The Creepiest Magazine Stories Ever Published

Longform.org's guide to the greatest long articles ever written.
Oct. 29 2011 3:15 PM

The Longform.org Guide to Creeps and Creepiness

The spookiest, weirdest magazine stories ever published.

Every weekend, Longform.org shares a collection of great stories from its archive with Slate. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform.org or follow @longformorg on Twitter.

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Time for a scary story

Christophe Rolland/Thinkstock.

It's Halloween! Time for some scary stories! We went looking for the creepiest reads in our archive, and here's what we found: tales of Bigfoot, serial killers, human remains, ghosts, and, by far the most terrifying, a profile of legendary creep Joe Francis, the guy behind “Girls Gone Wild.”

Peter Savodnik • GQ • May 2009

Russian serial killer Alexander Pichushkin was so prolific that even he doesn't know how many he killed:

"He always took his victims to one of two wells that connected to the city's vast sewer system. As they trudged through the park, 32 didn't ask any questions about where they were going or why. He just walked or, more likely, stumbled. Sometimes, when the Maniac and his prey reached the well, he would propose a toast to his dead dog. In this case, he did not say what he and 32 discussed before he attacked. But he did describe how he did it. He removed his weapon—sometimes a hammer, sometimes a wrench with a tool used for removing nails; in this case he didn't specify—from his jacket and struck 32 on the head, hard, but not hard enough to kill him. This was his routine. He wanted his victims to know what was happening. Sometimes he would force shards of a broken vodka bottle into the victim's skull before pushing him down the well. If the victim wasn't dead before he plunged the thirty feet to the bottom, the impact would finish the job.

“Eventually some of the bodies turned up at a wastewater-treatment center about five miles away, having floated through the network of underground tunnels. But it wasn't until much later, after those corpses had been disposed of, that the authorities connected them to the disappearances near Bitsevsky Park. Many bodies never turned up at all. At least thirteen corpses (including, possibly, that of victim 32) are believed to be stuck somewhere in the sewage system."

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Eric Wills • Washington City Paper • July 2008

Sixteen years ago, William Dranginis saw Bigfoot. He's still trying to prove it:

"Bigfoot, he wants you to know, are not just a bunch of pranksters running around in ape suits. Nor are Bigfoot the ghosts of some long-extinct creature, as some people claim. They're flesh and blood, and they don't just live in the Pacific Northwest. The creatures are here, within commuting distance of the nation's capital. Bigfoot is the 'last greatest mystery on earth,' Dranginis will tell you, so you may as well suspend your disbelief and come along for the ride."

Rebecca Flint Marx and Vytenis Didziulis • New York Times • October 1979

Three weeks after Hannah Emily Upp, a 23-year-old Spanish teacher, disappeared while on a run, she was found alive, floating in New York Harbor. Upp had no idea how she got there:

"Was she suffering from bipolar disorder? Running away from an overly demanding job? Escaping from a city that can overwhelm even the most resilient?

“Other questions lingered. Did she forage for food? Where did she sleep? Most baffling of all, how did she survive for so long without money or any identification in one of the world's busiest and most complex cities?

“That she was rescued, alive and well, is in itself amazing; most such stories do not have happy endings. But the explanation for what had happened raised even more questions than Ms. Upp's disappearance had—for her more than for anybody."

Marc Jacobson • New York • September 2010

On the Holocaust origins of a lampshade pulled from the ruins of Katrina:

"Now Skip began to grok it. The material of the lampshade itself. The warmth of it. The greasy, silky, dusty feel of it. The veined, translucent look of it. 'What's this thing made out of, anyhow?' he asked.

" 'That’s made from the skin of Jews,' Dominici replied."

Pamela Coloff • Texas Monthly • February 2006

Odessa High School students know her as "Betty," a ghost that haunts the auditorium at night. But there’s more to the story:

"What may be nothing more than just a ghost story can also be seen as something more complicated—as a metaphor, perhaps, for the way that one crime has lodged, uneasily, in Odessa’s collective memory. The teenagers who pass down stories about Betty are too young to remember the Kiss and Kill Murder, as it was christened by the press in 1961, but it was the most sensational crime in West Texas in its day. The notoriety of the case has long since faded, yet 45 years later, something lingers. When Ronnie White, who graduated from Odessa High the year that the murder took place, returned to his alma mater to teach history, in 1978, he was astonished to hear students talking about the former drama student named Betty whose spirit supposedly haunted the auditorium and the popular football player who had had a hand in her killing. 'I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,' he says. 'I thought, 'Good Lord, they must be talking about Betty Williams.' "

Claire Hoffman • Los Angeles Times • August 2006

On Joe Francis—creator of "Girls Gone Wild,” assaulter of reporters, creep extraordinaire:

"He has turned on me, and I don't know why. He's going on and on about Panama City Beach, the spring break spot in northern Florida where Bay County sheriff's deputies arrested him three years ago on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and promoting the sexual performance of a child. As he yells, I wonder if this is a flashback, or if he's punishing me for being the only blond in sight who's not wearing a thong. This much is certain: He's got at least 80 pounds on me and I'm thinking he's about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears.

“This is not what I anticipated when I signed up for a tour of Joe Francis' world. I've been with him nonstop since early afternoon, listening as he teases employees, flying on his private jet, eating fast food and watching young women hurl themselves against his 6-foot-2-inch frame, declaring, 'We want to go wild!' "

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longformorg. For more great science and nature writing, check out Longform.org's complete archive.

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