In the Internet age, stories of “real life” horror abound. Anyone brave enough to plumb the depths of Reddit can find endless testimonials of creepy and outright terrifying events that have seemingly befallen everyone to ever use the Web.
But as we all know, truth can be stranger than fiction—or in cases like these, more horrifying and shocking than anything that could be dreamed up by even the cruelest horror scribe. If you are faint of heart, please consider that your warning.
10 The Victim’s Call
Montana schoolteacher Rita Maze called her husband first. She had been hit on the head and kidnapped from a highway rest stop. She was currently in the trunk of a moving car, and she had no idea where she was going or who had taken her.
For several excruciating hours, Rita remained in contact with her husband and a Helena police officer as her phone’s signal became more and more unreliable. Police were able to determine the direction the car was headed in, eventually tracing it to Spokane, Washington—after contact had been lost.
Local authorities found the car shortly after midnight in a parking lot. Rita’s body was in the trunk. The coroner established that she had been killed after arriving in Spokane.
9 The Outback
In 2001, Peter Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees were traveling on a remote stretch of highway in the Australian outback when they were flagged down by another motorist. The man, Bradley Murdoch, told them he was having car trouble but didn’t want help. Peter went to check out the man’s vehicle, and before long, Joanne heard the not-too-distant sound of a gunshot, and then the man returned—without Peter.
Joanne was tied up but managed to escape and call for help. But due to the remoteness of her location, help would be a long time coming. As the man stalked her, Joanne evaded capture for five agonizing hours until she was rescued by authorities.
Although he was sentenced to life in prison in 2005, Murdoch steadfastly maintains his innocence, and Peter’s body has never been found. The story was the basis for the acclaimed 2005 horror film Wolf Creek.
8 The British Psycho
“I’ve always had dark fantasies,” said the man on the videotape. The unfortunate jury charged with deciding the fate of Rurik Jutting, now seated before them, could already attest to this. They had already listened to an hours-long monologue full of them and been shown the terrible result.
Jutting, a Cambridge-educated British banker, had described how he had lured poor prostitutes back to his high-end Hong Kong apartment. Sometimes, he abused them—and sometimes worse, as demonstrated right on camera. “About five minutes ago I just killed, murdered, this woman here,” he says in one segment, briefly pointing the camera down to show a nude woman laying facedown in his tub.
In his drug-fueled ramblings, he veers wildly from self-loathing and thoughts of suicide to expressing his wish to return to England to kidnap British schoolgirls. His trial is currently ongoing, but there seems to be little doubt as to the outcome.
7 The Vacation
For 13-year-old Alana, a family trip in the summer of 2014 was to be a getaway from all of the recent problems in her family. Her parents were going through a divorce, and a looming court-ordered visitation with her father was a source of stress. But it would end with the most horrifying moment of her life: with her mother, who had just drowned her two-year-old baby sister, slashing Alana’s wrists and throat while screaming at her to die faster.
With her teenage daughter bleeding out, Jessica Smith simply left their hotel room, telling Alana to lock the door behind her, which she did. She was discovered by hotel staff and amazingly survived.
The mother was found hours later. She was briefly committed, found competent to stand trial, and eventually accepted a plea agreement which will see her behind bars for a minimum of 30 years.
6 The Wrath
Responding to a call, Chicago police had no trouble locating the dead woman; she was on her back porch, and she had been stabbed 45 times. However, the investigators’ night was just beginning.
The inside of the woman’s house was utter carnage. Five additional family members, ranging in age from ten to 58, had suffered the same fate. Each victim had been stabbed to the point of absurd overkill. Some were bludgeoned as well, with as many as 16 blunt-force injuries. One was also shot.
The gruesome murders were determined to have taken place over the course of at least three hours. Their extreme viciousness points to the possible work of a drug cartel, but none of the family members had ever been known to have been involved with drugs or any other criminal activity, and police thus far have no other leads.
