20 Disturbing Events From The Past That Not Many Know About, As Shared By People In This Online Thread
It’s easy to celebrate the victories and achievements of our late ancestors. Yet, voicing some of the darkest moments from the past might leave one with a lump in the throat. Past carries disturbing secrets, which even the time won’t be able to conceal. Most horrific events in history will forever be engraved in people’s minds and serve as painful reminders of senseless acts of humanity.
A Reddit user rockingkp reached out to members of Ask Reddit community to learn more about the past events that still ache to this day. They asked, “What are some of dark events happened in history not many people know about?” Thousands of Redditors revealed some of the most horrifying historical moments (some triggering) that haven’t received much publicity.
Before you continue, let me remind you that the stories below have not been factually checked. Always do your research!
More info: Reddit
The Radium Girls. In the 1920s, they worked at a watch company painting the hours on the watches using radium, a radioactive element that glows in the dark. They did this with no PPE and weren’t told radium is dangerous. Meanwhile, the chemists had full PPE and worked in a sealed environment.
Worse, they were instructed to lick the tip of the brush to make a very fine point. Some of them would paint their nails or their teeth with it for fun when they went out at night.
They would develop cancer whenever the paint touched, and many of them had such decay in their jaws that their mandibles had to be held on with bandages.
Magdalene asylums, also known as Magdalene laundries. Places of “reform” for women that didn’t fit the idea of a good upstanding citizen. The most well-known ones were in Ireland. The women and girls were abused and mistreated by asylum staff, most of whom were nuns.
Mass graves, selling these women’s children to people in other countries, blocking any parental rights… There’s apparently at least one movie coming out, a lot of stories about it, and so many people sharing stories from their mothers and grandmothers. I guess it’s more well known than I first thought.
The Vipeholm Experiment.
Sweden are mostly known as a not very scary country. With good and mostly accessible dental care.
The Vipeholm experiments were a series of human experiments where patients of Vipeholm Hospital for the intellectually disabled in Lund, Sweden, were fed large amounts of sweets to provoke dental caries (1945–1955). The experiments were sponsored both by the sugar industry and the dentist community in an effort to determine whether carbohydrates affected the formation of cavities.
The experiments provided extensive knowledge about dental health and resulted in enough empirical data to link the intake of sugar to dental caries. However, today they are considered to have violated the principles of medical ethics.
Hey, you are institutionalized and suffering and powerless – let’s make your teeth rot out of your skull. For uhhh science.
The Children’s Blizzard. It occurred in January 1888 on an unseasonably warm day. The weather was nice, and many school kids were tricked into not wearing coats or jackets to school, some only in short sleeves. While the kids were in class, the weather outside changed dramatically from warm and sunny at noon to dark and heavy like a thunderstorm, with heavy winds and visibility at 3 steps by 3 pm. Children left school to go home and do their chores (this was in Minnesota) and were expected to milk the cows and do whatever else was involved in the family farm. But they got lost in the darkness and snow, and the wind, and many froze in their town, just yards from houses or other sources of refuge. 235 people, mostly children [perished].
There is a novel about the blizzard out now, and there is a nonfiction book about the event as well. I think they have the same title, different authors:
The Children’s Blizzard (Nonfiction by David Laskin)
The Children’s Blizzard (Fiction by Melanie Benjamin)
The Ideal Maternity Home here in Canada. From the 1920s till the 1940s, they took in babies from unwed mothers and they were selling them especially to desperate jewish families in New Jersey (adoption was illegal in the US back then).
It was later discovered that the people who ran this business would starve the “unmarketable” babies by feeding them only molasses and water (the babies would last around 2 weeks on this diet). They put the corpses in wooden box often used for butter and that’s why the victims are called the Butterbox Babies. The boxes were either buried on the property or at sea or burned in the home furnace. The parents who gave their child to this maternity home would go back and see how their child is doing but were told the child has [passed away] when in fact it had been sold to adopting parents. Between 400 and 600 [passed away] in that home and at least a thousand were adopted but sadly, the adopted babies often suffered from diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and lack of care at the home.
In the US it was common to do invasive surgery on infants without anesthesia until the mid 1980s. It was thought that newborns couldn’t feel pain.
During prohibition the government funded and lead an operation to release barrels of alcohol that they had poisoned to make people sick and shy away from bootleg liquor. Lots of people ended up [passing away] but people still drank more than ever.
Image source: -eDgAR-
One that really stands out to me is of the Filipino Zoo Girl that was on display in the Coney Island Zoo in 1914. She was bound by ropes and people tossed peanuts at her. It’s just heartbreaking to see something like that happen, especially to a child so young.
Many people have no idea that [human zoos] existed, but they are definitely a dark part of history. What’s crazy is that there have still been some that have popped up in the 21st century, although not as cruel as they used to be.
Margaret Beaufort – mother of Henry VII (father of Henry VIII)
She was married off at age 12 to Edmund (25) who was desperate to get her pregnant as quickly as he could. It was not unusual for members of the aristocracy to marry young. It was slightly more unusual, because of the risk to both mother and child, for them to get pregnant before the age of 14.
