Sometimes a picture perfect facade can have a sinister undertone. These 19 people discovered deeply unsettling secrets that picture perfect families could only keep hidden behind closed doors for so long.
At Home Was A Nightmare
“Everyone outside our family loved us. My parents were extremely nice to outsiders, and actually pretty funny, too. But at home, it was a nightmare. We were pushed to excel in school, music, and sports, and if it wasn’t to my father’s standards we were severely punished. For example, at a school tennis tournament, I got second. It was a great match, but in the end, I lost the tie breaker. That night I was beaten with my second place trophy. As a result, I have an insanely good work ethic, but some serious emotional and trust problems.”
No Family Is Perfect
“My ex-boyfriend’s family was darling. Mom and dad, one son in the theater who had a job tutoring algebra and calculus, one daughter in soccer, one who was a budding Olympic gymnast, and one a dancer. They went to a Catholic church that the dad sang at, the younger kids went to a catholic school the mother helped at. They were so CUTE; family vacations, little songs they had for each other, milk and cookies after school, designated spots at the dinner table….
But behind closed doors, the son was bi-polar and had tried to kill himself multiple times, and he was also anorexic. One daughter came out as gay after having a REALLY hard time (Catholic and gay ya know). One daughter got injured, losing her gym career, and the last one was bullied and probably had an eating disorder as well. The dad was secretly on Grindr looking for gay hookups. None of them EVER mentioned any of these problems, just kept acting like the Cleavers.”
“A close friend of mine in high school had a pretty, picture-perfect family. Two parents, never divorced, and a slightly older sister. Mom was a guidance counselor and dad was a grade school teacher. She’d bake cookies, and he’d sit in an easy chair, reading the newspaper, smoking a pipe.
Well, turns out that wasn’t the only pipe he was smoking. When he was going on his evening jogs, he was actually going to a crack house and getting messed up. I remember my friend saying that he thought it was weird that his dad’s runs were getting longer and longer. Until one night he just didn’t come home. I guess he blew their entire life savings on crack.
We were all floored, but not nearly as bad and my friend and his mom and sister. I would have never guessed this guy was a crack head. He looked like a real life version of Calvin’s dad from Calvin and Hobbes.”
The Benevolent Foster Parents
“This actually came out really recently. A family that used to go to my dad’s church had 2 biological kids. They were both star athletes; the girl a swimmer, the boy a swimmer/golfer/pretty much anything he wanted. The dad was a physical trainer with his own gym, and was a fitness coach for the school district. The mother was an accountant or something that let her work from home. Well, the family decided that they had a large house and were well off enough to foster a few kids.
So they find 4 siblings, and bring them under their wing. Eventually, they adopted them. Everything seemed fine for a while, then I started to notice little oddities—nothing that couldn’t be explained given a little thought: The fostered kids were always super quiet and would kind of…glumly put up with the public shows of affection (arm around the shoulder, tousle of the hair, etc) the couple would display, but they were fosters, so it was assumed it would take a while to break out of their shell.
The mother homeschooled the foster kids, but the biological kids went to public school—but maybe the fosters had some catching up to do before going to public school themselves. The kids weren’t allowed to sleep over at other people’s houses—the mother said something about special bed-time care…or something I don’t remember, but it made sense. The boys were really under-sized for their age…really skinny, shorter than they should have been, and always seemed exhausted—maybe it was just their demeanor.
The mother would also be oddly open about embarrassing things the foster kids would do/say, but I just wrote it off because she was kind of a b to everyone, and a lot of the people at the church weren’t the most socially adept. So fast forward like 4 years, and one of the foster girls decides she wants to seek out her biological family because she hates living with these people. She goes off and does her thing, and there are some raised eyebrows, but meh, 15 year olds right? Well then another kid ran away for 2 days, until they found him at someone else’s house down the road begging not to go back and crying.
