A Definitive List of Some of History's Most Awful People and Events
A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events

Khalid Elhassan - April 12, 2021

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
A buccaneer. Wikimedia

6. Francois L’Olonnais Once Escaped With a Gory Trick Straight Out of The Walking Dead

When his indentured servitude ended, Jean-David Nau changed his name to Francois L’Olonnais and moved to Tortuga, a French island north of Haiti. At the time, Tortuga was a nest of piracy and lawlessness, and L’Olonnais wasted no time in joining its buccaneers. He showed so much zeal that within a short time Tortuga’s French governor gave L’Olonnais his own ship, and a letter of marque authorizing him to prey on Spanish shipping as a privateer. He instantly set himself apart with a terrible reputation for viciousness and ferocious cruelty in the treatment of prisoners, particularly Spanish ones.

An expert torturer, L’Olonnais enjoyed tormenting his victims in a variety of fiendishly gruesome ways that were gory enough for a slasher film. Early in his career, he was shipwrecked off Yucatan. While most of the crew survived to reach shore, most were killed soon thereafter when Spanish soldiers found and attacked them. L’Olonnais survived by covering himself in blood and viscera, and hiding among the dead. Later, he snuck into a nearby town that was celebrating the killing of the pirates, and arranged for an escape back to Tortuga.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Francois L’Olonnais and his men at Maracaibo. Pintrest

5. The Terrible Ordeal of Maracaibo

Once he got back to Tortuga, Francois L’Olonnais resumed his depredations against Spain. In 1666, he assembled a fleet of 8 ships and 440 pirates to attack Maracaibo in modern Venezuela. En route, he came across and looted a Spanish treasure ship, which yielded 260,000 Spanish dollars, in addition to gemstones and cocoa beans. When he reached Maracaibo, he discovered that the citizens had fled. He tracked them down in the surrounding jungles, captured them, brought them back, and tortured them into revealing where they had hidden their valuables.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Death of L’Olonnais. Metropolitan Museum of Art

For the next two months, the people of Maracaibo were subjected to terrible depravities by L’Olonnais and his men, who murdered, pillaged, and violated both women and men. The pirates finally put the town to the torch and tore down its fortifications before leaving. The following year, L’Olonnais led an even bigger pirate expedition against Central America, but they stumbled into an ambush in Honduras and were massacred. L’Olonnais was one of the few survivors who managed to escape back to a ship, but it ran aground off the coast of Panama. Disembarking, he led his men inland in search of food, only to get captured, killed, and eaten by an indigenous tribe.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Rufus Buck, center, and his terrible gang. Harvard Magazine

4. The Wild West’s Wildest Teen Gang

Rufus Buck (1877 – 1896) was born in the Indian Territory in today’s Oklahoma to a Creek Indian father and an African American mother. In his teens, he formed a multiethnic gang of underage delinquents – all Indians, African Americans, or mixed race. Buck was a zealot with nebulous ideas of triggering a Native American uprising. He led his gang on a terrible rampage of robbery, assault, and murder, that terrorized white settlers, Indians, and African Americans alike. The teenagers started stockpiling weapons in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and on July 28th, 1895, began their rampage by shooting and killing a deputy US Marshal.

On the way back, Buck and his gang violated a middle-aged widow. They then robbed a man of his horse, and killed him when he resisted. 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 violated and murdered two women and a fourteen-year-old girl. On August 4th, they violated a woman in front of her husband, whom they held at bay with rifles. At least two of their female victims died of their injuries.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Judge Isaac Parker, and the Fort Smith gallows where the terrible Buck Gang met its end. Simple Site

3. This Gang Met Its End at the End of a Rope

The Buck Gang’s terrible depravities led to the formation of posses of Indian Police and white settlers to kill or capture them. However, while the posses combed the countryside, the teenaged outlaws 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 expired.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
‘Hanging Judge’ Isaac Parker. Owlcation

