Secret lives, concealed identities, mysterious illnesses. They are the shocking secrets that some families hide from the public, and many times their family members! Years go by before the shocking truth is revealed. These Redditors share how they learned about some of the most horrible, and hilarious, family secrets. Can you keep a secret?
1. Sister Act
My older sister has no idea that I know, but I’ve learned a crazy secret about her. My sister is my mother. She was 16 when I was born and had been kicked out of her home. Her mother, who is really my grandmother, has been pretending to my mother this whole time. To this day I don’t know who my real dad is. The story goes that my grandma was in her forties when she “had” me. My sister was sent to a boarding school when she was pregnant with me.
2. Adults Only
When I was young, my best friend would come to stay the night at my house because her parents "were going to have a sleepover with their friends." Their friends were always another couple. 10-year-old me thought nothing of it and didn't realize until I was an adult what her parents were probably doing. I wonder if she ever figured it out.
3. Geriatric Gerbil
Gerbils typically live for two or three years. Mine lived for a little over six. When he finally passed he was about three times the size of a normal gerbil, but it is funny to think that my parents replaced my gerbil with a hamster. He was a good gerbil.
4. Family Gatherings
Something felt strange about my grandfather’s funeral, just the way they were emphasizing his place in heaven. I later found out that he shot himself in the heart with a .357. The same side of the family also had seemingly random people show up at family gatherings throughout my life that ended up being illegitimate children of my grandma. I just started gaining uncles and cousins. It all confused me as a child.
5. Cousin Counting
I didn't know one of my cousins existed until I was about 10 years old. Turns out he was diagnosed with leukemia as a child and I was a very sensitive kid, so my family decided not to tell me until the treatment was successful and he recovered. It would have been okay if they told me as soon as he was healthy again, but I guess they forgot. The first time I met him, I thought I'd forgotten that a member of my family had even existed.
6. Mom’s Secret Recipe
One of my mom’s most beloved recipes was plain old Hamburger Helper. She was a from-scratch cook and everything else we ate she made herself. She never told us because it made her so mad that her kids would love a boxed meal so much. She did it once out of sheer desperation because she didn’t have time to cook one night.
We ended up loving it. I only found out in college because I begged for the recipe. I love teasing her about it to this day.
7. Horror Exposed
My uncle used to come over and visit us when me and my sibling were little. But every time, a few minutes before he arrived, my mom sat me down and told me not to be alone with my uncle. She also said that if he made me feel uncomfortable, I had to let her know. I found out last year that when my mom was nine, my uncle had inappropriately touched my mom.
8. Getting His Due
My grandpa is a pedo with a horrific track record in my family. That's why, when I was a kid, I was never allowed to be left alone with him. Unfortunately, he managed to corner my cousins, and the expected happened. Then the unexpected happened. After 40-some years of his heinous actions, he finally got reported and is now rotting behind bars.
9. A Rough Draft
It’s 1950. The Korean conflict is raging. Our uncle is out working on the farm and his dad comes up to him and says, “Son, you need to register for the draft.” The boy responds back, “Why? My (18th) birthday isn’t for another four months?” His dad then tells him, “No...your birthday is actually today.” His parents were four months pregnant on their wedding day and they moved to Florida and lied about the birthday just to hide it from their small-town, Catholic families.
10. Pet Peeve
My pet rabbit got attacked by something a couple of years after I got it. Sadly, he didn't make it. My parents found him and decided to hide the whole thing from me. They went out and got a new bunny that looked like the old bunny before I found out what happened. I just thought my rabbit lived super long but it was actually two rabbits. This happened over 10 years ago and I only found out last year.
11. The Secret Tragedy
I was told my aunt and uncle succumbed to a carbon monoxide leak in their house. When I was 16, I was told the truth. My uncle was having serious money problems. He shot my aunt and then hung himself.
12. Connecting The Dots
I was about 22 when my parents told me. Honestly I never even thought about it until they told me that my aunt's close friend that she lives with is in fact, her girlfriend. It’s weird how I was completely oblivious to this for so many years.
13. Speaking Terms
My grandparents didn't talk to each other for 20 years before my grandfather finally kicked the bucket. They lived in the same house the entire time. To this day, no one knows why they weren't on speaking terms.
