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.
5 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.
"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.
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.
4 Bela Kiss Pickled Corpses in Barrels
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.
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.
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.