An investigation was done, and it turns out that the fosters were being treated like they were in military camp: they were rationed a slice of bread, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and a half cup of milk per meal. If they complained about being hungry, or not liking what they were being served, they were force-fed this water/cornmeal goop, and they were beaten over the back of the hands. If they acted out or were perceived to have an attitude, they were forced to do insane amounts of exercise, like hundreds of pushups or running dozens of laps around the property, forced to drink water, and sent to bed without their rations. If they performed poorly on their homeschool curriculum, they were forced to wear a clear dog cone (apparently it stemmed from the cone of shame in UP). There was a lot more to it, but truly insane conditions. It was mostly the mother that was doing this, but the father would have at least known.
Apparently because the children were fosters, they required a rigorous discipline/diet/educational rehabilitation program. It’s unclear if they would have ever gotten out of that cycle to the point of the gold standard biological children, but it honks me off all the same”
The Country Club Membership
“My dad and mom were considerably wealthy, lived in the best neighborhoods, and my mom headed up a bunch of charities. Then when I was 3, I let my mom know that my dad had been touching me. Over the years it came out that my dad had been hurting my mother some nights under a different name for years before they adopted me, but she had ‘blocked it out.’ After he sought help, it turns out he had split personality disorder (his other name was Louis and my grandmother’s name was Louise – don’t ever want to know what happened there).
He went on to remarry and adopt my brothers. My stepmom knew but I guess just didn’t believe. When I was 25, I got a call to come over to the house. Apparently, my brother had seen dad watching naughty snuff films of some sort from the window outside his office. I had to take my teenage brother out for a drive and try to get him to talk. When he refused, I just told him I was there if he needed me, and to understand that dad was sick and that was not the way you treated women. When we got back, my stepmom told me she finally believed that I had been ‘hurt’ when I was little. She still stayed married to him though, because, you know, can’t lose that country club membership.”
The Child Prodigy
“I went to school with a child prodigy. The media caught wind, and showcased her in news features and even kids commercials. In the featurette, she is shown to have a loving family and a house full of pets. But the reality is that her mom became too greedy with the money and media attention. She controlled every aspect of the kid’s life, so she never had a normal childhood or friends. She entered college at 12 or 13, and was pressured to be a doctor by her mom. It also placed a strain on the parents’ marriage, and they split. In the end, the girl rebelled, and supposedly ran away. I Googled her and she’s doing ok now, finally finding her passion.”
The Caring Father..
“Picture-perfect on the outside applies to my family, for sure. I was the valedictorian of my senior class, editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook, and had early decision acceptance to Northwestern. My dad was a VP, drove a BMW, and we lived in the nicest gated neighborhood in town. Everyone assumed our family was perfect, until I abruptly moved out 6 months before graduation.
No one knew what an insane controlling freak my dad secretly was. In high school, I gained some weight after the death of a close friend (about 20 lbs). Dad put me on a weight loss or punishment program. I had to lose 3 lbs a week in order to not be grounded. At first, I kept up, but eventually it got to be too much. It was cumulative as well, so if I only lost 2 one week it was 4 the next. I was so ashamed I never told anyone until it got to be too much to handle and I broke down with my girlfriend at the time (dad didn’t know I was a lesbian either). She told me he was insane and that I was well within a healthy weight range. Even though she was a health-nut marathon runner, I didn’t believe her until she showed me on a BMI calculator. When I confronted my dad about being done with the program he said, ‘You’re not done. I don’t know what weight you need to be, but I’ll know it when I see it.’ Thanks dad for all these years of body image issues, and the many more years to come”
All In The Family
“On the outside, my friend’s family has a huge mansion, are eloquent, drive expensive cars, wear expensive suits, and are all attending Ivy League schools or have graduated from an Ivy League school. From the inside, it is a whole different story. My friend is sleeping with his dad’s girlfriend whom he is planning on marrying. His dad is 52, this girl is 25, and my friend is 20. His dad and brother didn’t know and still do not know. He tells me that he is not just doing this because he finds her attractive, but to get back at his dad for barely spending any time with him. Apparently, his dad told him that he couldn’t spend any time because he had a lot of work to do, but somehow had enough time to go on a one month vacation in Europe with his girlfriend.”
The Perfect House..
“I had a friend in junior high, Kay. She was beautiful, always dressed so gorgeous with the newest styles and best clothes. Always so sweet and polite to everyone, especially adults. She was everything you could envision of a perfect person, and we always had so much fun and laughed all the time. We went to the same Christian youth program twice a week and became very close, and she invited me to stay over one weekend. My parents, knowing her parents somewhat from the adult Christian program and the brief meetings with Kay after services, agreed.
