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When you put down a book by Stephen King, or get to the credits of a Hitchcock film, you can breathe a sigh of relief and laugh off what just scared the shit out of you. It’s fiction! But true horror stories, ones legitimized through respected news organizations, are harder to disconnect from. They happened… and could happen to anyone. Suddenly we’re not safe. The real world is more terrifying than anything we can make up. Here are five that continue to creep us out-

The Death of Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam was last seen on January 31, 2013 in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. She was vacationing through the West Coast, documenting the trip on her blog, and checking in with her parents every day. On January 31 those calls stopped. Lam had vanished. Soon the police were involved and her parents arrived to help with the search.

They had nothing. That February, LAPD released elevator surveillance footage of Lam before her disappearance. The footage shows Lam behaving strangely in the elevator, appearing to talk with invisible people, peering around the corner of the door, crouching in the corner, and opening and closing the door. But what exactly is going on in this video raises more questions than answers. Theories range from psychotic episodes, to demonic possession, to unknown assailants just out of the camera’s view

Around that time, hotel guests started reported weird things happening with the Cecil Hotel water supply. As CNN reports:

“The shower was awful,” said Sabina Baugh, who spent eight days there during the investigation. “When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal.”

The tap water “tasted horrible,” Baugh said. “It had a very funny, sweety, disgusting taste. It’s a very strange taste. I can barely describe it.”

But for a week, they never complained. “We never thought anything of it,” she said. “We thought it was just the way it was here.”

On the morning of February 19, a hotel employee climbed to the roof and used a ladder to investigate the hotel’s water storage tanks. That’s where authorities found the decomposing, naked body of Lam, whose personal items were found nearby. After an autopsy, her death was labeled accidental. NBC Los Angeles reported at the time about the strange circumstances in the hotel’s past:

The tank has a metal latch that can be opened, but authorities said access to the roof is secured with an alarm and lock.
The single-room-occupancy hotel has an unusual history. “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, who was found guilty of 14 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the 14th floor for several months in 1985. And international serial killer Jack Unterweger is suspected of murdering three prostitutes during the time he lived there in 1991. He killed himself in jail in 1994.
In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of one the hotel’s windows, killing herself and a pedestrian on whom she landed.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

dyatlov-pass

Maybe it’s best no one will ever know what happened with this case; the evidence is chilling enough.

In 1959, a group of experienced Russian hikers went missing on a skiing trip. When their camp was discovered, their tents were found torn open from the inside, and they were wearing very little clothing (in Russia, in winter). It gets weirder. The bodies were stained orange with massive internal injuries from a force that a doctor studying the incident compared to that of a car crash. There were no signs of struggle, despite victims with fractured skulls, broken ribs, and one woman missing her tongue, eyes and other parts of her face.

As you’d imagine, all sorts of theories to the cause of the deaths have been tried and tested over the years, but the final verdict was that the hikers died of a “compelling natural force”. What does that even mean? Never has something so ambiguous been so horrifying.

Welcome To The Funhouse

elmermccurdy

It sounds like a narrative from some kind of Goosebumps book: the ghost train of the funfair inhabited by real dead people. That was, however, the precise case at Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California; and they’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids at Universal Studios.

In December 1976, a camera crew turned up to film an episode of the TV show ‘Six Million Dollar Man’. While preparing the funhouse, a worker moved the “hanging man”, and his arm fell off, revealing human bone. Turns out, the corpse was that of outlaw Elmer McCurdy, who robbed a train of $46 and two jugs of whiskey in 1911. Before Universal Studios discovered the body of McCurdy, the man had been hanging around that funhouse for four years; fairgoers simply thinking he was a prop.

 

Flesh-Eating Maggots In British Woman’s Head

rochelle

We’re used to travel vaccinations before going on your jollies, to avoid nasties like yellow fever and typhoid; however, no one prepares your for FLESH EATING MAGGOTS. When British woman Rochelle Harris went on holiday to Peru with her boyfriend last year, little did she know what she’d brought back with her.

On the flight home she had excruciating headaches, pains in her face and scratching sounds in her head. When fluid began leaking from her ear, doctors thought it was a minor ear infection… until they saw a writhing mass of maggots deep inside her ear.

Tell me no more, you cry! Well, it turns out a New World Army Screw Worm Fly had laid eggs inside her head: the further doctor’s delved into her ear, the more the larvae retreated into her head, chewing a 12mm hole into her ear canal. All of the NOPES.

 

The German Cannibal Who Ate A Man’s Penis And Then Read Star Trek

arminmeiewes

In 2001, Armin Meiwes posted an advert online, looking for a “well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. Not quite a Match.com profile guaranteed to get you a date – alas – one equally deranged fellow responded.

That man was Bernd Jürgen Armando Brande, who allowed Meiwes to cut off his penis; which he then cooked, seasoned and attempted to share with the now-bleeding-to-death Brande. Apparently raw penis was too “chewy”, so they fried it with salt, pepper, wine, garlic, and some of Brandes’ fat.

The entire freakshow was filmed, and court officials who saw it say that Meiwes then read a Star Trek book for hours while Brandes lay bleeding in the bath. He kissed Brandes before stabbing him to death in the throat, hanging the body on a meat hook and tearing chunks of flesh from it. He then consumed the body over the next 10 months, grinding bones to use as flour.

Apparently Meiwes is sorry for his crimes and is has become a vegetarian in jail, but he does believe there are about 800 cannibals living in Germany. Remind us to avoid that country in the future.