14. Living The Unthinkable
I had no clue my father was the kind of creep who desired children, even though I suffered a decade of victimization at his hands. He told me to keep it a secret, by him, and my family kept the secret from me because they had thoughts of him being better, or “reformed”. So, when I was 15, I realized it was wrong, and it all started to make sense. Who knew, as a child, you can’t trust your father?
15. Stepping In
My great-great-grandmother was eight months pregnant and milking a cow. The cow got upset and kicked her in the head, ending the lives of both her and her unborn baby. The oldest daughter had to step up and basically become the family's new mom, even while she was grieving over losing her own mom. I can’t imagine having to do that.
16. Beverage Ban
When I was young, I never understood why my dad wouldn't allow drinks like Kool-Aid in the house, especially if it were grape flavor. Later in life, I found out that he was part of the cleanup crew for Jonestown.
17. A Chip Off The Block?
When I was younger, I realized that other kids did not have to go visit their dads in a big room with men in orange jumpsuits. It turns out that wasn't daddy's house, it was the federal penitentiary. After I called my mom out on it, she revealed that he was in there because he was caught driving intoxicated while also having a bunch of coke in the car.
18. Oh, Brother
We didn't know that my dad isn't my brother’s dad until I was 10 and he was 15. The only reason they told him was that my mom was trying to manipulate him into choosing her side in the divorce.
19. The Whole Truth
My dad lied in court and falsely sent his mom to prison for victimizing children. It gave him PTSD and honestly explains a lot about him.
20. Hiding In The Closet
I learned my grandfather was secretly gay and was only with my 75-year-old grandmother to have kids. They were married for 15 years. I only met him one time and he was the nicest guy. I wish I was able to grow up with him in my life.
21. Parallel Families
A few years after my grandfather passed we found out that he had two families and although he was with my grandmother for over 60 years, he never married her or divorced his actual wife. He had five kids with his "wife", and six kids with my grandmother. Some of the kids overlap and the women knew about each other.
But none of that stopped him from abandoning the first five kids and their mother. The second family moved across the country and never returned to the original area. Near the end of his life, he kept saying he wasn’t going to heaven and his only request was not to tell anyone about his passing, no obituary, no notice in the paper, nothing.
22. Looking For Answers
My sister and I both got urinary tract infections at the same time when our family was staying at our grandparents’ house. One day my grandma took both of us aside and started what felt like an interrogation about whether any adults had touched us. She said, “If something happened, you have to tell me right now!”
At the time, I felt gross, confused, and guilty, even though nothing had happened. It was just too intense. I later learned that my grandma had been physically victimized by her brother for years and her mother refused to believe her.
23. The Truth Revealed
When I was around 6-8 years old, my uncle passed. I thought it was something sudden and medically tragic, as I remember him having lung problems of some sort. When I got older I found out what really happened. He took his own life because his girlfriend broke up with him. I remember visiting my dad and hanging out in my uncle's room where we got to play video games and listen to cool music with him.
That was the start of me learning about mental illness running in the family and connected a lot of dots for me.
24. Weird Uncle
When I learned my family secret, all of a sudden I knew why my uncle was so weird. He would always pick me up and carry me away rather than let me stay alone in a room with my grandfather. I never knew why and for the longest time I thought my uncle was a real prude until I eventually learned the agonizing truth. And I was shocked.
My male cousins could all swim in the buff or run around in just their swim trunks, but my uncle made me always wear a swimsuit and cover-up when I came out of the pool. He later admitted, "God forbid he touched you, I was making sure no one could try to blame you. They blamed all his other victims for being too tempting."
My uncle, bless his heart, wanted to end that man’s life so badly. For that matter so did my dad. Finding out my grandfather was a pedo made all of their mutterings to each other at family gatherings make so much more sense.
25. Fudging The Truth
Gonna lighten the mood with this one. I begged my grandpa for years to get his Christmas fudge recipe and he always told me it was a family secret he'd tell me when I was older. When he passed, I thought the secret passed with him. Years later my mom told me that grandpa's Christmas fudge was the recipe on the back of the marshmallow creme jar.
I laughed until I cried because that was just so like him! I am now the keeper of the secret family fudge recipe and have to make it every Christmas without spilling the beans to cousins, aunts, and uncles.
