If you happen to be an avid reader of the ‘News of the Weird’ section in your daily newspaper, you would know that it tends to record the strangest human proclivities and instances of depravity. From cannibals meeting their future “dinner” online – yes, that has happened – to weirdos smuggling across the border their favorite delicacy of cow eyes in their pants – unfortunately, that has happened too – things in real life tend to be far stranger and horrifying than anything we could dare put to writing. That is, when they are not outright comical.
Here are some of the most insane instances of reality being much more blood curdling and odious than anything encountered in fiction. While some of these can run the gamut of “true crime” stories rather than “newsy” tidbits of strange happenings, they definitely verge on the more extreme side of the spectrum.
1. The Disappearance of Johnny Gosch
Johnny Gosch’s presumed kidnapping as a youngster on his way to finish a paper route remains one of the most mystifying unsolved mysteries in modern crime. While the sudden disappearance of a child is horrifying and tragic enough, the aftermath of the high profile case is truly bizarre.
Johnny grew up in a rather sedate West Des Moines, Iowa, suburb when he suddenly disappeared on the morning of September 5, 1982. Neighbors recalled last seeing the 12-year old speaking to a stocky gentleman in a car with Nebraskan license plates. The police department was slow to react to his disappearance, and when they finally did embark on an investigation, they presumed Johnny was kidnapped, although there was never a clear motive.
The boy’s mother, Noreen, by this point completely distrustful of the police, hired numerous private investigators to help search for her son. The media frenzy around Johnny’s disappearance became so great that he was one of the first whose image would be plastered on thousands of milk cartons throughout the nation, in a vain attempt to find his whereabouts.
Now, as most people who have heard of the Johnny Gosch story know, this is when things took a tremendously creepy turn. A few months later, different individuals have claimed to see Johnny, the first in Oklahoma when a boy yelled at a woman for help before being dragged off by two men. Then, in 1997, Noreen claims that her son – now aged 27 – came to her door, with an unidentified man. He showed her a birthmark, and she recognized him as Johnny straight away. He seemed afraid of the man next to him but talked with her for about an hour and a half before leaving.
In the early aughts, someone sent Polaroids to Noreen of three boys bound and gagged; one of whom she thought to be her son when he was first kidnapped back in the early 80s. While the veracity of the photos have been strongly disputed, what doesn’t seem easy to deny is the fact that Johnny was probably taken by a human trafficking gang, specialized in pedophilia. However, the story becomes a bit unwieldy when trying to decipher just how big and gruesome the allegations are in actuality.
In the late 1980s, Paul Bonacci accused representative Lawrence E. King Jr., director of the Franklin Credit Union in Omaha, Nebraska, of secretly running an underage prostitution ring victimizing him and Johnny Gosch. As the drama further panned out, it was alleged that horrific sex parties, involving the youngsters, took place with some of the most powerful men in the country, going as far up as the White House.
Of course, many of Bonacci’s claims were overblown, to say the least. But many conspiracy theorists till this day cannot speak of Johnny Gosch’s disappearance without bringing up his mother’s side of the story, and the alleged Franklin child prostitution ring. Many remain convinced till this day that Noreen’s anger towards the police and law enforcement was covered up due by a secret ring of powerful people in the country engaged in, amongst other things, devil worship, cannibalism, drug trafficking, CIA arms dealing, and ominous links with the first Bush administration.
2. Puppeteer Ronald William Brown
This entry will be rather short, since it’s truly sickening: child entertainer, Ronald William Brown, worked as a puppeteer and was in charge of his church’s youth ministry for over 20 years. Intermittently, he would share his desire to hurt kids with others … although it seems that it took a few years for people to get the full gist of his meaning.
In 2012, Brown was finally arrested for his intent to rape, murder, cook, and eat little children. Ok, moving on.
3. Carl Tanzler and the Beloved Mummy
Carl Tanzler grew up in Germany in the early 1900s. As a young man, he claimed to have visions of a beautiful dark-haired woman in his sleep, whom he was sure would end up being his true love.
