Pope John XII’s tenth-century Rome was a semi-deserted ghost town. The city’s population of about 20,000 to 30,000 was a huge decline from its Roman Empire peak of about a million to a million and a half inhabitants. It was still encircled by the remnants of the Aurelian Walls, which had been built in the 270s AD to secure a city housing many more people than it did in John XII’s days. Within that vastness, the relatively few tenth-century Romans were like a few peas rattling inside a huge pot.
Most inhabitants were concentrated along the Tiber, because the aqueducts that had supplied the city in its heyday had been cut. Thus, the only sources of water were wells or the river. All other parts of the city, especially Rome’s iconic seven hills, were green areas occupied by farmers. The famous Forum Romanum, where the giants of Roman history had once rubbed shoulders, was now called Campo Vaccino (“Cow’s Field”). The Capitoline Hill, which had once housed the grand temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, was now Monte Caprino (“Goats Mount”).
In Pope John XII’s Rome, the grand monuments of yesteryear had already been cannibalized for marble, columns, and bricks. Most of the city’s statues had been burned to transform their marble into lime. The destruction of Classical Rome was done not by marauding barbarians, but by the Romans themselves. Most inhabitants lived in ramshackle houses or huts, while the richer sorts lived in older Roman buildings, fortified and repurposed into strongholds.
The city and the surrounding region were the heart of the Papal States – a swath of territory in central Italy ruled directly by the popes. Interestingly, the Papal States came into being as a result of a huge swindle. Back in the eighth century, some monks forged a document recording a generous gift from Emperor Constantine I, transferring authority over Rome and the entire Western Roman Empire to Pope Sylvester I. Such shenanigans were par for the course during a period of astonishing papal corruption and degeneracy, that came to be known as the “nadir of the papacy”.
The office of pope in Dark Ages Rome was nothing like what it would become in later years, or what it is today. Nowadays, the papacy is a prestigious institute, and popes are highly respected figures. In the days of John XII, however, popes were more like Rodney Dangerfield, and got no respect. Few of them did much that warranted respect: those popes were more often than not corrupt, venal, and violent, with the occasional fiend thrown into the mix.
Italy and Rome back then were in the throes of anarchy, rent by fiercely competing aristocratic families, warring with each other for dominance. The papacy was one of the most sought-after prizes, and the rivals fought bitterly to seize the Holy See and use its spiritual, economic, and military resources in their quarrels. For them, the office of pope was just another piece and prize in their Medieval Italian version of Game of Thrones.
14. A Pope Born From a Duke Loving Up His Stepsister
It was perhaps apt that John XII became history’s most scandalous pope, considering that scandal had attended him while he was still in the womb. Born Octavianus in 937, he was the product of an incestuous relationship between Rome’s most powerful figure, Alberic II, Duke of Spoleto, a self-styled “Prince of Rome”, who was fond of loving up his stepsister.
In 954, not long before his death, Alberic made Rome’s aristocrats swear an oath to appoint his son pope the next time the position became vacant. The promise was kept, and when Pope Agapetus II died in 955, Octavianus was duly elected to succeed him. He chose John XII as his regnal name.
13. The Pope Who Liked Toasting the Devil, And Always Had Physical Loving
The teenaged Pope John XII was wholly uninterested in his spiritual duties and papal obligations. The only person who might have checked him, his father, Duke Alberic, had died. So this real-life Young Pope suddenly found himself in a position of great power, with access to great wealth and vast resources, without any adult guidance or supervision. He reacted like many teenagers would in similar circumstances, by diving headfirst into a life of depravity and the pursuit of pleasure.
John XII was particularly devoted to hunting, gambling, wine, and women – the young man always had the act of loving on his mind. He also had a habit, highly peculiar for a pope, of toasting the devil and invoking pagan gods while playing dice games. As one historian put it, his pontificate: “became infamous for the alleged depravity and worldliness with which he conducted it“. Among other things, he started selling church offices and titles to help meet the mounting costs of his lavish spending. On at least one occasion, he ordained a 10-year-old as a bishop.
12. Love-Crazed Pope Turns the Papal Palace Into a Brothel
Another of Pope John XII’s quirks was his refusal to make the sign of the cross – seemingly a basic part of his job description. He had so little respect for the dignity of church offices, that he once ordained a deacon in a stable. This Holy Father was also a violent psychopath, who reportedly castrated a deacon before killing him. When his own confessor angered him, the pope blinded him, before killing him.
