5 Terrifying Things Found in the Last Place You'd Expect
If life were perfect, the terrifying things of the world would live in their own remote part of the planet so the rest of us could avoid them entirely. But life isn't perfect, and sometimes horror seems to just materialize out of nowhere. Unfortunately, when that happens, it's usually in the last place you'd ever want or expect to have something pants-soilingly awful to contend with. For example ...
Bedbugs in Library Books
Bedbugs have been big news over the past couple of years. However, most of the horror stories we've heard concerning these bloodthirsty nightmares have come in the form of travelers picking up a batch at some sleazy Third World motel (like the Ritz-Carlton in New York, for example) and inadvertently bringing the infestation home with them. So those of us who don't travel regularly have been sort of shut out of the bedbug craze, and that sucks.
"Bedbugs are so last year. It's all about sofa scorpions now."
But help may be on the way in the form of your Eastwoodian refusal to cash in your library card for an Amazon account and an e-reader. That's because bedbugs have been popping up in libraries on an unnervingly regular basis for the past few years, like the outbreak at a NYC public library back in 2010, or the more recent scare at the central library in Hamden. I assume I don't need to tell you that Hamden is in Connecticut.
If more useless facts coupled with even more tales of bedbugs hitching a ride home on your town's weather-beaten copy of the latest True Blood novel is what you crave, you should check out this needlessly long L.A. Weekly article, which is filled to the brim with both of those things. It's a fascinating read that takes about 750 words to tell you that a woman checked out a book about Sookie Stackhouse daydreaming about boys and, when she got it home, found a bedbug running across one of the pages, likely confused by the complete and total lack of blood inside a book with the word "blood" right on the cover.
We're also treated to a detailed explanation of why the woman who might have just introduced a bedbug infestation into her home does not want her identity revealed, because nothing is too obvious to warrant an explanation anymore.
"Alan, we're being told that a bedbug is a type of bug that infests people's beds."
If you're assuming that bedbugs find their way into libraries on the backs of America's hard-working homeless population, you're probably half right at least, but don't discount the layman's role in the impending disaster. A lot of reading happens in bed. That means a lot of books end up lying in beds when the person reading them passes the hell out. Bedbugs, being a resourceful lot, will shack up in pretty much anything that promises a warm place to hide until the bloodfeast (meaning your bloated mess of a body) returns each night. The spine of an old-timey book is as cozy a place as any. And then some do-gooder returns that book, and before you know it, your local library is crawling with parasites.
Just another benefit of books that you're never going to get with your newfangled Kindles and such.
Sharks in Shallow Water
If there's one thing we learned from the movie Jaws, it's that no obstacle is too great to overcome as long as we have Roy Scheider and a bigger boat. But Roy Scheider is dead now, and in this economy, "downsizing" is the word for boats and everything else.
Sensing this weakness in our defenses, sharks have taken their deadly game closer to the streets. Luckily, the closest they can get is the shallow water of your local beach. Unluckily, that's exactly where most of us confine our frolicking to when we hit the water, and something about being able to stand comfortably just makes it seem like you're not in the ocean at all. Once you start thinking that way, a shark is the last thing you're going to see coming. Just like that, you're rocking a stump.
It recently happened to a 10-year-old girl in North Carolina. The story points out that the attack was a "copycat" of an attack that happened a year earlier, because ABC News apparently has evidence that sharks have gained sentience and are now mimicking each other's crimes.
"Seriously, it's the best thing ever. All you have to do is ring the bell and say 'Candygram'."
Bull sharks are particularly fond of shallow water, almost as fond as they are of snapping chunks of flesh off of the calves of unsuspecting beachgoers. In Texas, a 12-year-old boy was attacked by a bull shark while playing in just 3 feet of water. The problem with bull sharks as opposed to, say, tiger sharks, or those delicious Shark Bites fruit snacks that were all the rage in the '90s, is that they're aggressive and territorial. So it's not enough that they like to play in the people water; they also like to chase the people out of that water, and they aren't afraid to use their razor-sharp teeth to clear a path for themselves.
In fact, the shark attacks that the novel version of Jaws were based on happened along the coast of New Jersey, just like so many other horrible things before and since.
They had to change the location for fear of readers siding with the shark.
Serial Killers on Highways
Here's something nobody should need to tell you: Getting away with a crime is made exponentially easier if you're able to get far away from the scene as quickly as possible. Naturally, being close to a highway or an interstate makes getting away from pretty much anything a breeze. That's probably why our nation's highways are littered with serial killers.
Lest you think that's an overstatement, there are some terrifying numbers you may want to keep in mind. As of 2010, FBI statistics show that as many as 459 people may have been killed at the hands of highway serial killers over the past 40 years. There are approximately 200 suspects in those crimes. Almost all of them are truck drivers. Maybe that 44-point safety inspection upgrade you scoff at every time you get an oil change isn't such a crazy idea after all, huh?
"Here's your problem: You're a quart low on your anti-murder. You need to make sure you check that every 3,000 miles."
