16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills

Khalid Elhassan - August 10, 2018

History has no shortage of moments when things seem to be going on their merry – or at least routine – way, before taking a turn for the worse, and stuff suddenly gets dark. Following are sixteen of history’s worst moments, ranging from the dark to the nightmarish.

The Time an Angry Mob Lynched and ATE an Unpopular Ruler

Tempers have often gotten heated in American politics, as anyone who keeps up with today’s news is aware. Passions have even gotten high enough on occasion for political violence to erupt. E.g.; that time a century and a half ago when American went hammer and tongs at each other, leading to the deaths of 650,000 to 900,000 people in a civil war.

But hot as tempers have gotten in the US, they never got so heated that an American mob lynched an unpopular head of government, then proceeded to cook and eat him. Not so the Dutch. Notwithstanding their national reputation for orderliness and politeness, a Dutch mob seized the country’s prime minister, and did a number on him in 1672.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
The corpses of the brothers De Witt, on the Groene Zoodje at the Lange Vijverberg in The Hague, 20 August 1672, by Jan de Baen. Wikimedia

Jan de Witt (1625 – 1672) was a decentralizing Dutch politician who sought to shift power from the central government to local ones. His decentralization agenda however led him to neglect the Dutch army and navy, and when the Third Anglo-Dutch War erupted, the result was a series of military disasters in 1672. It was so bad that 1672 is known in Dutch history as rampjaar – “disaster year”.

It was against that backdrop that Jan de Witt went to visit his brother Cornelis, who had recently been sentenced to exile, on August 20th, 1672. An angry mob spotted and seized the brothers, then shot, stabbed, and beat them to death. It then strung up their corpses upside down from a gibbet, disemboweled them, ripped off their genitalia, and roasted and ate their livers and other parts in a cannibalistic frenzy.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
A Canadian machine gun company during the Battle of Passchendaele. Wikimedia

The Nightmare of WWI Trench Warfare Got Worse When Soldiers Drowned in the Mud

World War I was a horrific and brutalizing experience for the millions of soldiers who fought in it. For those engaged in the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, in Flanders, “stuck” took on a literal meaning when unusually wet weather conditions morphed much of the region into a sea of mud deep enough to swallow soldiers, and even horses.

Flanders is a low lying coastal region abutting the North Sea in Belgium, where the water table is seldom far below the ground. The area is naturally prone to muddiness, but 1917 saw relentless rains that enhanced its already muddy norms. Artillery barrages churned the ground and made it even muddier. Thousands of horses and mules died from exhaustion as they tried to drag gun carriages and wagonloads through the mire, and moving a gun 250 yards could take over six hours. It took six men to stretcher a casualty over the muck, and men stumbled through glue-like mud that sucked the boots from their feet, sometimes reaching their waists or higher.

Soldiers no longer thought of those in different uniforms as the enemy: that honor went to the deep and all-devouring mud. Wounded and dying men were swallowed up by the slime, and hale men were buried when sodden trench walls collapsed around them. Soldiers came to fear the mud even more than they feared their opponents’ shells, bullets, and bayonets.

As a British officer described his men’s suffering: ” Covered with mud, wet to the skin, bitterly cold, stiff and benumbed with exposure, cowed and deadened by the monotony of 48 hours in extreme danger and by the constant casualties among their mates, they hung on to existence by a thin thread of discipline rather than by any spark of life. Some of the feebler and more highly strung deliberately ended their lives.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Civil War child soldiers. All That is Interesting

America’s Child Soldiers

About a fifth of military personnel during the American Civil War were under 18, and more than 100,000 soldiers in the Union Army alone were under 15. There were even children as young as eight in uniform. They were usually used as drummers, buglers, cooks’ assistants, nurses, orderlies, general gophers, or in other non-combatant positions. However, they were frequently just as exposed to fire as were the adults on the front line.