On August 10th, 1895, US Marshals came across the gang in a hideout near Muskogee. After a furious firefight, the teenagers were forced to surrender when they ran out of ammunition. Taken into Muskogee, the gang barely escaped a lynching by a Creek mob. They dispersed only after a tribal chief pleaded with them, and the US Marshals vowed to shoot the first man who tried to seize their prisoners. Taken to Fort Smith for trial, the gang were found guilty of a long list of violent offenses, and were sentenced to death by “hanging judge” Isaac Parker. After appeals were exhausted, they were hanged on July 1st, 1896.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Jean-Bedel Bokassa in 1970 with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Romanian Communism Online Photo Collection

2. The Delusional Napoleon Fanboy Who Appointed Himself Emperor of the Central African Republic

Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1921 – 1996) of the Central African Republic was a captain in the French colonial army when the country gained its independence. The new country’s president, a distant cousin, appointed Bokassa to head its armed forces. Bokassa showed his gratitude by staging a coup in 1966, and ousting his cousin from power. He appointed himself president and ruled as dictator until 1979. Bokassa was a huge fan of Napoleon Bonaparte. Erratic and prone to delusions of grandeur, he emulated his idol by declaring his small landlocked country an empire and anointed himself Bokassa I, Emperor of the Central African Empire.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
The coronation of Emperor Bokassa I. Wikimedia

He then bankrupted his impoverished country with a lavish coronation that cost about 80 million dollars, and featured a diamond-encrusted crown worth 20 million. Bokassa’s rule was marked by a terrible reign of terror, during which he personally oversaw judicial beatings of criminal suspects. He also decreed that thieves were to lose an ear for the first two offenses, and a hand for the third. Additionally, Bokassa supervised the torture of suspected political opponents, then fed their corpses to lions and crocodiles kept in a private menagerie. He was also into cannibalism, as shown in a Paris-Match magazine expose, which ran photos of a deep freezer in Bokassa’s palace that contained the bodies of children.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Emperor Bokassa. Jeremy Hunter

1. This Tyrant Might Have Been a Clown, But He Was Also a Terrible Monster

Jean-Bedel Bokassa’s rule featured many terrible atrocities. The best known was the arrest of hundreds of schoolchildren in 1979 for refusing to buy school uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa personally oversaw the murder of more than 100 children by his imperial guard. That caused an uproar, and soon thereafter, the self-styled Emperor Bokassa I was deposed by French paratroopers. He had a soft landing, however, and went into a comfortable exile in France, financed by millions of dollars embezzled and stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

A Definitive List of Some of History’s Most Awful People and Events
Bokassa and his family in exile. Rebel Circus

Bokassa’s exile did not stay comfortable for long: he blew through his millions within a few years, and was reduced to poverty. Things got so bad that he made a brief reappearance in international news in the 1980s, when one of his children was arrested for shoplifting food. Bokassa returned to Central Africa in 1986, where he was tried and convicted of murder and treason, and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released in 1993. He lived another three years, before dying in 1996.


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

John Fiske, James Grant Wilson – Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (2002)

Atkin, Nicholas – Petain (1997)

Biography – Idi Amin

Cordingly, David – Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates (1996)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Jean-Bedel Bokassa

Encyclopedia Britannica – Sicarii

Heritage Daily – Matthew Hopkins, the Real Witch Hunter

History Collection – Lesser-Known Horrible Criminals

Indiana Genealogy Trail – Jackson County Indiana: The Legend of the Reno Gang

Johnson, Captain Charles – A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1998)

Josephus – Wars of the Jews

Klaits, Joseph – Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (1985)

Lane, Kris E. – Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750 (1998)

Legends of America – Reno Gang & the 1st Big Train Robbery

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

History Collection – Most Corrupt African Dictators in Modern History

Parkinson, Cyril Northcote – Gunpowder Treason and Plot (1977)

Pirates and Privateers – The History of Maritime Piracy: Flail of the Spaniards

Smallwood, Edith Mary – The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian (2014)

Spartacus Educational – Frank Reno

Thurston, Robert W. – The Witch Hunts: A History of the Witch Persecutions in Europe and North America (2007)

Wikipedia – Guy Fawkes

Wikipedia – Muammar Gaddafi

Wikipedia – Reno Gang

Wired – Tambora 1815: Just How Big Was The Eruption?