History shows us that most people are a bunch of cretins. People from the past a reprehensible and I’m glad every one of them is burning in hell. But they are not all equally bad. Some past people have gone down in history as especially bad, and especially hated. And it’s those figures we today focus on: the most hated people from history.
Now the obvious thing for me to do here is rattle off a list of dictators. But the truth is dictators are more popular than ever. Everyone loves Kim Jong Un. That’s just the world we live in. So instead I’ve chosen some lesser known figures whose names have become synonymous with notoriety. We start with Typhoid Mary.
Literally born in a place called Cookstown, Mary Mallon grew up to become a cook. As an adult she left her native Ireland looking for work in the new world. In New York she found work cooking for wealthy families. For a while all went well. But just three weeks after arriving, members of these families began to fall seriously ill. Some of them even died. To the surprise of all, they were diagnosed with Typhoid Fever. Typhoid is a serious bacterial infection that even today can be deadly. But Typhoid outbreaks only tended to occur in poor neighborhoods, not the upper class areas now infected. As authorities looked into each family infected they found a single common thread – an Irish immigrant in their employment.
It turns out Mary Mallon was asymptomatic, meaning she was a carrier of the disease without suffering any symptoms. So while people around her were constantly falling sick, she was completely unaffected. As this was the early 1900s Germ theory was still not fully understood. When questioned by authorities she did not react well, denying any possibility she was responsible for the disease. In fact she violently resisted attempts to have her tested, running away from police whenever they approached. Still, she was eventually captured and tested positive for the disease. The first asymptomatic Typhoid carrier ever identified. Without complete certainty of what to do with Mary, they forcibly quarantined her. They actually sent her to a small island on New York’s East River. As word got out the press vilified her as “Typhoid Mary” – a highly contagious foreigner who brought disease.
The name endured and she was widely demonized. But the entire scandal was a legal grey area. While it was known she was a carrier, proving she was a permanent threat to the public was not yet possible. In 1910 she was released from quarantine. The one condition given was that she never again work as a cook. But Mary was Irish and soon broke that promise. As a healthy young woman she never believed she was a carrier. Mary actually claimed to have been set up by the government. So she saw no harm in going back to work. Under a series of new identities she spent years working as a cook. Then finally she was caught, after an outbreak of Typhoid at a hospital she was working at. While before there was little sympathy for her, now there was none.
The press dubbed her the most dangerous person in America. The general public hated her. And authorities decided she would never again be released. For the last two and a half decades of her life she was locked up n a medical facility, essentially a prisoner of her own biology. She hated every moment of it, constantly subjected to medical testing or exploited by doctors for press attention. Yet despite her years of suffering she was no less hated. Even after she died in quarantine years later, many believed she hot exactly what she deserved. Still today she remains one of the most hated people from history.
Franz Schmidt was the most notorious executioner from history. For 45 years he served as the executioner of Nuremberg, and even wrote a book documenting each kill. Born in 16th century Germany, his father was forced to become executioner by a local lord. As an adult Franz took over this role. Executioners were always hated by the local community. And as Franz never wore a mask everyone knew it was him. No one wanted to even go near him, so he was about as socially isolated as we are right now. He got around this by marrying the daughter of another executioner. But still, Franz was hated more than other executioners… and for good reason. First of all he was responsible for torturing people into confessing. Often he would do so by maiming or burning off parts of their body.
This way anyone would admit to any crime whether guilty or not, and everyone guilty or not. In his diary he detailed more than 360 executions he carried out during his career. Most often he would behead or hang them. But some were burned, drowned or bled out. Perhaps the most brutal was when people were tied down to a wheel and slowly beaten to death. By the time of his retirement all in Nuremberg hated Franz. Four decades of taking lives had made him a vastly wealthy man, while those around him lived in poverty. Even if he had not written a book bragging about all the lives he took, he would still go down as one of the most hated people from history. But he did… and I don’t know why.
Now, to me Iron Felix sounds like one of those dumb names people give race horses. But it turns out he was a real person. And not just any ordinary person, one of the most hated people from history. Felix Dzerzhinsky was a Russian revolutionary and head of the first Soviet secret police force. In the chaotic early years of Soviet rule, he was the architect of the red terror, pioneering the tactics later used by Stalin. In fact, Stalin looked up to Felix and was greatly inspired by him. To oppressed minorities he represented suffering and genocide. But to the Soviet Union as a whole, he was lionized as a national hero. After his death a giant 15 ton iron statue of him was erected in Moscow. His image was depicted far and wide, especially on KGB buildings. In their academies young intelligent officers would study his methods.
He was by all accounts a hero of the state. But over time that changed. By the fall of the Soviet empire the KGB was a hated institution. No longer feared and respected by openly denigrated. And Iron Felix, as the father of that terrible institution, came to be seen as an evil coward, and a traitor to his own people. His imposing statue was removed, and even defenders of Soviet history now often denounce him. So people don’t often talk about Iron Felix, despite him being one of the most important men in modern history.
So there you have it, three of the most hated people from history. For more interesting content like this, subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking this link.