26. Resemblance Made Clear
My late mother looked nothing like her parents and exactly like my dad's uncle (my grandfather’s older brother). She even has the same heterochromia that he had (one blue eye, one brown eye). And she was conceived while her mother’s husband was in Korea. When she was born, he hadn’t been home in over a year. So yeah, you do the math.
And that's not all. My grandmother became well known to the local authorities and the other side of my family for absolutely all the wrong reasons. Her roommates and friends were escorts and she was likely one, too. My mum and my dad dated, had three kids, had an okay marriage until my dad started drinking and became aggressive. Finally, they called time on their marriage and divorced. That's when my grandma dropped a shocker.
After the divorce, my grandmother admitted that they shouldn’t have been allowed to date, marry, or have children because they were first cousins. My great uncle was her father. All the adults knew and hid it because to them the idea that either family was appearing as less than perfect on the outside was unforgivable. After all, what people would think of them? Each side blamed the other for my cerebral palsy.
27. Gotta Be KD
My stepmother is the kind of person who makes everything from scratch, and when she and my dad were dating, she made mac and cheese, but the homemade baked casserole kind. It was delicious, but us being dumb kids we would say things such as, "It was good, but it's not like how mom makes it." Of course, we never elaborated on what we meant.
She tried multiple times, switching things up slightly, but always got the same response. Eventually, she just asked my mom what her secret was. "Well, first you boil some water. Then you pour in that blue box that says Kraft on it..."
28. Tough But Tender
My grandfather was the typical tough, rugged mountain man. He never expressed emotion and rarely even spoke at family gatherings. He would just sit in the corner drinking. I never felt that he and I had a very good relationship, considering I was the weird, artsy kid in the family. We didn't have much to talk about because we couldn't relate to each other well.
He succumbed to lung cancer two years ago. A couple of months after I was visiting my parents and my mom pulled out a shoebox that belonged to him filled with sentimental photographs that he kept hidden in his closet. Nobody knew about it until after he had gone and they were cleaning his things out. Almost every single photograph was of me.
It broke my heart. I wish I would have been closer to him. He loved me a lot more than I thought he did.
29. Dad’s “Nice Face” Explained
My late father was a great dad, went to work, came home every night and nothing was really out of the ordinary except that he would ask my sisters and me to let him use the money from our piggy banks (my granddad lived with us and he had a great pension and relatively no bills, so he spoiled us rotten and would always give us money) because he knew we had it, but he told us not to tell anyone and that he'd give it back.
He would also really only have two moods, really cranky or extremely sweet (my sisters and I called it his "nice face"). This was all we knew until I was about in Grade 8. We went to a private school and my dad would tell us school was cancelled, that there was a gas leak, or there were institute days and so we would stay home. When we would go back to school, nobody else would know what we meant as they had been in school.
One day, just before my graduation, I heard my mom let out a terrifying scream. Our house was being foreclosed on and my dad hadn't been paying the mortgage and had been trying to cover up for the fact that he had been a functional addict for years. The "nice face" was when he was high, the school absences were because he'd spent tuition money on drugs and then had to pay before my mom caught wind.
It had gotten worse by this time but he'd been an addict for more than 20 years and none of us knew.
30. Why Holidays Are Weird
My grandma and grandpa have been separated since we were all young kids, but they kept up this charade of a marriage. My grandpa would always fall asleep on the couch before we went to bed on holidays and when we’d wake up in the morning, he was “out getting coffee.” We never thought anything of it because they were still always together.
However, looking back, I don’t remember them ever being in the same room or ever really interacting beyond the age of about five. They’re super Catholic and obviously don’t believe in divorce, yet they both have moved on and gotten new significant others, who are now pushing them for marriage. Holidays are very weird nowadays.
31. More Than Roomies
My great aunt had a "roommate." I figured out they were lesbians and mentioned it one day when my mom said something about me being the only gay person in the family. She and my dad both looked at each other in bewilderment as all of the pieces fell into place. These women have lived so happily together for 40 years and you never realized they were the loves of each other's lives?
They had both passed shortly before then so there was no way to confirm, but I'd spent enough time around two of the most loving women I'd ever known to recognize they weren't just roommates.
