National Archives
Why did we ever stop giving swords to schizophrenics?

But while Joan gets most of the credit for helping France stand up to England in the 15th century, she couldn't have done it without the support of allies like Gilles de Rais, her "ardent companion," and one of the bravest knights in the French army. De Rais even made it into the big-budget Joan of Arc movie starring Milla Jovovich, where he's played by Vincent Cassel.

So why don't people name churches after this dude too? Probably because of de Rais' night job as a horrific serial killer who preyed particularly on children between the ages of 6 and 18.

Eloi Firmin Feron 
Really, the hair should have been a dead giveaway.

Again, we're talking about one of the few men in the French army who helped make Joan of Arc's career and eventual sainthood possible ... and who also happened to be a torturing, butchering, child-murdering monster. The accounts of his trial and confession make for a soul-scarring read: Not content with killing and abusing his victims in gruesome ways, de Rais would also play with them psychologically, convincing them it was only a game before unleashing something even worse. This guy would have been kicked out of Arkham Asylum for creeping out the Joker.

Depending on whom you ask, de Rais killed as few as 80 or as many as 800 children, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Obviously, Joan of Arc never knew about any of this. And just like his old pal, de Rais was eventually burned by the authorities (the preferred method of getting rid of undesirables back then), though in this case he had that shit coming.

Bibliotheque Nationale de France 
Even the angels celebrated. They brought their own banner.


For more chilling tales of horror that only history could have made possible, please preorder Jacopo's upcoming novel The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy.

Related Reading: Check out these famous horror movies made realistic by our forums members. If you're more about serial killers, read about this woman who fed her husband to their children. On the upside, horror villains are pretty great wingmen.

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