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Body Horror: Real Life
Damn, nature, you scary!

Warning: This page contains Squick and Paranoia Fuel. Brain Bleach is recommended.

  • The Great Leader of North Korea, Kim Il-sung is only ever portrayed looking slightly to his right in state media. This means that the right side of his neck is invisible. Here's why. This was a large calcium deposit. He developed it in later life and tried to hide it, until it grew to the baseball-sized protruberance you see here.
  • Teratomas. Think of a tumor, but composed of some of the fundamental parts of the human body, which includes bone, hair, and teeth. Even worse, they sometimes contain brain, liver, and lung tissues, as well as half-formed legs, eyes and HANDS.
    • They are also described as looking like damaged fetuses. There is a reason that their name translates to "monster tumor".
    • They can also be life-threatening, as your immune system will be confused when encountered with the other bodily cells and actually attack the original organs, such as the aforementioned brain.
  • Fetus in Fetu: a pregnancy with twins where one twin is literally inside the other unborn fetus, as if the other fetus is pregnant with the first. These babies-in-babies are alive, parasitic, but not sentient. (A dissection of one such fetus revealed that it didn't even have a brain in its cranial cavity.)
  • Phossy jaw and its 'brother' Radium jaw. If you'd rather not look it up and risk it, phossy jaw is also known as "phosphorus necrosis of the jaw". Yep, the entire lower part of your face just up and rots away.
  • Necrosis. It has a variety of causes from spider and snake bites to poison and cancer.
  • Look up the highly controversial "Morgellons disease". The patient scratches skin until it breaks; fibers from clothing become trapped in forming clot; patient concludes fibers emerged from skin. See the Wikipedia page on delusional parasitosis, specifically "matchbox sign." The good news is, Morgellons isn't caused by parasites or malfunctioning body chemistry causing your body to somehow manufacture artificial fibers... the bad news is, it's caused by malfunctioning brain chemistry giving you delusions of parasitic infestation disguising the root cause of what you're doing to your own body. Sweet dreams, kids!
  • Vaginal cosmetic surgery. Horror. Sheer horror.

  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progessiva is a disease that causes damaged tissue to turn to bone. Amongst other horrible things, this disease can be mistaken for simple cancer or fibrosis, which causes doctors to perform a biopsy, which in turn damages tissue and causes more bone growth. For similar reasons, this makes it impossible to remove the bone growth, at least without causing more bone growth.
    • Albert Sabin, who developed oral vaccine for polio, had a variety of this. He said the pain was so terrible that he wanted to die. When he was cured, he devoted the rest of his life to relieving pain, which he said should be the first goal of medical science.
  • Anencephaly (Squick warning!) is a condition where the neural tube (that forms all of the central nervous system, that is the spinal cord and brain) fails to close properly at the head and the brain never develops fully as a result, resulting in a baby born with a face and neck but no brain or upper skull. Babies with this condition rarely make it to full term, and if they are born, they die in a matter of days.

    If it lives, it's potentially even worse. Think about it: it means it was living without a brain after being born. It's just... kinda sitting there, with the heart pumping to nothing in the head; a doll that looks human but has no person inside. Empty Shell taken to the literal extreme; Fate Worse than Death doesn't even begin to describe it. But if it makes anyone feel better, at least no brain (at least, no forebrain — the parts of the brain that control things like bodily functions are sill there) implies no mental life, so it's not like the baby "experiences" any of this.
  • The way severe smallpox used to manifest itself could count as "body horror" in and of itself, because of how the bumps formed and covered the body's entire surface. And much like its much more frail and wimpier cousin chickenpox (which was actually named because it was a "chicken", i.e. weaker, version of smallpox), the virus was more severe the older you were at the time of infection. Thankfully, smallpox has been eradicated throughout the world, though people in highly sensitive positions still get smallpox vaccinations in case the virus is used in germ warfare.
  • Myiasis A fly lays eggs in parts of your body, usually in the nose or ear. The eggs hatch, and you have hundreds of maggots eating you alive. It's basically the Real Life equivalent of Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong. Fortunately, it's still much more common in animals than in humans. And treatable.

    Popular media is usually silent on it for being so horrific, but if the animal or human is crippled by a wound or accident far from civilization (or on a battlefield) and if conditions are right (open wounds, dirt, filth, hot climate, favoring blowflies). Where there is dirt, filth, hot climate, but no blowflies are present, the patient may still get a bacterial infection of the skin, which develops into a horrific tropical ulcer. It happens surprisingly often with crippled abandoned pets or farm animals in the field. The unmoving, crippled animal can't swat flies away. This is a highly-probable and nightmarish way to die.
