Top 10 Types Of Roman Gladiators

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Top 10 Types Of Roman Gladiators


Tales of gladiatorial combat have enthralled for thousands of years. From books and paintings to films and television shows, the image of a gladiator with a sword and shield fighting for their life has intrigued and inspired many. However, as the fighting became more popular, the crowd wanted more. Gladiator battles became diverse, and a sword and shield were not quite enough. Here are ten different types of fighters specializing in a diverse array of weapons and novelties.




Unlike other gladiators, the bestiarii were combatants who fought animals and not humans. Roman emperors and senators used exotic and powerful animals (for example lions, tigers, elephants, and bears) imported from Africa or Asia to show off their wealth, and put on a spectacle for the crowds at the Colosseum and amphitheaters. Some animals such as elephants were captured to shock and entertain the crowds with creatures they would not have seen before. Other animals were there to hunt and be hunted.

There were two main types of bestiarii: the “damnatio ad bestias” (damned to the beast) and the “venatio” (hunter). The damnatio were those sentenced to death, thrown into the ring for a humiliating and vicious exit to the after-life. Not considered gladiators—they were the lowest class of people in ancient Rome—their death was to entertain the crowd and a single beast could kill hundreds at a time.

The venatio trained and hunted animals for the crowd as part of their performance. There are very few known venatio that have been recorded by historians and chroniclers because they were looked down on compared to other gladiators. The most famous example is Carpophorus who is said to have killed over 20 animals with his bare hands at the Circus Maximus. Also, rather befitting of the time, he trained animals to kill, hunt, and even rape victims.

Several emperors showed off their skill at killing animals as a bestiarii, although, rather than impress the crowds, it actually damaged their popularity. Nero fought animals at the Arena, whilst Commodus heroically fought injured and immobile animals from a safe, raised platform, much to the disgust of the senate.



The noxii were the lowest of the low in Roman society. By far the lowest class of civilians, they were those deemed so offensive to Roman society that they were not even classed as people. These types of people included (in no particular order) Christians, Jews, those who deserted the army, murderers, and traitors. They were not selected for gladiator school, and their appearance in the arenas was purely to die in the goriest way possible as punishment for their crimes.

There were several ways that the noxii could die. One was as part of a bestiarii conflict with beasts, where they would be ripped apart by the animals. Another would have the fighters blindfolded and given instructions by the crowd, like a sadistic blind man’s bluff. Others would be thrown to actual gladiators to be hunted down. Often naked or possibly wearing a loin cloth, the noxii had no armor, and any weapon would be a simple gladius (short sword) or stick.

The Romans took delight in killing the noxii. It served as a reminder to the civilians of the rule of law and order, and also of their place in the social hierarchy.




Which is better, speed or power? Death by a thousand cuts or one thrust? In the Roman times, the answer was definitely the more power and armor, the better. This is why the retiarius was initially looked down upon as a lower type of gladiator; they had very little armor and had to fight using agility, speed, and cunning. To make up for it though, they had a net to ensnare, a trident that was used to jab and move, and as a last resort, a small dagger that, on some occasions, was four-pronged.

The retiarius would train in a different barrack to the “sword and shield” gladiators and often had worse conditions. They were seen as feminine to others and were mocked. The satirist and poet Juvenal told the story of the minor aristocrat Gracchus, who not only caused disgrace by becoming a gladiator, but he brought further shame to society by fighting as a retiarius.

Despite this, they did gain some favor over the centuries, and became a mainstay in the arena, complementing the different styles of the armed secutores, murmillos, and scissores (a gladiator with a sword that has two blades).



Remember the classic arcade game Donkey Kong? If not, in every level of Donkey Kong the character Mario would have to scale buildings to confront the villainous Kong. Now replace Donkey Kong with a retiarius. Mario would be a secutor whose job it was to chase and defeat the retiarius. A secutor was dressed in heavy armor: he had a large shield, sword, and a round helmet that covered his whole face except for two tiny eye holes. They were developed as a counterpart to the increasingly popular retiarius (net throwers) in a clash of styles.

A typical contest between a secutor and retiarius would begin with the retiarius a safe distance away—in some cases on a raised platform above water—with a stockpile of rocks ready to throw. A secutor (meaning chaser in Latin) would pursue the retiarius and try to avoid being captured in the net or hit by the rocks. They would also have to avoid the retiarius’s trident which was used to keep the secutor far away. The secutor had the advantage of being heavily armed but would also tire easily under the weight of his armor. It led to a gripping contest.

The Emperor Commodus fought as a secutor during the games, and heavily weighted the odds in his favor to ensure that he would win his contests. Another famous secutor was Flamma, a Syrian fighter who fought wearing an outfit from the territory of Gaul. He fought 34 times with a win/draw/loss record of 21-9-4. Amazingly, he was offered his freedom four times and refused each opportunity.



