Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Human Monsters

While there is always a lot of talk about the supernatural creatures of the night, and the abominations from outer space in horror, there is one beast that a lot of people don't like to talk about or admit exists, and that is the monster inside each and every one of us. We make light of them and try to understand them in the forms of Normal Bates, Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, and Jigsaw. We cheer as they get hunted down and brought to justice in movies like Se7en, Red Dragon, and Zodiac.

As you're watching Marathons of Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and any of dozens of other horror movies this halloween, keep in mind that a lot of these human monsters you're seeing dash and stab across your television screens are based on real events, or at the very least, what they do pales in comparison to things people have done to each other.

The character of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre is loosely based on one Edward Gein. A Wisconsin man who dug up bodies from the local graveyard and fashioned them into macabre trophies and keepsakes. These included skulls used for bowls and set on the posts of his bed-frame, a belt made of human nipples, several masks made from corpses faces, and even a lampshade. On top of the bodies dug up from their graves, he also killed two local women for some projects which required "fresher" parts. He was caught, tried, and declared legally insane. After that he spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

Then, you have tales told of such people as Elizabeth Bathory, the fabled Blood Countess, who supposedly tortured and killed hundreds of young woman to bathe in their blood in the belief such an act would allow her to retain a youthful appearance. And of course, there is Vlad Tepes, the man whom the monster of Count Dracula is based on. Vlad was a butcher on the field of battle and was known to be a fan of torture, in particular, the grotesque impalement. After a battle he was known to not only have every fallen foe lifted up onto stakes, but also the ones that remained alive. Some accounts claim that any of his own men that were wounded in battle were also given the treatment as a punishment. Entire forests would be cut down, and then raised with human bodies, some of them still alive and begging for death as slowly slid down the poles. Among these killing fields, Vlad would often have his victory feast, dining among thousands of the dead.

Of course, those are merely some of the most famous monsters of human history, there are hundreds, possibly thousands more, their names lost to history as people have tried to cover up their foul deeds and grant them the obscurity they truly deserve. People like the unnamed doctor that ran the hospital on the island of Poveglia, who tortured patients, conducting live lobotomies and brain surgeries, before ultimately going mad and throwing himself from the island's bell tower. (Check last week's blog post for a video detailing the history of the island of Poveglia.)

So just keep in mind while you're watching those horror marathons on TV this Halloween. Despite what some of the things those monsters and maniacs do, most of it doesn't compare to the horrors people have inflicted on each other over the centuries.

One other detail I want to add in today. My book Class 5 will be free to download on Kindle all day October 31st. So if you haven't snagged a copy and given it a look, go ahead and do so, and enjoy!

~ Shaun

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