5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In

Warning: The stuff you're about to read is really scary. Not ghosts-and-skeletons scary -- though, come to think of it, ghosts and bones do figure into these stories. Real scary. Things that really happened to normal people. Seriously, school never went over this stuff because your teachers liked their jobs.

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5
Tricked Into Shooting A Stranger


Christmas of 1946 was not fun for Pearl Lusk. The department store where she'd been working fired her, which made her desperate for money, and her landlady had barred her from phone calls, which made her desperate for companionship. So when a man approached her on the subway -- a man she'd earlier rejected, who called himself Allen La Rue -- she broke from her usual routine and agreed to have a drink with him. It seemed this turned out to be a good idea: La Rue offered her a job, because he was a private detective and needed her help photographing a suspect.

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Olga Rocco, said La Rue, had been stealing jewels and hiding them under her dress. Pearl's job would be to approach Olga with a special X-ray camera and take pictures that would look under her clothes and reveal the goods ("Remember to aim it low, at her waist," La Rue advised her). Now, even if La Rue was telling the absolute truth here, he was asking Peal to sneak photos that would zoom at a woman's crotch through her clothes, which doesn't sound quite above board. But after a few trial missions for La Rue, trailing Olga and then taking a preliminary shot that didn't come out right, Pearl felt ready to go forward.

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D-Day was New Year's Eve. La Rue handed her a new and improved camera that was extra bulky and for maximum stealth was mostly covered in wrapping paper. Pearl caught up with Olga at a Times Square subway station and, as instructed, pointed the contraption at her target and pulled an attached wire. An explosive shot rang out. "Someone fired at this woman at the exact moment I took her photo!" thought Pearl, but when police tore the holiday wrapping paper off her "camera," they revealed the truth: It was a sawn-off shotgun. As for Olga, alive but bleeding, she said, "Well, he got me this time."

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See, we've been following this from Pearl's point of view so far, since that's the weirdest, but if you really want a scary story, you need to see it from Olga's. La Rue, whose real name was Alphonse Rocco, was her husband of 18 months. She'd left him the previous April. Then this past October, he kidnapped her at knifepoint and kept her in a cabin for two days -- then returned to the city, got a gun, and kept her in the cabin for five more. Later, staying with her parents, Olga was shot in the leg. She couldn't prove it, but she assumed Alphonse fired on her from outside.

Olga repeatedly went to the police, who didn't act on her reports. The very day before Pearl shot her, she visited the police again, who now agreed to send officers to guard her, yet none did. She survived the shooting. But by the next day, doctors had amputated her leg, six inches above the knee.

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Police did now chase Alphonse down, and they caught him robbing farmers in the mountains. He fired on them, and they returned fire, killing him. Pearl went on trial, where the jury considered her a victim in all this and found her not guilty. Olga also tried to put the city on trial for failing to protect her, but while they said maybe they would have been at fault had Rocco shot her himself, there was no way they could have predicted what actually happened, so she got nothing. She and Pearl did end up friends, though. And Olga got a job ... selling jewelry

4
The Reality Show That Turned Into A Prison


Turkey had an official version of the show Big Brother in 2016. In 2009, however, Turkey did not have its own edition of Big Brother. So if you were living in Turkey at the time, and a producer invited you to come live in a house for a "Big Brother-style reality show," it would be a good idea to research the proposed show thoroughly before agreeing to join. 

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - a house at night with shadowed trees
Jan Jakub Nanista/Unsplash
So far today, the lesson is anyone who approaches you with any kind of offer is a criminal.
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Like the international versions of Big Brother, this show (which we'll call We Are At Home, which is either its official name or just its website's sexy tagline) put a bunch of contestants in a house, promising big money for the winner. Unlike Big Brother, We Are At Home made contestants sign contracts saying that if they left within the first two months, they'd have to pay $30,000. Not merely forfeit a potential prize -- pay a fine out of their own pockets. We do not know if such an agreement is legally enforceable, as our imaginary Turkish lawyer is not currently answering our calls. 

