Sometimes, truth is scarier than fiction. Stories often tell about enigmatic and evil people whose terrifying deeds inspire spooky legends. In other words, every place around the world has its share of real life scary stories, and there are so many to choose from.
Jack the Ripper (England)
To begin, few real life scary tales are as well-known as Jack the Ripper. Jack was an enigmatic serial killer who was notorious for slaughtering several London prostitutes in 1888. Jack’s murders were carried out in Whitechapel, but his identity is a mystery and he was never brought to justice for his crimes. Nevertheless, Jack’s evil acts have been so impactful that he has taken a seat at the table in popular culture.
Elizabeth Báthory (Hungary)
Vlad the Impaler may have been the inspiration for Count Dracula, but the terrifying legend presumably stems from the Hungarian countess known as Elizabeth Báthory. Widely regarded as one of the most evil women in history, Báthory, also known as the Blood Countess, was notorious for allegedly torturing and killing hundreds of girls and women (usually servant girls) between 1590 and 1610. Stories say she even bathed in and drank their blood to keep herself young. Báthory was found guilty and sentenced to house arrest in her castle. But the legend of Dracula would never have become a horror benchmark without this villainess.
Delphine LaLaurie (Louisiana, USA)
New Orleans has plenty of scary stories, but the tale of Delphine LaLaurie is one of the most famous. In 1834, a fire broke out in this socialite’s mansion and the firefighters discovered a terrible sight: LaLaurie had imprisoned many of her slaves in her attic. An angry mob stormed the house, but LaLaurie and her husband escaped. LaLaurie has left such an impact that she inspired the character of the same name in American Horror Story: Coven.
Elizabeth Derby (Massachusetts, USA)
Salem is famous for its 1692-1693 witch trials, but it’s also steeped with spooky ghost stories. Among them is the Princess of Salem, Elizabeth Derby. Also known as the Lady in Black, this spoiled heiress lived in a mansion in Salem. When she didn’t get what she wanted, Elizabeth would have violent temper tantrums and take her anger out on her servants. She inspired so much hatred that when she passed away, no tears were shed and only the town minister mourned her. Nowadays, Derby’s outbursts continue to frighten Salem’s residents.
We often tell these scary stories not only to thrill our public, but also as a reminder that we should learn about these people to ensure their terrible acts never happen again. In fact, people like Elizabeth Báthory have left such an impact that they inspire villains in my stories. Whether fact or fiction, these people will continue to haunt us for generations to come.