Skip To Content

    17 Mind-Blowing and Heart-Wrenching Small Town Secrets That Will Leave You Speechless

    "Just last year someone found their stash of stolen items hidden in a truck in the woods."

    Recently, we asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the dark secrets from their small hometowns, and their answers range from wild to heartbreaking. Here are their stories.

    Note: There are mentions of suicide, murder, and molestation.

    1. "I grew up in the '80s in a small Southern town where most everyone was very conservative and religious. Our church's music minister, who grew up in our town and was married with three kids, left home one day, telling his wife he was going to visit elderly church members. Then he got arrested two counties over while participating in a gay orgy at a remote state park."

    "It was a massive scandal. Of course he resigned and left town, but unfortunately, people were crappy enough about it that the wife and kids had to move away, too, to get away from the secondhand judgment."


    2. "I grew up in Catonsville, Maryland. There is a documentary called The Keepers that documents the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik [who lived in Catonsville at the time of her murder]. She worked at Seton Keough High School in the '60s, and shortly before her murder, female students had told her about the abuse they suffered by Catholic priests (specifically Anthony Joseph Maskell) at the school. Most people believe it was a cover-up by authorities and that she was murdered by Maskell. However, he was never charged, and the school has since closed. Maskell was eventually removed from the ministry in 1994. Fuck that guy."


    A newspaper clipping about Sister Cathy

    3. "Probably the time a local, pretty well-known and liked guy got exposed as a drug dealer and a pedophile. It was certainly an experience to see that many police cars during a regular grocery store visit. He lived right next to the school so pretty much everyone witnessed the raid. His house was basically full of stolen items, drugs, weapons, and inappropriate content of children. He had tasers and guns (no permit). When he got caught, a little drug dealing ring was discovered, and more people were caught — including a kitchen employee at the school. Just last year, someone found their stash of stolen items hidden in a truck in the woods."


    4. "There was a serial killer in my town, and we have no idea how many people he killed. When he was caught, he offered to lead the officer to another body, so he wasn't cautioned until after — so even though he did lead them to another dead girl, he couldn't be charged for her murder. They're pretty sure he killed others, and found the clothes from the first girl in a cache in a lake with a bunch of other unidentified clothes, but it seems that because it was such a huge legal mess just to get him for the second girl, they're not willing to risk trouble by investigating any further."


    5. "Live in a small town in East Texas. Supposedly, many years ago, a circus was passing through town on a train, the driver crashed, and all the monkeys escaped. A scientist who lived in the town apparently captured all the monkeys and started doing horrible experiments on them. Him, the monkeys, and his wife are all buried on the property. People started going to the land to see the cages and history, and now it is known as haunted by all these monkeys. There’s a bunch of wild stories from this town, though. Tunnels underground that make a pentagram. Just East Texas stuff."


    6. "The thing about a secret is that no one knows the truth and in Maine, no one knows what happened to Ayla Reynolds. Long story short, 'Ayla Reynolds is a child from Waterville, Maine who disappeared, aged 19 months, on Dec. 16, 2011. She was last seen at 8:00 p.m. that night in her bed by a family member, but was not there when her father checked the next morning.' That's right. While in the care of her father, 19-month-old Ayla Reynolds just disappeared. No body has ever been found, no arrests have ever been made, and now 13 years later, no one knows what happened to her. And if they do, they're not telling. :("


    A little altar for Ayla Reynolds

    7. "I am from a town of 1,220 people but no longer live there. A woman (40s) I went to high school with was recently caught sleeping with the daughter (19) of another of our classmates. The woman, who is married with kids of her own, was called out for her indiscretion on social media. In response to the accusations and eventual proof, the woman claimed she only did it to get back at our classmate for stealing her boyfriend during our junior year."

    "The wild thing is that this really isn't all that surprising because everyone that still lives there cheats on their spouse. Also, since before I was in high school, it was, and still is, not unusual for young adults to hook up with older people because they all pretty much hang out at the only restaurant/bar for miles. It doesn't help that pretty much anyone over 16 can get served there. They just tell you to hide it if anyone you don't know comes in."


    8. "Respected Christian married man for over 30 years...on the City Council, City Improvement Board, involved and a member of every philanthropic organization he could involve himself with. A counselor for couples having problems in the church where he served as a deacon, the whole ball of wax. He got caught in a 'sting operation.' He was caught frequenting a local park late at night for the purpose of sexual relations with minor boys. They caught him stark naked sitting on a toilet in the public restroom waiting for the minor to arrive — instead it was an undercover officer with the sex crimes unit. When he got caught, he tried to kill himself, and many in the community felt sorry for him."


    9. "Had a male teacher who married one of his students after high school. He was still married at the time [he met her] and had kids, too. Then the student became a teacher at the SAME school with the teacher she married. There was a good 20-year age gap, and she had kids with him, too. She was a student counselor, and he was a history teacher when I was at school there. One of the biggest scandals in my small town."


