If a lot of us could go back to school now, we’d probably do a lot better. When we were little, it was harder to understand everything we were learning. Some things were too complex for us to understand, and other things were a little too boring to keep our childhood mind’s interest. Nowadays, there are certain things that we all learned about in school that we remember. They’re second nature and pretty much just part of our culture. These big things are events such as wars, genocides, and the creation of laws. Although it seems like most things we hear about now, we touched on in school but might quite not remember, there are certainly a ton of things that we were never told.
Most history books are written by a certain demographic of people, and a lot certainly gets left out. Sometimes, things aren’t told to children either because they’re too gruesome or depressing. Other things aren’t written in history books they’re too full of corruption and rumors to be taught in schools. There’s definitely a lot in our history that we all should know about even though our teachers decided to leave them out. We don’t have time in this list to go through all the things we didn’t learn in schools, so we put together a quick list of some big things from the 20th and 21st centuries that we find most shocking and disturbing.
What are you most surprised to learn about? Did you hear about this in your school already? Let us know! Here are 15 Horrifying Historical Events You Didn’t Learn About In School:
15. A Cult Leader In Waco, Texas
Waco, Texas is now known as a great real estate location for those looking to be featured on the HGTV show Fixer Upper. They often work in and around the area to fix up old houses. What many people might not know about Waco is the disturbing cult that existed there in the 1990s. They were known as the Branch Davidians and were similar to the cult known as the FLDS. They practiced polygamy and underage marriage but eventually found themselves under siege because of a weapons violation. The siege lasted over 50 days and ended in a fire started by several cult members that killed everyone in the cult. All of the wives, babies, teens, and kids, as well as several FBI agents, burned alive during the raid. It was an incredibly disturbing and horrifying event that some of our history teachers might’ve brushed over. Or perhaps, many of us were alive, as it was in the 1990s.
14. Ota Benga Was A Normal Man Taken From Congo And Put With The Primates In A Zoo Exhibit
Ota Benga was a man who was from Congo and who was part of a tribe. For many of u, seeing him would be a little different, as he dressed and spoke in ways we don’t. However, that’s what the world’s about. Everyone’s a little different, depending on where each of us is from. However, one explorer who saw Ota Benga thought he was so different because of his teeth and the way he dressed that they decided to take him back to America and dedicate an entire zoo exhibit to his strange appearance. They put him in a cage with primates and charged admission to see him. It’s insanely disturbing that anyone ever thought it was OK to put this innocent man inside a cage like he was an animal. This happened barely over 100 years ago as well. Ota Benga was eventually released from his prison only to later kill himself because of untreated mental issues that came along with being treated like a zoo animal.
13. Public Execution Was Still Around When The First Star Wars Movie Came Out
The last public execution in the United States took place in the ’30s, and you can see one of the final few in the photograph above. This was long before Star Wars came out, however. The U.S. was just one of the few countries to stop public executions. The last French public execution occurred in 1977, the same year the first Star Wars came out! This execution was also done with a guillotine! It’s insane to think we were still killing people this way when one of the biggest movies of all time came out! It’s kind of crazy that we kill people at all. However, most of these individuals were deserving of some sort of punishment, as they themselves killed and hurt other people. Whatever you may think about the death penalty, however, you have to admit that it’s crazy to think that we were still killing these people like this when our grandparents were our age.
12. The Feds Poisoned Alcohol During Prohibition
Everyone knows about the prohibition. We learned about it for sure, and even if you didn’t, you’ve probably heard of the time that the government made alcohol illegal. A lot of us thought that it was all about just banning people from alcohol for religious reasons. There was much more behind it, however. One disturbing secret we might not have learned about in school was that the FBI would actually poison alcohol! Instead of just confiscating it and not allowing it to get sold underground, they would make it so that people would die if they drank it! You see pictures like the one above often when it comes to the prohibition. It’s authorities pouring out alcohol so no one can get their hands on it. It seems like a logical thing to do after confiscating something illegal. However, many authorities poisoned any alcohol they found so they would just kill its drinkers altogether.
