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10 Real Life Horror Stories That Will Freak You Out
The real reasons we lock our doors at night…
Throughout history, some people have felt the need or necessity to take the lives of others. Frankly, for most of history it has been an often necessary way to pass the millennia. However, there are some very sick individuals who need to take as many lives as they possibly can – those who find a terrible thrill in the taking of a life, the torture of a child, or the outsmarting of an officer of the law.
Not all of these entries deal with murderers, serial killers and torturers however. There are tales of psychosis, unsolved deaths with remarkable circumstances, a soul-gripping terror that ghosts would torment them for life, a tale of twins – neither of whom could live whilst both were alive, and more. You may well assume that mostly, these crimes are trapped in the pages of history. However, our most recent entry comes only from 2013 and is as equally unsolved as it is chilling. It is terrible to consider, but they are out there.
There are detailed descriptions of these terrible acts, and mention of many, many things that most would find upsetting. If you are of a sensitive disposition, or of a particularly young age then please do not read this article.
With that warning in place, let us take a look through ten of the most haunting real life horror stories ever to come to light…
10. H.H. Holmes (1861-1896)
H.H.Holmes is famous for being the first of the modern documented serial killers.
Living in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair, Holmes designed and built a hotel, specifically to allow him to perpetuate the murders of his guests. This hotel came to be known as the Murder Castle.
Holmes worked at a drugstore from 1886, which he purchased when the proprietor left to have a child, through mortgaging the stores stock and fixtures. With his new found wealth, Holmes purchased a plot of land opposite the drugstore, roughly a block long. There he built a three-storey “castle” as locals called it, which opened as a hotel in 1893, with part of the building leased as shops.
The ground floor contained the shops, Holmes’ drugstore, and commercial space, whilst the upper two floors contained his personal office and around 100 windowless rooms. Additionally, there were doorways that opened to brick walls, oddly-angled hallways, stairways that led nowhere, doors that would only open from the outside and many other strange examples of architecture. The company of builders used changed repeatedly during the construction, allowing only Holmes a full understanding of the buildings layout.
Holmes would select mostly female victims from those women among his employ, who would be required as part of their employment to take out life insurance policies; which Holmes would pay for, but also be the beneficiary. He would also kill lovers and guests of the hotel, murdering them as their stays ended.
His methods of killing were extensive, but most commonly, hotel bedrooms that were completely soundproofed and fitted with gas lines would allow Holmes to slowly asphyxiate his victims at any time he pleased. Other victims were locked in a large bank vault to slowly suffocate. Holmes disposed of the corpses via a secret chute, that led directly to the basement.
In the basement, corpses would be meticulously dissected, having the flesh stripped from the bones with the skeletons often being crafted into models which could be sold to medical professionals. Holmes also had acid and lime pits on the grounds to dispose of corpses and two large furnaces were located in the basement – along with many different types of poisons and a stretching rack.
After a period of time, money ran low and so Holmes fled to Texas, where he killed a woman he had proposed marriage to, and her sister. After a series of equally dastardly schemes, murders, blackmail, and border hopping around the country, Holmes was finally tracked to Boston where he was arrested for horse theft from his time in Texas. He was found to have murdered several young children in the intervening years and psychologically tortured a family, whilst forcing them to travel the country with him, at the same time as taking a second wife.
When the police finally searched the Murder Castle, 27 corpses were found, although the police themselves admit that the bodies were so badly dismembered and decomposed that it was difficult to tell where one body ended and the next began. In all, anywhere between 20 and 200 deaths have been attributed to H.H.Holmes.
9. The Winchester House (1884-1922)
The Winchester House was built by the wife of world-famous rifle maker William Winchester. Sarah Winchester began construction in 1884, and was present every day at the construction site with a new set of plans, without interruption until her death on September 5th, 1922. The estimated cost for the building work is around $75 million in todays money.
After the death of William Winchester, Sarah inherited $20.5 Million, a ludicrous sum of money in 1866. Additionally, she inherited almost half of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, giving her $1000 a day (about $30,000 a day in todays money). It was with this huge fund that she paid for the construction of her mansion.
The tale goes that a consulting medium informed Sarah Winchester that the spirits of those her husbands rifles had killed would forever haunt her and attempt to kill her, unless she built a house to accommodate the spirits and never cease building it.
She purchased an unfinished farmhouse in California and hired carpenters to work day and night until it became a seven-storey mansion (three floors of which were lost in the 1906 earthquake). She refused to use an architect and would arrive on site every day with new instructions for the workers, often nonsensical, leading to windows that overlook other rooms in the house, staircases and doors which lead nowhere, a staircase built with different size stairs and so on.