On land, children being children, full of curiosity and often oblivious to danger and risk to life and limb, underage soldiers often snuck off to the firing lines to see the excitement of battle for themselves from up close. While there, many picked up rifles in the heat of the moment, and rushed into the maelstrom, fighting and dying alongside the adults.

In the US Navy, children served as “powder monkeys”. Tasked during combat with rushing gunpowder from magazines to canons, they were just as exposed to danger as everybody else aboard ship. Indeed, considering that they were running around with sacks of gunpowder that could go off if they came into contact with any spark, the powder monkeys might have been at greater risk than the rest of the crew.

There were age restrictions – in the Union, enlistees had to be over 16 – but they were frequently ignored. Many under-aged Northern boys, for example, had little trouble finding recruiters willing to sign them up, provided they swore that they were “over 16”. Some reconciled their consciences with the lie by writing the number “16” on a piece of paper and sticking it to the bottom of a shoe, so they could honestly swear that they were “over 16”.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Ei Yamaguchi returning to his cave in 1994. Pacific Wrecks

Ei Yamaguchi Spent Years Hiding in Tunnnels

Ei Yamaguchi was in the wrong place at the wrong time in September of 1944: he was a Japanese army lieutenant posted to the island of Peleliu when it was invaded by US forces. 73 days of fierce fighting ensued before the island was declared secure, during which the Americans had to root out the defenders from an elaborate system of bunkers, caves, spider holes, and underground positions connected by tunnels.

Yamaguchi was one of the few Japanese survivors, and taking charge of 32 other survivors, he went to ground in the subterranean defensive tunnel network honeycombing the island. Hunkering down like mole men, Yamaguchi and his men evaded capture by hiding in and moving about via the tunnels beneath the island’s surface.

When the war ended the following September, Yamaguchi’s contingent were cut off from communications with their chain of command, and so did not get official word to surrender. Announcements of war’s end, blared across the island by loudspeakers and contained in leaflets dropped all over Peleliu, were dismissed as fake news and enemy trickery.

The holdouts kept up a desultory guerrilla resistance, taking the occasional pot shot at American personnel on the island. However, ammunition was scarce, and survival and evading detection were the main priorities. Matters continued thus, until April of 1947, when one of Yamaguchi’s men was captured by a Marine patrol. He revealed that his comrades did not believe that Japan had surrendered, and were getting desperate, contemplating a suicidal banzai attack to go out in a blaze of glory.

American authorities secured letters from the holdouts’ families, informing them that the war was over and urging them to surrender, and flew in a Japanese admiral to confirm that the war was over. That finally convinced the holdouts, and on April 21, 1947, they emerged from their tunnels and marched to the island’s headquarters building. There, lieutenant Yamaguchi saluted, bowed, and ceremoniously surrendered his sword and his command.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
‘Feast of Attila’, by Mor Than, 1870. Newsela

The Scourge of God’s Rampage

Attila (406 – 453), who ruled a Steppe empire dominated by the Huns, covering Eastern and Central Europe, became known as “The Scourge of God” for his depredations. He invaded Persia, terrorized the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, plundered the Balkans, extorted tons of gold from Constantinople, invaded Gaul, and struck into Italy.

He was born into the Hun royal family, and inherited the crown jointly with his brother Bleda in 434. They purged potential rivals, and when their surviving enemies fled to the Roman Empire, the brothers invaded and forced the Romans to hand over the fugitives, plus an annual tribute of 230 kilograms of gold. They then invaded and plundered the Persian Empire for years, before they were beaten back, at which point they returned their attention to Europe.

Crossing the Danube in 440, they plundered the Balkans and destroyed two Roman armies, then extorted from the Romans a new treaty that paid 2000 gold kilograms up front, plus an annual tribute of 700 gold kgs. Attila then murdered his brother and became sole ruler. In 447, he returned to the Balkans, ravaging them until he reached the walls of Constantinople.

In 450, the Western Roman Emperor’s sister begged Attila’s help to get her out of an unwanted betrothal. He interpreted that as a marriage proposal, accepted, and asked for half of the Western Roman Empire as dowry. When the Romans balked, Attila invaded, visiting his customary devastation, before he was finally stopped at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451.