11. “Crazy” Women Were Diagnosed With Hysteria
When we think of hysteria now, we probably think of someone referring to someone else as hysterical. This usually means that they’re crazy in some form or another, either by being an emotional or lively character. Before the beginning of the 20th century, hysteria was a common diagnosis for any woman displaying strange symptoms. These symptoms would include nervousness, anxiety, depression, or other typical symptoms most of us feel every once in a while. It was considered strange for women to show this, however, as they needed to be sweet, polite, and quiet. Sometimes, if a woman was caught reading too much, she would even be diagnosed with hysteria! The most common treatment for hysteria in women? An orgasm. Doctors would usually cause women to have these orgasms, and at one point, their hands got too tired, resulting in the invention of a vibrator! This is definitely something we never talked about in high school; however, it’s disturbing to know all of the ways we used to mistreat women.
10. Delphine LaLaurie Was The Worst Slave Owner Of All Time
Everyone learned about slavery in school. If you didn’t, what’s wrong with your school?! One thing that our history books definitely brushed over, however, is the evilest slaveowner of them all: Delphine LaLaurie. She was a New Orleans resident and was a socialite known for her wealth. She had lavish parties and events that made her the queen of the town. Everyone admired her, that is, until they learned about what was hidden in her basement. It turns out, she was also one of the first serial killers. She would have parties right above where people were chained up and brutalized! Because people treated slaves like they were property, no one noticed when some would disappear. It’s an incredibly unfortunate event in our history but one we certainly need to remember when talking about slavery.
9. A Common Punishment Under King Leopold’s Rule
During King Leopold’s reign, he sent missionaries to Congo, who took over and caused extreme chaos and violence. The photograph above shows one man forced to look at the severed hand and foot of his daughter. She was murdered after he had failed to meet his daily rubber quota. Things like this were happening all over Congo, so a horrifying sight like this wasn’t completely uncommon. Unfortunately, it was normal for people to cut off the hands of those they murdered as a trophy for the fallen victim. In a world where capitalism dominates, failing to meet a rubber quota certainly meant death. The quotas they were given were so large that it was insane for anyone to think they had the possibility to reach it, so sights like this were common. For an innocent little girl to get murdered over her father’s work is insane. She didn’t do anything wrong, and yet, she was the one who was tortured.
8. Hiroshima Changed The Way We Fight In Wars As Seen In This Before And After Picture Of The Land
We all know about the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima that ended the war. What happens when we’re taught Western history, however, is that we usually only get one side. It was good to drop this bomb, right? America needed revenge for Pearl Harbor, right? Many of us think of this moment as an act of heroism and that it was a good thing, something that needed to happen. What many of us don’t realize is how many civilians were killed. The picture above is a before-and-after-the-bomb-drop map of Hiroshima. The results are devastating. Buildings are gone, people are vaporized, and everything is different. The people just trying to live their lives in the place they were born don’t deserve a fate like this. They were people just like you and me, civilians trapped in a war they didn’t choose.
7. There Was A Syphilis Outbreak That Created Walking Zombies, And The Government Used These People For Experiments Against Their Will
Everyone probably had some sort of health or sex education class in high school where they got a little description of what different STDs were and how they were treated. That’s great information, but one thing that we probably need to learn about when it comes to the medical treatment of certain things is the racist histories that sometimes surrounded it. In 1932 rural Alabama, researchers selected several hundred African American men for a study. Some had syphilis, and some did not. Those who didn’t have it were infected without their knowledge. They all agreed to participate in a study in return for free health care and meals. The purpose of the study was to watch a natural progression of the development of syphilis. The experiment lost funding, and none of them ended up being treated for the disease, even after the cure had been found. These men helped in finding a cure so many people don’t have to suffer, but all they got in return was an untreated disease.
