5 Strangest Deaths From History

by Jaime Lutz

It's finally, officially fall, and so it's now acceptable in my book to start getting really excited about Halloween. (Yes, I know that it's almost a month away. What of it?) To me, nothing's spookier than something weird and mysterious that actually happened. That's why the stories behind some of the strangest deaths in history get me like nothing else. Spooky season is here, so let's all take a moment to freak ourselves out a little, shall we?

The truth really is stranger than fiction a lot of the time, which is likely the reason that real life scary things speak so strongly to us. After all, isn't that why so many horror movies these days say they're based on a true story? Why found footage has become such a ubiquitous genre? Why Reddit's No Sleep section pretends that all the stories are definitely true? It's scarier to think that there's something terrifying out there, and this terror could happen to you. And the tingly joy of getting scared, after all, is what Halloween is all about.

There's no pretending, however, with these stories. All of these spooky, unexplained deaths are completely true — and no one has figured who, or what, is responsible.

You might want to leave the light on while you're reading this one.

1. The Black Dahlia

In the 1947 "Black Dahlia" case, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short was found sliced in two pieces in an empty lot in Los Angeles. Her face was slashed from the corners of each of her mouth, creating a disturbing smile. The case was wildly publicized by the press, who invented the "Black Dahlia" nickname wholesale. (Short never went by the name in real life). It remains one of the oldest unsolved murders in LA history.

2. The Dismembered Pregnant Woman

In 2002, the disembodied torso of a pregnant woman washed up in San Francisco. Her 9-month-old fetus had been roughly cut out of her. Investigators identified the body as Evelyn Hernandez, whose five-year-old son had also gone missing. To this day, Evelyn's head, arms, fetus, and five-year-old boy haven't been found. But eerie similarities in this case to the murder of Laci Peterson led some people before Scott Peterson's conviction to theorize the same killer had gone after both women.

3. The Disturbing Pre-Murder Surveillance Tape

In 2013, a 21-year-old Canadian student named Elisa Lam was found naked and floating in a water tank on top of the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles in a terrifying unsolved death. Even more disturbing was some surveillance video from the day of her disappearance, above, showing her hiding in an apparently malfunctioning elevator and looking around for an unseen presence (some people have said she was playing this creepy elevator game). Guests at the hotel, of course, were horrified at the idea that they might have been drinking water that had been in contact with a decomposing body. Her blog continued to update after her death, too — presumably pre-scheduled posts, or possibly by someone else involved, since her phone was never found.

4. Little Boy Pot Pie

In 1996, a little boy named Zach Ramsey went missing on his way to school in Montana. His name was found on a list of children compiled by a pedophile named Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, along with references to "little boy pot pie." Bar-Jonah was apparently very found of serving meat he butchered himself to his neighbors and visitors to his house. Police found a meat grinder with human hair inside it, but the DNA didn't match Ramsey's. To this day, one knows who the hair could belong to.

5. The Girl in the Tree Trunk

In 1943, boys found a skeleton of a girl in the body of an Wych elm tree in Hagley Wood, a town in the UK. Her mouth was filled with taffeta, and there was a wedding ring alongside her in the trunk. Soon after the case became public ,mysterious graffiti began appearing around the town saying "Who put Bella in the Wych elm?"

Images: Neil Howard/Flickr; Wikimedia Commons (2)