A year later, he invaded Italy, sacking and burning as he advanced down the peninsula, before he was persuaded by the Pope to withdraw. He planned to attack Constantinople again in 453, but his rampage ended later that year while celebrating his wedding to a new wife. He drank himself into a stupor, suffered a nosebleed, and choked to death on his own blood.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Sicarii. Deadliest Fiction

History’s First Terrorists

During the 1st century AD, a Judean political faction known as the Zealots agitated to free the Holy Lands from the Roman yoke, leading to the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD. The Zealots were radical, but a splinter group known as the Sicarii thought they were not radical enough, and went to extremes that made them history’s earliest identifiable terrorists.

The Sicarii, meaning “dagger men” in Latin, were named after their knives, known as sicae. They would blend into crowds at public gatherings, then suddenly charge their victim, stab him, and blend back into the crowd during the resulting confusion and panic. They primarily targeted the pro-Roman Jewish aristocracy for killing, burned their estates, and eventually turned to kidnapping and hostage taking for ransom. Their victims included a High Priest of the Jewish Temple, after whose killing they went on an assassination spree that terrorized Judea’s upper strata of Jews and Romans.

Their victims were often targeted in order to provoke the Romans, who seldom needed much provocation before resorting to massacres and collective punishment. That kept the embers of discontent smoldering, and lit new flames of resentment while providing a steady and steadily growing stream of new recruits from the families and friends of the Romans’ victims.

The Sicarii followed a standard terrorist strategy, engaging in sabotage to worsen the public’s living conditions and keep it disgruntled. Faced with an occupier ready to resort to indiscriminate violence, they committed atrocities to invite massive Roman retaliation, thus forcing the hands of many fence sitters. They could do nothing and still end up massacred or enslaved by angry Romans in no mood to distinguish “good” natives from bad, or join the resistance in the hopes of gaining freedom, or at least the dignity of dying while fighting.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. Cafetorah

The Terrible Course of the Great Jewish Revolt

After years of political agitation and terrorism by radicals such as the Sicarii and Zealots, the Jewish Revolt erupted in 66 AD when the Roman governor responded to tax protests by arresting prominent Jews and looting Jerusalem’s Temple. Things then quickly escalated into a full blown revolt that forced the Romans and their pet king to flee Judea.

Early on, the Sicarii seized the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, then fell upon nearby Roman enclaves and massacred over 700 Roman women and children. That solidified their own ranks by ensuring that there would be no turning back, and confronted other Jews with the prospect of massive collective punishment of the innocent and guilty alike if the Romans won.

The Sicarii then joined the Zealots and other rebels in attacking Jerusalem, which they liberated in 66 AD. Like today’s ISIS, the Sicarii then engaged in widespread violence to compel conformity to their brand of Judaism. They began killing known and suspected collaborators en masse, as well as any opponents, suspected opponents, and those who failed to express the requisite enthusiasm for the Sicarii line.

Their extremism led to a backlash and uprising by Jerusalem’s population, and a falling out with the other rebels. It culminated in Sicarii defeat, the capture, torture, and execution of their leader, and the group’s expulsion from the city. The survivors retreated to the fortress of Masada, and contented themselves with plundering the surrounding countryside.

In the meantime, the Zealots and other radicals crushed the popular backlash and retained control of Jerusalem until it was besieged, conquered, and razed by the Romans in 70 AD. After mopping up operations, the Romans eventually reached the final holdouts, the Sicarii in Masada, whom they besieged. Realizing that all was lost and that their fate would be unenviable if the Romans got a hold of them, the Sicarii opted for mass suicide, killing their families and then themselves.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
The Black Stone of the Kaaba. Trip Advisor

The Qarmatians Terrorized Medieval Arabia

Late 9th century Arabia was plagued by bandits who attacked trade and pilgrimage caravans, before coming under the sway of a mystic who preached that the End Days were nigh. So they morphed into a radical millenarian cult that was deemed heretical by other Muslims. Known as Qarmatians, they gathered a large following of fanatics and captured eastern Arabia and Bahrain, where they founded a utopian religious republic in 899.