Edmund [passed away] of plague while Margaret was pregnant, she was widowed and alone and pregnant during war. The birth was a very difficult one and would scar her forever. For a time they believed that she and her unborn child would perish. Not only was she very young but she was also slight of stature and undeveloped for her age so it’s a wonder she even survived childbirth. It was so difficult for her that she never became pregnant again over the rest of her years, despite remarrying two more times. It is widely believed that she was physically damaged during the childbirth and was unable to conceive again, but it’s also possible she was too traumatized to ever put herself in that situation again. Either way, Margaret devoted herself to her son, calling him “my dearest and only desired joy in this world.”
The January 1945 sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. It was a German ship carrying fleeing Germans from the Eastern Front to the West through the Baltic Sea. It was sunk by the Soviet Navy shorty after setting sail. The total [perished] toll is unknown but estimated at over 9000 since there were so many stowaways. It is the worst maritime disaster ever, several times more than the Titanic.
It didn’t get nearly the press because they were the enemy so who cares, and the Nazi media certainly didn’t report it because they’re at the waning days of a war they’re badly losing so the last thing they need is more hits to their already sinking morale.
The Cadaver Synod
Basically the pope had a previous Pope’s corpse exhumed so the corpse could stand trial for something made up. So they dug up his bloated 7 month old corpse and convicted him, retroactively nullifying his papacy. Then they dumped his bloated and convicted corpse in a river. The people got pissed and overthrew the pope, who was strangled in prison. The next pope came along and had the corpse collected from the river and its papacy posthumously reinstated.
897 was a crazy year.
Once in the seventies, a film crew was filming an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, and they were shooting at an amusement park fun house kind of thing. A stage hand was moving what he thought was a prop wax figure on a noose, only for one arm to fall off, revealing human flesh and bone underneath. After an autopsy, it was revealed to be the 60 something year old corpse of an old wild west outlaw that had been taxidermied to an extent.
The massacre of Kalavrita. It is a village [in] Greece. The Germans entered it and rounded up all the male villagers in a field. They then shot them all with machine guns. After that, they got the children and women and put them in the church. When everyone was inside, they locked the doors and set fire to the church. Around 20 minutes into the burning, a German soldier couldn’t take it anymore and opened the doors. Around half of the people escaped the fire, but the rest perished. The German soldier was shot for this, and if you go to Kalavrita today, his name is on the memorial. No one was punished for this apart from the leader of the division, who I was told by my grandmother that he [perished] in a gulag. But everyone else got away with it. It is sad that no one knows about this, as things like this happened all over Greece and Russia, and Poland. I only know about this because my Great grandmother was one who escaped [from] the church. This massacre was in retaliation for the villagers supporting the local resistance force, which had recently [unalived] about 10 nazis.
You know Jameson Whiskey?
Well a long a*s time ago in like the 19th one of their family Heirs fed a little girl to cannibals.
Like legit went and bought a little girl in the Congo as a slave and brought her up to a cannibal tribe because he wanted to see them.
Sick f**k drew pictures of it and s**t as it was happening.
Of course for years the family tried to bury the fact, and the stories and such. Discredit the witnesses.
But the crazy bastard was happy to document the whole thing, his only rebuttal incase it reflected badly on him was that “he wanted to see if they would do it”
And his accounts matched up with the evidence witnesses had provided.
Not many people outside of Canada know about the abusive residential schools many indigenous kids were forced to go to (up until the 90’s!!), but even less know that many were also experimented on in the quest to cure tuberculosis. Truly sick stuff.
During the 1800s British noblemen in India would use so-called jellyboys (local boys smeared in jam) to walk beside them attracting all the bugs, flies and mosquitoes, creating a neat golfing experience for the nobility and a not so neat experience for the boys.
In my family’s region in Africa they used to carry out the “capital punishment” by snakebite.
Just a snakebite to each ankle, and then letting the man spend his remaining time with his family before he [passed away] (under supervision).
I thought it sounded sort of humane in a way, like our lethal injections, but apparently they say it was one of the most horrific ways that existed.
The sad case of Ota Benga. He was a “pygmy” boy from the Congo who was essentially captured and brought to the USA to be displayed in freak shows. He had undergone tribal customs such as having his teeth filed into points before his capture.
He eventually got out of the carnivals and dreamed of returning to Africa, then WWI happened, making the trip impossible for the foreseeable future. He [ended himself] by gunshot.
Child marriage in America isn’t talked about as much as it should be.
What’s worse is that it’s *still* a thing.
The Halifax Explosion.
Regarded by many as the biggest man-made explosion prior to the invention of the atomic bomb. A ship laden with explosives collided with another vessel in Halifax Harbour. The resulting explosion flattened much of the city’s downtown core, [unaliving] roughly 2,000 and injuring 9,000.
The blast is said to have temporarily displaced the water in the harbour, forming a tsunami that reached up to 15 metres high, surging over the wreckage of the waterfront.
The following day, Halifax was hit by a blizzard that dumped 40 cm of snow on top of the city, further complicating rescue efforts.
The city is also home to a cemetery where many victims of the Titanic were laid to rest. It is said that the body identification system developed at the time of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912 aided efforts to identify victims of the Halifax explosion in 1917.