10 People Who Set Disturbing World Records
World records are society’s way of rewarding things that are either incredibly impressive or incredibly useless (or, frequently, both). After all, there’s no point in running faster or eating more bratwurst than anyone in history if you don’t get some sort of acknowledgement. But then there are the records you won’t see in the Guinness league tables. Dark, disturbing records that no sane person would ever want to hold. Here are 10 of them.
10 History’s Deadliest Arsonist
Middle-aged and unemployed, South Korean citizen Kim Dae Han was an average loser. That all changed in 2003 when he bought $6 worth of gasoline and boarded a subway train. By the time the journey was over, Han would have added “mass murderer” to his crappy credentials.
As his train pulled into a station, Han lit a gasoline-filled milk carton and casually tossed it over his fellow passengers. The results were shocking and immediate. The train burst into flames, the padded seats releasing toxic clouds of gas onto the platform. A train approaching from the other side was also caught in the inferno. Its panicked driver locked the doors, trapping his passengers inside.
Over the next half hour or so, 125 people died. By the time Han was convicted, the total had risen to 198.
9 Longest Time Spent in Solitary
Imagine being confined to a tiny cell for 23 hours a day, with nothing to do and no one to do it with. How long do you think you could take it for? A month, maybe two? Well, Albert Woodfox has been living this way for over 41 years.
A former member of the Black Panthers, Woodfox was thrown into solitary in his Louisiana prison after a guard was murdered. Implicated alongside him were two other prisoners, Robert King and Herman Wallace. King was released after 29 years in solitary. Wallace was released after 40 and died three days later. Woodfox is still there, despite Amnesty reporting literally zero evidence linking him to the killing of the guard.
By Woodfox’s account, the three were blamed for the murder after trying to set up a Black Panthers prison chapter and trying to strike for better conditions. Even the murdered man’s widow thinks he’s innocent, which makes you wonder who exactly does think him guilty.
Yet Woodfox’s confinement looks likely to continue. In a few short months, he’ll mark his 42nd year in solitary, setting a record that we hope nobody will ever break.
8 Last Person Executed in England for Sodomy
John Smith and James Pratt had little say in their fate. Lovers at a time when homosexuality was considered an abomination before God, they had the joint misfortune of being the last people in England to be executed for the crime of sodomy.
The year was 1835. While staying in a lodging house, Smith and Pratt were caught—both metaphorically and literally—with their pants around their ankles and were thrown in prison. After a quick hearing, a judge sentenced them to death. The crime was deemed so great that the court refused to even write it down, instead recording the conviction for “buggery” as “b–g–y.”
On November 27, they were hanged outside Newgate Prison. One of their final visitors was the novelist Charles Dickens, who later wrote a moving account of their imprisonment for his Sketches by Boz. This flash of empathy came too late for either Smith or Pratt though, who reportedly died thinking the world would forget their names. That it didn’t is a testimony to how barbaric even late-Georgian England found their unnecessary deaths.
7 Youngest Convicted Hit Man
Mexico’s ongoing drug war has sparked plenty of atrocities. But perhaps none is quite as sickening as the rise of teenage assassins. Barely out of puberty, these young killers have gained a reputation for terror and violence. This reputation is made all the worse by the story of Edgar Jimenez Lugo.
At 14, Lugo was one of the youngest contract killers ever known, and certainly the youngest to ever be convicted. In 2009, he was arrested for decapitating four men in the Mexican state of Morelos and hanging their bodies from a bridge. During the trial, it came out that Lugo had made his first kill at the age of 11 and was under contract with a notorious gang to carry out hits for $200 per month. At the time of his arrest, his phone carried photographs of his presumed victims suffering extreme torture.
Lugo was held morally inculpable for his actions due to his age and upbringing. At an age when most of us are still in elementary school, he’d been stuffed full of drugs, threatened with murder, and told to commit violent acts or be killed himself. Still, he served three years. It’s a terrifying indictment of the Mexican drug war, one made even worse when you consider that plenty more like Lugo remain out there.
6 Oldest Killer
When we’re nearing the big one-oh-oh, most of us probably like to think we’ll be relaxing down in Florida, making the most of the sun before mortality catches up with us. Not Laura Lundquist. In 2009, the 98-year-old became America’s oldest known killer when she strangled her 100-year-old roommate.
The facts surrounding the case are slightly murky even now, but it appears that Lundquist suffered from dementia and wanted the room all to herself. After years of allegedly taunting her roommate and threatening to kill her, the nonagenarian finally tied a plastic bag around her roommate’s head and did away with her in the middle of the night.
However, the care home that housed the two of them insists that the two were best friends who used to say “I love you” every night before bed. The murder may have been less due to animosity as to mental problems.