Despite sharing some similarities, the equites gladiators should not be confused with the Roman cavalrymen of the same name. The Roman cavalrymen were often minor aristocrats, holding trusted positions in the senate, and could even become emperor. The gladiatorial equites were glorified showmen.

Because the potential of death was not enough, the Colosseum would generally start with an equites bout to liven the crowd up due to the displays of agility and speed that they showed. Beginning on horseback, they would attack each other with their lances, and then dismount to fight with a short sword and shield. They wore light armor to improve their nimbleness and athleticism.




As we now know, many of the contests pitched different types of gladiators against each other. A provocator, however, would only fight other provocators. The reason for this is because they challenged each other to fight, rather than have the match selected for them. They would fight tosettle feuds between rival gladiator schools, for the sheer competition of it, or to enhance their own status by beating a well-regarded rival. To reflect the equality, each provocator was armed in the legionnaire (Roman soldier) style with large rectangular shields, a breastplate, and helmet. The heavy armor meant that they tired quickly and it was difficult to injure them.



The debate about whether females should take part in combat sports is not new. Thousands of years ago, philosophers, historians, and senators such as Cassius Dio and Juvenal discussed the merits of females taking part in combat at the Colosseum. A gladiatrix would wear very little armor, be bare chested, and in many cases, not even wear a helmet in order to show off her gender. Armed with a short sword and possibly a shield, these fights werevery infrequent and seen as a novelty. As well as fighting each other, to increase the indignation, they also caused shock and outrage by fighting dwarfs.

In a rather extreme case of the aristocrat throwing off her corset and slumming it with the manual workers, many gladiatrices came from a higher status in society, a contrast to the low-born or slave gladiators. Their appearance caused such scandal that they were eventually banned in A.D. 200.

3Gallus / Murmillo


The Gallus were some of the earliest gladiators that came from the Gaul tribe of central and western Europe. They began fighting after being captured as prisoners of war. Heavily armed, they looked like the stereotypical gladiatorwith a longsword, shield, and a helmet, but they wore the traditional Gaul style of dress. Less agile than other types of gladiator, the Gallus relied on power and brute force to attack their opponents. They often fought prisoners from rival tribes.

Once the Gauls made peace and became part of the Roman Empire, it was seen as distasteful to force an ally to fight for their entertainment, so they adapted into another type of gladiator called the murmillo. Still using the heavy sword and shield, the murmillo dressed closer to a Roman soldier and fought other murmillones, gladiators from rival regions, and the net throwing Retiarii.

A famous murmillo was Marcus Attilius, who, in his maiden fight, managed to beat a gladiator from Nero’s own troops, Hilarus (who had a 12-2 win/loss record). Attilius then followed it up with a victory over the 13-0 Lucius Felix. Not bad for a rookie.



The Samnite were another of the early gladiators, and they share many similarities with the Gallus. They were also originally prisoners of war but hailed from the Samnium region of southern Italy. When the Roman’s conquered, they forced the Samnites into staging mock ceremonial battles. Popular, this eventually evolved into gladiator contests where the Samnite would wear their traditional military outfit with a large rectangular shield and sword.

They fought other soldiers who had been captured from tribes that were feuding with Rome. Forced to compete in their respective military styles, this offered a unique chance to see rival clans battle. Eventually, they fought opponents that were dressed as Roman legionnaires to depict Rome’s triumph over the tribes (which hopefully the Roman’s would win or else it would have been pretty embarrassing).

When Samnium became absorbed as a province of Rome, they no longer fought as a distinct category but developed into the hoplomanchus or murmillo gladiators, who had similar weapons and dress.



The most popular and well-known gladiator is Spartacus (other than Russell Crowe maybe). Spartacus was a prisoner of war from the Thracian tribe of southeastern Europe (around modern-day Bulgaria). He rebelled against his enslavers who had trained him as a gladiator and forced him into combat. After leading his fellow slaves and amassing an army of over 70,000 rebels through several battles with the Romans, he was eventually defeated although his legend lives on today.

Sporting a round shield, curved blade, and a broad helmet with a griffin emblem, the Thracians were arguably the most popular and common of the early gladiators. They would frequently fight the Gallus and Samnites.

In the same way we support sports teams, emperors and senators had their own favorite types of gladiators. Caligula, in particular, supported the Thracians and even killed another gladiator who had defeated his favorite Thracian warrior. Caligula trained to fight as a Thracian when he fought at the Colosseum, and this allowed any close decisions to swing favorably to the Thracians. Another emperor Domitian had such contempt for Thracians that he once threw a spectator to the dogs. The spectator’s crime—he suggested a Thracian may win a fight.

