10 Terrifyingly True Tales of Absolute Terror: Our 2021 Winners
The winners of our Scary Stories contest will leave you sleeping with the lights on for the next weekIn Depth
Illustration: Benjamin Currie
Thank you to all the brave souls who rooted around in their haunted curio cabinets and retrieved their most frightening tales of horror and mayhem from beyond the veil. This year’s stories were a hearty mix of horror, ranging from home invasions and people watching from the shadows to spectral visitors from the great beyond.
As a noted wimp who is often terrified of her own shadow, reading all of the wonderful submissions was a harrowing task. But I was able to narrow down the scariest of the land, and am presenting them to you for consideration, before our final reveal of the scariest story of 2021. Read on if your constitution is strong and jump scares do nothing for you, and as always, good luck.
In the countdown to our 2023 Scary Story Contest, we’re republishing the winners of the last couple of years.
Paperboy by Taylor Dyson
I had a paper route. This was in the mid-1980s. At the time, I was a typical ten-year-old boy living in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. We lived in a two-story house near the end of a cul-de-sac. I’d taken over the paper route from a friend at the beginning of summer, thinking of earning some money, and also with stupid dreams in my dumbass head of “it could be kind of fun”
I had visions of leisurely riding my bike along the quiet streets, firing papers onto driveways with a swift sidearm, one after the other, from some never-ending supply from some magical paper basket mounted on the hood of my dirt bike.
Bullshit. It sucked. There would be no bike.
Here’s how it worked in reality, even though it made no sense. “Porch your papers!” That was the saying. Translation: You have to go up to the front porch of every single house and put the paper on the front stoop. It made no sense because most people in the suburbs don’t come and go from their front door. They get in their car from their garage door and drive away. Nevertheless, the bicycle-riding paperboy throwing dream was dead.
This wasn’t a big paper like the Cincinnati Enquirer, just a small local weekly called the Suburban Life. Every Wednesday after school I’d get off the bus at the top of our street, a small cul-de-sac running downhill, of which we lived at the bottom. And every time I’d be coming down that hill, approaching our house, I’d be reminded that it was delivery day by the two big bundles of newspapers that had been dropped off by the distributor on our driveway, sitting there waiting for me after a long day of school. Ugh. I just wanted to watch G.I Joe and eat cereal.
Our house was basically in the middle of the neighborhood. I’d load up with half the papers, make a circuit one way. Come back, pick up the rest and make a circuit the other way. 168 houses total. And let me tell you, with that canvas bag they gave me with its narrow strap, a full load of 80 or so papers dug the hell into my young shoulder. You’d walk from one house to the next, folding each paper as you walk. Fold once, then again, then wrapped around with a rubber band from the bag they gave us, then again for a tight roll. Then toss it on the porch. It quickly became muscle memory. I’m sure to this day I could do a whole bag blindfolded. (A future girlfriend of mine developed a similar skill folding shirts from working at the Gap.)
Some of the people were cool, like the one lady who lived one street over. She was waiting for me on her porch one afternoon to thank me specifically for doing such a good timely job with my work. Apparently, she’d just opened a local business and had placed an ad featuring some sort of grand opening that weekend—got a 20 dollar tip for that. There were also some perks. Every paper kid would be entered into some raffle to win tickets to local places. I won free passes to The Beach (a damn fine local water slide park) and Kings Island (a kick-ass amusement park with the greatest rollercoaster in the world, The Beast) Big deal for a ten-year-old to treat his family to things like that.
Every month I’d have to go house to house to collect payment, giving them a receipt when they did, a small slip of green paper I’d peel off a pad, like a Post-it, each slip with a coupon for a local pizza place on it. For simplicity, I would ring every bell on the route. If they answered and paid, fine. If not, oh well, congratulations, you get your paper for free this month. We were supposed to note who paid and who wasn’t home, returning at a later date and time to collect from people who weren’t home the first time. Yeah… I never did that. It took long enough ringing 168 bells as is. I’m not going back again and again.
Here’s how it went:
“Hi there, I’m collecting for the Suburban Life”
“Oh, how much is it?”
“A dollar fifty.”
