If you’ve ever been denied the use of a gift voucher or a coupon because it is a day out of date or received a parking fine for the front edge of your tyre is touching the forbidden zone (a double yellow line where I’m from), you may have thought to yourself – ‘How cruel’. There is also no doubt that despots like Pol Pot, Hitler, Mao and Stalin, depraved killers like John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo, The Zodiac Killer and a whole gang of villains from the 20th century leant a new meaning to the word ‘cruel’.
But there are plenty of individuals, instances and practices that we don’t often hear about that really plumb the depths of human cruelty.
Here are ten examples you may not have heard of that show that mankind’s propensity for cruelty is boundless. Some stories may make you blood boil, some may repulse you. One or two of them will do both.
(Feels odd to write this, but) – Enjoy! – (Ah hell, you know what I mean).
10 The Execution of György Dózsa
In 1514, the Kingdom of Hungary was living in constant fear of invasion from the east. György Dózsa was duly elected to lead a massive crusader force comprising of roughly 100,000 peasants, called for by Cardinal Tamás Bacócz. But in May of that year, the crusade was called off. Already hungry and suffering under greedy policies enacted by the aristocracy, the peasants revolted. Dózsa led the uprising against the Hungarian ruling classes, and they looked as though they could have won when they managed to take the fortresses of Arad, Lippa and Világos. But a glorious victory for the Hungarian peasantry wasn’t to be. The rebels were routed whilst attacking Temesvár, and Dózsa was captured.
How the Hungarian King’s men punished him ranks amongst the most brutal, cruel executions ever. Days after his capture, György Dózsa was forced to sit on a red hot iron throne, a burning crown placed on his head and a near-molten iron sceptre placed in his hand in mockery of his lofty ambition to challenge the royal order. Pretty rough? It gets worse.
His co-conspirators, who’d been imprisoned and starved until the day of the execution, were brought before their commander. Dózsa’s younger brother was hacked to death in front of him for starters. The executioners then removed portions of Dózsa’s flesh. The remaining captives were then instructed to eat from the holes left by the executioners pliers. Some refused and were killed. The rest complied.
9 Harry Harlow’s Pit Of Despair and his Rape Rack
Harry Harlow’s methods during his seminal research on maternal bonding were pretty excessive on the cruelty front, even back in the 50s when the experiments occurred.
The respected psychologist conducted a series of tests on infant monkeys. The hypothesis was: ‘Babies need a mother’s love’. Displaying the twisted logic of a super-villain, Harlow would take the subjects from their mothers and cage them in a sensory deprivation cage. The ‘pit of despair’, as Harlow called it, consisted of an inverted pyramid on the interior, with smooth sides to render it impossible for the baby monkey to climb, causing it to slip down to the cell floor. After a few days of frantic escape attempts, the monkey would give up and eventually just shut down. Four were left in the pit for a month, four for six months and four were left in there for a year. For a goddamned year!
The results were clear – these monkeys ranged from seriously disturbed to emotionally and physically destroyed – 2 even began refusing food and starved to death. When it became clear that the monkeys could no longer engage in sexual activity after their ordeal, Harlow fashioned another nifty invention that he pithily dubbed ‘The Rape Rack’. The female subjects were tied to it in a mating posture, allowing for males to mate with them.
Needless to say, these tortured monkeys didn’t make great mothers. One traumatised subject held her infant to the floor and chewed its feet off. So, what did we learn? Motherly love is important. And some humans are sick.
8 The Alexandra Hospital Massacre
WWII buffs will know this act of cruelty perpetrated by the Japanese army, but most people don’t – The Nazis seem to hog all the general public’s attention. Even when discussing specific Japanese atrocities in South Asia, most people will know the Bataan death march, Unit 731 or the ‘Rape of Nanking’. The Alexandra Hospital Massacre in Singapore was up there (or down there) with the worst things the Imperial Army did during the war.
Around 50 soldiers, medical personnel and civilians were killed at the hospital, many immobile or recuperating from injuries, some were even killed whilst they were undergoing surgery.
Here is an excerpt from Lt. F. T. Moore’s eyewitness account: “A party of Japs came into the Reception Room shouting and threatening the staff and patients who were congregated there. Sergeant Sherrif was bayoneted and died; the remainder were similarly treated. Another party of Japanese went into Wards 16 and 17 causing injuries to the patients. They entered the kitchens of these two wards and killed Private Bruce, probably using a Tommy-gun. This party was also shown the RED CROSS brassards and replied by firing and throwing a hand grenade into the Sister’s bunk.”
7 Stealing From The Children
When some horrible ass-face thinks it’d be OK to steal from children, you’d be forgiven for lighting a torch and grabbing a pitchfork; there are few institutions that, at their very core, are simply wholesome and good. One can make a pretty good argument that the ‘Girl Scouts of America’ is one such organisation. Who would take advantage of an organisation mainly comprised of cookie-selling pre-teens? Prepare yourselves.
Patricia Cascione of Beverly Hills, CA did a dirty double. She not only embezzled over $30,000 from a local cancer charity (!), but also stole over $50,000 from her local girl scout group’s bank account. She had been involved with various Californian Girl Scout troops for two decades, and was serving as the voluntary treasure for the group. How low can you get?
Depressing as the above crime is, it gets worse- it is by no means an isolated case -Look it up (see the references below for a couple of examples), and try not to seethe so hard you burst a blood vessel.