The Qarmatians believed that pilgrimage to Mecca, a pillar of Islam, was a superstition, so they attacked pilgrim caravans. In one such attack in 906, they massacred over 20,000 pilgrims. In 930, as part of their millenarian quest to speed up and usher in the End Days, the Qarmatians seized Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest cities, and sacked both.

They killed over 30,000 pilgrims in Mecca, desecrated religious sites, and ritually and literally polluted the holy Well of Zamzam by stuffing it full of corpses. They also seized the Black Stone, a meteorite rock affixed to the Kaaba and deemed holy by Muslims, took it back to their republic, and smashed it to pieces. They held the shards for a huge ransom, that was paid by the Abbasid Caliph, who then reassembled the bits and restored them to the Kaaba.

Pilgrimage came to a halt for nearly a decade, and only resumed after the Qarmatians were paid protection money by the region’s states, the Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates, to stay away from the holy cities. The payments continued until the Abbasid defeated the Qarmatians in 976, which led to a steady decline in the sect’s fortunes. It continued until the 1060s, when the Seljuk Turks inflicted a decisive and final defeat upon the Qarmatians, and brought their republic to an end.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
The Buck Gang. Dime Web

The Buck Gang Rampage

Rufus Buck (1877 – 1896) was born in the Indian Territory, today’s Oklahoma, to a Creek Indian father and an African American mother. Soon after hitting puberty, he formed a multiethnic teenage gang – all Indians, African Americans, or mixed race – and developed some nebulous ideas of sparking a Native American uprising. His chosen method was to lead his gang on a rampage of robbery, rape, and murder, that terrorized white settlers, Indians, and African Americans alike.

On July 28th, 1895, the gang started their rampage by killing a deputy US Marshal. On the way back, they raped a middle aged widow. They then robbed and killed a man for his horse. A few days later, they robbed a salesman, stripped him naked, and offered him a chance to escape. When he unexpectedly succeeded in escaping, they killed his assistant in frustration. They then raped and murdered two women and a 14 year old girl. On August 4th, they raped a woman in front of her husband, whom they held at bay with rifles. At least two of their rape victims died of their injuries.

Posses were formed to apprehend the gang, but while the posses combed the countryside, Buck and his gang brazenly rode into Okmulgee and robbed three stores. Whenever they encountered somebody riding a horse they liked, they offered to trade, and shot the rider if he declined. On the outskirts of Eufala they came across a black child, and shot him just to see him twitch as he died.

On August 10th, US Marshalls tracked the gang to their hideout near Muskogee. A furious firefight ensued, ending with the gang’s surrender after they ran out of ammunition. Taken to Fort Smith for trial, they were found guilty of rape, murder, and robbery, and sentenced to death. After appeals were exhausted, Rufus Buck and his gang were hanged on July 1st, 1896.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Death of Charles the Bad. Morphosis

Charles the Bad’s Death Was as Horrible as His Life

Charles the Bad (1332 – 1387) was a French magnate with extensive holdings in Normandy and other parts of France. In 1349, he became king of Navarre, a small kingdom on the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. He was known as “the Bad” because of his intrigues, bad faith dealings, betrayals, dishonesty, and double crosses.

He plotted with the English to betray France during the Hundred Years War, leading to his arrest and imprisonment by the French. Charles escaped from prison and 1357, and began a series of intrigues with a variety of French parties, betraying nearly all, one after the other. As a result, Charles was forced to renounce most of his holdings in France. In 1378, he was forced to cede his remaining French holdings when new treachery was unmasked, in which Charles not only planned to betray France to the English, but to also poison the French king while at it.