  • Cancer. Imagine having a mass of cells inside your body that grows uncontrollably, a malfunction in its genetic programming makes it never naturally die, can travel through your lymphatic system and take root in places other than where it appeared, and can only be stopped by surgically removing it, bombarding it with radiation or subjecting your entire body to rather poisonous drugs. Stuff of nightmares, it is.

    Even more so if the cancer has gone out of control before being discovered. Think of this: your body has started to rot before you die, and it was too late when you realized this. Now the only treatments available (if not too late) are just as horrible and invasive as the disease, with a high rate of mortality and probably less parts of your body. If you survive, you have to be careful because cancer can spread through your body — any part of it. A good number of cancers are asymptomatic in their early stages, or mimic the symptoms of other illnesses. Meaning that for a good number of people, by the time they realize something's wrong it may already be too late. There's a reason why everybody is always encouraging people to get periodical examination, people...
  • The Russian street drug Krokodil, a poor-man's substitute for heroin, causes users to rot alive. Video link, click at your own risk. it's called Krokodil because after a prolonged abuse the skin in the place of injection starts turning green and scaly.
  • Guinea worms. If you drink any water from a river or stream in certain parts of Africa, you can swallow guinea worm larvae which will hatch and grow inside your body. Guinea worms love to pop out of the skin, mostly at extremities, when they grow large enough. The only treatment is to very, very slowly pull the worms out. This is very painful and can take days. Luckily efforts by health groups has almost eradicated guinea worm except for parts of Africa.
    • Worse, if you break the worm while pulling it out, they "have a tendency to putrefy or petrify. Putrefaction leads to the skin sloughing off around the worm. Petrification is a problem if the worm is in a joint or wrapped around a vein or other important area."
  • The Zaire ebolavirus. You get debilitating headaches, followed by vomiting and a sever rash. Finally, you'll start to bleed from most of your orifices before your skin turns to "rice pudding". For an added bonus, your body melts away a few hours after death. While this is what typically happens, it can get worse. Ebola effectively punches holes throughout your organs, with varying effectiveness. This causes internal bleeding on a ridiculous scale, overtaxing your ability to produce platelets. This eventually leads to a state where certain parts of your body have basically become fist-sized scabs (your spleen), and the rest is bleeding freely (leading to leaking blood from every orifice, including pores). In some cases, the skin doesn't actually bleed. Instead, the virus attacks the fibers that attach your skin to your body, separating the two. The gap begins to fill up with blood, turning you into a large blood bag. And like most bags, this one will break eventually. At least the massive damage your body is taking causes a severe degradation in your mental state, so when it starts getting bad, you may be lucky enough to be nothing but a barely conscious automaton.
  • Abscesses. The only ones worse than the ones that get bigger and bigger and bigger are the ones that don't, because they rupture and spew putrid toxic pus.
    • And then you have to deal with the large, bloody crater it just left behind, which can get infected with any number of things...
  • Raymond Robinson, AKA the Green Man or Charlie No-Face. After a childhood accident he was badly scarred and lost his eyes and nose, one ear, and one arm.
  • Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant man. While he is a perfect physical example of this trope, his actual life story reads like a series of Heartwarming Moments after a certain point. Merrick spent a great deal of time as a circus freak, and when the practice was ultimately outlawed in Europe, he, after having been robbed of his last Ł50 by a shady manager, would eventually be taken in by a man who had desired to study his condition more closely, Frederick Treves. Rather than treating Merrick as a specimen, he worked to care for the man as a permanent resident of London Hospital. Merrick's case would be spread largely through the actions of Treves and the hospital director, and the resulting outpouring of support from all over London gave him a surprisingly vibrant life, even with the tragic circumstances of his death—due to his deformities, he couldn't sleep lying down because the weight of his head would suffocate him —but he tried to do so anyway, and it would be what claimed his life.
  • Tasmanian Devils are currently severely threatened with extinction by something called Devil Facial Tumor Disease. Essentially, it's contagious cancer, and, as the name implies, the tumors mostly grow on their faces. The results are not pretty. The reason this particular cancer affects primarily the face is directly related to the manner of contagion. Contagious agents that cause cancer have been known for decades (specifically, there are viruses that cause cancer). In this case, however, it's the cancer itself that's transferred. Because Tasmanian Devils bite each other whenever they meet, and the cells of this cancer are transmissible by bite...