6. H.H. Holmes
It seems like we don’t study serial killers or true crime too much in schools although it’s an important part of our history and pop culture. If we study these people, it can help prevent more evil killers in the future. One of the first and most evil serial killers of all has to be H.H. Holmes. He had a little bit of wealth because he was a con-artist and trickster. He would use dead people for insurance claims and did whatever he could to cheat people out of their money. He was good at it and ended up using his money to build a murder castle. He built the castle across from a convenience store he worked at and planned to use it as a hotel and apartment complex. He would steal furniture and supplies, however, and hide them in secret traps and hidden walls. He wanted a place that would be fun and where it would be easy to kill and torture people. He was eventually caught and executed for murdering one of his friends.
5. Birth Control Was Invented For Men But Was Instead Given To Women Because The Men Couldn’t Handle The Side Effects
For a lot of us, birth control can be the greatest thing. Many of us aren’t ready for kids, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still like to do stuff that could result in kids with our partners. We hardly learn about birth control in most schools, but what we know even less about is the racist and sexist past of birth control. Condoms have been around for awhile, but those don’t always work, and people don’t always like to use them. Then, scientists started experimenting with hormonal birth control. They found something mostly harmless and began giving it to men. The men ended up not liking the pills because they caused depression and anxiety. Then, people decided that women should have to bear this burden instead! Yay women! Scientists also started giving out the pills for free in low-income areas to non-white people, without telling them that it was birth control!
4. A Beached Whale Was Blown Up Because It Was Too Heavy To Do Anything Else With
Beached whales are never a good sight. It’s sad to think about how the whale died and got there, and then, having to watch it rot and decay is even worse. Local authorities decided that when a whale washed up on their beach, it was best to blow it up! In Oregon in 1970, authorities blew up a whale, causing pieces of the whale to fly a quarter of a mile away! They hoped that perhaps the explosion would just break up the whale and cause the pieces to float back into the ocean. Instead, they got whale guts all over the beach. It wasn’t very tragic like the rest of the things on the list, as the whale was already dead, but since then, other cases of whales exploding on their own have surfaced. Sometimes, the gas inside a dead whale will build up and cause it to explode. That’s definitely something they don’t teach you about in school!
3. Lobotomies Were Medicine’s Biggest Mistake, And Some People Who’ve Had Them Are Still Alive Today
Some of us might’ve spent a lot of time on medical history in schools, while other classes might’ve just brushed upon it. Either way, one event in our history between the early 1940s and late 1950s, put a dark spot on medical history. It was the procedure known as a “lobotomy.” It consists of entering through a patient’s eye and scraping out the nerves and connections of the prefrontal cortex. It was used to “cure” a huge number of psychological issues from depression all the way to homosexuality (homosexuality is not at all a psychological issue, though many people believed it was in this era). Unfortunately, what was meant to fix someone’s brain actually just turned them into a zombie. It was mostly performed on women and trans/homosexual individuals for insane reasons. If a woman was too bold or if a male displayed flamboyant characteristics, she or he risked being lobotomized.
2. Famine In Russia
We’ve all heard of times of famine in which people took desperate measures to feed themselves and their family. There’s one famine that was so brutal and disturbing that most of us probably never heard of it. It was the Russian famine of 1921-1922. It was such a desperate time for starving people that they resorted to cannibalism. The children had likely died of starvation, and instead of burying the bodies, the parents decided to make a profit. The famine was caused by WW1 and, at that time, ongoing civil wars within Russia. It was estimated that over 5 million people died during this time, most of whom had resorted to cannibalism at some point to stay alive.
1. Scientists Brought A Dog’s Head Back To Life, Suggesting Zombies Are Possible
Zombies are a popular topic in pop culture. There are endless movies about the subject and several shows that revolve around the walking dead. There are many scientific explanations about how zombies could never be possible, but there was an instance in our history that suggested something like the creepy stalkers could rise up one day. In the photograph above, you can see it was part of an experiment conducted by mad scientist Sergei Brukhonenko in which he attempted to use various machines to bring animals back to life. Although the dog eventually died, the machines were used in research for a heart and lung machine that helped develop human medicine greatly. Although it was just one experiment, who knows what this could mean in the world of the undead?
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