While working as an x-ray technician at the United States Marine Hospital in 1930, he met the Cuban Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, who was brought to the hospital seeking treatment for tuberculosis. Tanzler fell for her immediately.
While he was not at all a doctor, he used his professed knowledge of medicine to treat her, insisting to take her with him home. At the time, there was no cure for tuberculosis, so he subjected his beloved to a variety of experimental medications and x-ray procedures.
He also attempted to woo her with expensive gifts of jewelry and clothing. Sadly, Maria died a year later. Tanzler dutifully paid for her funeral, and with permission from her family, built a mausoleum honoring her memory, at which he spent most of his evenings.
This melancholy and romantic story took a turn in 1933, when Tanzler stole Maria’s body from the coffin, after he swore he heard her singing to him in Spanish, begging to be taken away. He took the body home, clumsily reattaching the limbs together with wire and coat hangers. He placed glass eyes in the sockets, replaced the rotting flesh with silk covered in wax, and doused the corpse with perfumes, preserving agents, and disinfectants to mask the odor of decomposition.
Carl spent seven years with Maria’s body. Apparently, he would dance with the corpse in his living room, have intercourse with it a few times, give it presents, and spend every night sleeping next to the mangled cadaver. Maria’s family suspected something was up, and soon enough, Maria’s sister discovered the body in Tanzler’s home when she confronted him in 1940.
4. The Silent Twins
June and Jennifer Gibbons were identical twin sisters growing up in 1960s-70s Wales. They were known to only spoke to one another. While many viewed the young girls with suspicion for their refusal to talk to anyone else, their relationship took a deadly turn as they took up writing in their early teens, only to find true satisfaction in committing various criminal acts. Eventually, they were both admitted to Broadmoor Hospital for 11 years, a step which precipitated the twins’ tragic demise.
Both girls were born to Caribbean immigrants in 1963, and from the get-go, they were inseparable. As the only black children in their community, they were ostracized and faced a lot of discrimination, which only further exacerbated their isolation from the outside world. Mostly, they only spoke to their younger sister Rose, and resisted administrators’ attempts to force them to talk.
When they turned 14, their parents separated them, sending each girl to separate boarding schools. However, they reunited two years later, and began exploring writing fiction together. The stories they invented were especially notable for their violence and darkness; the girls attempted to publish their work, but to no avail. They also recorded audio versions of plays they acted out between themselves and handmaid dolls to entertain their sister.
Soon enough, the twins got bored of their writing pursuits, and began to take up arson, stealing, and other petty crimes for fun. Eventually, they were forcibly committed to the hospital – because of their refusal to speak to others, they did not go to juvenile hall, like most teenagers.
However, the hospital proved to be a rather deadly destination for them. Within its stultifying confines, the inherent competitiveness between the twins began to emerge, and according to letters found later on, they began to loathe one another. June was convinced that her very existence was slowly driving Jennifer insane. But, weirdly enough, they continued to mirror each other’s basic movements and interactions,in an eerie display of unity.
The sisters also made a pact that if one of them died, the other would have to move on, speak, and lead a normal life. The longer they stayed in the hospital, the girls believed it was in fact necessary for one of them to die. Apparently after much discussion, Jennifer agreed to be the one to go. In 1993, as the girls were being transferred to another facility, Jennifer could not be roused from her sleep.
She seemed to be acting strange a few days before, slurring her speech, and saying that she was dying. Strangely, no evidence of foul play was ever found, and no one could determine the cause of death. It is said that a few days later, June pronounced “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last, Jennifer has given up her life for me.”
Impossible to Imagine
Conjuring wickedly horrific tales are typically the domain of beloved horror writers. However, it is difficult to imagine how even the most imaginative writer could come up with stories as strange and horrifying as these. There are, of course, many bizarre tales that make their way to our headlines on a daily basis. It seems that human nature will always confound us, no matter how jaded we become.