So after a Saturday youth trip, her parents picked us up. That is when it started to get weird. Every time I would try to speak in the car, her mom would turn around and look at her, and then Kay would put her finger up to her lips like, ‘Shhh.’ I thought this was odd, but maybe they just don’t like speaking in the car. Then we get to their huge house, or should I say museum. This place was immaculate and gorgeous, but never looked like a human had set foot in it. Once we got to the door from the garage we had to remove our shoes and put on these weird slippers right inside the door into the house. Coats had to stay outside in the garage.
Kay told me I had to take my overnight bag into the guest room and make sure it wasn’t visible or her mother would be very angry. She also told me to not touch anything without asking first. Kay’s room looked like a fancy hotel suite that had never been used. It did not look like a teenager, or anyone, lived in her bedroom. Next was dinner; we had to sit in a formal dining room with plastic under our chairs. After a very QUIET dinner, Kay informed me of a long list of rules. Some examples: how and when you could use the bathroom, how long we had to wash our hands, what time we had to be in bed, what time we were expected to be up, how our bed was expected to be made, and how the room I stayed in basically had to look like I had never stepped foot in it.
Her mother even did bed checks to make sure we were in our beds at exactly 8:30. We were 14. I also never saw her mother with anything but a weird fake smile on her face, and her father never spoke. Needless to say, I never went back to her house. We stayed friends within the youth group but never spoke of the night we had a sleepover. I assumed she realized how scared I was, and that this wasn’t the norm, but I always felt so sorry for Kay. She always seemed so normal outside of her house, but inside it was run like a high-class maximum security prison with a Stepford wife as a mother.
Kay and I grew apart during high school but stayed casual acquaintances. She still lives in the same city we grew up in and I do follow her on a few social media sites. From what I’ve heard from people we both knew and from her social media, she turned into a wild party girl but nothing too major, no substance abuse or anything crazy. She has a great job and is still beautiful. I know she has been married a few times and has no kids. I heard her mother had cancer a few years back and passed away, but I’m not sure of her dad. He was always a mystery.”
One Day, He Came Home And Found…
“A guy I went to high school with had what looked to be a perfect family. He was a football star, mom and dad were successful, and they even had a white picket fence around their house.
One day, he and his brother come home to find mom and dad dead in the driveway. His dad was cheating. The mom found out, waited till he got home, shot and killed him, then shot herself…in the driveway no less. Messed up.”
The Neighbors Next Door
“I used to live in a rough neighborhood, but my family was close, caring, and we were taken care of. One day a U-haul pulls up to the house next door, which had been vacant a while. I was around 8 years old. My sister and I were pretty excited when 2 kids, a boy and girl around our age, got out of the truck with their parents.
So they move stuff in, and we get to know the kids a bit, play outside with them, etc. We noticed right off the bat some things were strange. They had rather nice cars for the neighborhood. The year was around 1997, and I think the minivan they had was a 1997. The dad had a truck that was very souped up. The kids wore nice clothes as well. What was weirder, still, the two kids were really stuck up and snobbish. Where my sister and I didn’t even know we were poor at the time, Drew and Jess (the neighbors) would let us know every chance we got how poor we were and how grubby our clothes were.
Then things started getting weirder. We would hear the mother screaming from across the street. I mean SCREAMING. Screaming horrible things like, ‘You ruined my life,’ or ‘I wish you would all die.’ The dad was a weird guy, always dressed as a cowboy…literally. He smoked a pipe, and wore a cowboy hat and bolo tie on a daily basis, which I suppose there’s nothing wrong with in and of itself, but he was creepy.
Drew, the boy, had EXTREME anger issues. He would start a fight with me anytime I ever mentioned his mom or dad. He would literally be trying to kill me. He would beat the crap out of his sister, Jess, like really badly. I remember one day I knocked on the door to see why Jess wasn’t at school. She opened up and her face was just busted, eye swollen shut, with bruises all over her. My mom called social services twice, but both times nothing was ever done.