Then they’d fish around in their pockets, maybe having it, or they’d leave me there to go grab their purse or wallet. Sometimes it would be some kid, older than me, high school-aged maybe, and they’d disappear for a few minutes to scrounge up six quarters. A variety of all sorts of suburban people. What you’d expect. Normal. Friendly.
About 8 months into the job, I was out collecting. My canvas delivery bag rested easily enough on my shoulder containing the collected money, the receipt book, and in a side pocket the big bag of green rubber bands. This was a cold bleak wintry day in January. It had snowed recently, maybe 4 or 5 inches or so, and I had gotten a bit of a late start, so that it was already getting dark halfway through the job. I was a stubborn little shit though, so I just plowed on through the snow, trudging through the lawns from house to house, freezing the hell out of my feet through my sneakers.
That’s when I came to a squat brown two-story house that no one had ever answered the door at. The curtains were always drawn, no cars in the driveway, and there were never any signs of light or life. Like one of those unfriendly houses with the porch lights off that you’d see on Halloween that the trick-or-treaters would just walk right by.
But out of habit, I just stomped the snow off my feet on the porch and rang the bell just like I did every other house. After only a brief wait, I heard a latch being thrown and the door opened about a foot and a half. An elderly woman answered, peering out, and I gave her the usual spiel.
She paused for a long moment and then, looking out past me said in a distant way, “Oh. That will take me a little bit,” she said, with an old lady toothy smile. “Why don’t you come in out of the cold for a moment while I fetch you your money?”
I didn’t like doing this. The only other houses I’d ever gone into while collecting were when it was a kid I knew who’d answered. But it was just an old lady…. right? I was let into the dimly lit foyer, and with a bit of effort, leaning on it with her right arm, she closed the door behind me, a latch clacking into place. Moving past me, and without a word, she doddered past me, past a staircase and headed down a darkened hallway into the back of the house, leaving me in the foyer alone. I immediately noticed how warm it was, the way you always do on your face, your cheeks and ears stinging a bit when you come in from the cold. The second thing I noticed was that I was very much not alone.
In the room to the left of me, a sitting room of some sort, very very lowly lit, were five or six people, men and women. Middle to old age. Casually well dressed. Blazers, sweaters… Midwest church-going clothes, if you will. All standing a bit apart from each other in the near dark.
All facing me, looking at me, watching me. All of them remaining perfectly still. Perfectly silent and quiet. So quiet.
In the room to the right of me was the same thing. Five or six of them. Mix of men and women. Same age range, same bland beige-ish clothing. Standing. Staring. No facial expressions on any of them. No casual or friendly greetings, like “Hey there kid, cold out there, ain’t it?” Nothing but quiet stillness. And the seconds kept ticking. On and on and on. No movement. No noise. Not a peep from anyone or anywhere in the house.
You know that feeling we all get when a situation is not right, that little voice in your head, that sixth sense that tells you things? Things like when you’re out walking alone, maybe at night and hey you know how there’s some guy who’s been walking behind you for juuust a bit too long? Yeah, you should cross the street right now, now, Right Fucking Now. We all have that voice.
That little voice in my head was hammering the fucking panic button.
And then, as one, they began to slowly move. From both sides. Towards me. And that’s when I noticed that they had facial expressions after all. Smiles. Great big smiles.
My panic button was being hammered even harder.
In a moment they had stopped, to where they now stood shoulder to shoulder on the borders of each room’s entryway. Hands hanging unmoving at their sides like statues. Smiles nice and wide. You know how when someone smiles a genuine smile, their facial muscles move, like around the eyes and whatnot, lighting up their whole face. Not these. These were not happy smiles. These were mouth smiles. These were unfriendly smiles. I don’t even like typing this part but they seemed hungry. Christ. Still no noise. Silent house. It seemed like time had stopped.
And then, I’m not sure from whom, the giggling began. First with one and then spreading to all. Belly giggles. At first. Like a sort of snickering, like a sort of mockery. But their bodies? And their eyes? Unchanged. Standing…..staring but perfectly still.