32. Actions Speak Louder
My great grandfather used to be a quiet tough guy who never spoke, never complained and worked his fingers to the bone. He was very critical of my grandma when she had a third child (my mom) because he believed it was a waste of money to have so many children. He was so frugal he didn't even have a car (important detail, so keep it in mind).
Fast forward a few years and my mum is crazy about her grandpa. She kisses him all the time (despite him not kissing her back), she goes everywhere he goes, she worships the ground her grandpa walks on. Everyone in the family assumed the old man was just putting up with it, and that he would rather be left alone.
Everyone in the family would tell her to stop. However, nothing was as it seemed. One day, my mum was on holiday at a relative's house about 25 miles away from her home. I guess she got homesick and started missing her grandad. She wrote to her mom and told her about it, then her mom must have told my great grandpa. He walked 25 miles, there and back, just to see her.
33. Something’s Fishy
I was out of the state visiting my aunt and my grandma when my fish kicked the bucket. When my mom saw the fish floating on top of the water, he called my dad who happened to be in the next largest city (also a 2-hour plane ride away from home) and told him to buy another fish that looked similar to the one I already had. She also asked our neighbor to tell me about how fish can moult their scales as birds do with their feathers.
It worked perfectly and I had no idea that they'd swapped the fish. I thought I had a world record going with my fish’s lifespan. The fish were named Shiny.
34. A Voice Is Heard
I didn’t know my uncle’s roommate was his romantic partner until I was a teenager, years after he passed. I also didn’t know the cause was AIDS and that he had been a major activist: going to Washington DC and pouring ashes of his friends out on the White House lawn to shame Congress into funding research.
My older family members are Catholic and my grandmother thought AIDS was his punishment for being gay. His partner never contracted it and he’s one of my closest uncles to this day, even though he’s not related to me, and it’s been 20 years. He has never missed a single major achievement day of my life.
35. My Brother’s Keeper
Dad and his brother hate each other. That was no secret. The secret was why. It all came to a head when my grandfather (my dad’s father) was on his deathbed. He needed a kidney. Dad was a match and didn’t donate. Once grandpa passed, things kicked off for real. I always thought it was due to my dad not giving the kidney. It was so much more.
My dad drinks a lot. It would affect him greatly to give up a kidney. There were many accusations about his drinking and being selfish. After the funeral, we were asked to come to take a lot of his belongings and his brother showed up and made a big scene. However, last year it all became 100% clear. That's when the true nature of their antagonisms was revealed.
My uncle likes to play the victim. My uncle has been married six times. He lied to his wife about how many marriages he had. He is a serial cheater. During my grandfather’s numerous hospital stays my uncle would travel to “be with his dad” but in reality, he was out sleeping with everything that moved, namely a nurse looking after my grandfather.
At that time, he was married to wife number six (she thinks she is the third) and has his first child who is now about 10. My uncle had always been this guy, but it blew up when my dad was hanging out with my uncle and my uncle’s business partner. Dad drank too much and laid all his brother’s dirty laundry out to the business partner. All of it, every detail.
The business partner jokingly made comments about it in proximity to my uncle’s current wife. This caused tension, a tension that eventually had the business partners separate. Uncle went nuclear on dad about it. Dad told him 1) if he was that upset about it why does he keep doing it and 2) back off unless he wants him to lay all this out to the current wife.
So all this time, all this hate was due to my uncle trying to keep his secret while masking it and blaming my dad for being an alcoholic and not saving his dad's life.
36. It All Makes Sense Now
My mom was in the hospital, so I flew home. My dad and I were hanging out. He started telling me family secrets, almost like he was trying to get a reaction out of me. An uncle was victimized, an estranged aunt might have a different father than we thought, etc. The one that got me was when he revealed that he used to do coke.
I was imagining he meant like in his 20s. I asked, "When did you stop?" and he said, "I think you were about 19." “My entire childhood?” And he said, “Yup.” “Did mom know?” “Yes.” “How much?” “About a gram a week.” I was gobsmacked at first, but looking back, it made a ton of stuff make way more sense.
I grew up with my dad always having crazy mood swings and starting explosive fights. One minute he would be fine and then suddenly he would be raving about something. I knew he drank so I always blamed the instability in the house on that. But finding out he was regularly doing coke all my life was both astounding and it made complete sense.