Those types of things happened more times than I could count. I had a strange perspective on it because I was a kid and they were my best friends, and they did a CRAZY good job at making these atrocities seem mundane. For example, when Jess’s face was pummeled she said that she got jumped by some neighborhood kids. Made sense to me at the time, I’d had my butt kicked a time or two as well, just never to THAT extent.
Truly, because of that family, my own childhood was kind of messed up. They moved away when I was in 8th grade, and I reconnected with Jess in senior year of high school. We started dating pretty seriously…and then she began divulging to me the true details of her family.
They moved into that neighborhood from a few states away, and her mom had managed to land a job as a nurse in the hospital in town, not sure how. Her father had been pretty successful in life, then somehow managed to lose his job and they lost their house. Apparently the mother and father went from living a pretty posh, extremely comfortable life, to being broke in my neighborhood,, and they both went through pretty severe nervous breakdowns. She said none of the abuse started till they lost the house and moved. About a year after high school Jess went into the national guard and I went to college, so we split amicably.
The next time I saw her was about 8 years later at Drew’s funeral. He committed suicide. She and I talked for a few months after that. She had really gotten her act together and was self sufficient. Her brother had turned to substances and became suicidal. She felt an enormous amount of guilt over it all. I tried to tell her it wasn’t her fault, which I think she might have half believed. Anyway, I haven’t seen her in about 2-3 years. We’re friends on Facebook but she never posts, and we never talk. I hope she’s doing well.”
They Always Ran Away
“There was a family that lived down the street from me that always had at least one foster kid. I think they had two of their own, or they were adopted, I’m not sure which. They usually got older ‘unwanted’ foster kids: the kids who had problems in other homes, or a criminal history of some sort. Their foster kids ran away A LOT. They would always play it off as it being just the kind of kids they were because they were ‘problem children.’
They seemed like a fairly normal family and were active in our church. They moved out of my neighborhood a little more than a year after we moved in, and in that time I remember 3 different foster kids all aged 14-16, and all of them ran away at least once. One ran away like 5 times before he got transferred to a different home.
After they moved, I became really good friends with the family that bought their house. I remember my mom talking to my new friend’s mom and her mentioning that they had to replace all the handles on every door in the house, including the closets, because they were installed backward. They ALL could be locked from the outside, like the parents had been locking the kids in the rooms. She said that one of the closets had a lot of scratches on the hardwood floor, so she checked them out, and on the floor was carved ‘I hate this place’ with what looked like fingernails. I feel so terrible when I think about those foster kids now. I was only 11, so I would never have thought to wonder why the kids kept running away.”
“When I was in school, there was one girl who epitomized the all-American, girl-next-door cheerleader. She was gorgeous with blue eyes, long blonde hair, a perfect body, and always had this 100-watt smile. She was on homecoming court, and so was her little sister. Her family was prominent locally: the stay-at-home mom ran the PTA and the dad had a prestigious job.
This girl was on a parent-imposed diet since at least 3rd grade (when I met her), despite never being fat. If she or her sister sassed her parents or got less than a B+ on an assignment, they were told they were ‘dogs’ and were forced to crawl around the house and eat their food from dog bowls under the kitchen table.”
“My grandmother and her partner probably gave the impression of being a perfect couple in their new community, but what people didn’t know was that she had left my grandfather and their 8 children to run off with her new man.
She used to tell the kids not to call her mom when they visited. My mom – ever the rebel – used to go out into the garden and yell, ‘Mom!’ at the top of her lungs to get her attention.”
He Was So Good With Kids…
“There was a cool guy that used to come around on a unicycle and swing by our school. His nephew was a student, and he’d talk through the fence to him while balancing on a unicycle. Everyone thought it was the coolest thing ever. He always did stuff for the church and would always help them before mass. Anyway, about 3 months later, he came by and was talking to the kids when the police showed up. They arrested him and took him away.
We later found out he touched a girl 20 years ago and wasn’t allowed near children. But the reason the police were looking for him was that he’d recently assaulted, filmed, and then abandoned (alive but barely) in a box in the woods a 9-year-old girl a few states away. His nephew’s parents knew all this, and elected to never tell him OR tell the police when they found out he was swinging by the schoolyard.”
