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Do you think you can take horror, friend? Do you think you've seen all there is to see because you've whipped your eyeballs with the Amityville Horrors and Human Centipedes on Netflix? Well, think again. There is one terror that contains every other dread the human species is able to imagine, neatly rolled into a giant mass of festering, spider-legged fear: history itself.

Yes, as we've told you before, human history can -- and constantly does -- produce stories that are far more creepy and gruesome than any horror-movie hellbeast or latex-mask-sporting serial killer could ever aspire to be ... because all of these stories are absolutely real. The following is not for the faint of heart, and we're not just saying that because we know it will make you want to read it more.

The Patriarch of the Kennedy Clan Straight-Up Mutilated the Brain of a Family Member

Donald Gargano/iStock/Getty Images

You know the names: John. Robert. Ted. Joseph. In its heyday, the Kennedy family was basically American royalty: the vast political power they held, the legacy they left, and the juicy relationship rumors that surrounded them were enough to put even the most dedicated Kardashian to shame.

A big part of their charm was the all-American, happy facade they were able to maintain. You've probably seen photos of their many joyous family gatherings, like this one:

JFK Library via Wikipedia
Pictured: One happy family.

And this one:

Bachrach/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Pictured: The same happy family.

And this one:

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Pictured: An artist's representation of the same happy family.

Yeah, about that last picture. Do you see that pretty, young woman on the right? That's Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest sister of the Kennedy clan. What, the name doesn't ring a bell? That's because three years after that photograph was taken, her father, Joseph, did something uniquely cruel to her, even by politician standards.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was notorious for having sky-high ambitions for his children, but Rosemary proved a problem for him due to her relatively low IQ scores and rebellious attitude during puberty. These symptoms are generally known in medical circles as "being a goddamn teenager," but Joseph saw them as potential for failure, especially as his daughter continued to suffer from mood swings and assertive behavior in her 20s. So Joseph decided to repair the immediate problem rather than repair himself as a freaking father.

The Telegraph
"I don't understand how money would make that happen."

What we're saying is that he straight-up lobotomized a daughter, without even bothering to mention it to his wife until afterward.

To put that sentence in its deserved context, let's do a little play-by-play: In the autumn of 1941, the 23-year-old Rosemary Kennedy was taken away from her comfortable, rich life. She was thrown into a hospital, where doctors drilled a hole in her head and cut into her brain with a tool "like a butter knife." Imagine yourself just going about your day when suddenly burly men take you away and strap you to an operating table for modern-day mad scientists to stab you in the brain until you can't recite the Lord's Prayer anymore (that's what Rosemary actually had to do during the operation). Then, imagine that just before you pass out, you find out that this was the order of your own father and no one else will know until it's too late.

Then imagine that the guy who invented the procedure wins a Nobel Prize,
and doctors keep doing this to people for another 30 years.

Rosemary, whom historians agree probably suffered from some mental ailment, though it definitely wasn't debilitating, was awake throughout the operation, which, of course, failed in a manner most spectacular. She was reduced to a borderline vegetative state, unable to speak or control her bowels, and with the intelligence level of a 2-year-old. She spent the rest of her life in institutions, far away from the public eye, especially when her brother John became a viable presidential candidate.

You know, because when you're running for president, the last thing you need the world to know is that your dad crippled your sister's brain because he thought she couldn't do as well as you.

Bela Kiss Pickled Corpses in Barrels

MartinM303/iStock/Getty Images

Throw a stone at a pile of horror movies and it's bound to bounce off at least three DVD covers depicting a homicidal maniac stalking people in secluded places. The movie industry has milked the "bloodthirsty killer in a small community" trope so many times, with so many variations, that it seems impossible that reality could hold a candle to all the horrors of fiction.

And in response, history puts all of its chips in and whips out Bela Kiss.

Summit Entertainment
Nope. Worse than this.

Kiss was a tinsmith in Cinkota, Hungary. Tall, blonde, and handsome, he was something of a hit with the ladies despite being such a private person that no one in his town seemed to know anything about him. All they knew was that he loved to party and had a goddamn glorious mustache. Sure, there were some less-comforting signs; his young, cheating wife suddenly, according to him, ran off with her lover to America, and none of the considerable number of female companions he had after that seemed to stick around for long. Still, what can you say? Dude was a bon vivant, but it's not as if that's a crime. Surely, a mustache that glorious couldn't be up to anything too nefarious?