  • This, at least, is one Body Horror that most tropers will have survived. (But doesn't it remind you of Alien in some vaguely disturbing way?)
  • Harlequin-type Ichthyosis. Most of these babies don't live more than 2 weeks. (Warning: the first link contains graphic imagery and is not safe for work, viewer discretion advised. Description for the curious but cautious: the first link contains disturbing photographs of babies with thick, pale green skin, bloody eyes, and stiffly open mouths.)
  • The Surinam toad. Taking a bad habit in humans and making it worse, it cracks its bones as a mating call. Even worse: it gives live birth. By the dozens. To fully formed froglets. Who grew from conception to froglet and emerge through pimples in the female's back. This is what the Pokémon Seismitoad is based off of.
  • Iniencephaly. Wiki article. It's a baby with a deflated-looking head.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis, also known by the cheerful name of flesh-eating disease. This disease does exactly what it sounds like—it causes your flesh to putrefy and rot, while it's still on you. Yum. If you're lucky, it attacks an extremity and that extremity gets amputated in time (which is short, this crap can burn through flesh at the rate of one inch per hour). If it attacks your torso, you'll probably die before the doctors can figure out what it is. At least one person (a nurse) did survive an attack that began on her torso, because she figured out what it was in time. They had to use bleach to kill it, while it was burning into her abdominal cavity. In this case, the treatment can be almost as bad as the disease.
    • Fournier gangrene is when necrotizing fasciitis attacks your genitals.
  • Parasitic fungi in the genus Cordyceps essentially hijack the host's nervous system, forcing it to climb to the highest point they can, where they cling until they die. The best part comes afterwards, when mushrooms sprout from the insect's head, scattering the spores on the wind in search of their next host. What's especially fun to learn after that is that humans often eat those same species of Cordyceps and also use it to make anti-rejection drugs like Neoral.
    • On a related note, one species from a related genus is sold for more than its weight in gold as Chinese medicine.
    • Like Seismitoad above, the Pokémon Paras and its evolution Parasect are based on a type of Cordyceps, specifically Cordyceps sinensis. Think about it. Paras has two little mushrooms growing on its back. When it evolves into Parasect, a huge mushroom lies growing on its body, with Paras' once normal eyes whitened out...
      • The Last of Us directly draws on this fungus for their Infected. Now you can imagine what a human victim would look like.
  • This Cracked article is about medically created, beneficial body horror. On the surface of it, yes, sewing someone's hand to their leg, growing a jaw on their back, or implanting a tooth in their eye and creating a raw-meat looking eye substitute is all pretty horrifying. But the fact is that they're better off, or will be once the process is finished.
  • The Black Plague. Various white swellings that change color, puking blood, a high fever, and the desire to fall asleep...yeah.
  • Orf, a viral disease that sheep and goats get, forms crusty scabs on their muzzle and lips. It can even be spread to humans. It's also known as "Hoof and Mouth Disease". If left unchecked, it can infect the entire head, and it can survive for six months in soil.
  • Leprosy. Besides the obvious, imagine having your limbs, even your head, being loose enough to fall off your body. Almost all those symptoms are secondary infections. Most people who get leprosy get a small, whitish patch on their skin, and nerve damage (a small percentage get disfiguring nodules all over their skin). The nerve damage affects both sensory and motor nerve fibers. Damage to the motor side causes things like clawed hands (so you end up gripping, say, a hammer with just your fingertips, potentially for hours at a time, causing severe damage to the skin there, eventually causing wounds to form), and the sensory side damage prevents you from feeling injuries, so you're likely to not get them treated or not notice them at all. Pressure sores are dangerous, folks. Without treatment, they cause parts of you body to fall off, and then they will kill you.
  • Cymothoa exigua is a parasitic crustacean which hosts in specific fish species. The crustacean enters the fish through the gills, and lives in its mouth. When there, Cymothoa exigua uses its claws to deprive the fish tongue from blood, causing its atrophy. When the tongue is fully atrophied, Cymothoa exigua replaces it.
  • Open cardiac massage. How could anything with the term 'massage' in it possibly be bad? Well, its the last thing ER doctors or OR surgeons do to try to save your life if you go into cardiac arrest from a traumatic cause, like being shot. They cut you in half front to back to midway from the front to your spine, and then spread you open, and reach directly into your thoracic (chest) cavity and squeeze your heart in an attempt to get it to beat. When air is pushed down into your lungs, inflate outside your body. Sometimes it works.
