Often confused with psychopaths, sociopaths have a set of off-putting features all their own. A sociopath is manipulative, shallow, and often a pathological liar. They tend to feel no shame, remorse, or guilt for their wrong-doings against other living things. They are callous, irresponsible, and have little regard for others. Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic making them quite difficult to distinguish from anyone else.
Robert John Maudsley: Hannibal Lecter incarnate
While his name is not very easily recognizable, Maudsley is the basis for one of the most well-known fictional sociopaths in contemporary pop culture: Hannibal Lecter. Much like his fictional representation, his cell is under ground in a solitary confinement unit. You must pass armed guards at multiple checkpoints before arriving at Maudsley’s cell (Thompson 2003). Unlike the character of Hannibal Lecter, though, Maudsley is not as well-educated or intelligent, but is the very definition of a sociopath. He regards neither for any laws or rules of society nor the sanctity of human life. He ports not killing for enjoyment, but because it his is duty, and that being in the presence of another person gives him an urge to murder that person and to always try if he believes he can succeed (“10 Monumental Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”). He claims to feel an uncontrollable compulsion that he simply cannot ignore.
Causes of Maudsley’s sociopathy
Maudsley’s sociopathic tendencies are a result of his horrifying childhood. Both of his parents were physically abusive and his father was sexually abusive as well. Though social services removed him from his home, he was already severely damaged:
- Maudsley was incarcerated after strangling a man who admitted to abusing children.
- Once admitted to Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane, he tortured and killed another inmate who had been locked up for the same crime as Maudsley’s first victim (“10 Monumental Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”).
- After killing the man, he ate a piece of the prisoner’s brain and earned himself the nickname “Hannibal the Cannibal.”
He was then sent to a prison called Wakefield, which houses the most dangerous prisoners in the United Kingdom. Once there, he lured a rapist into his cell and murdered him before hiding the body and attempting to repeat himself, but the other inmates rightfully feared him. After killing another prisoner and a guard, he was locked in the cell made famous by Silence of the Lambs.
Josef Mengele: Hitler’s most terrifying sociopath
Josef Mengele was a German doctor and SS captain who worked in concentration camps during the holocaust of World War II. He was transferred to Auschwitz in May of 1943 and quickly became the Chief Camp Physician. There were many physicians at the camp during this time and they alternated shifts sorting prisoners as they arrived at camp. Some were sent to work camps while others perished in gas chambers immediately. Because Mengele was remembered by so many holocaust survivors and is more closely associated with the selection process than any other physician, he became known as the “Angel of Death”, and it is believed that he came to watch prisoners arrive even when it was not his turn (“Angel of Death”).
He was searching the new arrivals for twins. His goal was to perform medical research on identical and fraternal twins in the interest of tracing genetic origins of a number of diseases. He would have them placed on operating tables and then inject their hearts with chloroform, instantly killing them. After they were dead, he would dissect and examine their body parts (“Josef Mengele”).
Mengele supervised an operation in which two Gypsy children were sewn together in a crude attempt to “create” Siamese twins. He would inject chimerical into his patients’ eyes, many of them children, to try to change their eye color. Other experiments included:
- Blood transfusion
- Surgery without anesthesia
- Isolation endurance
- Sex-change operations
- Injections with lethal germs (“Angel of Death”)
An estimated three thousand twins died at the hands of Dr. Mengele, though a few survived. Survivors tell of the man who referred to himself as “Uncle Mengele” bringing them candy and clothing before having them delivered to his medical laboratory. One twin, whose brother did not survive, remembers,
Dr. Mengele has always been more interested in Tibi… Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. (“Angel of Death”)
Mengele: Proof that monsters exist
Mengele’s viciousness and uncompassionate nature was not only reserved for twins, though. He was equally as cruel and indifferent about the lives of the other prisoners in the camp. When a mother resisted being separated from her daughter, Mengele shot both the parent and her child. He then commanded that all the prisoners who were brought in from that transport, even those already selected for work, be sent to the gas chambers. He decided upon the fate of the lives of men, women, and children with the casual wave of the hand and a cold, “Away with this sh*t!” (“Angel of Death”).
Once, when a block of prisoners had been infected with lice, Mengele decided to gas all 750 women assigned to it to control the outbreak. Another time, he walked into the children’s block and drew a line about five feet from the floor and announced that anyone whose head did not reach the line would be sent to the gas chambers (“Angel of Death”).
He thought nothing of carelessly ending the lives of countless people and held no sanctity for human life. When the war ended, he escaped to Germany disguised as a normal German soldier before fleeing to Argentina when officers began being tried for their war crimes. He fled from country to country for years to evade capture before suffering a stroke while swimming and drowning. The monster was dead, but the repercussions caused by his actions would plague holocaust survivors for generations.