His mustache even had its own listing in the National Social Register.

The truth finally emerged in 1916, two years after Kiss had left to fight in WWI. His landlord believed the (untrue) rumors that Kiss wasn't coming back anytime soon due to a serious case of being dead, so he decided to clean up the place for a new tenant. The cleaning crew found several enormous metal drums, from which a suspicious odor emerged.

That smell, it turned out, was the distinctive scent of corpse pickle.

voltan1/iStock/Getty Images
Definitely not kosher.

Kiss had the bodies of no less than 23 goddamned women (including his unfaithful wife) and one man (guess who?) stuffed in his barrels. Two dozen human corpses, just floating around in a homemade pickling fluid like onions in a jar. The officials also found a secret room containing love letters between Kiss and a staggering 74 women, which shed some light onto where all the pickled bodies came from: they were women he lured to their doom using personal ads in newspapers.

Kiss' good-neighbor cred went south pretty fast, not the least because some of the bodies had clear puncture wounds in their necks, used to drain the blood for the pickling process. Overnight, the hottest bachelor in the area became known as "the Vampire of Cinkota." Not unreasonably, the authorities wanted to arrest him immediately, lest he barrel-pickle the entire Hungarian army. Only, there was a problem: he was a prisoner of war at this point, recuperating in a Serbian hospital. When they eventually got to said hospital, all they found was a middle finger in the form of the corpse of a different soldier lying in Kiss' bed. The Vampire of Cinkota had disappeared with no trace.

Lucia Guiducci/Hemera/Getty Images
"Hey, do you think we should check out that castle with the ominous organ music and lightning strikes all around it?"

To this day, nobody can say for sure where Kiss went, how many more people he murdered, or ... well, virtually anything else about him. Some say he ended up a thief in Romania. Others swear he became a businessman in Budapest or a soldier in the French Foreign Legion. A few even claim he eventually turned up in America, living an unassuming (though presumably murderous) life as a janitor in New York. For all we know, he might still be around, having gained immortality by subjecting himself to whatever pickling recipe he was trying on all those corpses and holy shit he's standing behind you right now.

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Robert McGee and Josiah Wilbarger Experienced Scalping Firsthand


If there's anything Westerns have taught us, it's this: if your wagon was caught by Indians in the old West, murder and scalping were all life had in store for you unless John Wayne happened to ride by. Of course, there was a lot more to the era's settler/American Indian dynamic than Hollywood portrays, but that doesn't take away the fact that some tribes did indeed prey on settlers with the kind of extreme prejudice that would make Freddy Krueger proud. And, much like in horror movies, some poor souls lived through it to tell their story, presumably to set up a sequel.

What was left of these people was not always ... aesthetically optimal. Behold:

Library of Congress via Wikipedia
"When I told you chicks dig scars, this is not what I meant."

That's Robert McGee, circa 1890. Back when he was 14, he suffered a fate that made Bruce Wayne look like he got off easy: after losing both his parents on the Santa Fe Trail, Robert wandered the land as an orphan and eventually landed a gig with a wagon train. Said train was attacked by Sioux warriors, and everyone but McGee was killed. McGee himself was shot and personally scalped by the Sioux leader, Chief Little Turtle, and had to endure his grievous wounds for two hours until an army patrol arrived and pulled the old "Guys, this one is still alive" routine.

Still, as much as things sucked for young McGee, at least he had a chance to live a full life and (presumably) become a costumed hero hell-bent on hunting down Little Turtle. No such luck for Josiah Wilbarger, another scalping victim. In 1833, Comanche Indians attacked his scouting party, killing everyone except Wilbarger, who was partially paralyzed by a bullet wound and a bunch of arrows. The Indians laughed as he flailed on the ground, and after they got bored, they ripped his scalp clean off with a sound that, to him, was "like distant thunder." After that, they left him for dead.

Angel Della Vallle
As one does.

There was no rescue party for Wilbarger. He dragged himself back to his settlement over the course of two days, entirely at the mercy of the elements. Maggots moved in and infested his scalp's former crib, feasting on his rotting head-flesh. By the time he was found, he was maimed and covered with dried blood beyond recognition, to the point that his friends, assuming he was an Indian, almost shot him when they found him. Although his life was saved, his scalp never healed. With time, the bone eventually wasted away and exposed his brain. He fell into coma and died.

