WWII's French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History

Khalid Elhassan - January 27, 2020

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
Ranavalona I carried on a litter. Fine Art America

5. Rise of a Monster

Ranavalona’s rise began when her father informed Madagascar’s king Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka (they had ludicrously long names in Madagascar) of a plot against his life. So the king showed his appreciation by selecting the informant’s daughter to marry his son and heir. The marriage proved loveless and produced no issue.

When Ranavalona’s husband died childless in 1828, she engineered a coup and seized power, inaugurating her reign by massacring all potential rival claimants to the throne. She then proclaimed herself Queen Ranavalona I. It was a bloody start to what would prove a bloody reign, that began with her killing every member of the royal family she could get her hands on. Spilling royal blood was taboo, so she had them strangulated, or locked in a cell and starved to death.

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
Ranavalona ordered the execution of Madagascar’s Christians by burning. Unknown Misandry

4. The Hermit Kingdom

Having secured her throne against domestic challengers, Ranavalona turned her attention to encroachments from European colonial powers, and killed or expelled nearly all foreigners. She nullified all treaties with Britain and France, and also banned Christianity.

In lieu of a legal system, she introduced trial by ordeal: the accused were fed poison and three pieces of chicken skin. If they vomited all three pieces of skin, they were innocent. If they did not, they were not, and were accordingly executed. She also isolated Madagascar from the outside world, and turned it into a hermit kingdom.

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
Following a failed Anglo-French expedition to overthrow Ranavalona, she ordered the heads of the dead invaders placed on spikes and lined up on the beach where they had landed. Badass of the Week

3. A Nineteenth Century Version of North Korea

Ranavalona turned Madagascar into a nineteenth century version of North Korea. She introduced widespread forced labor, whereby the poor – the majority of the population – were made to toil in lieu of high taxes they could not afford to pay. These de facto slaves were used to build houses and palaces, clear lands and maintain roads, carry nobles and royal dependents in litters, serve in Ranavalona’s army, and perform any other tasks set them by the queen. They were unpaid, poorly fed, if at all, and they died in droves.

In the meantime, the British and French were unhappy with being shut out of Madagascar, where they had been welcomed by previous rulers. So they mounted joint punitive expeditions, but the attempts ended in failure. When the Europeans retreated, Ranavalona beheaded the corpses of their dead, put the heads on stakes, and lined them up on Madagascar’s beaches, facing the ocean.

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
Victims of Ranavalona being dropped off cliffs to their deaths. Historic Mysteries

2. An Enslaved Island

Ranavalona sent her army on numerous punitive expeditions into those parts of Madagascar resistant to her rule or expressing anything less than enthusiasm for her overlordship. The queen’s men engaged in scorched earth policies, and devastated insufficiently obedient regions. As object lessons, Ranavalona’s soldiers routinely massacred the inhabitants of towns and settlements that were deemed disloyal.

Those spared from the mass executions were enslaved and brought back to the queen’s domain, to toil the rest of their lives away on her projects. Between 1820 to 1853, over a million slaves were seized, and the percentage of slaves rose to one third of the population of Madagascar’s central highlands, and two thirds of the population of Antananarivo, Ranavalona’s capital.

WWII’s French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History
Ranavalona I. Wikimedia

1. History’s Deadliest Queen

Between massacres, mistreatment, forced labor, and widespread famines resulting from Ranavalona’s scorched earth policies and heavy handed repression, Madagascar’s population crashed. During just a six year stretch from 1833 to 1839, the island’s population is estimated to have declined from 5 million to 2.5 million inhabitants. In Ranavalona’s own home district, the population took a nose dive from about 750,000 in 1829, to a mere 130,000 by 1842.

Those were genocide level figures, comparable to the toll inflicted by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge upon the people of Cambodia a century later. Unlike Pol Pot, however, Ranavalona was not chased out of power. After a 33 year reign, she died in her sleep of natural causes, at age 83.

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

Badass of the Week – Ranavalona the Cruel

Clements, Barbara Evans – Bolshevik Women (1997)

CNN Travel – Blood Countess in Slovakia: Tourists on the Trail of Elizabeth Bathory

Encyclopedia Britannica – Elizabeth Bathory

Encyclopedia Britannica – Gilles de Rais

Encyclopedia Britannica – Marcel Petiot, French Serial Killer

Executed Today – 1581: Peter Niers

Futurist Dolmen – Rozalia Zemlyachka: An Incomplete Biography

Laidler, Keith – Female Caligula: Ranavalona, the Mad Queen of Madagascar (2005)

Listverse – 10 Historic Serial Killers You Don’t Know

Medical Bag – Pure Evil: Wartime Japanese Doctor Had No Regard For Human Suffering

Murderpedia – Marcel Petiot

PBS American Experience – Shiro Ishii

Ranker – The Untold Story of Peter Niers, the Cannibal Magician Who Killed 500 People

Sima, Qian – Records of the Grand Historian

War History Online – Japan’s Dr. Mengele: Medical Experiments on POWs at Unit 731

Wikipedia – Gilles de Rais

Wikipedia – Liu Pengli

Wikipedia – Shiro Ishii

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