Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Lore.
If you're a fan of true crime, creepy history, a soothing narrator voice, or folklore of any kind, then Amazon's creepy new series Lore will excite you. Adapted from Aaron Mahnke's unbelievably addictive podcast of the same name, each episode of Lore tells a fascinating and creepy tale through historical reenactments — not the cheesy kind — that will you give you chills.
Adapting a podcast to a visual medium seems like it could be tricky, considering half the draw of a podcast is the fact that you are mostly passively listening and can fill in any imagery with your own imagination. Lore, however, is pretty perfect for the transition into a series. Luckily, Mahnke is still the narrator for each tale, and anyone who has listened to the podcast can attest that his voice is soothing and informative. Between his narration, the series tells the story through a series of impressively done reenactments. This isn't the hyper-dramatized reenactments that some true crime shows are known for; they are really professional and make each story feel like a short movie.
Every episode begins by warning the viewer, "Everything you are about to see is based on actual people and events." This is more than straight history, though: These are downright horrifying tales that will have viewers wondering how they never heard of them before. Here are some of the creepiest stories from Lore that you'll be shocked are based in truth.
1. Sarah & Mary Hart
Back in the day, it wasn't super easy to tell when people were actually, clinically dead. After all, they didn't have the tools that exist today in modern medicine. As this Slate article explains, fear of being prematurely buried was so real that there were actually mechanisms built to ensure that in the event that someone was buried alive, people could be alerted of the issue.
The first episode of Lore mentions is the story of Sarah and Mary Hart, who lived together in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1836. One morning, when they were working together, Mary collapsed on the floor. In Mahnke's words, "Sarah held Mary in her arms as she took her last breath." Mary was buried the next day and that night Sarah dreamt that she was alive and trying to get out of her coffin. She somehow convinced church officials to exhume her body, and when they did, they found her fingernails bloody and torn and the inside lining of the coffin was ripped to shreds.
Yup, this really happened on Oct. 16, 1872, and there is a gravestone to prove it.
2. Dr. Walter Freeman
In 1946, after seeing an article about two horrific asylums in the United States entitled "Bedlam" in Life Magazine, Dr. Walter Freeman decided he wanted to become a savior to the mentally ill. His solution was a type of lobotomy where a large needle was inserted into the eye socket to reach the brain and sever the nerves of the frontal lobe. According to the episode, this would more or less debilitate the patient.
One of the most famous patients of Dr. Freeman's lobotomy was Rosemary Kennedy, who, after being deprived of sufficient oxygen at birth, was left with brain damage. As a result, as a People article pointed out, Rosemary began acting out a bit when she got into her teens and 20s, and the possibility of a scandal convinced Joseph Kennedy to bring her in for a lobotomy from Dr. Freeman. The procedure left her permanently disabled, only able to initially say a few words, walking with a limp and never regaining full use of one of her arms. Lore confirms that she ended up confined to a church-run facility in Wisconsin by the age of 23.
3. Bridget Cleary
In 19th-century Ireland, people thought fairies would come and take you away, leaving a "changeling" in your place. If you couldn't be brought back within 9 days, you'd be confined to live in the fairy world (it may sound cool, but apparently it is not cool at all). If a loved one suddenly changed or acted different, it was superstition that they were a changeling.
Episode 3 tells the story of Bridget Cleary, an Irish woman who had her own dressmaking business. She lived with her husband Michael and it was her work that was bringing in more money. As Mahnke says in the episode, "Strong, independent, seductive, empowered women of this time were threatening to the men in their lives."
One day, after a visit to the "fairy rings," which are actually remains of Iron Age forts, but Irish folklore claimed that these rings were portals to the fairy realm, she was diagnosed with what a doctor said was Bronchitis. Her husband, however, was convinced she was a changeling. As a result, she had a hot poker held close to her face because fairies feared fire, and was forced to drink herbs mixed with urine (because it purifies, guys), and was tied to the bed posts. After all of this, Michael threw her to the floor in front of her family and lit her on fire.
Per the New York Times piece, "Are you a witch, or are you a fairy, or are you the wife of Michael Cleary" is a popular jump-rope rhyme still heard in Ireland.
4. Robert The Doll
Episode 4 dives into the unbelievably creep tale of Robert the doll. Key West artist Robert Eugene Otto was a lonely child, and as a result, his great-aunt bought him a creeptastic doll from Germany that he named Robert, after himself. Otto treated Robert like a real human; talking to him, playing with him, and bringing him to sit at the table. When his aunt and father believed that his preoccupation with his doll was keeping him from making real friends, they locked the doll away on the advice of the aunt who gave it to him. When she was found dead shortly after, Otto was sent away to boarding school. When Otto returned to his childhood home decades later with his new wife, Robert was there to terrorize again.
Robert was eventually donated to the Key West Art & Historical Society museum, by later owners of the home. You can visit him there today, but before you take his photo, you legitimately have to ask and receive the doll's permission. Otherwise, Robert will do bad things to you. Not horrifying at all, right?
5. Public Executions
Episode 5 looks into the morbid practice of public executions. As recent as the 1930s, Eugen Weidmann was publicly executed for the murders of six people in Paris, France. Hundreds of people, including children, gathered in front of the prison and watched as he was executed via the guillotine. When the deed was done, the crowd actually converged upon his body and according to Lore, there were reports that women dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood as parting gifts. As a result of the crowd's morbidly hysterical behavior, newspapers started questioning whether public executions were deterrents or whether they were causing the darkest fascinations of people to be revealed. Weidmann became the last French public execution via guillotine.
But the story of Weidmann's execution lives on: Footage of the event still exists, and it's been viewed over a million times online in the last 10 years. Clearly, we can't get enough of these truly terrifying tales. If you want more Lore, stream away on Amazon.