This process took 11 years.

J.W. Wilbarger
On the plus side, he's probably the only person in history who was asked to put his coonskin cap back on.

WARNING: The entries on the following page are disturbing as fuck.

Marie Delphine LaLaurie and the Torture Attic


If you're not into descriptions of torture, there's only one thing you should know about Marie Delphine LaLaurie: in early 19th century New Orleans, she was such a notoriously cruel slave owner that the local slave-owning government actually forced her to sell her slaves.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that LaLaurie was a well-known sadist, she was also extremely connected and wealthy, so that didn't last long. A few years later, a fire brought a crowd to LaLaurie Mansion, where they discovered a 70-year-old slave woman (who had started said fire to attract attention) chained to a stove, being completely ignored by LaLaurie, who was busy trying to save the clearly more valuable furniture. The slave begged the mob to search the attic, insisting that the numerous slaves who went up there never came back down. The LaLauries refused to unlock the attic, but the mob forced its way in.

Angry mobs are not known for manners.

It was basically like walking from the set of Gone With the Wind into a particularly gruesome episode of Hannibal. They found seven slaves suspended from the ceiling by the spiky collars around their necks, apparently preserved solely for the sake of horrifyingly inventive torture. All of them were covered in bruises, wounds, and sores. Some had their limbs "stretched and torn from one extremity to the other," according to a newspaper at the time. Others had been lashed until their flesh had peeled away, revealing the bones within. One elderly man had been beaten so hard, his skull had literally caved in and exposed his brain for maggots to feast.

They had been like that for months.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd was so outraged with what they found that LaLaurie had to flee. The house was torn to pieces while the sadist skipped town to Paris and dropped off the map. So yeah, the bad guy kind of escaped in this one. Still, really -- what were you expecting from a story where an angry mob of slave-owners plays the hero role?

Fox Searchlight Pictures
A little more Benedict Cumberbatch, at least.

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Amelia Dyer Murdered Hundreds of Babies for Money

The Independent

According to popular opinion, Jack the Ripper takes home every prize in the "most terrifying killer in late-19th-century England" category. However, we at Cracked beg to disagree. While Jack certainly takes away the Audience Award, his prolificacy and pure creep factor can't hold a torch to Amelia Dyer. Dyer killed as many as 400 victims around the same time Jack the Ripper was making headlines as if he was the 19th-century Beatles. Also, her victims were all babies.

A nurse from Bristol, Dyer (yes, that was her actual name) was nominally in the orphanage business. She arranged to care for unwanted children of people who couldn't afford to take care of them (something the era had in abundance) for a fee. The business, called "baby farming," was entirely legitimate in itself. However, Dyer soon figured out how to make tons of money by doing as little as possible in the profession. You can probably see where this is going.

tonivaver/iStock/Getty Images
Meanwhile, here's a picture of a bunny. You'll need it.

Her customers, apparently failing to notice the air quotes she kept throwing when she assured she'd "take care" of their kids, paid her fee, and once the check cleared she just left the babies lying around, neglecting them until they died. When she decided that wasn't happening fast enough, she resorted to straight-up strangling them with white tape. She would then drop the bodies into the Thames and pawn the baby clothes, thus cementing her place as the most impossible person in history to write about for a comedy website.

Well, until you look at her picture and realize she was totally Tywin Lannister in drag.

Despite several run-ins with the police and a few stints in the loony bin, Dyer managed to carry out this sick practice for nearly 20 years as the police were trying to figure out where the hell all the dead river babies were coming from. Eventually, she got careless and wrapped one body in brown paper with some faint writing on it. The writing was traced back to her, and she was caught in 1896 through a sting operation.

katrinaelena/iStock/Getty Images
Who volunteered to send their baby in undercover?

It took less than five minutes to convict her and sentence her to die by hanging.

Jacopo della Quercia is the author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, which you should totally read if you liked this article. You can also follow Jacopo on Twitter.

For more horror stories that are absolutely true, check out The 5 Creepiest Stories in the History of War and 5 Real-Life Stories of Twins Creepier Than Any Horror Movie.

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