Top 10 Insights Into The Mysteries Of The Aztec City Of The Gods

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Top 10 Insights Into The Mysteries Of The Aztec City Of The Gods


Teotihuacan, at its prime, was one of the largest cities on earth, filled with massive pyramids that rivaled the wonders of the Egyptian pharaohs—and everything about it is a mystery today. Little to nothing was written down to tell the story of Teotihuacan, but little hints in the ruins left behind have uncovered some of its past.


10Nobody Knows Who Built It


Photo credit: Wikimedia

When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in America and saw Teotihuacan for the first time, the Aztecs were living there. They had moved their people in and taken it as a part of their empire—but they didn’t build it. It had stood for 1,000 years before the Aztecs and 500 years before the Maya ever came to Mexico.

Nobody knows who built it. A group called the Toltects tried to take credit, but the city had been in Mexico for longer than they had, as well. Some of the archaeology, though, has left behind a few little hints of where it came from.

The city was started in 400 BC, built around a cave carved into the earth by a flow of lava. The people who found that cave seemed to have believed it was a holy spot. They set up a temple on top of it. Gradually, it seems, little settlements were built around it, added by pilgrims who came out to see the holy cave.

9A Volcano Made It A Metropolis


Photo credit: Matthew T. Bradley

That small settlement, in time, became a religious landmark—and it’s believed that it took the death of thousands to make that happen.

Around the time Teotihuacan started to boom into a city, a volcano in Cuicuilco erupted. A huge settlement of people there was wiped out, and the scattered survivors fled out into the wilderness in search of a new home. Soon, they made their way to Teotihuacan.

Their lives, though, had changed. They’d now seen the power of the natural world and the destruction it could wreak on ordinary lives. Their lives, like never before, were focused on the gods. Their new home, Teotihuacan, became more than just a city. It was a desperate shelter against the powers of nature, built to earn the protection of the gods.

The pyramids, historian Esther Pasztory believes, were built to imitate the volcano that had destroyed their home. It was meant to show the people that priests had the powers of the gods and that they could keep them safe. And it may have been the start of a new order of religious devotion across the whole country.

The refugees in Teotihuacan, once they’d settled in, would make treks back to their old home in Cuicuilco. There, they left behind stone figures built in their new city in tribute to the place their ancestors called home.


8They Performed Human Sacrifices


Photo credit: Wolfgang Sauber

The gods of Teotihuacan craved blood. They weren’t all the same gods as those of the Aztecs or the Mayas, and there’s a lot we don’t know about them—but it’s clear that they believed that their gods demanded human sacrifices.

In the tunnel under the Pyramid of the Sun, four burial sites filled with human sacrifices have been found, made when the pyramid was built. They aren’t all adults. Three of the burial sites left behind have the remains of dead childrenwho had been sacrificed to appease the gods.

It’s believed that a new set of bloody and brutal sacrifices were given to the gods as each new layer of the pyramids was built. This wasn’t only at the Pyramid of the Sun. Under the Pyramid of the Moon, they buried a whole array of wild animals, along with 12 human corpses—10 of which are missing their heads.

7The Rituals Of The Pyramid Of The Sun


Photo credit: Wikimedia

They may have done horrible things to create them, but those pyramids were architectural wonders. They were two of the largest buildings in the world. Even today, the Pyramid of the Sun is still the third-largest pyramid in the world.

It was built over the sacred cave that started the city, the place they believed the Sun was born. At the time, there was an altar place on the top for rituals, although we can only guess what those rituals were. Perhaps they simply prayed—or perhaps, like the Aztecs who followed them, their priests went there to carve hearts of human sacrifices.

They left behind jade masks, found only the homes of the Teotihuacan elite. When they held these ceremonies, it seems, the most powerful men in the city would join the priests at the Pyramid of the Sun, their faces completed obscured under a sheet of green jade.

6It Was The Largest City In The Western World


Photo credit: Wikimedia

By 100 BC, Teotihuacan went from being a temple surrounded by a few domiciles to being the biggest city in the Western world. By some estimates, there were 200,000 people living in Teotihuacan at its peak. No city would match its size until the 1400s, more than 1,000 years after it reached its zenith.

It’s believed that the city was so massive because it was a religious epicenter of the whole area. Every part of the city was built on religious principles. It was laid out in a rectangular grid, patterned to follow the movements of the Sun. A massive road ran through it, called the Street of the Dead, directing people to the great pyramids in the center of the city.

The city boomed after those pyramids were built. People from every corner of the land came to live there, and for more than 700 years, it was the biggest city in its people’s known world.