    10. "Grew up near an infamous institution that for many years housed a man known as 'Sweden's only true serial killer,' Sture Bergwall or Thomas Quick as he was known back then. He was pretty much the boogeyman of my childhood. However, after a journalist started digging into his case, it turns out he didn't actually kill anyone. The whole thing blew up as a huge legal scandal, and to top it off, it was revealed that the institution where he served his sentence was run almost like a kind of cult where the staff treated the head as a weird sort of mother figure and regularly had private sessions with her where they worked on their 'repressed memories.' (Quick/Bergwall claimed to have committed all those murders after his own sessions dealing with supposed 'repressed memories.')"


    Sture Bergwall

    11. "Blink while driving through my home town, and you would miss it. Definitely farm country and lots of woods with natural lime pits. A women had separated from her husband and decided one night, it was a good idea to meet her soon-to-be-ex abusive husband at a roadside bar outside of town. She was never seen again. The husband was never charged and moved away, so most thought. Years later, I heard my uncle telling my mom that they will never find his body."


    12. "Not me, but my mom. She's from a super small town that has a Dollar General and a Dairy Queen, and that's it. They don't even have their own police force. It's an everyone knows everyone type deal. There's one family that's 'prominent' in the town that is now headed by the oldest son of the family. He's mayor, owns the Dairy Queen, wife is superintendent of the two schools they have, coached MS and HS football and little league — Mr. Small Town Big Shot, basically. My mom keeps up with the town news because her aunt and several cousins still live there. Well, one day (not long ago) on the town's FB news page, someone accused Mr. Big Shot of being a pedophile and rapist and had a list of names of people, himself included, who decided to come forward and tell their stories of being molested as children and teens — going all the way back to 1982 when he was 16, up until the early '90s."

    "The reason they came forward is because they finally caught him on camera, admitting he had done those things to them. But the statute of limitations had passed on them, and they were looking for other possible victims who would still be within the statue of limitations to finally put him behind bars. THE TOWN WAS SHOOK. Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law, but the dude suddenly resigned from teaching. His wife resigned as superintendent. They abandoned their house in town. So...😬. Unsure where this case is now and if they found other people willing to come forward. But one of the saddest things to also come out from the news is that we found out why my cousin's son suddenly quit football. :( He wants nothing to do with any potential case because he's so embarrassed and has the mindset that it was his fault anyways."


    13. "A family moved to town after one of those shows that build a house for people in need. Supposedly, the kid had some kind of rare disorder that required specialized rooms and larger doorways so they could get medical equipment in and out of the house. They moved to my town because it was a cheaper alternative to living directly in the nearby city where their child was supposedly getting treatment. There was a big to-do about it, the TV people showed up, did their house thing, the parents and the kids were on TV, the whole shebang. However, months later the police showed up at their house. Not only had the husband embezzled money from his previous job, their kid was not ill. They had taken in a ton of money from donations that were meant to help with things like medical bills and equipment that was supposed to be put in the house to help this child. When the police got there, the house was totally vacant. All the furniture was gone, no cars, nothing."

    "As far as I know, there's still a warrant out on them, but they haven't been caught. It was speculated that this wasn't the first time they'd pulled a scam like this, but that they hadn't thought through the TV appearance beyond 'look, mom, I'm on TV!' Because that's how the police tracked the dad down about the embezzlement."


    14. "It's not really a secret so much as creepy, but in 2014, a human torso was found on one of our Cape Cod beaches, wrapped in plastic on a dolly. All they had to go on was the T-shirt it was wearing and a surgical scar. A couple of years ago, they ran the DNA through national databases and got no hits or familial hits, but they were able to create a probable composite of what the man might've looked like. No leads on identification or suspect. I guess it didn't appear to be either shark-related or ship propellor-related."


    "Shirt the body was found wearing"

    15. "Our small town has 683 homes, 10 houses, and 6 churches. A former village clerk/treasurer was arrested for stealing over $670,000 from the village-for lottery tickets to feed her gambling habit. For a community that has very little tax revenue, it’s a huge blow. To this day, she still lives within this community of 1,600 people."


    16. "I grew up in a city known for its public schools. In the span of one year, two teachers were arrested for possession of child sexual abuse material. Weirdly, one of my best friends had been in both their classes (elementary and high school), and had been on a sports team one of them coached."


    17. And finally... "A fairly high up county employee was embezzling. Things were about to go down. The guy who opened the courthouse one morning saw him and thought, wow, he's at work early! But why is he staring up at the rotunda? He looked up to see what this bigwig was staring at, and then realized that the guy's feet were about a foot off the ground, and he was hanging from a rope."


    Now it's your turn — what's the wildest secret, scandal, or mystery from your town? Let us know in the comments or via this anonymous form and you could be featured in an upcoming BuzzFeed Community post.

    Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.