But according to not-imaginary Turkish lawyer Hilmi Tufan Cakir, who ended up representing We Are At Home when the whole thing went bust, it was a legitimate show, even if it was just videos broadcast on the web instead of a TV program like the women thought. Viewers could go to the website and vote on their favorite resident. The site emphatically proclaimed that all the women were over 18 ("I am 16," said one of the contestants in her video), and users could send their favorite competitor gifts like pink underwear and chocolates. In that last part, it was much like hit reality show The Hunger Games, except they were only "virtual gifts" in this case, so the contestants didn't actually receive anything. 

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - a laptop surrounded by documents
Dylan Gillis/Unsplash
This was arguably as evil as a company selling "awards" on Reddit.
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In time, the contestants got sick of the house and tried to leave, but guards stopped them. They didn't even have the option of leaving and then suffering the $30,000 bill -- they were just imprisoned. Eight of the nine contestants claim to have been forcibly held against their will, admitted lawyer Cakir. Then the parents of one contestant asked the authorities for help, and military police had to storm the Istanbul villa to free those inside. News sources, answering a question sure to be on everyone's mind, report that the contestants were not during their imprisonment sexually abused. (Unless you count being filmed 24/7 and having your captors sell your nudes as sexual abuse, of course.)

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3
Stuck In An Aware Coma For Nine Years


Weird things happen to you in a coma. Maybe you will spend all that time in a crazy dream world, engaged in strange adventures created by your subconscious. Maybe you'll retain some limited awareness of your surroundings, so your mind will merge those imagined scenes with actual input from the world around you. But in the most terrifying version of a coma, you will retain full awareness of your surroundings. And yet you will have zero control over your muscles so will have no way of responding to anything. 

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - the painting of
Henry Fuseli 
Artist's impression
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This variant of the coma is known as total locked-in syndrome (named after its discoverer, Dr. Aloysius Total Locked-In). Martin Pistorius spent years in one of these. It began, not with a dramatic thunk on the head but with a slowly advancing and unidentifiable disease. When he was 12, in 1988, Martin started sleeping longer and longer, suffered memory loss, and lost control of his limbs. Doctors wondered if he had some kind of meningitis, but they never figured out what was wrong with him, and he slipped into total unconsciousness. When he was 14, they transferred to him to what's known in South Africa as a care center, keeping him alive but offering no treatment. Then when he was 16, he woke up -- at least, he regained awareness. But he was still totally unable to communicate or even move.

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He stayed in the care center year after year, learning about the world only through the TV that played nearby. But this TV provided far more torture than entertainment because his strongest memory during these years was repeated reruns of Barney & Friends. Many people today reminisce about the things they like from the '90s, but those feelings of love are pale next to the hate that everyone above the age of five felt for Barney & Friends. The mild annoyance that we merely call hatred toward Baby Yoda or Baby Shark or whatever is nothing compared to Barney. And yet while anti-Barney sentiment in most cases united people in a positive way (murder-themed Barney song parodies were most children's first experience with subversive humor), Martin was forced to suffer totally alone and totally defenseless. 

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - Barney The Dinosaur
PBS
Experts credit anti-Barney antiauthoritarianism for saving innumerable potential victims of child abductors.  
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Looking back, Martin Pistorius credits his hatred for the show, and for its closing "I Love You" song in particular, for giving him the strength to retake control of his body. It started with jerking his head and twitching his fingers, and the care house got an aromatherapy expert (seriously) to interpret his movements. He worked his way up to communicating using a computer, then he got out of the hospital, got a job, and got married. And then he trained himself to use a shotgun and murdered Barney the Dinosaur. Not the performer who put on the costume -- the actual dinosaur. Proof? You haven't heard anything from Barney lately, have you?

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2
Shark Island Concentration Camp


Okay, the very name "Shark Island concentration camp" sounds like someone's idea of a joke, probably the same person who came up with the first murder-themed Barney song parody. You can picture an offshoot of Cards Against Humanity where you're prompted to make "Shark Island" even worse and one player extends it to "Shark Island concentration camp," or maybe Rick convinces Morty to go to some unattractive destination because the only alternative is "Shark Island concentration camp." But no, Shark Island concentration camp was a real place. And it came to us courtesy of the very last people you'd expect: the Germans.