In the house there are roughly 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces and over 10,000 panes of glass. There are also 17 chimneys, 2 more chimneys that were built and then removed, two basements and three elevators. Gold and silver chandeliers line the house, and expensive redwood was the only wood allowed in the construction of the house.
Tiffany Company, the world famous jewelers made many of the glass panes throughout the house, along strange designs such as repeating spider webs; incorporating the number 13 repeatedly. Tiffany himself designed a windowpane that would create a rainbow whenever light hit the carefully placed crystals it was built with. This window pane was installed in an interior room, with no windows or natural light, preventing the effect from ever being seen.
The number 13 was thought by Winchester to calm or protect her from the ghosts, and so the house is littered with examples. Chandeliers were altered with gold to have 13 candles rather than 12, coat hooks always exist in multiples of 13 and even the sink drain covers have 13 holes.
8. Elisa Lam (2013)
This is an extremely recent event. In February of 2013, Elisa Lam, a 21 year old student from Vancouver, Canada was found dead inside the rooftop water tank of the Cecil Hotel, L.A. Although ruled an accidental death due to drowning by the county coroner, and no traces of drugs or alcohol were in her system at the time of her death, this story gets a little stranger.
There is a surveillance tape from an elevator that shows Lam clearly extremely distressed, hiding from someone or something and moving her arms in a way that does not seem physically possible without causing great pain, and aren’t significant actions like raising your hands in defence.
The problem with the story lies in the details. Apparently, the water take in which Lam was found is of the type unable to be closed from the inside, to stop people from becoming trapped and drowning. Also, the entrance to the roof was locked, and alarmed, as was the rooftop surface itself and no alarms were activated. The elevator in which the tape was filmed doesn’t move, even after Lam gives it plenty of time, which is especially strange as the elevator was not broken in anyway and had recently passed an inspection.
Unfortunately, Lam’s body was only found after guests at the hotel complained about the taste, colour and smell of drinking water. Water in which Lam’s body had floated for two weeks after her death.
Her death remains a mystery, in a hotel that is famous for serial killers living there, and a large number of suicides from its tall floors.
7. Ed Gein (1906-1984)
Ed Gein is the real life inspiration for Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He also influenced the creation of Norman Bates, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence Of The Lambs.
Despite have only two known murders to his name, his exhumation of recently deceased corpses and the fashioning of trophies from the bones and flesh of the dead makes Ed Gein a particularly strange tale.
Gein’s childhood was a particularly sordid one, being punished for making friends by his controlling mother, displaying symptoms that would now be recognised as psychosomatic. His mother bought a farm on the outskirts of Plainfield, Wisconsin and Ed was only allowed to leave the farm to go to school. Ed’s mother preached to his brother and he about the evils of the outside world, the evil of drinking and the belief that all women except herself were prostitutes in service of the devil. She would read the most gruesome tales of death, murder and smite from the Old Testament to the boys, every day.
Ed’s mother, father and brother eventually died (leaving Ed the prime suspect for the death of his brother) but not before Ed’s mother suffered a stroke paralysing her. This meant that Ed had to look after his mother in every single way, caring for her every need until her eventual death a few years later. The loss devastated Ed, leaving him totally alone in the world.
Eventually, Ed Gein was connected to the disappearance of Bernice Worden. After searching Ed Gein’s farm, police found Worden upside down, decapitated, suspended by ropes from the ceiling of a farm shed. Her torso had been “dressed out like a deer” (which is to say, her skin had been peeled back as if to prepare her for butchering) and she had been shot with a .22 caliber rifle. The mutilations were made after her death.
Inside the house police found a number of gruesome artifacts. Whole human bones and fragments of bones, a bin made of human skin, human skin covering several chairs, skulls attached to the bedposts of Ed’s cot. Female skulls, some opened, bowls made from human skulls, a corset made from a woman’s torso skin and leggings made from human leg skin.
Were that not enough, police also found masks made from the skin of female heads, the face of missing woman Mary Hogan constructed into a mask, along with the skull of Hogan in a box. Bernice Worden’s entire head was found in a sack and her heart was in a saucepan on the stove ready to be cooked. Nine vulvae were also present, along with a young girls dress and the vulvae of two girls around fifteen years of age. A belt made of female human nipples, four noses, a pair of lips, fingernails from human females and a lampshade made from the skin of a human face.