Charles’ reputation was no better in Spain, where he allied with Peter the Cruel of Castile against Peter IV of Aragon in 1362, only to switch sides the following year. Castilian armies invaded Navarre and Charles was forced to flee. Out of allies, having betrayed them all, Charles was forced to agree to a humiliating treaty that reduced him and his realm to Castilian clients.

His end came in 1387, when an illness led a physician to prescribe that he be swaddled from head to foot in linen steeped in alcohol. A maid, tasked with securing the linen snugly around the king’s body by sewing it in place with yarn, discovered that she had no scissors with which to snip the excess yarn. Improvising, she reached for a candle to use its flame to burn off a section of yarn. The alcohol-infused cloth caught on fire, and Charles the Bad, tightly swaddled in the burning linen, was unable to escape. He suffered horrific burns, and lingered for weeks in extreme agony before finally succumbing.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Epicenter of the 115 Antioch Earthquake. Following Hadrian

The Antioch Earthquake of 115

In 115, Antioch – Modern Antakya in Turkey – was a flourishing city and the Roman Empire’s third biggest metropolis after Rome and Alexandria. It owed its success to its location at the end of a road linking the Mediterranean with Mesopotamia and Persia, making Antioch a trade hub between the Roman and Persian empires. Unfortunately, Antioch’s location also had the misfortune of being near the junction of three tectonic plates – the African, Anatolian, and Arabian – whose friction made the region particularly susceptible to earthquakes.

On December 13th, 115, a devastating earthquake struck. As described by the Roman historian Cassius Dio, a loud and bellowing roar preceded the earthquake. Then, the ground violently vibrated, tossing people and entire trees up into the air as if they were water drops shaken off a wet dog’s fur, and lifting buildings off the ground and slamming them back to earth.

Many were killed or injured by falling debris, and many more by buildings collapsing atop them. The aftershocks, which continued for days, killed and injured many survivors of the first day’s tremors. The earthquake also triggered a tsunami that slammed into the eastern Mediterranean coast and caused extensive damage as far south as Caesarea in Palestine, whose harbor was wrecked. About 260,000 were killed, with many more injured and/or made homeless.

When the earthquake struck, the Roman emperor Trajan and his chief deputy and successor, the future emperor Hadrian, were wintering in Antioch, overseeing preparations for a military campaign against Parthia. The city and the surrounding region were even more crowded than usual, due to the legions encamped nearby. Trajan managed to escape via a window from the building in which he had been housed, and was fortunate to suffer only light injuries.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Aftermath of the Coringa Cyclone of 1839. Knappily

The Coringa Cyclones

In 1839, Coringa was a bustling port city on the Bay of Bengal in India’s east coast. Its population numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and its harbor hosted thousands of ships annually. Today, Coringa is a tiny village, with an equally tiny population. The drastic decline was caused by a pair of devastating cyclones, one in 1789, and an even more destructive one in 1839.

Coringa’s fortunes took a hit in 1789, when it was struck by a storm that came to be called The Great Coringa Cyclone. Witnesses described a succession of three giant waves, with the first storm tide driving ashore all the ships in anchorage, while the second and third waves, even bigger than the first, flowed inland to inundate the region’s fertile fields. Coringa was almost completely destroyed, and around 20,000 people were killed. However, those who named the 1789 storm the “Great Coringa Cyclone” did not suspect that an even more devastating cyclone would strike Coringa within a lifetime.

By 1839, Coringa had recovered and rebuilt, and was more prosperous, populous, and bustling than ever before. Then, on November 25, 1839, a monstrous cyclone struck, and brought with it a 40 foot storm surge. The destruction of the 1789 cyclone was dwarfed by that of 1839, which wholly destroyed Coringa. It wrecked all ships in the harbor, carried their wreckage miles inland, and killed over 300,000 people.