It's certainly a more appealing option than finding yourself staring uselessly at your blown engine when someone like Bobby Jack Fowler strolls up to "help," which is actually code for "bind your hands and feet with duct tape, toss you in the trunk and murder you a short time later." That's basically what happened to 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen in 1974, and it took until this year before police finally pinned the crime on Fowler. In the long years between the crime and the conviction, another 17 bodies were found along the same stretch of highway where MacMillen was last seen hitchhiking, Highway 16 in British Columbia, which has taken on the chillingly appropriate nickname "The Highway of Tears."
It narrowly beat out "Dieway 16."
But that should all be over and done with, right? The killer is caught, the crime spree ends. As it is in movies, so it is in life, right? Unfortunately, no. Not in this case, anyway. See, Fowler has been charged with that one crime, and currently he's suspected in one or two more. Obviously, that leaves a lot of dead bodies unaccounted for, and it's the same story on highways all across the land.
In the United States, the most dangerous states for highway murder are Texas and California, with 38 and 37 known cases to their credit, respectively. Hawaii (because you can't drive there) and North Dakota (because you don't want to drive there) can both proudly claim to be the only states in the union with no reported cases of highway serial killer activity.
I'm no tourism expert, but I'd recommend adding that shit to the travel brochures as soon as possible.
Parasites in Tacos
"A thing of the past," they say. "It's a problem we've taken care of, mostly thanks to USDA regulations and the like," they claim. And for the most part, "they" are correct -- getting a tapeworm from eating undercooked pork is a rarity in the U.S. these days, but that definitely doesn't mean that the problem no longer exists. Rather, much like your factory job, the task of infecting consumers with tapeworms has been outsourced to Mexico. And it appears there's an extra twist to the traditional "intestinal tract full of worms" doomsday scenario we grew up with.
Dawn Becerra, an Arizona woman, recently fell ill after eating a taco during a trip to Mexico. The thing is, the trip to Mexico wasn't quite so recent. In fact, it was three years ago. If you're thinking that's an absurdly long gestation period for a case of food poisoning, you're absolutely correct. But it wasn't food poisoning that sent Becerra into the cold embrace of a hospital surgery table. No, it was a worm that crawled into her brain and died.
If you look real close, you can see the tiny funeral his friends are holding.
And that's the part about the raw pork story that, somewhere along the line, I personally (and I suspect many of you) somehow missed. Tapeworms I've heard of; tapeworms that crawl into your brain, die and start decaying (in turn giving you brain cysts and sporadic seizures) are slightly less familiar.
Brain-infesting tapeworms are a terrifyingly common thing in Latin America, though. They're transmitted when someone comes into contact with the creature's eggs (conveniently located wherever human poop is dropped) and doesn't wash their hands properly before handling that delicious food cart taco that Anthony Bourdain swore you had to try next time you were in Mexico.
"But that's where all the flavor comes from!"
Upon ingesting the parasite, it attaches to your intestinal wall, where it forms into a worm, moves into your bloodstream and, from there, goes into your brain. Through that entirely undesirable process, you suffer no noticeable effects, other than having to double up on your daily calorie intake since you're now eating for two. The problems start when the worm dies inside your head, swelling the tissue around it and giving you a series of seizures that can only be stopped by digging into your brain and extracting the dead worm.
In the case of Becerra, the surgery had to be performed while she was awake. She received only mild anesthesia and acupuncture for the pain. Keep that in mind next time you're contemplating some kind of bizarre-foods tour through Latin America.
Snakes in Toilets
In one of Cracked's beloved series of articles about creepy urban legends that actually happened, we touched on the unsettling phenomenon of rats just magically appearing inside the toilets of unready and rightfully horrified homeowners. But an equally-with-a-chance-of-more-horrifying creature turns up in shitters just as often as rats. That creature, it pains me to report, is the snake.
How many of you reading this in the bathroom just did a double check?
Because nothing awful is worth happening if it's not happening in New York, a man in that state was brushing his teeth in preparation for a day of work when he noticed a California king snake just hanging out in his toilet. His reaction, of course, was to grab a bottle of Clorox Green Works and direct its full destructive fury at the defenseless reptile. Shockingly, this had absolutely no effect on the snake, or at least no effect that would prevent it from turning the next person with a digestive emergency into another statistic on the list of weird ways people get injured (or worse).
If you think there just aren't enough snakes in your area for this to ever be a risk to you, then I'd direct your attention to this line from the New York toilet snake story:
"What I'm being told is that it came from somewhere within the sewer line so it had to come from somewhere within the complex."
"And that's when I decided that this whole homeless thing might be right for me."
Right, so even if you live in the least snake-friendly climate imaginable, that dipshit who listens to death metal nonstop in the apartment above could inadvertently lose track of one of his 15 pet snakes, only to have it turn up just inches from your ass when you're at one of your most vulnerable moments.
And if you think this guy's story is an isolated incident, there are a few videos ...
... you should probably see ...
Oh, and for good measure, here's a bat in a toilet, too ...
That's a lot of terror in a lot of toilets. If the thought of a surprise snake in the toilet doesn't make you at least a little bit uneasy, it's likely because you poop standing up.
For more from Adam, check out The 7 Most Terrifying Corporate Mascots of All-Time and 5 Horrifying Food Additives You've Probably Eaten Today.