6 Real-Life Horror Movies Your History Teacher Skipped Over
This is the time of the year when we here at Cracked remind everyone that real history was full of more gruesome body horror than your average Eli Roth movie. (We also like to do this during all of the other times of the year.) This is the stuff they didn't bother covering in history class because, well, we like to shield kids from how our modern world was made possible by a whole lot of superstition, cruelty, and brain-eating on the part of our forefathers.
There Was A Plan To Reanimate The Corpse Of George Washington
If you think that United States history has a tragic shortage of zombies, it's only because you're reading the wrong history. For example, when George Washington died in 1799, a lot of people figured that his job still wasn't done in this world. One of them, family friend Dr. William Thornton, thought that he could actually do something about it. Thornton proposed a plan to reanimate Washington's corpse through a process so new and groundbreaking that it had never been tried before -- at least, not successfully.
"Well, not with that attitude ..."
At the time, blood transfusions were a new and exciting medical science, to the point where doctors were making some outrageous claims about what they could achieve with it. Thornton's belief was that by warming Washington's corpse up by the fire and injecting it with lamb's blood, he could essentially wind the former President back up again like a worn-down pocket watch. Of course, this is laughable based on what we know about science today. But even at the time, it seems a little odd that they skipped every testing phase that you'd expect to come before "zombify the ex-president."
Like "shut his tomb door in case this bullshit works."
Unfortunately, Washington's widow Martha rejected the plan to bring her husband back and the probable brain-eating rampage that would follow. Thornton backed down, but spent the next 20 years hating himself for not going against her wishes and doing it anyway. To be honest, we think history is poorer for it, too. Hell, think of the monuments we'd have today if the father of America's final act had been to chew open the skulls of his loved ones before his maid was forced to hack him to pieces with an ax.
They Used To Harvest Thousands Of Teeth From Battlefield Corpses
If there's one thing PBS didn't want Ken Burns to include in his Civil War documentary, it's that certain parts of your ancestors probably ended up in some Englishman's mouth, harrumphing and grinning for another few years after their funerals.
Pictured: a Civil War cemetery.
Tooth harvesting was a common practice in the 19th century, especially when you had enormous battles like Gettysburg and Shiloh blanketing the countryside with tens of thousands of young dead men and their perfectly good teeth. Once the shooting stopped and the armies left, scavengers would sneak out of their hiding places like gnomes to pry every last tooth out of the soldiers' skulls, probably without a great deal of concern about whether the victims were completely dead or just mostly dead.
Either way, they'd never have to eat hardtack again, so that's one plus.
This led to the term "Waterloo Teeth," which were infamously taken from the thousands of English, French, and Prussian soldiers who fell during Napoleon's last waltz. According to the BBC, the below specimens are precisely that: real-deal teeth extracted from the skulls of Waterloo's dead and dying.
You can also use this picture when sexting the Tooth Fairy.
The American Civil War led to what tooth farmers call "a good harvest." Teeth from fallen Union and Confederate soldiers were shipped to England "by the barrelful" to be made into dentures or sold individually. And so it was common for a Brit to spend the rest of his life running his tongue over teeth that had been pulled from the mutilated corpse of a young man who'd died screaming on a battlefield. And then they sipped their tea and thought, "Yep, the times we live in are horrifying as fuck!"
A Guy Got Cooked Alive On An Iron Throne
If Hollywood chooses to show you a peasant rebellion in a movie, you can bet your sweet ass that by the end, either A) the rebels will depose the evil king or B) the rebel leader will die a glorious death that inspires generations. The reality is that more often than not, the underclasses who rose up would get crushed via methods so gruesome that they'd give George R.R. Martin nightmares (or possibly an erection).
Case in point: In 1514, a Hungarian soldier named Gyorgy Dozsa was asked to lead an ill-fated Crusade that eventually exploded into a full-on rebellion. After being captured in battle, Dozsa was forced to sit on an "iron throne" while wearing an iron crown and holding a scepter. The only catch was that all three were red hot.
Crispy is the head that wears the crown.
So this guy was chained to this hunk of searing hot metal, his skin being fried off of his body, and then Phase II of the punishment kicked in. While Dozsa was still kicking in his smoldering throne, his fellow rebels -- who had all been starved beforehand -- were forced to "bite into his burning body" and "drink his flowing blood." Yeah, this is one of those situations that make you happy that cameras didn't exist back then.
They didn't even let them choose white or dark meat.
According to that picture, some dudes were playing the bagpipes the whole time, and we absolutely believe it. A captured rebel strapped to a burning chair, screaming as his flesh sizzles off his body while his former loyal friends and comrades rip off ragged hunks of his skin with their teeth like the fucking Walking Dead? Of course they made a band provide theme music. Hey, we bet the entire time you looked at that pic, you didn't even notice that at the very bottom, there's a dude lying on the ground with a massive spike that's been driven up his asshole until it popped out of his shoulder. Why wouldn't there be?
