Reality is often stranger than fiction. When the truth about how creepy the world is hits, it can be even more terrifying than anything you would find in a horror movie. Let’s just say that we don’t recommend reading this list home alone at night. Here are 42 scary facts that are almost guaranteed to inspire nightmares.
42. Running out of Air
In 1973, two men were in a small submarine 1,575 feet deep in the ocean. Suddenly, there was a malfunction, and water began flooding in, causing the sub to sink. They only had enough oxygen left to survive for three days. It took so long for the rescue team to find them that by the time they extracted the crew, the men only had about 12 minutes of oxygen left.
41. I Smell a Rat
Who likes rats? No one? Who likes even more rats? Well, you’re not going to like a “Rat King,” then, which is even more nightmarish than it sounds. A Rat King happens when multiple rats become congealed together in a tangle of tails, dirt, hair and blood. Yummy.
40. The Banned Trailer
When the movie trailer for The Exorcist was shown to the public in theaters, it was reportedly so scary that people ran out of the room. As a result, they decided to ban that version of the trailer, though the video is now available to watch on YouTube.
39. It’s Not Just Allergy Season
Everyone has tiny mites living on their eyelashes.
38. Down to the Bone
In the Czech Republic, there is a church called The Sedlec Ossuary that has decorations made entirely of human bones. This happened because there were too many people in the cemetery to bury everyone, and the church leaders claimed that if their bones became part of the church, it only made them closer to God. Nice propaganda spin there, guys.
37. Buzz off
The Japanese Hornet is one the largest and most venomous hornets in the world. A sting from this bug can result in kidney failure.
36. Oh Twin Brother, Where Art Thou?
In 2015, a young woman began to have headaches. They discovered that she had a brain tumor, and when the doctors removed it, they were shocked to see that it was a lump resembling skin that contained bone, teeth, and hair. But this was no parasitic twin: the mass was called a “teratoma,” or “monstrous tumor.” When the woman was an embryo, some cell tissue fell off and ended up where wasn’t supposed to be, her brain. It then develop hair and teeth while the rest of her grew as normal.
35. A Warrior’s Blood
In ancient Rome, some people believed that if they drank fresh, warm blood from a fallen Gladiator, they would absorb their power. They also believed that drinking blood cured epilepsy.
34. Ghastly Grinner
The Pacu fish is native to South America, and it’s quite creepy: if you look inside its mouth, you’ll see it has eerily human teeth.
33. Horrible Protein Smoothies
In the 1600s, alchemists were hardcore into finding eternal life, and they came up with some pretty disgusting theories and supposed elixirs along the way. One such alchemist, John French, used to prepare a “brain tincture,” if you can guess what that was made of. He then left the mixture to sit inside of horse manure for six months, until it became a liquid and could be drunk. The worst thing of all? French had plenty of other colleagues trying out similar medicine.
32. I Pray the Lord My Soul to Take
Four of the actors in the 1982 horror movie Poltergeist died not long after the film came out, some of them violent and unexpected deaths. Because of this, people now believe that the film had a curse hanging over it. Even the child star of the film, Heather O’Rourke, died in 1988 at the age of 12 after a bowel obstruction released deadly toxins into her blood.
31. Six Feet Under
In the 19th century and before, being literally buried alive was an ever-present worry, as medicine could sometimes mistake a comatose or otherwise unresponsive patient for a cadaver. Because of this, people developed “safety coffins” that would allow the buried person to alert those above ground that the corpse in the coffin was not, in fact, a corpse.
30. A Boy’s Best Friend
Around 1904, a boy named Robert Eugene Otto, or “Gene,” owned a strange-looking doll of a boy, who he named Robert. Robert the Doll is said to be haunted, aware of what is going on around him, and even responsible for multiple violent mishaps. Robert’s tale formed the basis for the film Child’s Play.
29. Don’t Look a Gift Denture in the Mouth
In the 1800s, people needed dentures just like they do today—but they didn’t have access to our modern technologies. Instead, dentures at the time were actually made out of the teeth of deceased people, usually soldiers.
28. Love Lost
While many people take medications to cope with feelings of despair, certain types of antidepressants have been known to eliminate someone’s ability to feel love and compassion.
27. Lead Facial
Queen Elizabeth I used to paint her face with ceruse, which is a mixture of white lead and vinegar. Despite just how beautifying these two ingredients sound, you’ll be shocked to know they were actually extremely corrosive and ageing. One of her contemporaries commented on women who used ceruse: “Those women who use it about their faces, do quickly become withered and grey headed, because this doth so mightily drie up the naturall moisture of their flesh.” Sounds like a great idea!