And that’s when the little voice inside me hit the override button and seized the controls. I spun to open the door and it wouldn’t budge. This door handle was of a particular design, an older design. The handle was perpendicular to the floor and you would grip it reaching out with your hand, then using your thumb to push down a latch-like lever above the handle. I couldn’t press down the latch with my thumb… it wouldn’t move! I wanted out of there so so badly! I felt like bursting into tears but I think I was too damn scared to cry. I was too damn scared to even breathe.
The giggling grew louder then, meaner as though delighted, with the women’s giggling, in particular, seeming shrill and cruel. The damn door! The giggling! People aren’t supposed to sound like that!
I kept jamming my thumb down as hard as I could to no avail until finally, I began to just jerk on the handle violently with one hand and hammer down on the latch with the palm of my other hand. I want to think that I imagined this part, but I felt them begin to move closer to me. Christ. Mercifully, finally, I ripped the door open to sweet fresh winter air, and charged out into the snowy twilight.
There is a scene in the movie Home Alone where Kevin scares the pizza guy into thinking he is being shot at by gangsters. The pizza guy flees, charging around the corner, all arms and knees and elbows flipping and flailing in panic as he stumbles and trips and falls in the snow. That was me. Slipping right off the porch and eating it hard into a snow-covered bush, getting right back up and slipping and falling, face in the snow, getting up again, half falling and crawling, bumbling and stumbling out of the yard, around the house, scurrying around the corner and just tearing ass past house after house for safety.
Cold and wet, clothes all fucked up with slushy iciness, I’d never felt more relieved. I did not look back and did not stop running until I got to my friend “John’s” house. I didn’t feel like visiting exactly, but I wanted to get somewhere safe, somewhere to calm down. Alas, neither he nor his mother were home. Bastard. I must have sat on his porch for about fifteen minutes, just calming the fuck down, keeping an eye to the left, down the street, down the way of that house. I didn’t know it at the time, but I really could have used a cigarette.
Now, it was dark, and the only way back to my house, the only normal way, was to go back past the house I’d fled. Wasn’t doing that. So I cut through several backyards back to my house, jumping a few fences when I had to. I was relieved in a way to find that my mom and dad hadn’t gotten home yet when I got home.
I didn’t feel like explaining what had just happened, didn’t quite know…. was that even real? Did that just happen? When fucked up things happen to you out of the blue, sometimes there is that disbelief, that denial that anything at all even happened. I was still very shaken and my cold shivering body and wet feet weren’t helping matters so I went and changed into fresh clothes. I really just wanted to be in my room and watch my little TV all alone. That’s what I wanted and what I really needed. Just to be alone in the quiet. To decompress.
My dad brought home McDonald’s for dinner which he often did. I didn’t say a word to them about anything that had happened. My parents ate in the kitchen, watching the news or Jeopardy or something. I ate alone in the family room. Before bed though, in my room, I noticed my canvas delivery bag that I’d dropped on the floor while changing clothes. Picking it up, I half-heartedly noticed that I was missing the rubber band bag, the receipt pad, and probably about half the money I’d gathered that day. They must have fallen out of my bag while I was tripping and falling through the snow. Oh well. It didn’t matter. I didn’t care at all. I was going to tell my parents in the morning that I was quitting the paper route, which I did. They didn’t mind. They knew how I didn’t really care for it.
When you’re a kid you get over things quickly. I don’t remember having any trouble sleeping that night, and I went to school the next day as fine as could be. Later, walking home from the bus stop, down our little cul-de-sac, I remembered it was a Wednesday, and usually that meant a big stack of papers for me to deliver. Not today though. The driveway was empty. My dad had said he’d call the distributor dude when I’d told him that morning about wanting to quit. Thanks, Dad. It was a nice relief, being done with the whole ordeal. I went to check our mailbox at the end of our driveway like I usually did, and then I noticed something sitting on our front porch. Something brown? This was pre-Amazon and we hardly ever got packages after Christmas, so I walked up to our porch to see what was there.
It was a wrinkly brown paper bag. Crumpled down from the top, not folded. I picked it up, opened it, and looked inside. There was my missing stuff that had fallen out of my canvas delivery bag. A big bag of green rubber bands. My receipt pad. And a bunch of bills and coins.
And a piece of white paper, folded over. I opened it up and printed there, in the center of the page, in capital letters, “YOU DROPPED THESE WHEN YOU RAN.”
