Every movement has a seed, that spark that sets the fire ablaze. But this spark is more than just a murder mystery, or a treasure hunt, or even a haunting unlike any other. This one is all three. Which may explain why a century and a half later, the world is still reeling from its impact.
Each of us holds inside ourselves a precious cargo. It is the key to life, and a worthy sacrifice when important things are on the line. And yet it also sits at the center of some of our greatest fears. After all, if something’s precious, there’s always someone who wants to steal it.
When tragedy strikes and poor choices haunt us, sometimes the only thing we can do is move on and build on the ashes of the past. But there are places where that hasn’t worked out so well. In fact, sometimes the worst thing we can do to history is bury it.
For thousands of years, humans have built rules and procedures for handling the various curveballs that life throws our way—and we place a lot of trust in those systems. Most of the time, it all works properly, but there are moments when human nature and our belief in the unusual throw a wrench in the gears.
Life is full of challenges. From learning new skills to climbing the social ladder, most people struggle with the hurdles we’re forced to overcome. But when it’s all said and done, few things are as difficult as something all of us will have to face some day: saying good-bye.
Few things disappoint us more than when our expectations aren’t met. We expect to be loved, or to be rewarded for our hard work. And above all, we expect the people in our lives to always be there. Which is why it’s so frightening to hear stories of those who don’t—of people who were right there, where they should be, only to disappear without explanation.
Our understanding of the natural world is incredibly advanced compared to our ancestors from a few centuries ago. We have established rules and order to help us frame how everything works. On occasion, though, those rules have been broken, and the results have been absolutely terrifying.
Humans are hard-wired for trust. It’s the secret ingredient that helps us form communities, build relationships, and grow as people. But while that trust is a noble inclination, it can also get us into trouble—trouble that can sometimes turn deadly.
There is a lot in life that we can control, but no system is perfect. Every now and then, circumstances pull the rug out from underneath us and leave us powerless. But at least one surprise turn of events had a different affect, and the results have left us with questions that are still unanswered today.
Islands have served a variety of functions for people over the years. They can be a place of safety and privacy, or of simplicity and escape. But islands have played host to other less savory events over the years. And just because they can be small, it doesn’t mean they can’t be dark.
We tend think of rivers and lakes as tame. They are the safe and friendly counterpart to the deep and treacherous waters of the ocean. Freshwater rivers and lakes give us life, after all. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Somewhere in the darkness beneath their calm surface, terrifying stories wait for us.
Some cities experience a single tragedy and then live with that pain and loss for generations. They are built on a dark foundation, and everything new takes on a flavor of the past. But there are other places where that tragedy is spread out over time, like a slow-burning fire that never fully consumes but always leaves its mark—and I’d like to take you on a tour of one.
Humans have always sought companionship. From the communities we live in, to the pets we welcome into our homes, our need for companions is as old as we are. But that natural desire has led some to pursue some very unnatural ideas.
Every now and then a story comes along that is so powerful and compelling that it creates a new branch on the tree of folklore. Yes, it has deeper roots, but sometimes a new expression of fear grows out to cast new shade on our already-fearful lives. And one of these rare moments happened less than six decades ago.
Our bodies are a fortress, and every day, they suffer through attacks from the outside. Over the centuries, we’re become very good at protecting ourselves from illness and disease, but all of those efforts assume everyone around us will be responsible. Illness, though, has often been misused—sometimes maliciously and other times through sheer ignorance—and the results have been horrifying.
Our home is supposed to be a safe space where we are free to relax and enjoy life. History, though, contains stories that break that mould. Places where people want to live in peace, and yet find themselves at odds with forces beyond their control. And if there’s a logical reason, it might very well be buried in the past.
Written and produced by Aaron Mahnke, with research assistance from Carl Nellis and Marcet Crockett.
Nothing is more magical than when a family works together. But when their talents seem to defy all logic and reason, it might not be a bad idea to dig deeper and look for the truth. Just be careful—the truth, it turns out, isn’t always that simple.
Humans have always been more than a little bit superstitious, and one of the oldest and most universal of those beliefs is the curse. The story of how that belief has evolved in relation to one particular culture, though, is both powerful and frightening. It would serve us well to not get swept up in the lies.
People are really good at moving on. We rush from fad to fad at an alarming speed, and it’s difficult to predict where our interests will land next. In the process, we tend to abandon things—things like the places we live. But don’t be fooled; even after we’ve all moved on, those places are far from uninhabited.
Humanity seems to always be at risk of suffering through another major outbreak. History is full with dark moments of biological chaos, and despite constant advances in medical science, there seems to be no end in sight. We’re afraid of getting sick, and sometimes it feels like we’re right on the edge. And that can be a terrifying place to be.