37. Sibling Support
From my father's family line: my great grandfather took my great grandmother’s life with an axe while she was sleeping. My grandma, who was the oldest one, raised all of her siblings. She was 19 at the time and just married my grandad, who was 19 too. The youngest sister was just two years old, and there were nine of them in total.
I knew my grandma raised all her siblings but I always thought it was because her mother succumbed to some illness. I only found out what really happened when I asked my aunt. I still struggle to believe it. It's just so awful.
38. Addiction Kept Hidden
My aunt and uncle were drug addicts. I adored them but as I got older I started seeing less and less of them and never understood why. My parents briefly told me when I was 16 that my uncle didn’t pass of a brain tumour, but instead that he shot himself while my aunt was in the other room. Sadly, things got even worse. Overhearing my uncle take his life was part of what led to my aunt's fatal overdose on New Year’s Day.
They finally told me the whole story when I was 21. I was literally the last person to know (even my little brother knew before me) because I was extremely close to them and thought of them so fondly. Even after knowing all this, I still remember them with love. I wish I knew the truth sooner but I understand why my family didn’t tell me.
39. Why It’s A Touchy Subject
My grandparents forced my aunt to get an abortion before my family moved to America. The procedure was not done by a skilled doctor and sadly, it went so badly that it rendered my aunt permanently sterile. It finally makes sense why none of the adults talk about having children around her. That poor, poor woman.
40. Alien Probe
My father always talked about how his brother lied to a doctor with a crazy story so he could get on disability. I remember thinking how it seemed so easy for anyone to get disability insurance: all you had to do was tell your doctor you were abducted by aliens. Years later, my father had a mental breakdown and everything eventually became more clear.
My father started telling stories about the government implanting a chip in his brain. He went out and got a brain scan as proof, and he would point to things that weren't there. My dad was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and years later, he started collecting a disability cheque because he couldn't hold a job (kind of hard to perform any job when every conversation, including interviews, veers into the government probing you, literally).
As an adult, it dawned on me when my aunt mentioned mental illness runs in the family. My uncle had never lied to his doctor. He told that doctor what he believed to be the absolute truth: he had been abducted by aliens.
41. Guilt Trip
I have an uncle who is an alcoholic and lived with my grandparents until they passed. We always thought he was just an unmotivated loser. I have another uncle who passed long before I was born (he got hit by a car coming back from the store). But then, after both grandparents passed, my mom told me the true story of what happened.
The alcoholic uncle was asked to go to the store but convinced his little brother to go instead which led to his being hit by the car. My grandmother, with whom I have always held in very very high regard, told my alcoholic uncle afterward that his brother would still be alive if he had gone to the store as she had asked.
I cannot imagine the guilt that he would have felt and completely understand why he ended up that way as a result. In my adult life I’ve found that my uncle is a pretty good man, he was just dealt a bad hand.
42. Punch Up
My dad's youngest brother came home inebriated one night and got into a fight with my grandpa. My uncle punched grandpa in the face and went to bed. Grandpa went to the bathroom and never came out. My dad came over in the morning and found him dead in the bathroom. It turned out that he had a massive heart attack in the middle of the night.
After that my uncle drank, smoked, and snorted anything and everything for as long as he could. He eventually did time and when he got out, he hung himself. Maybe he would have turned out the same either way, but my dad told me the full story about five years ago and it made me wonder if his life would have been any better if not for that one night.
43. Panic Explained
I learned why my mom panics the way she does and jumps to conclusions all the time. If she can’t get ahold of my brother or me on the phone, she automatically assumes we're never coming home and she goes into an intense panic. Recently, she couldn’t contact my brother for a few hours and she lost all composure and had a nervous breakdown.
I only recently found out why. Many years ago, when my mom was in high school, my granny (my mother’s mom) attempted to take her own life. My mom made a horrible discovery: She was the one that found my grandma on the floor. Luckily, she found her just in the nick of time, because if she'd gotten home even half an hour later, my grandma wouldn't have survived. We just are starting to realize after all these years, that she probably has undiagnosed PTSD.
44. Seeds Of A Secret
When I was a little kid I always knew my uncle had something going on. As a small child the details were frequently lost to me so after a while I just kind of accepted it. He is also a notorious jokester so I never knew when he was being serious. I’ve just figured out that one of his favourite jokes was horribly serious.
One time I was sitting with my uncle and he was talking about a recent doctor visit. He told me, entirely straight-faced, that he had eaten some watermelon seeds by mistake, and they had taken root and sprouted in his stomach, so he had to get them removed. To my eight-year-old self, this made complete sense, and I took his advice to be very diligent when consuming my watermelon slices, avoiding all of the seeds.
I went on through life just accepting this whole story and never questioned it. However, when I was around 13, I had a moment of realization. It just clicked into place that my uncle had cancer! Somehow this had slipped past my gullible child’s mind for years, and there was never a moment where my parents decided to tell me about it, instead of at some point in my teens it was just common knowledge.
My uncle is now entirely healthy, nothing ever came back, and he continues to tease me and my siblings whenever he gets the chance.
45. Fathered By A Friend
I have a great aunt whose children look nothing like her husband. Now I know the wild reason why. It turns out he had mumps as a kid and it left him sterile. So he asked a buddy to "contribute" because he and his wife wanted kids. They kept this secret, insisting that the kids looked like someone on a great uncle's side of the family (whom we never met).
This went on for years until his funeral when she decided to tell her kids that their biological donor was a man who lost his life in the army. Yeah, it was weird.
46. “Secret Family”
My grandma remarried when my mom was a toddler. Turns out that my mom’s biological dad was cheating on grandma with her best friend, resulting in a child, and a divorce. He recently passed after having no contact with us since he left grandma. It turns out we're his "secret family" and that his current family has no idea that we exist.
We also learned that it's very likely my mom has a couple of dozen half-siblings in Vietnam. Also, he left all his money in his will to his favorite escort. Yeah, my grandpa is not the best guy.
47. Weeding Out The Lies
My dad used to grow weed at the plant nursery he used to run when I was a kid. That explains why there was an opaque tarp covering the back half of Greenhouse 5! And why my parents told my brother and me never to go back there. And why some real scruffy looking young guys were always coming around blasting music all the time even though the only people I ever saw buying the regular plants were older men covered in dirt and driving trucks.
Apparently, my brother found it and sold it to some of his friends at school in exchange for candy (he was in Grade 5 at the time, only like 10). My parents naturally freaked out and scrapped the whole crop. The back half of Greenhouse 5 went back to growing regular plants and dad sold the expensive UV lights he was using to grow them.
48. Robbed Of The Truth
My great-grandma is still alive. One day, while visiting, she told me our family's big secret. It turns out that her father (my great-great grandpa) robbed a grocery store in the 1960s and spent a year or so behind bars. This all happened when my great grandma was already a married adult, so after that she pretty much cut him out of her life.
My great-grandma has never discussed him, other than to say he was mean and no one has ever brought him up around her. I understand now that she's probably more than a little embarrassed about it. But also, she probably has some hard feelings about it. You see, while her dad was in the clink, he would have left his wife (my great grandma's mom) alone and struggling.
49. Mom’s The Word
My dad never called his stepmom anything but her real name, which was Margaret. He has seven brothers and sisters and they all called her mom. I always wondered why, and when I got older, I found out my grandpa was cheating on my real grandma (my dad’s mom) with Margaret while she was battling colon cancer. My dad was five when his mom was suffering in the hospital. When he was a little kid, he had to call my grandpa and tell him to come home because his wife was dying.
After my grandma passed, Margaret and her three kids moved into the house. My dad hated them from the get go. So when he turned 16, he decided to move in with his best friend and his friend’s mom. He's never really let go of the resentment he feels towards Margaret and to this day, he refuses to call her anything that resembled "mother" because that’s not what she was to him.
50. Burning Issue
I wasn't allowed to go to my grandfather's funeral, and they told me he had a heart attack. I was so confused because everyone around me would clam up when I asked about him. Years later, I learned the truth. It turns out that he had a heart attack while trying to put out a field fire, collapsed, and got horrifically burned.
I still have no idea how long it took for people to find him, but I'm assuming it was hours. The body was too grisly for my parents to let any of the kids see.