5It Was A Multicultural City


Photo credit: Wikimedia

The Aztecs didn’t know who lived in Teotihuacan in its prime. They had no idea who the people were that created this massive, amazing city. As it turns out, though, they might not have any one group of people. Teotihuacan seems to have been a multicultural city, almost like an ancient New York.

Each part of the city seems to have been divided up into cultural areas, sort of like the Chinatowns and Little Italys we find in modern cities. There were districts full of Mayans, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs, each with its own unique temples and their own unique relics.

That doesn’t mean, though, that everyone was equal. The city was designed to keep commoners in their own slums. There, they were allowed to set up temples and carry on rituals to their own gods. But they were kept from the center of the town, where the elites, covering in jewelry and jade, held ceremonies atop the great Pyramids.

4They May Have Commanded Power By Force


Photo credit: Wolfgang Sauber

Teotihuacan had massive power over the people around them. Products made by the people there were traded all around the country, and their beliefs seem to have completely reshaped the religions of Mesoamerica.

It’s not entirely clear how the people of Teotihuacan commanded such power over the nations around them. The people may have simply been in awe of their incredible projects—or they may have been forced at the point of a sword.

Murals across Teotihuacan depict the warriors that once guarded the city, their eyes protected by shell goggles, their heads adorned with feather headdresses, and dart throwers held in their hands. There’s reason to believe these warriors were put to use to keep the people in line.

The city held the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, a massive pyramid dedicated to the celebration of war. It is covered in sculptures of feather serpents representing their god of war. When it was completed, 200 people were sacrificed, their hands tied behind their backs and buried in pits beside the building. The victims aren’t local—they’re people from other cities, defeated, captured, killed, and buried under the Teotihuacan shrine to war.

3Secret Tunnels Under The City


Photo credit: Sigvald Linne

Underneath the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, the people of Teotihuacan built long, deep tunnels that lead to the main courtyard. These were secret places used for mysterious purposes, sealed for thousands of years before they were discovered.

A sinkhole at the foot of the Temple of the Plumed Serpent revealed the one there. It ran 330 feet from the temple to the courtyard, taking anyone who entered through a massive cross-shaped chamber.

These tunnels weren’t just used to move around. They seem to have been places where sacrifices were made to the gods. Inside the cross-shaped chamber, there are offering left behind: elaborate necklaces, figurines, pottery—and human skin.

For reasons unknown, the way into these passageways was forcibly sealed with massive boulders 1,800 years ago. Somebody wanted the way into the passageways closed, and they wanted to make sure no one ever stepped inside again.

2The Fall Of Teotihuacan


Photo credit: Wikimedia

By the time the Aztecs had come to Mesoamerica and found Teotihuacan, the city was in ruins. They had no idea what had happened, how such a massive city could have collapsed—and, today, we only have our best guesses.

The most popular theory, is that there was a violent uprising. Around 750, the commoners who had been forced to live on the outskirts of town turned against the elite.

A massive drought hit the area around the time, and it’s likely that the poor were left starving in its wake. They stormed the center of the city, burning it to the ground. The massive government buildings that belonged to the elite were targeted, and their artwork and sculptures were destroyed.

When the city fell, the people left. They separated and formed new communities, commemorating their new towns with human sacrifices. In one case, 150 people were slaughtered to consecrate a new land. Then, in short time, the people who had once lived together turned against each other and a new era of war and chaos began.

1The Aztecs Copied Their Religion


Photo credit: Wikimedia

For nearly 600 years, the city laid in ruins. The, in the 1300s, the Aztecs moved in. They may have stumbled upon by chance, finding, lost in the jungle, massive buildings that towered higher than anything they had ever seen in their lives, in the center of a city unlike any they’d ever known.

The Aztecs, unable to imagine mere mortals making something like Teotihuacan, assumed that it was a city of the gods. This, they believed, was the place where the gods sacrificed themselves so that they could be reborn. And this was the place where they created the world.

It’s believed that the Aztecs took their religion from the beliefs left behind in Teotihuacan. Like the people there, they worshiped the Plumed Serpent, who they called Quetzalcoatl. They copied their pyramids. They followed their habits of human sacrifice. They carried they found in the great city back to their own homes and treated them as sacred relics.

More than 600 years after the last person left Teotihuacan, its influence was still reshaping the world.

MARK OLIVERMark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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Secret Medieval Tomb Reveals Resting Site of Five Lost Archbishops

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Secret Medieval Tomb Reveals Resting Site of Five Lost Archbishops

Yesterday 11:36am

An Archbishop’s gold Mitre rests atop a lead coffin. (Image: Garden Museum)

During renovations at the former site of a medieval church in London, England, construction workers uncovered the entranceway to a hidden crypt. Inside lay 30 lead coffins, including the remains of five former Archbishops of Canterbury. It’s a completely unexpected archaeological finding—showing that even London’s most famous historical sites still have secrets to tell.