Herod the Great
Herod the Great is known for his cruelty in the Bible, though that is not the only record of his crimes. He gave himself the nickname “The Great” and is known for slaughtering countless people whenever he felt threatened. Upon hearing of a Jewish prophecy that a male child being born near Bethlehem would grow to take Herod’s power, Herod had all male children under the age of two in the region killed (“Herod the Great”). In his old age, Herod grew more and more paranoid about losing his power. Knowing he was hated by his people, in order to force them to mourn his death, he gathered thousands of rabbis to Jerusalem and held them captive, announcing that upon his death, they were to be slaughtered. Unfortunately for Herod the Great, though, his sister and son freed the rabbis when Herod eventually died from kidney failure (“10 Monumental Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”).
Countess Erzsebet Bethory de Ecsed: Blood countess
Erszebet (Elisabeth) Bethory was a countess of Hungary during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Known as the “Blood Countess,” she tortured and killed countless people. Her victims were mostly lower class women, whose disappearances would be of the least concern. She would hire them on a “permanent” basis or have her existing servants lure girls there with promise of work or entertainment. Upon their arrival, they were immediately bound and taken to the dungeons. According to testimonials from survivors, the countess kept her servants chained up every night so tightly that their extremities turned blue and often beat them until there was so much blood that it had to be soaked up with cinders and ashes (“Elisabeth Bathory”). Some of the methods she used to torture her victims include:
- Beat and assault with hot irons
- Cut with knives and scissors
- Stitch their lips together
- Mutilate genitals
- Force victims to eat their own flesh
- Fatal surgeries
- Skinning her servants alive
- Sending them outside in the winter naked and pouring cold water over them until they froze to death
- Draining the blood of victims so that she could bathe in it
Several accounts even claim that she would keep her victims in suspended cages and swing them back and forth into spikes while standing under the falling blood (“10 Monumentally Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”).
Sociopathic until the end
These crimes continued from 1585 to 1610. Not only were their testimonials from witnesses and survivors, but there was a growing number of missing person reports in the villages around the castle, in addition to a disturbing lack of young women. The countess was tried with four accomplices. One was beheaded, one was imprisoned for life, and the other two had their fingers ripped off with red-hot pinchers before being burned at the stake (“10 Monumentally Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”). The countess was imprisoned in her own castle, fed through a slot in the bricks that built her jail, until her death in 1614. Before she died, she left a letter to Satan, asking him to send ninety-nine cats to kill and eat and king of Hungary for convicting her of her crimes.
Vlad The Impaler
Vlad III was the prince of Wallachia, part of present day Romania. Born in Transylvania, Vlad is undoubtedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, he belongs to the bloodline of the House of Drăculeşti. Vlad lived during the fifteenth century and his preferred means of execution is made obvious by his nickname.
He would often leave a victim “sitting” on one end of a dull stake until they slid slowly down it over a few days’ time, eventually dying (Palermo 2014).
As a prince, there was little anyone could do to stop him, and he quickly gained a reputation for his brutality. When emissaries sent from Mehmed came seeking a truce, they refused to remove their turbans, which is an important religious rule. In response, Vlad nailed their turbans to their heads, killing them, and sent them back to their master. Thieves would be locked in a pillory and have their feet coated in honey and licked by goats. Goats have surprisingly rough tongues and would lick the prisoners’ feet until the soles came off. Salt was then sprinkled into the wounds and the prisoners were released, but usually died quickly from infection.
Continued sociopathic behavior
During his war with the Ottomans, he killed tens of thousands of people. Often, he would be sure to leave plenty of bodies behind to taunt Mehmed and his armies. Eventually, Vlad ran out of money to fund his army and appealed to a friend who promptly imprisoned him out of fear. While locked away, Vlad impaled the rats that were unlucky enough to wander by. Upon being released, Vlad immediately began working on starting a new war. Unfortunately, though, he was assassinated on the road to Bucharest in the winter between 1476 and 1477 (Palermo 2014). He was beheaded, buried, and laid to rest, having killed an estimated forty thousand to one hundred thousand people (“10 Monumental Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths”).
Those with sociopathic tendencies possess insatiable urges to do harm, as well as a complete disregard for rules and human life. History’s sociopaths and serial killers remind us of the damage that can be done when a sociopath is able to freely meet their desire to wreak havoc. Particularly dangerous are the sociopaths who are given or born into positions of honor and power, for their acts of cruelty are able to go unchallenged for longer. Whether they are born into privilege or not, though, sociopaths have the potential to do terrible things without the threat of remorse or shame. What is troublesome, though, is that until they commit their first vicious act, it is often difficult to distinguish a sociopath from anyone else.
“10 Monumental Malignantly Narcissistic Sociopaths.” Listverse. Listverse, 2007. Web. 12 May 2016.
“Angel of Death.” Auschwitz.dk. Louis Bülow, 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.
“Elisabeth Bathory.” Rejected Princesses. Rejected Princesses, 2016. Web. 12 May. 2016.
“Herod the Great.” Livius. Livius.org, 2000. Web. 12 May 2016.
“Josef Mengele.” History. AETN UK, 2016. Web. 12 May 2016.
Palermo, Elizabeth. “Vlad the Impaler: The Real Dracula’s Dark Secret.” Live Science. Purch, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 12 May 2015.
Thompson, Tony. “The caged misery of Britain’s real ‘Hannibal the Cannibal.’” The Guardian. Guardian News, 26 Apr. 2003. Web. 12 May 2016.