As to licentiousness, contemporaries described him as having turned the papal palace into a brothel. It was not just the calumny of political opponents, but a charge for which there is historical support. There is a near-unanimous consensus by historians of the period that John XII was a dissolute pope with carnal loving constantly on his mind. He had many women in his palace, which became notorious for its orgies and drunken parties.
11. Defiling Holy Sites With All Types of Physical Loving
Pope John XII got a particular kick out of defiling holy sites by loving up others in them. He was in the habit of carnally loving up both women and men in his papal palace, and if visitors refused his advances, he just went ahead and raped them. His lust was seemingly insatiable, and he reportedly was into loving up one of his deceased father’s mistresses, his own niece, and his two younger sisters as well.
The young pope’s depravity did not preclude him from being a shrewd political operator. Indeed, he needed to be, in order to protect himself from the many enemies who cropped up in reaction to his misconduct and manifest unfitness for office. Aware that his fate would be unenviable if he fell from power, and probably wished to keep the party going, the Young Pope demonstrated that he could intrigue with the best of them. His enemies sought the help of King Berengar II of Italy, so the pope sent emissaries to King Otto I of Germany, with promises to make him emperor if he came to the Holy Father’s aid.
10. “Passed His Whole Life in Vanity and Adultery“
King Otto I of Germany invaded Italy in 961, and forced King Berengar II of Italy to back off the pope. The German king then marched into Rome, and entered it in 962. There, he was welcomed by Pope John XII, who crowned his rescuer as Holy Roman Emperor – the first in the west for nearly half a century. However, it did not take long before the young pope began chafing at the recently crowned emperor’s growing power and influence. He especially hated it when Otto started giving him pointed advice about how he expected the Holy Father to behave.
Just before marching out of Rome to deal with Berengar, Otto informed carnal loving crazed John XII, who by then had “passed his whole life in vanity and adultery“, that he needed to straighten up, and start acting like a pope. That did not sit well with John, who had invited Otto into Italy to save him from his enemies, not to tell him how to live his life. So the Holy Father began intriguing against Otto. Within months of crowning him Holy Roman Emperor, John XII was corresponding with Otto’s enemies, seeking to form a league against the emperor.
9. Deposition and Restoration of a Maniac Pope Obsessed With Carnal Loving
The new Holy Roman Emperor got wind of Pope John XII’s ingratitude, so he turned his armies around, and marched back to Rome. The flesh-loving maniac pope fled the city, taking the papal treasury with him. So Otto summoned a synod, which deposed the fugitive Holy Father in 963, and installed a puppet pope in his place: Leo VIII.
However, when Otto left Rome the following year, John XII returned to Rome with an army of mercenaries. He captured the city in February of 964, and Leo VIII was forced to flee and seek safety with Emperor Otto. John XII then summoned a synod of his own, which pronounced that his deposition had been illegal, and that he was still pope. The restored pope then proceeded to murder and mutilate as many of his enemies as he could lay his hands on.
8. Aptly, the Flesh Loving Pope Died While Loving Up Somebody’s Wife
When Emperor Otto I heard that John XII had been restored as pope, he prepared to return to Rome and finish the degenerate Holy Father for good. However, fate beat him to the punch. After a tumultuous and riotous nine years on the papal throne, this dissolute pope died as he had lived, doing what he liked most: he met his Maker while engaged in the act of carnally loving another man’s wife.
There are two accounts of John XII’s demise. One account has him dying after suffering a massive stroke while loving up his partner. Another account has him dying in the midst of an adulterous encounter, when the woman’s cuckolded husband burst in on the couple loving up each other, and killed the pope by throwing him out of a high story window.
Attila the Hun (406 – 453) ruled a multi-tribal empire dominated by the Huns, that spanned Eastern and Central Europe. During his reign, 434- 453, he terrified the civilized world, and earned the moniker “The Scourge of God“.
He invaded Persia, terrorized the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, and plundered the Balkans. He also extorted vast sums of gold from Constantinople, invaded Gaul and was beaten back, recoiled, then struck into Italy the following year, before drink and carnal loving claimed his life on his wedding night.