“I’m a guy in my late 20s who was taken into foster care at age 7. Everyone around me already knows that I was brought up by foster families because I had a crummy early childhood. I deliberately keep it vague and say stuff like, ‘I’d rather not go into it,’ so that people will just assume I was abused in some way and they’ll stop asking about it.
The truth is that for the first 7 years of my life, I was brought up as a girl by my psycho birth mother who really really wanted a daughter, and didn’t let the snag of giving birth to a boy stop her from trying to raise one. She was a pretty successful professional in a legal field (not entirely sure what) and had me via anonymous sperm donor from a fertility clinic. She found out I was a boy at a late ultrasound, and then moved across the country. She gave birth to me at home and continued to move about until I was 5 or so. It was just the two of us all my life. We had contact with other people, of course, but they rarely got very close. I had lots of friends but was always supervised.
I found out way after the fact that my mother’s strong puritanical Christianity was a lie she used to explain why she was so strict about me being ‘private’ and never letting anyone see me get changed or anything. I just accepted all of this as fact, having never been told anything different. I was sent to a religious school for girls and had a really great childhood. I was a bit of a tomboy and played with Legos and toy animals, rather than dolls and stuff, but that’s not unusual and no one ever questioned if I was a girl, even me. I knew about men and women, but had never really seen much of naked people. My mother never spoke to me about it, but I kinda had the impression that when I grew up and got lady parts and stuff, my thing would kinda fall off or something and I would be a woman. Other kids would keep their penises and they’d be men. I dunno, to be honest, I never really thought about it.
Anyway, I carried on with my happy girlhood and had a bunch of friends. Everything was great until I was 7 and a teacher accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee over me at school. The liquid soaked through my clothes and was scalding me, so the staff immediately stripped me out of my dress and underwear to get the hot coffee away from my skin. And then they found out.
The cops were called and I got taken to speak with who I guess would be Social Services. They asked me a bunch of questions about life at home and stuff. Meanwhile, my mother was taken in for questioning too. She refused to acknowledge me as male and insisted I was her daughter, because she was, y’know, delusional and stuff. I wasn’t allowed to go back home, but got put with a foster family and went through loads of therapy and stuff.
The worst part was that literally overnight, I lost EVERYTHING. My mother, my home, all my toys, and all my clothes. I moved school so I lost all my friends, plus they cut all my hair off and told me I wasn’t a girl anymore. It was really, really traumatic.
The first foster home wasn’t that great. They had three boys already, and going from a sheltered ‘religious’ only-child upbringing to a rough-and-tumble testosterone-filled environment was really difficult. They tried to force me to be masculine and I was just too confused about what they wanted. Anything ‘girly’ was reprimanded and I felt so lost and alone because nothing I did was right.
I tried to commit suicide when I was 11 and again at 13 because I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. After the second attempt, they moved me to a different foster family who were awesome. I consider them to be my parents. They actually stood up for me. The first thing was that they let me grow my hair. When I first got taken into care, they buzzed my hair short, and I hated it. They always had to hold me down and do it forcibly while I was crying and fighting. My new parents flatly refused to do it, and said that loads of boys had long hair. They also let me quit karate and football and take up swimming and jazz dance. Since I’d been in care, no one had ever stood up for my right to choose what activities to do, or how to dress before. It was amazing.
In the end, I came out of it with a pretty healthy gender identity (I’m a guy; not the most butch guy ever, but I’m fine with that). I went to school and got my degree and have a pretty good job and an amazing, supportive wife. Everything is great. But I can never speak about my early childhood, and how I grow up as a little girl.”
The Well-Liked Mechanic
“Growing up, my parents used a local retired mechanic to fix their car. He was really nice and well-liked in the community. It’s a quiet neighborhood, with nice houses, where nothing really scandalous happens.
When the mechanic’s daughter and her fiancee were expecting their first child, he agreed the young couple would have his 3 bedroom house to raise their child, and the mechanic and his wife would move into their daughter’s smaller home.
One night while the pregnant daughter and fiancee were sleeping in their new house, the father let himself into the house, walked into the bedroom, and began violently attacking the fiancee.