Gein was tried and found insane, after his confession could not be used in court due to the sheriff beating Gein during interrogation. He spent the remainder of his life in a maximum security asylum for the criminally insane, to the age of 77.
6. Gilles De Rais (1405-1440)
Although not as well known as a man of his accomplishments, (both good and evil, depending on your stance) should be, Gilles De Rais has gone down in the history books as a close companion of Joan of Arc, a skilled military leader in the French army and as the Baron De Rais, born around 1405 and dying in October of 1440.
He is also remembered for the murder, torture and rape of anywhere between 80 and 800 children.
He distinguished himself with many fine accomplishments fitting for a noble of the french aristocracy at a time when France and England were leading the western world, and fought with reckless bravery on the battlefields of the Hundred Years War between England and France. He fought alongside Joan of Arc and was present when the Siege of Orleans finally ended.
However, after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the death of his grandfather who had tutored him through much of his childhood and led the family – De Rais withdrew from the military and public life. He built a chapel where he officiated himself, despite not being an ordained priest of any religion, and produced a theatrical spectacular which required 500 extras and 140 main parts, which bankrupted De Rais. He sold property to support his extravagant lifestyle and continued to lose land, money and respect. 600 costumes were worn once for the play, then discarded and built afresh for each performance. Unlimited supplies of food and drink were available for all of the spectators at the expense of De Rais.
With no avenue of revenue left available to him, he began to dabble in the occult, attempting to summon a demon three times and failing three times. De Rais provided a contract that would allow him immense riches in return for whatever the demon asked for. Once the experiments failed, De Rais was advised that the parts of a child would placate the demon. De Rais provided these body parts at a future invocation and still the demon did not appear.
De Rais was an immensily prolific paedophile and murderer. Over a period of decades, he murdered a confirmed 200 children, with an estimate rising as high as 600 including the deaths without bodies as evidence, and up to 800 as the highest estimate.
The boys, although girls were common too, would be pampered after being kidnapped. Dressed in sumptuary clothing that they would have never before even seen. They would share a large meal, and heavy drinking of fine alcohols, particularly hippocras; which is a stimulant. Then the boy would be taken to an upper room of the castle, which only Gilles and his cronies could enter. There the boy would be confronted with the true nature of what was about to happen to him, which was reportedly a source of huge pleasure for De Rais.
De Rais would hang the child from the ceiling with hooks and a rope, and then masturbate upon their stomach and legs. He would then take the child down, comfort them and assure them that he only wished to play. Then, either he, or his accomplices would kill the child; either by decapitation, slitting of the throat, dismemberment or smashing their necks with a stick. De Rais kept a particular short sword at hand to use in the murder of the children.
At his trial, De Rais assistants and partners in crime confessed that De Rais would abuse the children before wounding them, and at other times after their death. He would not abuse them in the most common way, but prefered to sodomise the children, or use their injuries to pleasure himself. Indeed, in his own confession Gilles De Rais testified that he would kiss the children after they were dead, and hold up the most handsome heads to admire. He would have their bodies cut open and took delight in seeing their organs. He would commonly sit on the stomachs of the dying children and take pleasure in seeing them dying in pain. He would laugh and laugh.
The children were mostly burned, leaving very little evidence of the sheer number of victims.
Gilles De Rais was found guilty after a series of investigations and burnt at the stake, whilst simultaneously being hanged by the neck until dead. However, his guilt has always been in question, as a series of extremely convenient circumstances arose from his death, such as the judge at his trial receiving all of De Rais’ lands, titles and wealth upon his death. However, the evidence for his innocence is extremely limited.
There is much, much more that could be said about The Wolf Gilles De Rais.
Further context can be found here.
5. The Silent Twins (1963-2014)
The tale of June and Jennifer Gibbons is an extremely strange one. Unlike most entries in this list though, it has somewhat of a happy ending. Depending on your definition of happy.
June and Jennifer were identical twins who moved to Wales shortly after their birth, from Barbados. The twins were, as most twins are at a young age, inseparable. Their strange combination of bajan and welsh accents and the high speed with which they spoke meant that it was extremely difficult for anyone outside of their immediate family to understand them. Additionally, as the only black children in the community, the twins were ostracised at school, and heavily bullied – causing the school administrators to dismiss them early each day to avoid leaving with the other children.
Eventually, the twins developed their own language, or strange dialect of English and would mirror each other’s actions identically. Within months, the twins would speak to no one at all, with the notable exception of their younger sister Rose Gibbons.
After a series of therapists failed to get the twins to communicate with anyone, they were sent to separate boarding schools in an attempt to break their isolation. Once separated however, the twins became completely catatonic and unable to function on even a basic level.