  • Cylindroma, a.k.a. turban tumor syndrome. Imagine horrible, bright red, bulb-like tumors covering your scalp. EEEEEEK.
  • Cyclopia. It's essentially a malformation associated with the brain failing to separate into two hemispheres that leaves the face with only one eye, a la the cyclops of mythology. Babies born with it usually do not survive. It also affects other mammals, the poor things.
  • Epidermodysplasia verruciformis and the most famous guy who has it, the "Treeman". Basically, an infected wound will cause your body to break out in large gray warts and your hands and feet to become warped to the point that they don't resemble natural parts of your body so much as enormous, hideously misshapen lumps with the four or five rhinoceros-esque horns sticking out.
  • Face-eating bony tumors (like the Tasmanian Devils further up the page) like those suffered by at least two people profiled on TV, a guy from somewhere in Russia, and a boy named Novemtree from Indonesia. Imagine your face being one big tumor because several large ones have taken it over. Yeah.
  • Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. A condition that causes your skin to fall off at the slightest touch. Here's a documentary on the subject.
  • Sacculina, a barnacle that invades a crab genitals and replaces them. When it infects a male crab, it changes their hormones to make them look more like a female so they'll find more unsuspecting males to infect.
  • Rhinoliths, or nasal stones, are calcium deposits in the nasal cavity that can cause headaches and sinus infections. Rhinoliths have to be surgically removed through the nostrils with small tools, but sometimes they can get so big that you'll need to have your nose cut open (WARNING: Video in link is graphic!) [1].
  • Tumors alone are scary enough but are quite treatable when caught in time. However, there have been cases where people have had a tumor growing on a part of their body and they don't even realize it's a tumor at all or they know what it is but can't do anything about it due to financial problems or other issues. Just imagine a mass of flesh on your torso just growing non stop over time, consuming your figure until it makes you look like you're morbidly obese and the sheer weight of it alone causes pain because of all the excess weight you're carrying around.
  • Elephantiasis is a disease that makes parts of your body swell up uncontrollably. It makes the person hideously disfigured and if the disease strikes the legs and feet, it can make walking almost impossible. There have also been cases where Elephantiasis can even affect a male's scrotum and testicles, causing them to swell so massively that they literally drag everywhere they walk. Imagine having to drag around a 50 pound weight between your legs as gravity drags it down.

    Elephantiasis is caused by a nematode related to the Guinea worm, and is spread by mosquitoes. When alive, the adult worms live in the host's lymphatic ducts. When the worms die, they clog the ducts, thereby allowing lymph fluid to build up, thus causing the horrifically deforming swelling.
  • There is a man who actually had a TREE growing in his lung.
  • The effects of getting in direct contact with Agent Orange, not that having it in the same ecosystem as you is very nice, either. As everything on this page- Google at your own peril.
  • This woman's buttock implant.
  • To people with Tokophobia, pregnancy and childbirth are this.
  • Partly the reason chemical warfare has been banned by the Geneva Convention is because those unprotected from the gases die in painful, horrible, and very undignified ways. Mustard gas, for example, causes burning and the skin to bloat out, even in the LUNGS. Let's not go into what Sarin does to the human body...
  • War Is Hell. People die in horrifying, undignified and just plain disgusting ways in wartime. But what of the survivors? Imagine a handsome, muscular soldier happily married with a kid on the way. Then they come back and show their deformities to their families...
    • Sadly, this was horribly common in World War One. So many soldiers came home with horrific injuries from the shrapnel.
    • As well as in The American Civil War and The Crimean War. The reason being that with the level combat medicine was at, the solution for most serious wounds to limbs was amputate.
  • Third degree burns (chemical or thermal) are extremely disfiguring.
  • Macrodactyly is a rare congenital disease that causes a finger or toe to grow larger than normal.
  • Lithopedion. A baby gets stuck somewhere in the body besides the fallopian tubes and the uterus and grows. If it makes it for a few months, it dies and starts to rot since the body can't absorb it. The body counter acts this by turning the baby to stone (calcifying it). If left alone, the woman can be carrying the baby for decades. The baby can rot enough to have some of the bones exposed, or calcify fast enough to look whole and can look like it's covered in blood. It looks disturbing no matter which happens.
  • Ribeiroia. A parasite that lives inside birds and mammals, it lays eggs that are passed out the digestive tract, hatch into aquatic larvae that infect a snail's reproductive tissue (effectively castrating it), then it leaves as a secondary stage to infects a tadpole, which is when the Body Horror starts. Now, the parasite has to find a way to get from the tadpole/frog into the heron to mature, so it makes the tadpole/frog grow extra limbs on its body! This makes the frog unable to swim properly and become an easy target for the bird.