The daughter could hear the thuds of the impacts as the two men fought in the dark. She turned the light on, saw it was her dad, ran downstairs to use the house phone (it was before mobiles), and called the police.
She ran back upstairs into the room to see her fiancee laying dead on the bed, in a pool of blood, with blood all over the walls, too.
Her father was sitting calmly on the edge of the bed, with a large kitchen knife in his hand. The noises she heard weren’t punches. They were the sounds of the knife stabbing her fiancee.
The mechanic looked at his daughter, smiled, then said, ‘I have to make sure he’s dead.’ Then he calmly stabbed the dead fiancee one more time in the belly. He then looked back up at her, like nothing had happened and said, ‘Where’s your mom?’
Turns out the mechanic was schizophrenic. Nobody in the community knew about this, only his immediate family. When he was on his medication he was fine but, for some reason, he had stopped taking it,t which caused him to become very unstable.
In his unfit mental state, he believed that his daughter was being held prisoner by a burglar, who had broken into his home. During the murder, he had no recollection of his daughter’s fiancee or that he had moved out of the house. He still believed that he lived there. The mechanic was sectioned, and the daughter gave birth soon after.”
They Built A Fence…
“Next door neighbors moved in. They seem nice. They have a dog. Built a fence in their backyard, because it didn’t have one, to begin with. The two kids were young, maybe 5 and 2, and always saw them outside every afternoon as I came home from work (I lived with my parents for a year, I was 18-19), dad playing with the 5-year-old, while the mom was tending to the younger child. I would wave, and they would wave back. And every time I made it to the driveway, that dog would be barking at me from the backyard. Went on for a few months.
One week didn’t see them at all. Monday through Friday, nothing. The dog was there still barking, but much more aggressively. I didn’t make much of it.
Saturday morning, blue strobe lights wake me up. It’s about 5 or 6, the sun hasn’t risen. See there’s an ambulance as well. See a dozen or so medics and officers, but I didn’t see the family. One of the officers had the dog, was feeding him something. I got up and woke my mom and dad up. they were still asleep because their room was on the other side of the house, away from the lights. I told them what I saw, and we went out to see what was going on. The dog immediacy left the policeman and jumped onto me, knocking me down. I never realized how big the dog was. He was licking me and very excited like I was his owner. I guess he knew who I was me since he saw me every day pretty much. The policeman took him away, not saying very much about what was going on. The police were there all Saturday, yellow tape, and the likes.
A few days later we learned that a family of five people had died in the house Sunday night. FIVE. Apparently, there was an uncle living with them I never saw or was just visiting, IDK. Apparently, he was there to babysit while the parents went on a date or something. They came home and caught the uncle with the 5 and 2-year-old in the basement. They were both badly beaten. You can guess what else was going on. It was assumed that the uncle was beaten to death by the father, and the children were not breathing by the time the parents had gotten home. The mother was killed by the uncle apparently. That part didn’t make much sense. I guess the uncle had killed the children, got the mother, and the father killed him afterward. Then the father killed himself shortly after.
A few more days pass, and a cop car was at the house. I went up to the policeman in the car and asked him what was going on. He said he couldn’t tell me, fair enough. I asked him about the dog, and he said that the dog would be impounded. I got the info where she was at. I immediately went and found her, and adopted her. And now she lives with my parents since my apartment doesn’t allow big dogs like her. Her name is GG. We had to build a fence in our backyard as well for her.
A month or so passed, and my parents have new neighbors again”
The Perfect Couple
“To all appearances, my wife and I were a pretty well perfect couple. We went everywhere together, and she was always the ‘life of the party.’
Behind closed doors, she was pretty much a lunatic, with wild mood swings and insane (i mean, literally insane) depression that would lead her to talk about wanting to die.
She was pretty substance, dependent – if it wasn’t pills it was drinks.
There’s other stuff, too, but that’s the big thing.
She eventually got sick and ended up committing suicide due to being (physically) ill and feeling hopeless about that.
Everyone was baffled how this could happen, and how someone so seemingly happy and intense could just kill themselves. but really I wasn’t so much surprised as shocked.
It was over three years ago, so i’m really pretty much over it and all that. But every time I see a happy person, I wonder: are they really happy, or do they go home and talk about how they want to die?”