5 A History Of Violence
In the wee hours of the morning in Manchester, New Hampshire, a woman and her teenage daughter were murdered in their sleep. The ax-wielding maniac split the woman’s face clean in half. A butcher knife was also used on both victims. It was the summer of 1865, and local residents had never so much as heard of such a crime.
Albert Starkweather, son of the older victim and brother of the younger, gave an account of that night: He awoke to find the house on fire. With the help of a neighbor, he carried out the bodies of his mother and sister, brutalized almost beyond recognition.
In the following days, police were moved to arrest Albert after he began to give contradictory statements. He was promptly put on trial, convicted, and executed in 1866, never having given a reason for his crime.
4 The Grim Reaper
In the summer of 1960, four teenage friends in Finland decided to go camping at a nearby lake. Only one would survive. He came away with a concussion and most of his face broken in addition to other wounds and could only recall a black apparition with glowing red eyes. Some locals still say that it was the Grim Reaper, Death himself, who came for them that night—simply for lack of any other explanation .
The victims were all savagely stabbed and bludgeoned, yet there were no weapons to be found at the site. In the intervening years, there have been many suspects and potential leads, all going nowhere. One man even confessed on his deathbed, only for investigators to prove it false.
The survivor of the attack was even arrested 44 years after the fact, but a thorough modern investigation, including the use of DNA testing, produced nothing. To this day, the mystery of what happened that night at the lake inspires a dark wonder among locals, and the story is said to have heavily influenced the seminal slasher film Friday the 13th.
3 The Chamber Of Horrors
James Worley was convicted of kidnapping a young girl in 1990 and had served time in prison. In 2016, he told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he had learned from each abduction he had performed . . . and that he would bury the next one.
This was enough for the psychiatrist to break confidentiality and notify the police, but shortly thereafter, the body of a 20-year-old woman was found one county road over from Worley’s property in Ohio. That same day, police were searching the property—and finding more than they ever wanted to see.
In addition to handcuffs, zip ties, and rope, investigators found a hidden room, obscured by hay bales and monitored with a “nanny cam.” Inside was a blood-soaked, carpet-lined freezer which could be locked from the outside, along with several other restraints and bloodstained women’s undergarments.
While investigators struggle to piece together just how many victims there may have been, Worley currently sits incarcerated without bail, awaiting a capital murder trial.
2 The Grim Totem
On a sunny fall afternoon in Sacramento, California, passersby were jolted by what they assumed to be a tasteless Halloween prank. An older woman, dressed in filthy clothing, was shambling aimlessly down the street, carrying a large stick with a human skull on top, which the woman was parading down the street like a trophy.
Responding police officers quickly discovered that the woman was homeless and that the skull was real. While understandably horrified, they decided to simply follow her. She lead them directly to a former encampment for the homeless, which had recently moved on. In the middle of it was a decomposing, headless body.
For days afterward, the area was scoured for clues, turning up nothing. The bearer of the grim totem isn’t thought to have been involved with the murder, and thus far, police have been unable to even identify the victim.
1 The Face Eater
On a hot summer night in Miami, well-liked and athletic Florida State University student Austin Harrouff was patronizing a local diner. Surveillance video would later show that he became agitated for some reason and left. After that, authorities say he walked over 5 kilometers (3 mi) to the home of a couple he didn’t know, for no apparent reason.
When three police deputies responded to the home hours later, they found the 19-year-old on all fours, making animalistic grunting noises, attempting to literally chew the face off his male victim. He had already brutally stabbed the couple to death and had seriously injured a neighbor who had tried to intervene. It took all three deputies to subdue him.
While the involvement of drugs was obviously suspected, Austin’s mental state had slipped drastically in recent weeks, according to friends and his parents, who nevertheless couldn’t have conceived that Austin could become violent, let alone commit so heinous a crime. A recent YouTube post by the killer provided grim foreshadowing for what was coming, however: “I’ve got a psycho side and a normal side,” he said. “I’ve lost my mind. Help me find it.”