The discovery was made at Lambeth Palace’s Garden Museum, the prior home of the Church of St. Mary’s-at-Lambeth. This medieval church was built in the 11th century, and for years was located next to the Archbishop of Canterbury residence (the Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, and the symbolic head of the Anglican Church). Over the centuries, many archbishops worshipped at the church, and as this latest archaeological discovery shows, many of them also chose to be buried there.

The historic church, which was converted into a museum in the 1960s, is currently undergoing an extensive 18-month-long renovation. Given the building’s history and its proximity to the river Thames, the work crews had no reason to believe that anything existed below the structure. It was assumed that the lower levels had been filled with dirt as a precaution against flooding.

This hidden entranceway was found beneath large slabs weighing as much as 3,300 pounds. (Image: Garden Museum)

As part of the renovations, workers had to lift large, heavy flagstones to expose the ground underneath. These stones—some of which weighed as much as 3,300 pounds—were laid down in 1851. The removal of one of these stones revealed a hidden entrance to unknown space directly below. The workers hastily attached a flashlight and a camera to a stick and stuck it in. To their utter astonishment, the footage showed a secret tomb with numerous coffins stacked upon one another. Incredibly, one of these coffins had a gold crown on top of it—a Mitre signifying the buried remains of an archbishop.

Numerous coffins were discovered in the crypt, some stacked on top of each other. (Image: Garden Museum)

Several coffins had nameplates on them—including five coffins that hold the remains of prior Archbishops of Canterbury. Of note is Richard Bancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1604 to 1610. He chaired the committee that wrote the King James Bible, which is considered the most notable and “majestic” English translation of the Bible. The crypt also contains the remains of John Moore, Archbishop from 1783 to 1805 (and his wife Catherine Moore), Frederick Cornwallis (in office 1768-1783), Matthew Hutton (1757-1758), and Thomas Tenison (1695-1715).

The 30 lead coffins have been left undisturbed, so we may never know the identity of the dozens who remain unidentified. Still, the discovery of five “lost” archbishops—including the person who commissioned the King James Bible—at such a highly celebrated and well studied site is nothing short of remarkable; unearthing a secret tomb isn’t something that happens every day.

The builders have constructed a glass panel in the floor above the crypt so visitors can take a look below. The Garden Museum is scheduled to reopen in May.

[Garden Museum]

Top 10 Bizarre Historical Crimes You Haven’t Heard Of

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Top 10 Bizarre Historical Crimes You Haven’t Heard Of


History is full of strange crimes, crazed criminals, and skilled impostors. Listverse has covered many of these odd historical events and personages, from the lesbian nun scandal, to the woman who posed as the Maid of Norway and was burned alive for her efforts, to the mass murderer who claimed to have sodomized more than 1000 men. But here are ten incredibly bizarre historical crimes that very few people have heard of: Welcome to the twisted world of the criminals who have been lost in history.


10The Escaped Convict Who Became a False Princess

Fcrown of queen charlotte

In 1771, a royal maid named Sarah Wilson was sentenced to death for stealing royal jewelry and a tiny portrait of Queen Charlotte, along with one of the Queen’s dresses. Wilson’s mistress stepped in on her behalf, and narrowly escaping execution, Wilson was transported to America on a prison ship and promptly sold to a wealthy plantation owner. Wilson did not take well to slavery and escaped shortly after arriving at her new workplace.

Somehow (nobody can explain this) she was still in possession of the jewels, the dress, and the portrait she had initially stolen. Using these items as proof, Wilson claimed to be Princess Susanna Caroline Matilda, sister to Queen Charlotte. “Princess Susanna” claimed she had been exiled to America after an undisclosed scandal. For two years the false princess lived in luxury, wanting for nothing, as wealthy colonial families (the gentlemen especially) showered her with gifts in the hopes of winning royal favor.

Eventually, the guy she had been sold to figured out who the false princess really was. He offered a reward for her return, and she was promptly marched back to his plantation at gunpoint.

One would think her story would end there, but two years later Wilson swapped identities with another woman and escaped again. She fled northwards and eventually married a British army officer. Wilson was never convicted for being an impostor, and, in 1774, it was remarked in a Rhode Island paper that Sarah Wilson “is the most surprising genius of the female sex that was ever obliged to visit America.’’