This time, the damage was so extensive that the few survivors made no effort to rebuild. Most scattered to pursue their lives elsewhere, putting distance between themselves and what seemed to be a cursed city. The few who remained, some of them old enough to have experienced both devastating cyclones, abandoned the coast altogether and rebuilt their community miles inland.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Francois L’Olonnais. Wikimedia

You Did Not Want to Become a Prisoner of Francois L’Olonnais – Especially if You Were Spanish

French pirate Francois L’Olonnais (1630 – 1669) had a reputation for brutality that stood out even in an age and profession marked for brutality. He especially had it in for Spaniards, and his relentless vendetta against them earned him the nickname “The Flail of Spain”. He was sold into indentured servitude as a child, and spent his youth toiling on Spanish plantations in the Caribbean. Between the back breaking work, harsh conditions, and mistreatment, he a developed a burning hatred of Spain and all things Spanish. After his indenture ended, he moved to Tortuga, a French island north of modern Haiti that was a nest of piracy and lawlessness.

L’Olonnais excelled as a buccaneer, and within a short time he had his own ship and a letter of marque authorizing him to prey on Spanish shipping as a privateer. He earned a reputation for viciousness and cruelty in treating prisoners, particularly Spanish ones. An expert torturer, he reveled in slicing off strips of his victims’ flesh, burning them, or tightening ropes around their skulls until their eyeballs popped out of their sockets.

In 1666, L’Olonnais assembled a fleet of 8 ships and 440 pirates to attack Maracaibo in Venezuela. The citizens fled, so he tracked them into the surrounding jungles, and tortured them into revealing where they had hidden their valuables. He and his men then spent two months engaged in widespread rape, pillage, and murder, then put the town to the torch before leaving.

He had a fittingly brutal end the following year, when he led another pirate expedition against Central America, only for his men to get ambushed and massacred in Honduras. He was one of the few survivors who managed to escape back to a ship, but it ran aground off the coast of Panama. Disembarking, L’Olonnais led his men inland in search of food, only to get captured, killed, and eaten by an indigenous tribe.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Tiberius. Wikimedia

History’s Dirtiest Old Man

Being a presentable youth in the presence of Roman emperor Tiberius’ (42 BC – 37 AD) was probably pretty nightmarish. While not as well known as notoriously debauched Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero, and Heliogabalus, Tiberius matched and likely exceeded them in perversion. Unlike them, he just preferred to be a pervert in privacy and seclusion.

Tiberius built himself a vast perverted pleasure palace, secluded in the island of Capri, where he wallowed in all kinds of sexual perversion, but particularly pedophilia, with children of both sexes. Among other things, he had toddlers trained to dive under water while he was in a pool to “nibble” at him as he swam – he called them his “minnows”.

He also had pleasure gardens stocked with teenaged and prepubescent boys and girls, dressed in outfits from Greco-Roman myths and legends, or running around naked. Tiberius had them frolic about, display themselves for his pleasure, and engage in sex on command with each other – as he aged, he grew increasingly impotent, and so was often reduced to being a spectator in the perversions acted out for his pleasure.

He even had anal experts on the imperial payroll: “On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions.” To top it off, he got blowjobs from babies: “Unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction.”

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Genghis Khan. National Palace Museum

Genghis Khan Used Terror as an Effective Strategy

Genghis Khan set out to conquer world, starting with China, which was fragmented at the time into various dynasties. After defeating the Western Xia Dynasty, he attacked the Jin Dynasty in 1211, crushing them in a decisive battle during which hundreds of thousands of Jin were massacred. Genghis then found himself ruling tens of millions of Chinese peasants, and his first instinct was to simply kill them all and transform the land into pasturage suitable for Mongol herds. Genocide was averted only after taxation was explained to Genghis, and he understood that live peasants working the fields and paying taxes meant steady wealth.

Soon thereafter, a governor in the powerful Khwarezmian Empire to the west executed envoys sent by Genghis to its emir, who then refused to hand over the offender. Genghis launched an invasion in 1218 that extinguished the Khwarezmian Empire by 1221. It was during this war that the Mongols won their reputation for savagery, and millions died as Genghis had entire cities massacred for offering the least resistance. After the capture of an enemy city, the Mongol cry “feed the horses!” was a dreaded signal to rape, murder, and plunder defenseless populations. Specific units were given the task of butchery, soldiers were assigned quotas of victims to kill, and the massacre was carried out relatively quickly.

