In a familiar circumstance, someone on r/deepweb had suggested that the “really dark stuff” wasn’t something you could find on public link lists or search engine results on Tor. People often make such statements, but they rarely back them up with proof.
Still, to give them the benefit of the doubt – if you remember the site All Onion Services, which doesn’t appear to be online anymore, that site listed every onion service, even private ones and ones that were offline. In the case of private onion services, it’s true that they can’t be accessed by everyone, as described on Matt Traudt: Creating Private V3 Onion Services. Only those that have the private keys can access these sites, and even if someone else attempts to use the site, it will still appear as though it’s offline.
Even so, just because a site is private, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has sick and disturbing content on it. It could just as easily be a forum, chat room, or blog that the owner doesn’t want made public. Some forget that Tor is used for sharing secretive information (sites like SecureDrop and GlobaLeaks are also available over Tor).
To find such “secretive” links, theoretically, one would have to be given the link by a person they knew, if it weren’t indexed by the search engines, etc. (private onion sites wouldn’t be). A Reddit post from back in 2016 entitled My visits to the darkest sites on the deep web supposedly talked about really disturbing sites that they found via conversations in Tor chat rooms. I tend to disbelieve these stories most of the time now, although there are still some horrible things that take place on Tor and other darknets.
A good example of such sites would be the ones discussed in Eileen Ormsby’s book The Darkest Web. One of the sites in question was Hurt2TheCore, a hurtcore site managed by a young man named Matthew David Graham, also known as Lux, and who was also associated with the infamous Peter Scully. Contrary to what you might think, this site was on public link lists and search engine results. It makes sense that if you’re running a site for profit, regardless of how horrible it is, that you’d want it to be discoverable by others.
This is why some sites that you’d expect to be on the “dark web” are, ironically, on the clearnet, as mentioned in the post What Was the Nth Room? (Disturbing Content, NSFW). In that case, it was on Telegram rather than Tor. Just about everything that you’d expect to find on Tor is also on the clearnet (drugs, carding, hacking forums, whistleblowing, illegal pornography). The main difference with Tor is its anonymity factor.
All that being said, if you have some way to find these “secret” or “hard-to-find” onion links, let me know in the comments. Advice is always welcome here. Maybe someone needs to make a new All Onion Services site?