26. The Wonders of the Human Body
In Philadelphia, The Mutter Museum is filled with fascinating and disgusting bits of human anatomy that have been preserved. Mutations, tumors, and medical anomalies are on full display. Just don’t go if you have a weak stomach.
25. Doomed for Disfigurement
Joseph Merrick had a disorder that disfigured his entire body. Nicknamed “The Elephant Man,” he was put in a freak show. He likely had proteus syndrome, which people are still born with today and which causes overgrowth of skin, bones, muscles, vessels, and/or tissues. Every individual person has a different form of the syndrome, and they do not all look exactly the same.
24. Wow, Those Look Real!
Back in the 1960s, the skeletons in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland were real. At the time, they thought that fake skeletons didn’t look scary enough. So they contacted the UCLA medical department and bought loads of skeletons that were usually used in anatomy classrooms. As time went on, fake skeletons started to look more convincing. Disney claims that they gave the real skeletons proper burials, but many speculate that there could be at least a couple real ones left over on the ride.
23. What a Chatterbox
Just like dolls, ventriloquist dummies have become a theme in horror movies. One of R.L. Stine’s most memorable villains is a ventriloquist’s dummy named Slappy. Well, if they creep you out, don’t go to the Ven Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. It’s filled with vintage ventriloquist dummies. If you’re scared of dolls, this place is probably your worst nightmare.
22. That Could Have Been Bad…
In January of 2017, a 100-foot asteroid nicknamed AG13 passed by Earth. It was less than the distance of the moon, and just missed hitting our planet. Scientists only saw that it was coming roughly two days before it could have hit Earth. Talk about a close shave.
21. Frozen in Time
Madame Tussaud’s wax museum is famous around the world for frighteningly life-like figures of celebrities. What most people don’t know, however, is that Madame Anna Maria Tussaud got her start by rushing over to grab heads from the guillotine during the French Revolution. She used these heads to showcase her waxing process.
20. Devil’s Advocate
“The Devil’s Bible,” also called the Codex Gigas, is a legendary Latin manuscript that’s said to be the product of a monk’s bargain with Satan himself. In the 13th century, a monk was about to be executed for his crimes unless he could compose a single, impressive work in one night. To achieve this impossible task, the monk sold his soul to Satan and produced this 165-pound, three-feet-long book. While that’s just a legend, The Devil’s Bible does exist as a real text, and it appears to have been written completely by the hand of a single scribe…
19. Do I Know You?
After a stroke or some sort of brain trauma, some people can develop “prosopagnosia,” also known as “facial agnosia.” This is when someone loses the ability to recognize faces. Even if it’s your best friend, you would no longer be able to distinguish a face from anything else. Many people suffering from prosopagnosia won’t even recognize themselves when looking in a mirror.
18. Deadly Sins
In the Catholic religion, Purgatory is an intermediate place where souls go that is neither Heaven nor the hot place down below. In Rome, there is a small museum that claims to have documentation of hauntings from people whose souls are stuck in Purgatory, generally manifesting as a burn mark on the pages of the Bible and other objects.
17. Haunted Plague Island
Poveglia, Italy is considered to be the most haunted island in the world, as untold numbers of people dying of the plague were quarantined there in the 18th century. In the 20th century, the island was then used to hold a mental asylum, and it currently lies abandoned and undeveloped. Any takers?
16. Bleeding Awesome
Bloodletting was an important part of any medieval doctor’s belief system. A patient had two options: leeches or venesection. With the leeches, a “blood worm” would be administered on the pertinent body part and the creature would—in theory—suck the illness out. It sounds a little nicer than the latter option: the doctor would just slice open a vein with his “fleam” and hope for the best.
15. Brain Food
Do you ever wonder what people did before the invention of assembly-line cups and bowls? In ancient England, people used the tops of hollowed human skulls to drink and eat.
14. J-E-L-L-Heck NO
Reportedly, in the 1950s, an object fell from the sky near Philadelphia. Police officers checked out the scene, and reported finding sticky, odorless ooze coming out of the strange item, which might have been purple, according to reports. Nothing bad happened, and the object apparently just dissolved, but it’s still very creepy if it’s true. The news story even inspired the horror movie The Blob.
13. Do the Wave
In 1934, a mountain slide dumped heavy rocks into a lake near a town called Tafjord in Norway, a small, remote town. The slide triggered a 203-foot tsunami that hit Tafjord, killing 40 people and injuring even more. This real-life event inspired a horror movie called The Wave.
12. Moss Definitely
Hundreds of years ago, when people died on the battlefield or elsewhere outside, their bodies often just lay there until they rotted away. As they decomposed, their skulls would start to grow a moss called usnea. People believed that this moss contained the spiritual qualities of the fallen soldiers, and they would gather it up as medicine. Apparently, usnea that grew on hanged men’s skulls was seen as the most effective.