5 World’s Most Successful Dictator
A couple of years ago, a UCLA analyst embarked on a controversial project. Looking at short-term economic trends and their relation to democracy, he created a list of 13 dictators who substantially boosted their country’s wealth over a startlingly short period of time. Although hideous despots like General Franco and António de Oliveira Salazar scored highly, one tyrant’s achievements stood head and shoulders above all others.
King Idris, the first and only king in Libya’s history, ruled between 1951 and 1969, until citizens tired of being ruled by a ruthless madman and propelled Colonel Gadhafi to power instead. During his reign, corruption ran rampant and national humiliations were rife. However, he the GDP per capita multiplied a gigantic 9.78 times. This exceeded Park Chung Hee’s much-vaunted economic miracle or Augusto Pinochet’s violent transformation of Chile. In other words, he was history’s most successful dictator, provided you don’t count human rights abuses as failures.
4 First Holocaust Victim
The Holocaust saw the deaths of six million Jews and millions of others that the Nazis declared enemies of the state. With such an enormous death toll, it should be impossible to pinpoint a “first” victim. But according to the historian Timothy W. Ryback, we may well know who it was: a long-forgotten Jewish man known as Arthur Kahn.
At 5 pm on April 12th, 1933, Kahn was the first of four Jews to be executed at a Nazi camp. The others, who died seconds later, were Ernst Goldmann, Rudolf Benario, and Erwin Kahn. They were killed just outside the tiny village of Prittlbach, better known by its more famous name: Dachau.
Although Nazi goons had undoubtedly beaten to death, shot, or otherwise murdered Jewish Germans before, Ryback argues that Kahn’s execution started the formal genocidal process—a process he frames as “intentionality, chain-of-command, selection, execution.” That it happened at the site of one of the most notorious death camps only makes it all the more sickeningly apt.
3 First Person Convicted of Genocide
Before 1994, Jean-Paul Akayesu was a nobody. As mayor of the sleepy town of Taba, his most-significant achievement should have been opening a local mall or judging a line-dancing contest. But Rwanda in the mid-90s was no ordinary place. Ethnic tensions that had been simmering for years were on the verge of boiling over into violence. When they did, this tiny town would become ground zero for some of the worst atrocities in human memory.
In the first weeks of the Rwandan genocide, Akayesu played the hero, declaring his town a safe zone and keeping the violence at bay. Sadly for those who believed him, the act didn’t last. On April 18th, 1994, Akayesu donned a military jacket, called a meeting, and declared war on his Tutsi neighbors. On his orders, local militiamen went from house to house, torturing and murdering children and raping women. In the aftermath of the massacre, he was indicted by the International Criminal Court. On September 5, 1998, he became the first person in history to be convicted of genocide.
2 The Youngest Dictator
Although they have a tendency to pass down family lines, genuine dictatorships differ from absolute monarchies in that they rarely appoint a kid to the “throne.” Even baby-faced Kim Jong-Un was in his late twenties when chosen for succession. But when Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier died in 1971, his son Jean-Claude (“Bébé Doc”) quickly seized control of the country. He was still a teenager.
To put that in perspective, even Justin Beiber is technically more mature than 19-year-old “Baby” was when he took over an entire nation. Unfortunately for his people, his age and inexperience didn’t translate to a relaxing of the Papa Doc-era abuses. If anything, it made them worse. Amnesty International currently accuses him of thousands of instances of torture, forced disappearances, and unlawful executions during his reign, not to mention appropriately huge levels of embezzlement.
He was such an atrocious president that ordinary Haitians eventually rebelled and threw him out in 1986, leaving him to flee to France with most of the country’s treasury in a suitcase. He’s currently back in Haiti, on trial for human rights abuses.
1 History’s Deadliest Suicide
In an era of suicide attacks and school shootings that end with murderers killing themselves, it’s not uncommon for us to read about suicides that feature large body counts. But even bombers only rarely reach the total number of people killed by Gamil el-Batouty. As a pilot for EgyptAir in 1999, he has the crappy distinction of taking more people with him than any other non-terrorist in history.
In 1999, Gamil was a man disgraced. Although nearly 60, he had a voracious sexual appetite that manifested itself by him sexually harassing female employees, exposing himself to teenagers, and stalking random women. Understandably, the airline was fed up with his shenanigans and was making moves to fire him. Unfortunately, they told him this while he was still in charge of a plane.
Although details are sketchy, it’s now thought that Gamil reacted to the news by deliberately crashing into the ocean. All 217 people on board died when he placed the plane into a nosedive and cut the fuel. This was a larger body count than either the London Underground or Madrid Train bombings. Despite theories abounding, no evidence has ever been uncovered to suggest Gamil was a terrorist, or anything but a petulant, unhappy man. If this is true, then his impulsive suicide was likely the deadliest by an ordinary person in all of history.