9When Margaret ‘’Bill’’ Allen Was in a Funny Mood


In 1906, Margaret Allen was born, the twentieth of twenty-two children. From a young age, Margaret shunned dresses and refused to do “female chores,” preferring to shovel coal and do household repairs. By 1935, Margaret was telling friends that she had been to hospital to have a delicate operation that ‘’turned her from a woman to a man’’ (this is highly unlikely). These days Margaret would be recognized as a transgender person and could seek support, but back then she was considered little more than an oddity. She called herself Bill, wore men’s clothes, and worked as a bus conductor before she was fired for whacking people over the back of the head if they did not find a seat fast enough.

On August 24, 1948, Margaret committed a crime that still baffles many today, as no one can work out exactly what her motivation was. An eccentric elderly neighbor, who allegedly was extremely annoying, knocked on Margaret’s door asking to borrow a cup of sugar. Margaret let the old woman inside, then battered her to death with a coal hammer.

Margaret was eventually arrested and confessed to the murder, saying that on the spur of the moment she grabbed the hammer and hit the old woman with it, more than once. “I was in one of my funny moods,’’ was the only real explanation she could give.

Margaret ‘’Bill’’ Allen was sentenced to death. She was forced to wear a dress when she was executed by hanging on January 12, 1949.


8The Woman Who Wore the Clothes of the Girls Her Husband Murdered

lady in woods

In 1861, Marie Pichon accepted an offer of work from a kindly-seeming man who led her into the woods as darkness fell, then attempted to strangle her. Marie managed to escape, and after a terrifying chase through the woods to a nearby village, she was able to identify Martin Dumollard to authorities by the large swelling over his lip.

Dumollard’s property was searched, and two bodies were found in varying stages of decomposition. Piles of female clothing were found inside the property, many garments containing bloodstains. Mrs. Dumollard had been wearing many of the clothes despite knowing they belonged to murdered women, and the amount of clothing found far exceeded the number of bodies the police were able to uncover.

Dumollard was eventually found guilty of six murders, including a case where a female corpse had been found in the woods near his house in 1855. The woman had been brutally assaulted before death, and her corpse had been subjected to ‘’gross outrage.’’ It was also concluded that one of the victims had been buried alive as she had died with her fingers digging into the soil above her, which is how her corpse was found when she was unearthed. All the dead were women who had been led to Dumollard’s property with the promise of work.

Dumollard was executed by guillotine in 1862. His fate was kinder than that of his father, who had been torn apart by galloping horses as punishment for his part in a plot to kill the King of Austria. Mrs. Dumollard was sentenced to 20 years in prison and hard labor for her complicity in Dumollard’s crimes.

7The Butcher of Berlin


Karl Grossman already had a long criminal history of violence, bestiality, and child molestation by the time he rented a filthy apartment in the slums of Berlin in the 1920s. Neighbors often heard screaming coming from his rooms, but this sort of thing was so common that no one thought to contact police. He had an unusually high amount of female visitors, and the ones that survived later claimed he subjected them to all kinds of sexual violence after they returned to his apartment with the promise of work.

Suspicions were not raised until more than 20 dismembered bodies were discovered in nearby waterways, and police declared they had a serial killer on the loose. Authorities were alerted the next time the screaming started in Grossman’s rooms, and in August 1921 the police busted his door open to find him standing over the bound corpse of a woman he had just killed. Evidence of at least two more murders that happened in only the past few weeks was also found in his apartment. He was suspected of at least 23 murders but hanged himself on July 5, 1922, before he could be executed.

Grossman was given the title “The Butcher of Berlin” as a result of the bizarre rumors surrounding his crimes. He spent much his time in Berlin’s Silesian train station, which is where he picked up many of the women he would take back to his apartment to sexually abuse and murder. Some sources claim that he sold hot dogs to hungry travelers at the station, and that he seemed to have a copious supply of meat, despite the food shortages in Berlin at the time. It has been speculated that the meat he sold to travelers was cut from the women he murdered, many of whom were travelers themselves that he met while plying his wares.

6The Woman Who Helped Her Husband Chop off His Own Leg


In her late teens, a foundling named Martha Lowenstein inherited a wealthy estate from Moritz Fritsch, who had taken her in as his ward (and lover) the year before. The inheritance money was not enough to sustain the extravagant lifestyle of Martha and her new husband Emil Marek, with whom she had been having an affair since before Fritsch had died.

Once the inheritance was gone, the couple became desperate for more money. In an epic attempt at fooling an insurance company out of a large sum of money, the couple tried to cut off Emil’s leg . . . but they could not quite detach it completely. Insurers did not believe the story that Emil had an accident while chopping wood, as doctors found that the almost-severed limb had been hacked three times. The leg had to be amputated and to add insult to injury, the couple were charged with insurance fraud, and Martha was jailed for four months for trying to bribe a nurse during the investigation.

