The unpleasant trade of being a corpse collector is sadly in demand on the Yangtze River in Wuhan, Central China. On a daily basis, collectors are notified of “floaters” coming down the river, causing boatmen to insist on higher wages. This has stirred controversy in the region given that collectors began refusing to retrieve corpses, further polluting the third-longest river in the world. The reason such an unimaginable and grotesque line of work exists is due to the unremitting tragedies the river has borne witness to for nearly fifty years. In 2015, for example, a passenger cruise ship sank in the Yangtze during a storm killing 456 people, mostly senior citizens. Family members whose loved ones were not swept away in the water would later discover that all bodies collected became part of a mass cremation.Perhaps what is more disturbing is the continuous flock of desperate and tormented souls who chose to end their lives on the famous Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. As with other infamous bridges such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate, the bridge in Nanjing has become a popular suicide hot spot. Once a week, someone plunges 130 feet (40 m) to the river below where their body then floats downstream awaiting their collector. Those who miss the river have the misfortune of landing in the trees along the riverbank or are found “impressed in the earth like mud angels, two feet from rushing water.”
4. Corpse Dumping
By the 1980s, the second-longest river in the United States, the Missouri, had become a notorious dumping site for dead bodies. The river’s seclusion allowed for a convenient place for killers to efficiently dispose of their victims. More often than not, the churning currents would float the body downstream into the city. By the mid-80s, law enforcement in Kansas City began to acknowledge the fact that they were “finding too many bodies floating” in the river. This prompted recurrent water patrols on the Missouri searching not just for victims of homicide, but drowning and other accidental deaths as well. The most sinister of acts occurred between 1982 and 1995 when the bodies of seven women, all of whom had their legs cut off, were found in the river. The youngest victim, Beverlie Tracy, was just 13-years-old when her torso was pulled from the murky waters in April 1991. In 1996, Gregory Breeden was charged with the murder of Viola McCoy whose dismembered remains were found in the Missouri in September 1994. Despite being a suspect in the other six homicides, prosecutors dropped the charges when a key witness stopped cooperating. The remainder of McCoy’s life was spent in and out of prison until his death at the age of 67 in May 2014. The murders of the seven mutilated women, including McCoy, remain unsolved.
3. The Colorado River
Aside from the majestic beauty and natural wonder of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River that flows between the canyon walls is marred by a history of tragedy. From the inexplicable vanishing of honeymooners Glen and Bessie Hyde in 1928 to the possible slaughter of three members of the Powell Expedition in 1869, countless sandstone inscriptions are seen along the canyon walls, each one marking a tragic loss. Physical reminders of the fallen are strewn throughout the river as well, such as the rusting hulk of Bert Loper’s boat—a river runner killed in 1949—which is still lodged among the boulders. Every year, the river bears witness to an escalating number of deaths. In recent years, drownings among private boaters have increased substantially, as have suicides.Perhaps the most diabolic of events have been the senseless, vicious murders along the banks of the Colorado. In May 2006, Japanese tourist Tomomi Hanamure was stabbed 30 times on her 34th birthday. Her body was discovered nearly a week later in a secluded section of the river. Many believe the restless souls of those who have perished continue to haunt the canyon. According to former guide Christa Sadler, she and a friend were camping when they were suddenly awoken by “ghostly, wraithlike visions urging them to leave.” Understandably, the two packed up and left in the middle of the night.
2. An Acquired Taste
The Kali River, which flows along the Indian-Nepal border, is home to one of the world’s largest and most vicious freshwater fish, the goonch. Primarily known for being a giant man-eating catfish, the goonch was responsible for a series of fatal attacks in three villages on the banks of the river. In each horrifying scenario, the unsuspecting victim—whose ages range from children to adults—was abruptly dragged underwater as numerous eyewitnesses watched helplessly. Even a domestic water buffalo could not break free from the strange animal’s grasp. To date, not a single corpse or even evidence of the victims’ clothing has ever been recovered. When underwater investigators toured the Kali River, numerous group sightings of “man-sized” killer goonch were reported. In fact, one of the largest goonch to be captured was six feet (1.8 m) long and weighed 166 lbs (75.5 kg) According to British Biologist Jeremy Wade, the rising number of fatal attacks could be due to the goonch’s craving for human flesh. Along the river banks of the Kali, it is not uncommon for funeral pyres to discard half-burnt corpses. Thus, it is theorized that the giant catfish has developed a taste for the partially-cooked departed.
1. The Congo River
Under the guise of humanitarian motives, Belgium’s King Leopold II annexed the Congo causing nothing but mayhem along the Central African riverbanks in the 19th century. Throughout the Congo River, depots were established by the King’s officials leading to the beginning of horrifying events often referred to as the “forgotten holocaust.” Villages along the water were burned, women were raped, men were executed, and even children were subjected to having their hands and feet chopped off. These atrocities would be a prelude to the horrors to come on the African river solely at the hands of Mother Nature. Case in point, an outbreak of the pneumonic plague occurred in a major trading center on the Congo River in 2005. Over 60 casualties occurred within the first four days while hundreds of diamond minors were infected, ultimately spreading the illness throughout the river on their travels. The waters of the Congo are also some of the most treacherous. Those brave enough to venture out not only have to be cognizant of the forcefully swift currents but aggressive fisherman and locals as well. Every year, hundreds of people perish after their boats have capsized due to storms or collisions with rocks. In such cases, pillagers have been reported to emerge with the sole intent of looting goods even at the cost of someone’s life. After a boat fire in 2010, opportunistic thieves refused to help the drowning passengers as they ransacked the burning vessel while bludgeoning the helplessly despondent passengers with oars in the dark.