Once reunited, the twins spent several years engaging in creative endeavours, preparing plays with dolls and creating soap opera stories that they would read aloud and record as gifts for their sister. Soon they advanced to writing full novels, all with an extremely inventive violent theme and dealing with the concepts of psychosis, murder, seduction and forbidden homosexuality.
After their stories and novels proved unsuccessful when self published, and magazines would not print their work, the girls began to commit crimes; leading to a bout of arson which had them committed to Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security mental hospital, often dealing with the criminally insane. After large amounts of antipsychotic medication stunted their interest in creative writing, they spent 14 years as prisoners in the mental hospital, joining the choir and writing extensively detailed diaries of their experiences.
The twins had long had an agreement that neither could have a true life whilst the other lived, and that if one were to die, then the other must begin to speak and live normally. Throughout their 14 year incarceration, the twins believed it necessary that one of them must die and after large debate and discussion, Jennifer Gibbons chose to die. Upon moving from Broadmoor to a less secure facility, Caswell Clinic, Jennifer could not be roused. She was rushed to hospital and died soon after of a sudden inflammation of the heart which could not be explained by doctors or pathologists. With no evidence of drugs or poison, her untimely death remains a mystery.
June is quoted as saying soon after, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.” At the most recent time of communication, June Gibbons is living independently near her parents home in West Wales, and is no longer in need of psychiatric services; being accepted by her community and apparently reticent to discuss her twin, or her past.
4. Bella In The Wych Elm (1943)
The mystery surrounding the murder and very strange disposal of “Bella”, as she came to be known was rather overshadowed at the time it was discovered by World War Two. Four boys were poaching in Hagley Woods, near Wychbury Hill in April of 1943.
Believing that the woods would be a good places to hunt birds and gather wild eggs, Bob Farmer attempted to climb a Wych Elm tree to investigate nests. As he was climbing, he glanced into the hollow trunk of the tree and discovered a skull, which he initially took as that of an animal. After removing the skull, and finding human hair and teeth, Farmer realised he was holding a human skull. The boys returned the skull to the hollow and fled, as they were on the land illegally, poaching.
Once home, the youngest boy reported what he had seen to his parents, who in turn alerted the police. When the police found the tree in question, they discovered a full human skeleton, a single shoe, some fragments of clothing and a gold wedding ring. Strangely, a severed hand belonging to the corpse was found buried nearby.
The body was identified as that of a woman, who had died 18 months before her discovery – placing her murder at the time of October 1941. Taffeta was found deep inside her mouth, suggesting that she had been forcibly choked to death. Additionally, her body must have been placed in the hollow tree whilst still warm, as her body could not have been forced into the space after rigor mortis had occurred.
Police admirably managed to construct an accurate picture of the woman from items found with the corpse. Unfortunately, the ongoing war meant that many people were killed, reported missing, or perished in explosions leaving no body or evidence, as well as people regularly moving as their houses were destroyed or bombing threatened their homes. This meant that the woman could not have been identified at the time, and at some point her skeleton was lost, and is to this day missing.
In 1944, a piece of graffiti appeared in Upper Dean Street, Birmingham reading “Who put Bella down the Wych Elm – Hagley Wood.”
Again in 1999, “Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?” appeared on a monument in Wychbury Hill, Hagley.
It appears that the mystery of Bella’s murder and her identity lives on.
3. Dog Suicides At Overtoun Bridge (1950-2014)
A murder mystery with a stranger than usual twist. There is a bridge located in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland that has caused numerous dogs at a rate of about one per year to commit suicide, falling about 50 feet to their deaths in the waterfalls below.
Dogs who miraculously survived the fall were taken back to the top of the bridge (which boggles the mind). The dogs immediately then leapt again, attempting a suicide a second time. This had been happening since the early 1950s. The only linking factors between the suicidal pooches that have been identified across the years were; the dogs jumped from the same side of the bridge, in clear weather and all the dogs were long snouted breeds – those that primarily use their nose as the first sense, as opposed to their vision as humans do.
As the phenomenon came into the public light, the Society For The Protection Of Animals (the scottish RSPCA) sent an animal habitat expert to the bridge to attempt to find a cause for the dog deaths. Although he spent a series of months conducting a series of inconclusive tests, eventually, the most likely cause for the suicides was discovered. Mice and mink were found nesting on the side of the bridge, below the parapet. Not a certain answer, but the most likely cause with evidence is the potent urine of the male minks, which activates the hunting instincts of the dogs; leading them to leap to their deaths in an attempt to follow the scent.