11. Massive Waves
The biggest tsunami on record was 1,720 feet tall. It hit Lituya Bay in Alaska in 1958. Scientific evidence shows that this area is likely to be hit with another tsunami eventually.
10. Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
At Harvard University, there is a book bound in human skin.
9. A Long Time Coming
Among the Toraja people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, when a family member dies, they aren’t immediately buried. The Toraja think of death as a process, not a sudden change, and their elaborate funerals can take place months or even years after the death. During this period, the body of the deceased is wrapped in cloth, and is thought to wander around the village until the departed person is finally officially laid to rest.
8. Memento Mori
Victorian England had a bunch of strange fads. For example, tattoos were very popular, especially with Victorian women. Bizarrely, post-mortem photography was also all the rage. In these photographs, people would take a recently deceased family member and stage them, either in a family portrait or alone, as if the deceased was just sleeping or resting. Sadly, these people still looked totally dead.
7. Dead and Dazzling
Honestly, Victorian people were really weird. In addition to being obsessed with post-mortem photography of their dead loved ones, they also liked to wear jewellery out of these deceased family members and friends, often incorporating teeth, hair, and bones into rings, necklaces, and the like.
6. Pink Elephants
Hallucinations come in many different forms. Some people who are beginning to go blind see very realistic, absurd things that are not actually there. This is called “Charles Bonnet Syndrome.” In one case, a woman was diagnosed with the eye condition glaucoma. Her life was very normal, until a trip to a grocery store triggered her hallucinations. The shelves would begin to drip, and turn into thick mud. She could pull an item off the shelf, but this hallucination of mud was too thick to put anything back on the shelf once she picked it up. These Charles Bonnet hallucinations can become so vivid that people can see animals or entire landscapes that do not actually exist.
5. Bite Me
In ancient China, there was a process of making a “mellified man,” which was essentially mummifying someone with honey. In order to do this, an elderly person, ideally near death, would volunteer themselves to the process of being binge-bathed in honey, and given only honey to eat, until their entire digestive system was honey. Then, when the volunteer died, they would be covered in honey for 100 years. After this century or so, the contents were turned into a candy that was said to heal broken bones.
4. Small But Deadly
The Black Death was serious business centuries ago, and there’s a reason it became an epidemic. Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for the Black Plague, is unable to survive outside the body of its victims. But it has a secret weapon: it can disable its host’s immune system. With nothing to oppose it, it can multiply quickly and overrun a victim within hours.
3. Two Can Keep a Secret if One of Them Is Dead
No one knows how famed creepy writer Edgar Allan Poe died. At least, those who did know are long since dead, and all firm records of his death have been lost. Poe was found on Baltimore’s streets on October 3, 1849. Eerily, he was wearing someone else’s clothes. He was in pretty bad shape, and died in hospital just four days later. He was never coherent enough to explain what had happened, and he kept shouting “Reynolds” the night before his death. There’s nothing left from his medical records, including even his death certificate. Speculation about the cause of his death ranges anywhere from suicide, cholera, heart disease, epilepsy, and even murder. He was only 40 years old.
2. More Than a Nightmare
Few people know it, but Wes Craven got the idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street from a real story, published in the LA Times, of a boy who suffered terrible nightmares and actually ended up dying in the middle of one. As Craven said, “He told his parents he was afraid that if he slept, the thing chasing him would get him, so he tried to stay awake for days at a time. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. Then they heard screams in the middle of the night. By the time they got to him, he was dead. He died in the middle of a nightmare.”
1. Dark Lover
Although it was a political marriage, the union between Joanna I of Castile and Philip “the Handsome” of Burgundy was one of passion, albeit lopsided passion. By all accounts, Philip was into Joanna, but just not enough to stay faithful. Unfortunately, Joanna was really into Philip. When Philip’s mistress had the misfortune of crossing paths with his wife, Joanna apparently snapped and hacked the other woman’s hair off with scissors. Still unsatisfied with the ‘do, Jo then stabbed her in the face. But it gets worse. When Philip died, Joanna refused to let him go. Literally. Refusing to part with her philandering husband, she viciously clung to the body. Even when her father and the government stepped in to finally bury Philip, their separation did not last long. Joanna ordered him exhumed, leapt at his coffin, and kissed his dead feet. From that moment on, you couldn’t have Joanna if she couldn’t bring Philip. The coffin—thankfully closed most of the time—would accompany her to meals, travels, and even her bedside. Only years later did Philip return to the ground, albeit at a safe distance, i.e., buried right outside of her window. On the bright side, Joanna’s cheating husband was finally all hers.