  • A downplayed version is the removal of black heads.
  • Insects are all over this trope. Some examples include:
    • Ants, termites, bees and wasps will often attack opposing ants, termites, bees and wasps by biting attacking the joints on its body, as those are usually the least-likely to be armored. Thus, the battlefield of two colonies of these insects typically looks like a scene from the worst war movies around. Legs, heads, abdomens and thoraxes all meticulously cut apart and left laying about. In the case of their heads, their physiology is such that the heads will typically still be alive. Army ants apply this same tactic to larger creatures, like scorpions. Only in this instance, they can't amputate limbs. So they will get inside the victim and chew it up from the inside out.
    • Parasitic wasps, like the name indicates, are wasps that reproduce through parasitic larvae. A few species practice this on trees and plants, causing the trees to grow huge tumor-like growths. Others, such as the tarantula hawk wasp do this with spiders. The tarantula hawk will find an unsuspecting spider, sting it with a venom that has been described as "comparable to being electrocuted" and leave it completely paralyzed. Then, the tarantula hawk will lay its eggs on the still-living spider after dragging it back to it's lair. The larvae then proceed to hatch, slowly eating the spider alive, leaving it alive just long enough until they can enter their pupa stage. Yum.
    • Female mantises have the infamous tendency to kill their mates while mating. If the female is hungry enough, it will chew off the male's head to keep up its strength. The male is effectively dead at this point, but its body is still alive enough that it can continue having sex. Headless sex.note 
    • Bot flies have what might be the most disgusting and disturbing mating method of any insect, or at least one of the top five. Bot flies are parasitic flies, a lot like the parasitic wasps mentioned above. Unlike the parasitic wasps, they lay their young in the bodies of mammals. Some species go the nice route, and simply have their young grow through the gut of an animal. The more well-known ones, though use an animal's skin as a nest instead. They will lay their eggs on another flying insect, such as a fly or mosquito, which then transplants these eggs—as many as thirty or more—onto the body of a mammal like a cow. Or in the case of one species of bot fly, people. The host insect then bites the victim, while transferring eggs to the wound. The eggs then begin to mature. The first signs of infection are usually nasty welts, but one where a little breathing tube is sticking out. Trying to remove the flies or killing them while still in the skin is a bad idea, as the larvae themselves are much larger than the breathing holes indicate, armed with little barbs to remain in the flesh, and killing the larvae could result in getting a horrible infection. The best course of action is to let them mature, as thankfully they only grow in non-infected flesh, at which point they push themselves out of the wound. A fine solution, unless of course they somehow manage to get into the underside of your eyelid.
  • Papercuts.note 
  • Synthol injections. Synthol is an oil (unrelated to the famous French balm bearing the same name) that some bodybuilders inject in there muscles in order to effortlessly increase their size. Not only the results can be quite ugly if a specific part is too oversized compared to the surrounding ones (imagine some real-life Popeye arms), but it is also very dangerous: not only it is possible to damage nerves or catch a nasty infection with the syringe (bodybuilders rarely have a medical formation), but muscles having been infused with the product can eventually suffer from abcesses or infections. Oh, and inflating too much a muscle can damage the skin covering it.
  • The victims of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele's experiments.
  • This description of Louis XVIII in his last days : "He was rotting alive and his body emitted such an awful smell that his family could not remain by his side. One of his eyes had melted away ; the valet, trying to move the body, ripped shreds off the right foot ; the bones of one his legs were decaying, while the other leg was nothing but a large, suppurating wound ; his face was yellow and black."
  • Gangrene is what happens when parts of your body stop receiving blood and effectively die off, while still on your body. Comes in lovely flavors like dry (mummified look), wet (shiny bits of rotting flesh), and gas (it's so deep, your body develops dark purple boils because the pathogen is farting out gas).
  • Many tribes still practice genital mutilation as a ritual. Prepubescent girls have their clitorises removed and their vaginal openings sewn mostly shut. Before childbirth it is unsewn then promptly resewn. This often happens in primitive societies so there is usually no anesthetic and the cutting implement is dull and covered in bacteria. Obviously, these girls are vulnerable to a wide range of potentially fatal medical problems throughout their entire lives. Men don't get off easy either. Circumcision is one thing, but some cultures have men split own their urethras with a sharp shell. Or the skin on the penis and scrotum is flayed off as a feat of pain endurance.

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