After Martha’s release from prison, people developed the unfortunate habit of dying around her. She was later imprisoned for yet another insurance fraud, and it was then that the son of one of Martha’s deceased lodgerscalled for an investigation. His mother’s body was exhumed, along with the bodies of the now deceased Emil, Martha and Emil’s daughter, and Martha’s aunt. A rare metallic poison called thallium was found in all the corpses. Martha’s son was also found to be dying of thallium poisoning and was rushed to hospital.

Martha insisted she was innocent but was found guilty after a chemist revealed she had regularly purchased thallium at his store. Martha was executed by guillotine on December 6, 1938.


5The Necrophile Who Wanted to Be Handsome


From 1971 to 1972, police had been investigating a series of bizarre crimes in which corpses had been exhumed from their graves and “interfered with.” The five corpses showed evidence of being bitten and gnawed, some had been mutilated and cut, and in the case of the females, it was clear that sexual activity had been attempted.

Then on May 6, 1972, a young couple were shot dead in their car. The corpse of the female showed evidence that the murderer had been trying to drink her blood, and had attempted posthumous sexual activity. Later, another woman was shot, and the same posthumous rituals were carried out on her corpse. Then a mortuary worker was shot when he surprised a man kissing the corpse of a fifteen-year-old girl.

The mortuary worker survived and eventually identified Kuno Hofmann as the man who shot him. Hofmann confessed to the bizarre graveyard crimes and the three more recent murders. The necrophile had to explain his motivations through a translator as he had been abused so severely as a child that he was left deaf and mute. He had spent nine of his 41 years in prison and finally turned to the occult in hopes of finding a better life for himself.

After studying books on Satanism and witchcraft, he had become convinced that by performing certain rituals on the dead, he could become handsome and popular. When exhuming corpses from graves had failed, he decided the bodies must need to be fresh for his rituals to succeed. He turned to murder in the hopes of attaining the elusive handsomeness he dreamed of. His plans failed, however, and Kuno Hofmann was confined to an asylum for life.

4The Preacher Who Ordered Her Followers to Crucify Her


Margaretta Peter was fiercely religious, and she spent three years in her 20s wandering Switzerland preaching the word of God. By age 29 when she settled back down in her family home, she had gathered a small but loyal congregation about her, which included many of her immediate family members.

Soon after she returned home, in 1823, Margaretta became convinced the devil was living in the rafters of their house. Claiming herself to be the Messiah, she declared battle against Satan. Margaretta and her followers began to smash up the house with farm implements, then at Margaretta’s command, they turned the implements on each other.

The insane preacher then proclaimed that she herself must be sacrificed, but her sister Elizabeth volunteered to die in Margaretta’s place. Margaretta and her loyal followers then beat Elizabeth to death, eventually crushing her skull. The madness did not end there, as Margaretta then demanded she be crucified, believing she must suffer and die to save the souls of the damned. Her loyal flock tore up floorboards and arranged them in a cross which Margaretta laid down upon. They drove nails through her hands, feet, elbows, and breasts as Margaretta loudly proclaimed she would rise again in three days. On her command, they then crushed her skull with a hammer.

Believing both Margaretta and Elizabeth would be resurrected, the flock waited with the bodies as they began to rot. Police eventually arrived, and the entire congregation was arrested and jailed. The house was condemned and torn down, and the land was declared unfit to build on ever again. The only account that remains of this event was obtained directly from the trial records at the time and eyewitness accounts.

Elizabeth and Margaretta did not return from the dead.

3The Nun Who Ate Her Secret Lover’s Excrement


When she was 13, Marianna de Leyva’s wealthy father forced her into the Santa Margherita convent in Monza. She took well to the pious life initially, changing her name to Virginia and becoming a teacher and role-model to the younger girls. In her twenties, however, things changed. Sister Virginia fell in love with a wealthy young nobleman called Gian Paolo Osio who had a terrible reputation as a womanizer, and there were even rumors he had killed people. Virginia and Osio’s sexual liaisons were carried out in her rooms in the convent. In the years that their secret affair lasted, Virginia birthed two children. The first baby was a stillborn boy, the second, a daughter, Osio officially recognized as his own illegitimate offspring.

The love affair was a rocky one, and Virginia often became depressed and even suicidal, plagued with guilt about the unholy affair. In the hopes of turning her lust to repulsion, she turned to the magical art of Coprophagia: Eating Osio’s feces. Some sources claim she drank the superstitious remedy in tea, and some claim she ate her lover’s excrement dried and sprinkled over liver and onions.

