Feeling too good about life? Then head on over to Reddit, the Internet’s misanthropic answer to Buzzfeed’s heart-warming listicles. One thread is currently attracting particular attention: ‘What is the creepiest Wikipedia page?’ Most entries are predictably about serial killers, rapists and necrophiles, but here are some which are genuinely uncanny. Abandon all hope, ye who read on.
It’s November 22, 1987. You’re in your living room in Chicago, watching a moderately entertaining episode of Doctor Who. Suddenly, the image goes fuzzy and a horrifying being (above) appears on your screen like something out of a David Cronenberg film. He is dressed like Johnny Bravo-esque fictional AI character Max Headroom, all big chin and yellow quiff. The intruder is successfully on the air for about one minute, heavily distorted, saying things like “Frick’n liberal” and “Your love is fading”, before being spanked by an unseen woman. The Wikipedia entry says that “Neither the hijacker nor any accomplices have ever been found or identified.”
“He was on the air for about one minute, heavily distorted, being spanked by an unseen woman”
In July 1518, a woman “began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg”. Within a week 34 others were dancing with her, a number that rose to 400 in the following month. Dozens of these died “from heart attack, stroke or exhaustion”. Mass hysteria? Poisoned water supply? Supernatural causes? No – physicians at the time put it down to “a natural disease” caused by “hot blood”. In order to cure the epidemic, authorities opened dance halls to let the afflicted dance it off. The disorder bears a striking resemblance to rave culture, which took off nearly 500 years later.
This case is – literally – like an episode of The X Files. Gloria Ramirez became known as “the toxic lady” after her dying body made hospital staff members seriously ill. In the terminal stages of cervical cancer, Ramirez’s body started to emit an oily sheen that smelt of garlic, and her blood turned into what seemed to be ammonia. The doctor who was attending her, Dr Gorchynski, spent two weeks in the intensive care unit “with breathing problems, she developed hepatitis and avascular necrosis in her knees”. The X Files episode “The Erlenmeyer Flask” is based on this incident.
“Ramirez’s body started to emit an oily sheen that smelt of garlic, and her blood turned into what seemed to be ammonia”
This reads like an extended episode of Chris Morris’s dark comedy series Jam. “620 BC: Draco, Athenian law-maker, was smothered to death by gifts of cloaks and hats showered upon him by appreciative citizens at a theatre.” 455 BC: Aeschylus was “killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that had mistaken his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile.” “1816: Gouverneur Morris, an American statesman, died after sticking a piece of whale bone through his urinary tract to relieve a blockage.” “1998: 16 year-old Jonathan Capewell of Oldham died of accidental poisoning by methane and butane, after obsessive use of aerosol deodorants.” And so many more.
On 21 October 1978, 20-year-old trainee pilot Frederick Valentich was flying over Bass Strait in Australia. During the journey he told Melbourne air traffic control that an aircraft was following him. At one point, he said, “the strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.” This was followed by 17 seconds of “unidentified noise, described as being ‘metallic, scraping sounds’”, then nothing. The aircraft and Valentich’s body were never found, and after the disappearance was made public, eyewitnesses reported having seen “an erratically moving green light in the sky”. Coincidentally, Valentich was “a firm believer in UFOs”.
Yes, they’re “important for forensic anthropology” and “in the fields of law enforcement and forensic science”. But to non-forensic-scientists, the idea of research facilities dedicated to the study of decomposing bodies is creepy as fuck. These facilities, usually spread over several acres full of human and animal corpses, are the sort of setting you’d find in the crime drama or police procedural TV shows that your parents watch (the ones South Park describes as “informative murder porn”). And if you think your colleagues are bad, just think of the people who willingly choose to work in these places.
There is nothing immediately creepy about this entry, but as you scroll through the page it grows gradually more unsettling. Reddit user way_fairer points out that this is because “the page is written as if not by a human.” There is also something intrinsically strange about seeing our habits, anatomies, genetics and emotions dissected so clinically and dispassionately. The entry spans everything from ‘War’ to ‘Religion’ to ‘Language’ to ‘Art’, all of which are described curtly and matter-of-factly as if to someone who has never visited planet Earth before. The ‘Life Cycle’ section is particularly disquieting.
You might think you’re hot shit because you eat offal and black pudding, but this delicacy would turn even the most adventurous eater into a squeamish, sobbing mess. Top 16th century Chinese doctor, polymath and scientist Li Shizhen advocated a healing substance made by infusing a dying man in honey. The costly substance was believed to “heal broken limbs and other ailments”. Dying men would offer themselves up for this treatment, subsisting only on honey until their death. This diet eventually turned their innards, including their excrement, into pure honey, and after their death they’d be conserved in a coffin full of the substance for roughly one century. On a similar note, ancient Romans used the blood of dead gladiators as a treatment for epilepsy.
Like a human Very Hungry Caterpillar, but terrifying. This 18th century French soldier and street performer was constantly hungry, and although described as “slim and of average height”, he is reported to have eaten vast amounts of meat, live animals (cats, lizards, snakes and puppies), whole apples, corks, stones, swallowed an eel without chewing, as well as “offal in gutters, rubbish heaps and outside butchers’ shops”. He “attempted to drink the blood of other patients in the hospital and to eat the corpses in the hospital morgue”, and at one point was suspected of eating a toddler. He died at the age of 26 “following a lengthy bout of exudative diarrhoea”.
If you see a doner kebab shop with this name, walk away. A strong contender for ‘worst party ever’, the Donner Party was a group of American pioneers who went on a wagon train to California but descended into murder and cannibalism. The group got trapped in a heavy snowfall and several members died of sickness or starvation (Alive, anyone?), leaving the remaining travellers in a gut-churning moral quandary. After the event, most denied they had eaten human flesh, instead accusing others of having done so. One traveller called Jean Baptiste Trudeau, however, claimed he had eaten a raw baby. He later denied this.
Follow Kathryn Bromwich on Twitter here @kathryn42
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