Were that not enough, a local man named Kevin Moy threw his two week old son from the bridge in 1994, believing his son to be either the anti-christ or a reincarnation of the Devil. Later, he attempted to commit suicide by leaping from the same bridge, and later by slashing his own wrists.
2. Edward Mordrake (Late 19th Century)
Although it is considered lazy writing to simply quote another’s work, the tale of Edward Mordrake (sometimes known as Edward Mordake) really should come from the primary source and partially in his own words. It is immensely disturbing.
“One of the weirdest as well as most melancholy stories of human deformity is that of Edward Mordake, said to have been heir to one of the noblest peerages in England. He never claimed the title, however, and committed suicide in his twenty-third year.
He lived in complete seclusion, refusing the visits even of the members of his own family. He was a young man of fine attainments, a profound scholar, and a musician of rare ability.His figure was remarkable for its grace, and his face — that is to say, his natural face — was that of an Antinous. But upon the back of his head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, ‘lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil’. The female face was a mere mask, ‘occupying only a small portion of the posterior part of the skull, yet exhibiting every sign of intelligence, of a malignant sort, however’.
It would be been seen to smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping. The eyes would follow the movements of the spectator, and the lips ‘would gibber without ceasing’. No voice was audible, but Mordake avers that he was kept from his rest at night by the hateful whispers of his ‘devil twin’, as he called it, ‘which never sleeps, but talks to me forever of such things as they only speak of in Hell. No imagination can conceive the dreadful temptations it sets before me. For some unforgiven wickedness of my forefathers I am knit to this fiend — for a fiend it surely is. I beg and beseech you to crush it out of human semblance, even if I die for it.’ Such were the words of the hapless Mordake to Manvers and Treadwell, his physicians.
In spite of careful watching, he managed to procure poison, whereof he died, leaving a letter requesting that the ‘demon face’ might be destroyed before his burial, ‘lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave.’ At his own request he was interred in a waste place, without stone or legend to mark his grave.”
– Anomalies And Curiosities Of Medicine by George M. Gould (1896)
1. The Murder Of Kelly Anne Bates (1996)
The murder of Kelly Anne Bates (1979 – 16 April 1996) is one of the most gruesome in modern times. The pathologist who examined Bates’ body, William Lawler, is quoted as saying, “In my career, I have examined almost 600 victims of homicide but I have never come across injuries so extensive.”
The Detective Sergeant in charge of the murder inquiry, Joseph Monaghan of the Greater Manchester Police said, “I have been in the police force for 15 years and have never seen a case as horrific as this.”
That gives you some sense, then, of the true depravity displayed in this entry. The perpetrator, Bates’ partner James Patterson Smith (born around 1948) is currently serving life imprisonment in Manchester, England.
The details of the case are chilling to say the least. Tortured over a period of four weeks, Bates was kept prisoner in Smith’s home, usually tied by her hair to radiators or chairs; or kept with a ligature around her neck. Her injuries were only found after Smith turned himself in to a local police station, claiming to have accidentally drowned his girlfriend after an argument in the bath; his attempts at resuscitation failing. When police entered Smith’s home Bates’ body was found naked in a bedroom, however, blood from Bates’ body was found in every single room in the house.
The list of her injuries are shocking, with the pathologist noting over 150 separate injuries. Notable inclusions found on the autopsy report were; stab wounds inside the mouth, multiple stab wounds caused by knives, forks and scissors, mutilation of the ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips and genitalia, burns caused by the application of a hot iron. The more shocking injuries deserve their own specification. Kelly Anne Bates’ eyes were gouged out, forcibly removed from her skull, UP TO THREE WEEKS before her death. Later, Smith stabbed Bates repeatedly inside her now empty eye sockets. Were that not enough, Smith partially scalped Bates, leaving her alive and the loose skin of her head still attached.
Before her death, she had been starved and deprived of water, systematically tortured over a month by a man with a history of attempted murder, abuse towards women, statutory rape relationships, despite being described by neighbours as “house-proud and well-groomed”, and not drinking or smoking at all.
The jury spent a single hour deliberating before unanimously finding Smith guilty. In giving the life imprisonment verdict, Justice Sach (the presiding judge) said, “This has been a terrible case; a catalogue of depravity by one human being upon another. You are a highly dangerous person. You are an abuser of women and I intend, so far as it is in my power, that you will abuse no more.”
If we’ve missed a particularly gruesome tale that you think we should include, please leave us a comment!