Whatever her method, the bizarre medicine failed to quell her lust, and, in 1606, a disgruntled novice threatened to expose the scandalous affair. Osio killed and beheaded the girl, burying her body in the monastery chicken coop. Virginia then helped him make a hole in the monastery wall to make it appear as though the girl had escaped. However, rumors continued to spread, and to cover his tracks, Osio killed multiple people including some of Virginia’s friends, the apothecary who had supplied Virginia with abortifacients, and the blacksmith who had supplied Osio with duplicate keys to the monastery. Virginia appears to have been complicit in all the murders, desperate to keep the scandal a secret.

In the ensuing investigation into the murders and the affair, multiple people were tortured, including Virginia and Osio. Osio was condemned to death but escaped, only to be killed later by a friend. Virginia was sentenced to life in solitary confinement, bricked up in a four feet by nine feet (1.2 m x 2.7 m) room, in the “convent” of S. Valeria (which was seen by many as more of a prison). Fourteen years later, Virginia was considered reformed and released from her cell. She became a sort of Mother Teresa figure to novices at the convent, many of them prostitutes seeking salvation.

2From Crazed Acid Torturer to Medical Missionary


Dr. Geza de Kaplany was a freedom fighter in the Hungarian revolution before he fled the war and eventually settled in America. The doctor had impeccable credentials, he had taught anesthesiology at Yale and was licensed to practice medicine in four American states.

De Kaplany, 36, was working as a respected anesthetist when he married Hajna Pillar, a beautiful 25-year-old showgirl who left her job to be with him. The couple had been married for just five weeks when police were called to their apartment on August 28, 1962.

Responding officers found that de Kaplany had turned the couple’s apartment into an acid torture chamber. Hajna had been bound with electrical wire and bathed in nitric acid from her genitals to her hairline, with particular attention paid to her vagina, breasts, and eyes. The doctor had cut her breasts before pouring acid into the wounds. After three hours of torturing her, he called the police. Hajna suffered third-degree corrosive burns to 60 percent of her body, and emergency medics burned their hands on her skin as they tried to move her.

What provoked this brutal attack? Hajna had inquired about a modeling job against her husband’s wishes, and he had heard rumors that she was unfaithful. He decided to destroy her beauty so no man would ever look at her again. It took 33 days for Hajna to die an agonizing death in hospital, as her skin turned to leather and fell off her body.

The doctor was sentenced to life in prison, but his story does not end there. Thirteen years later, de Kaplany was released from prison on parole, and that same day, he flew to Taiwan to begin work as a medical missionary. In 2002, Mercury News reporters tracked de Kaplany down to where he was living with a new wife in Germany. Now 70, he had become a German citizen; so he could not be extradited to America and charged for his numerous parole violations over the decades. “I have done one mistake in my life. I paid enough for it.” That was all he would say.

1The Kindly, Caring Midwife Who Brutally Tortured Her Serving Girl to Death


In the mid-1760s, the overseers of a London parish appointed Elizabeth Brownrigg as the official midwife for destitute women. Everyone who knew her considered her very kind, considerate, and caring. So it came as a great shock when a baker’s apprentice looked into the Brownrigg’s back yard and saw a girl that he later described as ‘’in a very deplorable, bloody, shocking condition.’’ The girl was 14-year-old Mary Clifford, taken in as an apprentice by the Brownriggs from a local workhouse.

The baker’s apprentice, William Clipson, told his mistress what he had seen and they went to the authorities. The Brownriggs were eventually taken into custody after they handed over two girls, Mary Mitchell and Mary Clifford. Clifford had been beaten so badly her mouth was swollen open and could not close, and her neck was so swollen that it extended out as far as her chin. She had scars, slices, and open sores from the soles of her feet to the top of her head. Many of her wounds were in a state of mortification from neglect. Clifford died of her injuries almost a week later, and in the trial that followed, the horrors the girls had both faced were revealed.

For months on end, the girls had been subjected to brutal, prolonged torture at the hands of Elizabeth Brownrigg. Suspended from hooks in the ceiling, they had been stripped naked, and beaten and whipped for hours on end. They were starved, forced to sleep in the freezing coal cellar, and often forced to work naked while enduring repeated beatings and humiliations. At one point, Clifford tried to seek help and had her tongue sliced open in two places in punishment.

Another girl named Mary Jones had escaped months earlier after she had been subjected, for hours daily, to a form of water-boarding torture. By the time she escaped she was blind in one eye, emaciated, and covered in cuts and bruises. She had begged authorities to rescue Mitchell, but nothing was done, and soon after Jones’s escape, Mary Clifford was taken into the Brownrigg’s home.

Mr. Brownrigg and their 18-year-old son were both found guilty of abusing Sarah Mitchell. They were sentenced to six months in prison and fined one shilling each. Elizabeth Brownrigg was found guilty of the torture-murder of Mary Clifford. She was executed by hanging on September 14, 1767.