Especially when operating deep in enemy territory, the Mongols preferred to leave no opponents or potential opponents behind. They made few distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, and frequently killed all whom them encountered. Prisoners – and the Mongols took few prisoners – were herded ahead of Mongol armies as human shields.

By the time Genghis was done, Khwarezm had been reduced to an impoverished and depopulated wasteland. At the central mosque in the once thriving but now smoldering city of Bukhara, Genghis told the survivors that he was the Flail of God, and that: “If you had not committed great sins, God would not have inflicted a punishment like me upon you“.

16 of History’s Lesser Known Dark Moments That Will Give you Chills
Ancient Chinese historian Sima Qian, contemporary source for Prince Pengli’s depravities. Ancient Origins

An Ancient Chinese Prince Was History’s First Serial Killer

Prince Liu Pengli (2nd century BC) was a member of China’s Han Dynasty, and the first serial killer in recorded history. In 144 BC his cousin, Emperor Jing, appointed Pengli to govern the city of Jidong and the surrounding district. That was terrible news for the good people of Jidong, who would be ruled by Pengli for the next 23 years.

He preyed upon his subjects, killing them for kicks and giggles. Pengli probably would have liked Ramsey Bolton from Game of Thrones, because like that fictitious character, the real life Pengli liked hunting human beings for sport. At least 100 people were murdered by Pengli for his amusement, and the actual number of victims was probably much higher.

Pengli’s psychotic reign terror lasted for over two decades, during which his subjects were too scared to leave their homes at night. It only came to an end after one of his subjects finally screwed up the courage to travel to the imperial capital, where he complained to the emperor. Because justice was illusory throughout most of history, Pengli got off light: he was not executed, but was simply stripped of his rank and banished.

As described by Han historian Sima Qian: “Liu Pengli was arrogant and cruel, and paid no attention to the etiquette demanded between ruler and subject. In the evenings he used to go out on marauding expeditions with twenty or thirty slaves or young men who were in hiding from the law, murdering people and seizing their belongings for sheer sport. When the affair came to light … it was found he had murdered at least 100 or more persons. Everyone in the kingdom knew about his ways, so that the people were afraid to venture out of their houses at night. The son of one of his victims finally sent a report to the [Han Emperor], and the Han officials requested that he be executed. The emperor could not bear to carry out their recommendation, but made him a commoner and banished him to Shangyong“.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading

Ancient History Encyclopedia – The Great Jewish Revolt of 66 CE

Ancient Origins – Francois L’Olonnais: Cunning and Cruel Pirate and Flail of the Spanish

Ancient Origins – The Sicarii: The Jewish Daggermen With a Thirst For Roman Blood

Beller, Susan Provost – Battling in the Pacific: Soldiering in World War II (2007)

Civil War Saga – Child Soldiers in the Civil War

DK – The Crime Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (2017)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Attila: Biography, Battles, Death, & Facts

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tiberius: Roman Emperor

Following Hadrian – The 115 AD Earthquake in Antioch

Hurricane Science – 1839 Coringa Cyclone

Irish Times, May 22nd, 2017 – Passchendaele: A Killing Field of Mud

Listverse – 10 Nightmares Lurking Just Behind History

Middle East Panorama – The Qarmatians (Al-Qaramita)

National Park Service, Fort Smith Historic Site – Rufus Buck Gang: A Time to Die

Newsela – Nice Things To Say About Attila the Hun

Rowen, Herbert H. – John de Witt: Statesman of the “True Freedom” (1986)

Vintage News – Charles II of Navarre Was Burnt Alive By Accident

Way of the Pirates – Francois L’Olonnais

Weatherford, Jack – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2005)

Wikipedia – Charles II of Navarre

Wikipedia – Qarmatians