Attila was born in the Hungarian Steppe in 406 into the Hun royal family. He inherited the crown jointly with his brother Bleda in 434. The siblings were challenged early on, but crushed the opposition. When their surviving enemies fled to the Roman Empire, the brothers invaded and forced the Romans to surrender the fugitives and agree to an annual tribute of 230 kilograms of gold. Attila and Bleda then turned their attentions to the Persian Empire, which they invaded and plundered for years before they were beaten. They then returned their attention to Europe.
Crossing the Danube in 440, the brothers plundered the Balkans and destroyed two Roman armies. The Roman emperor admitted defeat, and the siblings extorted from him a new treaty that paid 2000 gold kilograms upfront, plus an annual tribute of 700 kilograms of gold. Soon thereafter, Attila consolidated power by murdering his brother and becoming sole ruler. In 447, Attila returned to the Balkans, which he ravaged until he reached the walls of Constantinople, before recoiling.
In 450, the Western Roman Emperor’s sister sought to escape a betrothal to an old aristocrat by begging Attila’s help, and sent him her engagement ring. 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 Fields in 451.
The following year, 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 finally ended that year, while celebrating his wedding to a new wife. The Scourge of God overdid it with the carnal loving and booze, and drank and exhausted himself into a stupor. He suffered a nosebleed, and choked to death on his own blood.
4. Hollywood’s Weirdest Death Resulted From Physical Loving Gone Catastrophically Wrong
Albert Dekker (1905 – 1968) was a noted character actor, whose career spanned 40 years on stage and the silver screen. During that time, he accumulated a filmography of over 110 credits, winning acclaim for notable performances in films such as East of Eden, The Killers, Dr. Cyclops, Kiss Me Deadly, as well as in his final acting role in Sam Peckinpah’s classic western, The Wild Bunch.
Dekker also won acclaim for his moral courage. During the Red Scare of the early Cold War, he was one of the few Hollywood actors to dare stand up to and denounce the demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). That got him blacklisted in Hollywood and derailed his career for years before the anticommunist hysteria finally waned and he was able to return to acting. Unfortunately, for all of his accomplishments, Dekker is probably best remembered today for his weird death, which occurred during a bout carnal loving – whether loving himself or loving others as yet unknown remains unclear.
In 1968, Albert Dekker completed his final role in The Wild Bunch, left the set, and fell off the map. Friends and family became concerned after days passed with nobody hearing from him. He was a no-show on a date with his fiancée, fashion model Geraldine Saunders. After she tried calling, without getting a response, she went to his apartment and pinned a note on a door already covered by notes from friends and acquaintances.
When Dekker’s fiancée returned later that evening and found things still the same, she convinced the building manager to let her in the apartment. Once in, they found the bathroom door chained from the inside, and had to break it open. There, they discovered Dekker hanging dead from a leather belt. That was just the start of it.
The scene inside Albert Dekker’s apartment was horrific, as well as so bizarre and grotesque that Geraldine collapsed. The building manager needed minutes to overcome the shock and gather his wits to call the police. It was one of the weirdest sex deaths in La La Land. Dekker was naked in the bathtub, with a ball gag in his mouth, a scarf covering his eyes, and his hands cuffed behind his back. In addition to the belt around his neck, there was another around his waist, tied to a rope binding his ankles, which in turn was wrapped around his wrist and clasped in his hand.
Sun rays were drawn around his nipples in lipstick, which was also used to draw a vagina on his stomach. A hypodermic needle was sticking out of each arm, and his right butt cheek had two needle punctures, above which the word “whip” was written in lipstick. His body was covered in other words written in lipstick, including “cocksucker”, “make me suck”, and “slave”.
1. A Suspicious Physical Loving Death Surrounded by Mystery to This Day
Albert Dekker’s sex death was initially ruled a suicide. However, after S&M toys and porn were found in his apartment, it was changed to accidental autoerotic asphyxiation while masturbating. However, despite the coroner’s ruling, foul play was suspected and the death was and remains suspicious.
For one, Dekker’s fiancée knew that he had been keeping $70,000 cash in the apartment to buy a new house. The money, as well as expensive cameras and filming equipment, was never found. It was also hard to imagine how Dekker, all on his own, could have tied himself in the manner in which he was discovered. Whether he acted alone, had a partner or partners who panicked and fled when a bout of carnal loving went terribly wrong, or was murdered, the mystery of Albert Dekker’s death remains unsolved to this day.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading