Marine Cpl. Robert Corriveau had recently come home from the Vietnam War in 1968 and was spending time at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital psych ward for what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. The portion of the hospital he was staying in was locked down. Despite that fact, on November 18th Corriveau vanished from his bed. When he couldn’t be located within the facility, he was deemed as having gone AWOL and the proud marine with three purple hearts to his name was listed as a deserter of the army.
What happened to him that night would not be revealed until 2012 when Corriveau’s sister offered up DNA to be compared to John Doe’s from the area. A match was made and his family was horrified to find out that Robert had been found dead thirty miles from the hospital only three hours after he had gone missing. Corriveau died of a stab wound through his heart and was found propped up against a tree with no blood around him. This strongly implied he was moved from wherever he had been actually killed. His family has since revealed that the Army waited a full week to alert them he had vanished and because of that valuable time had been lost in any search and rescue effort. Modern day detectives are now seeking answers to Corriveau’s murder and hope to somehow close this case despite the many years that have passed. His family was able to have his body removed from it’s pauper John Doe grave and reburied with full military honors.
Russia’s Cannibal Island
Adolf Hitler is credited as history’s greatest monster for killing six million Jews in a genocidal sidebar to his ultimate goal of European (and perhaps world) domination. You can’t turn on the History channel or other networks in their ilk without running across shows focusing on Hitler being aired almost daily. It seems the creators of the media covering yesteryear tend to turn a blind eye to the maniac who led the forces that played the biggest role in stopping Hitler’s reign of terror. Joseph Stalin was a brutal dictator over the USSR from 1924 until his death in 1953. During this time it is believed that 20 million Russians died as a result of being placed in forced labor camps, famines that were ignored by the government, and executions by the state. It is the story of one of these brutal labor camps, or gulags, that I will share with you today.
In 1933, Stalin approved of a plan that Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the Soviet secret police, had thought up. The proposal was for upwards of two million Soviets who were deemed undesirable to society to be shipped to the vast winter wastelands of Kazakhstan and Siberia. Ostensibly the methodology behind it was to have these people create homesteads and populate the ruthless terrain, turning uninhabitable lands into something useful. The reality was that Stalin wanted to purify his cities and determined that sending off the lame, the poor, the mentally ill, and the vagabonds would create a stronger civilized society.
The stratagem began with a group of 25,000 people being rounded up and crammed into trains. There was little in the way of food or other amenities on the trip, so people began to assemble into small gangs. From there others were preyed upon, being beaten and/or killed in order to retrieve extra food and clothing from the broken bodies. The masses arrived in Siberia ahead of schedule, which created a new logistical issue as the soldiers who had been given this dreadful post had limited water, food and medicine to offer the deluge of people. The men in charge viewed these urban prisoners with little regard, so mercy was not going to be given to the woebegotten crowd.
With overcrowding already an issue, and an almost non-existent supply chain, it was determined that 6,000 people should be moved to a temporary camp until the situation could be solved. Four barges were modified from their original purpose as log haulers into makeshift prison boats. Thousands of frozen, beyond hungry prisoners were shoved onto these “boats” and taken to a tiny island called Nazino. The freezing passengers were only given rotten bread to eat on the trip and they had to defecate where they stood. By the time the boats reached Nazino, at least 27 people had died and another third of the prisoners were almost too weak to walk. The guards were not in much better shape as they were new recruits who hadn’t earned enough respect to be properly cared for. Some didn’t have uniforms to wear, while others didn’t even have proper boots to survive the brutal constant arctic conditions.
Some of the prisoners who still had some strength and will left inside them assessed the situation on this barren, frozen island and decided that they best try and make an escape attempt before they suffered a long slow death like many others had before them. The internees charged toward the makeshift boats and tried to get away. Some were shot by the guards, while others sank into the water as the rough rapids tore the boats to shreds. A few managed to escape, but Nazino was hundreds of miles away from any other civilization, and they surely met their doom either from exposure or starvation within days, if not hours of fleeing.
Back at Nazino, the body count quickly added up as people keeled over from lack of food and the ungodly elements that surrounded them. It did not take very long for the living to began to feast on the bodies of the fallen. Blood stained snow could be seen everywhere as flesh and vital organs were ripped from the corpses to feed the desperate prisoners. When the death toll did not prove to provide enough meat for the group, murders began to become commonplace. Gangs formed and circled the weak, killing them for their flesh. Screams could be heard from the living who were being torn apart before being given the dignity of dying first. The guards were disinterested in the chaos, and in many ways were suffering similar hardships to that of the prisoners.
It’s not known when Stalin found out about the uncivilized hell on earth he had created, but shipments of over 1,200 more prisoners continued to arrive in midst of the bloodlust. The survivors from Nazino later told others of how the new inmates were quickly attacked by the clans of cannibals, murdered and devoured. As weeks passed, the guards managed to send word of how badly out of hand the island was and reinforcements were sent in. The Soviet leaders began to worry that bands of man eaters might somehow escape and reek true havoc on the remote countrysides.
Only four weeks after it was formed, the Nazino Island gulag was shut down. It is believed that six thousand prisoners had been sent to this man made perdition, but only two thousand were alive when it was evacuated. The Soviet higher-ups covered up the evidence of the prison camp ever existing until 1988 when the Cold War secrets began to seep out to the Western world. The official commission report on Nazino was not fully published until 2002.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back with more mysteries soon!
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