The Upper Classes Enjoyed Cannibal Medicine, Blood Marmalade, And Skull Chocolate Milkshakes
When you look at paintings of famous monarchs, such as Charles II ...
Who was apparently nothing but a shrunken head tossed haphazardly onto a pile of wrinkled laundry.
... "cannibal" is probably not the first word which comes to mind. Or maybe it is -- we probably should have found a less creepy picture. The point is that he was totally a cannibal, as were some of the most esteemed scientists and aristocrats of 1600s England.
You see, powdered human skull was a common medical prescription for those who could afford it, for everything from dysentery to epilepsy. The same went for human fat, powdered mummy, moss from a dead person's skull, and even fresh human blood -- which one priest had a recipe for making into marmalade. Noted brain scientist Thomas Willis even had a famous medicine made out of powdered skull and, no joke, chocolate. Of course, it was all probably a placebo effect; you can't help but feel a bit better after consuming someone else's fucking cranium. "I don't know if this is clearing up the infection, but it just feels right, damn it!"
Sometimes you feel like founding neurology. Sometimes you feel like cooking up cranium cocoa.
And where did all these medicinal body parts came from? Graveyards, battlefields, executioners, etc. Where else? The past was littered with corpses like they were cigarette butts -- people would probably trip over that shit. As for more exotic ingredients like dried flesh, African sandstorms regularly provided bountiful harvests of jerky.
You would literally snap into a slim Jim.
Clearly, nobody at that time was too worried about hauntings, is what we're saying. Then again ...
Mary Todd Lincoln Had A Photo Of Abe's Ghost
Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, lived a pretty miserable life. Three of her four children died before adulthood, to say nothing of a theater hack taking out her husband. Basically, everyone in Mary Todd's family was having a great time hanging out in the Great Beyond, while she was left alone and depressed. It's no shock that she would give anything to reach out to her loved ones again.
So she became obsessed with the occult, as one does. Specifically, the spirit photography of William H. Mumler, who took this photo of Mary Todd in 1871, which also appears to show ... somebody else.
Do you see it? It depends on your monitor settings. Here, let's adjust the picture:
No, we're not saying that Honest Abe came back to haunt his widow. Photo manipulation seemed like magic back then (hell, cameras probably seemed like magic), and with so many people dead thanks to the Civil War, men like Mumler made a good racket preying on mourning widows like Mary. Though we should point out that the fact that Mumler was a fraud doesn't mean that the ghost of a dead president isn't standing behind you right now.
Don't bother hiding your disappointment if it's Warren G. Harding. He's used to it.
Mary Todd Lincoln sure as shit thought there was, and presumably believed it for the rest of her days. This is what life was like in the past: A president dies and they're like, "Okay, do you want to try to reanimate his corpse, or just be satisfied to have him following you around all the time, running his ghost hands all over your body?"
Jamestown Descended Into A Brain-Eating Nightmare
As the first permanent English settlement in America and first British colony, Jamestown has been described as "where the British Empire began." Now, here in America we have something of a romanticized view of our colonial days, thanks to a lifetime of hearing the stories of colonists every Thanksgiving. And while we hear talk of how life was hard back then, the image that sticks with us is that of a bunch of jolly pilgrims sitting around a table and chowing down on a bountiful turkey feast while bald eagles circle overhead. In reality, the Jamestown colony was a cannibalistic disaster, complete with brain-eating.
Could've been worse. They could've eaten that dog.
The winter of 1609-1610 was particularly bad -- so bad that it is referred to as the Starving Time. Things turned so unexpectedly brutal that we have a half-dozen documented instances of cannibalism; among them is one man convicted of killing and eating his own wife. His punishment: execution, which we can only gather was swiftly followed with a feast.
And the truth is that archaeologists are only beginning to scratch the surface of this American nightmare. Only 60 of Jamestown's 214 colonists survived. The rest died in ways we can only imagine -- or, in the case of one recently excavated teenage girl, pretend we never knew about. The girl, unidentified, was found with her skull bearing dozens of cuts, its temporal bone "pried off to reach the brain."
Even her replica looks ready to roll her eyes at our history books.
Yeah. It's funny, because you've probably seen movies in which stranded/desperate people have to make the terrible decision to eat a deceased member of their party. And they have this big moral dilemma in which they finally decide that survival is more important and damn it, if Jebediah were still alive, he would want us to eat him! But when you're talking about real history, a few months of starvation is all it takes for us to reach the "BRAAAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS!!!!" stage. Never forget that, kids.
For more horror stories from the annals of history, preorder Jacopo's new novel, License To Quill, a James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Guy Fawkes during the Gunpowder Plot!
Turns out history was just as horrifying as you're probably imagining right now. For more terror from our ancestors, check out 6 Archaeological Discoveries Scarier Than Any Horror Movie and 5 Historical Figures More Terrifying Than Any Horror Villain.
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