6 Sooraj Kumar, The Snakebite Killer
This is one of the more cruel ways to kill a person – a contrived venomous snake bite. Sooraj Kumar of Kerala, India not only purposely had his wife bitten by an extremely dangerous Russell’s Viper, but finished her off months later with an Indian Cobra.
Kumar’s wife Uthra had given birth to a son one year prior to her murder. She was a young woman, with a loving family. He husband killed her to collect her dowry and cash in a life insurance policy. Tragic, but not unusual. What was unusual was the methodical, well-researched and incredibly cruel way he killed her. After Sooraj researched how to handle snakes he first attempted to kill Uthra with the viper. She survived.
She spent 52 agonising days bedridden and was probably going to need plastic surgery. Whilst Uthra was recuperating at her parent’s home, Sooraj purchased a second snake, let it loose in their bedroom where she was bitten a second time, this time fatally.
The case is ongoing as of the writing of this list.
5 The 1916 Urkun
Whilst the Ottomans were gearing up to enact a genocide upon the Armenians (deportations began in 1915), Russia was busy enacting their own genocide on Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Turkmen. In 1916, Imperial Russia imposed a forced conscription of Central Asian men into labour battalions, sending the population of the region onto revolt. The rebels enacted some massacres of ethnic Russians, prompting Tsarist Russia to crack down. Hard.
Contemporary consensus on the numbers suggest that, on top of the tens of thousands of people who died on the trek to China via the treacherous Tian Shan mountains, hundreds of thousands of people died at the hands of the Russian Army. The massacres and forced marches caused between 100,00 and 270,000 deaths, with English academic Arnold J Tonybee suggesting that the number could even have been as high as half a million.
Similar to Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, Russia and China don’t recognise the Urkun as a genocide.
4 Tunica Molesta
Often eclipsed by the brutal execution methods of the later medieval era, it’s easy to forget that those highly cultured Romans also engaged in some pretty rough treatment of their criminals and enemies. Crucifixion, anyone? Considering that this was a couple of thousand years before DNA testing, modern law enforcement techniques or even a half decent judicial system, they sure did put a lot of people to death. One form of execution was so cruel it would bring anyone out in a cold sweat. Or, rather, a searing hot sweat.
The sentence of death by ‘Tunica Molesta’ was handed to those convicted of arson – you would be burned for burning. Other crimes, such as treason, could also result in this method being proscribed. Simply put, a tunic was doused in naphtha or resin, put upon the condemned and set alight. Reminiscent of the brutal mob punishment of ‘necklacing’ (the lighting of a petrol-filled tyre placed around the neck of the victim), the proclamation of death by ‘Tunica Molesta’ must have been a terrifying thing to hear.
3 The Skin Hunters
‘Insider trading’ is, according to investopedia.com: “trading in a public company’s stock by someone who has non-public, material information about that stock for any reason”. This action is unethical and often illegal. But what if the info traded wasn’t just juicy tidbits from inside a company? What if a group of people killed elderly victims and sold their info to the highest bidder? Enter the so-called ‘Skin Hunters’ from Lodz, Poland.
Back in 2003, a group of 4 healthcare professionals hatched a plot to make some extra cash – they’d murder a person under their care, sell their info to competing funeral homes so they could get in touch with the deceased person’s family before other such businesses, and repeat. This diabolical gang of 2 paramedics and 2 doctors managed to kill at least 5 elderly patients by means of administering a muscle relaxant called Pavulon, making between 12,000 and 70,000 zloty for each victim (3,000 to 19000 USD). Paramedics Karol Banas and Andrzej Nowocien were sentenced to 25 years and life in prison respectively, with the two doctor co-conspiritors, Janusz Kulinski and Pawel Wasilewski getting 6 years and 5 years in jail. They were also banned from practicing medicine. For 10 years (?!)
2 Star’s Ordeal
(Cuteness+Innocence)/Cruelty = Unparalleled Outrage.
In 2011, a beautiful crossbreed dog named Star was taken by 44-year-old farmer to a field where he proceeded to torture her before leaving her for dead. She was found after having been buried, the end of her snout sticking up from the dusty ground and a wooden board placed over her. Her limbs had been tied. Her head had 40 pellets embedded in it. Turns out that the farmer had fashioned an illegal zip gun in order to dispatch the unwanted pooch, reportedly citing her advanced age as the reason for the heartless torture – she was 10.
Despite surviving surgery undertaken to remove the pellets, despite a good recovery made at an animal shelter, despite being released to a new loving family, Star passed away soon after her ordeal.
Vella received 3 months jail time and a 10k euro fine.
1 A Worse Way to Be Hanged
Until the 1940s, judges handing down death sentences in Britain would say the following: “The sentence of this court is that you will be taken from here to the place from whence you came and there be kept in close confinement until [date of execution], and upon that day that you be taken to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may God have mercy upon your soul.” Imagine he didn’t say ‘neck’ – Imagine he said ‘ribs’ instead.
It was a relatively common punishment in Russia in the 18th century, with a travelling German physician noting that it would take around 3 days for the condemned to expire, usually from thirst.
But it wasn’t just ‘criminals’ who received the hook – slaves in the Dutch colony of Suriname were also subjected to this torturous death sentence. It has been claimed that this was a form of punishment used by the African tribes from whence the slaves derived, but so what? Were the Dutch slavers simply trying to make their slaves ‘feel more at home’? Awful.