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - a pretzel on a plate
Anton Maienfeldt
Not Germany, the country of pretzels and laughter!
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If you thought concentration camps were something Germany only turned to because of one specific man's bad ideas about humanity and facial hair, or because life was simply unbearable for the average German after World War I, well, you need to turn your eyes back toward one of the previous genocides Germany waged, back at the start of the 20th century. We're talking about the forgotten Herero and Namaqua genocide in Namibia. The Germans killed thousands of Herero people to advance their "racial struggle," shooting the men and driving the women and children into the desert to die of thirst. By late 1904, it was time to round up all who remained and send them to places like Shark Island concentration camp. 

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Shark Island was about 100 acres sitting a little off Namibia's coast. Eighty percent of prisoners who came there died there. Some starved or died of thirst, like their family members who'd died in the desert. Some died of exposure in the cold. Some were worked to death in forced labor camps. Not too many were killed by sharks, since not too many of them ventured into the water. But if you're wondering how many of them were eaten by sharks, after dying, that number rises from zero to "almost all of them." That's what happened to all the bodies: Every day, guards would wait for low tide, bury them in the shallow sand, then let the water come back in and bring the sharks in to feed

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - a shark swimming past a school of fish
Terry Goss
This photo of a shark is a lot less horrifying than the photos on the island's actual Wikipedia page.
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You'll also see in Shark Island some of the seeds of later Nazi activities like involuntary experimentation. Sometimes, prisoners would be forced to boil the heads of their dead family members to prepare them for analysis or would have to present themselves to be injected with arsenic by doctors -- doctors that included Eugen Fischer (with a name like that, you almost can't blame him for becoming a eugenicist) and Dr. Bofinger (with a name like that, you almost can't blame him for becoming a Bond villain). 

But for what it's worth, when all was done, those in charge took steps to make sure Shark Island concentration camp could never be reopened. They did this by connecting it to the mainland. Technically, if anyone tried the same thing again, it would be Shark Peninsula concentration camp.

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1
The Ghost In The Walls


Annie Andrews went for ice cream with a guy, they didn't hit it off, and she cut it short. That should have been the end of the story, and we shouldn't have to say anything more about it. But since it wasn't the end of the story, let's also mention that they began by talking on the phone, he said he was the captain of his high school football team, then they met in person, and she saw he hadn't been exactly honest about himself. Also, let's mention that during their brief time together, the two teens discussed that Annie's mother had recently died.

5 Real Horror Stories Ordinary People Got Trapped In - two bowls of ice cream
Kawai So/Unsplash
No, it does not turn out that the boy murdered her mother. But other than that, prepare for anything.
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Annie forgot about the date, then in the days that followed, things at home got weird. Knocking sounds came from within the walls. Messages appeared on the wall, in what looked like blood. For a while, Annie and her sister Jessica thought it was their dead mother communicating with them, but as the messages became not particularly maternal -- Marry me, said one message -- they figured it had to be someone else. They also swore they heard more knocks in the walls (always when they were home alone), and things moved around. Their father Brian tried to be patient with them, but when he called the police and they found nothing, and the "bloody" messages turned out to clearly be ketchup, he concluded the girls were doing it all themselves, and he sent them for counseling. 

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Then came December 8, 1986. Once again, Annie and Jessica told their father someone had been knocking in the walls and leaving them messages, but this time, they were phoning him from a neighbor's, too scared to stay in the house themselves. Once again, the dad came home prepared to find nothing. But this time, it seemed like someone had been messing the place up since after the girls had left. A message on the wall said to go to Annie's room. And when he went there, he found a 15-year-old boy wielding a hatchet. He had painted his face and had dressed himself as the girls' dead mother

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It was the boy Annie dated that one time, Danny LaPlante. For two months, he had been living in a crawlspace in the family's home. He'd watched the family through vents and made sure only to make noise when Brian was out, and he'd keep tabs on the others too so he could steal food and write on the walls undetected. Danny LaPlante was sentenced to a juvenile facility but was released on bond while awaiting being tried as an adult. Then, still 17, Danny broke into a pregnant nursery school teacher's home, raped and murdered her, and killed her two kids, ages seven and five. And a few years ago, LaPlante applied for early parole. His application was rejected.

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see. 

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