The Girl in the Picture by SophTown
In the late 90s, we moved into this waterfront property on an island directly across from Seattle. There was an aging pier at the end of our road, and across from us was a retirement home that used to be a boarding school. The original dormitory building still stood, now abandoned, and next to that was an empty and super-dilapidated bungalow.
My friends and I decided to explore, figuring we were pre-teen detectives, I guess. Through the shattered windows on the ground floor of the dorms, we could just make out what looked like broken plates and a stage in the distance. I wanted to climb in (I was super into theatre), but one of the other girls started getting really agitated, saying “I don’t think we should do this, guys. I have a really bad feeling, guys.” We couldn’t find another way in—all the doors were locked and all the windows had a dropdown.
We had better luck with the bungalow, finding the door off its hinges. Inside, it looked like there had been a fire or something- the walls were largely studs, every surface was black, and there were massive holes in the floor. Agitated girl did not come in with us, but probably for the best. The whole place had this weird, stale, and stifling air in it. I don’t really know how else to describe it other than “thick.”
Through the windows from outside, we’d been able to see a room that looked relatively new, with a clean, shiny coat of periwinkle blue paint on the walls. Yet walking around inside the house (which wasn’t big) we simply couldn’t figure where the room was. There were no doors in the wall that should’ve been shared with it, and when we went outside to look in again, we realized we couldn’t actually see any doors from within the blue room either.
That night, everyone slept at my house. Around 2 am, I suddenly woke up feeling like I couldn’t breathe, like someone was sitting on my chest, and like I couldn’t move. I was sharing the bed with one of my friends, and the others were on the floor, but then when I managed to turn my body on to my right I saw a seventh girl sitting on my dresser. There were only supposed to be six of us.
She had dark hair, and was wearing a black dress—like a pinafore—and was tapping her booted heels against my drawers. I guess that jerked me awake properly because I was able to bolt upright, close my eyes, and shake my head. When I looked again, she was gone. I figured I’d given myself a nightmare.
A couple of days later, I met up with my friends at the Island Historical Museum to do some more digging. It turned out that the boarding school had been founded in the 1870s as a sort of all-girls finishing school, and the pier at the end of the road used to be one of the main transport links over to the city. My house stood on what used to be the playing fields, and the bungalow was the groundskeeper’s house, though unfortunately, we couldn’t find any blueprints to explain the elusive blue room. What we did find, however, was a pretty terrifying photograph from the 1890s.
The black and white school portrait showed two rows of girls in pretty white dresses sitting in front of the dormitory building. A couple of lines of text under the image listed all the names of the students in order, except for one.
In the front row, there was a girl looking down at her foot which was being stepped on by the girl next to her. The girl next to her? Dark hair, wearing a black dress, and boots.
And her name? “Girl unknown.”
After we moved, I started going back to those buildings to smoke weed, but never went in again. Once I got a cell phone, I noticed there was no service at the bungalow or dorms, and stopped going completely. Years later, my brother went into the house with some friends but now refuses to ever go back either. He swears they heard screaming from inside the walls.
There Is Something About Maria by BlueberryJunkie
This story takes place in a small town, in a small South American country, in the mid-70s. My parents are a young married couple, with two young daughters, living next door to my dad’s sister, Esther, who is also married and has two small children of her own. After being home with her boys for while, my aunt Esther finds a job at the post office and with the help of her friends, she is able to find a live-in nanny to take care of her children. The nanny, Maria, is only 14-15 years old at the time. Her family lives in the outskirts of town and has experienced financial hardships in the last few years, struggling to provide the necessities of life for their large family. Maria is no longer going to school and has been kept at home to help with her younger siblings, and other household chores. Her parents seem happy and relieved when arrangements are finalized for Maria to start working for my aunt.
Maria is polite, shy and quiet, especially around adults, but she seems to enjoy taking care of the two young boys and the boys adore her. Maria has an innate ability to soothe, calm, distract and entertain the two rambunctious children under her care. My aunt Esther and her husband Justin are thrilled. Soon after her arrival, however, odd things start happening. It begins innocently enough: things like cutlery, socks, and underwear are constantly going missing. Small appliances and objects like the handheld radio, coffee maker, porcelain figurines, etc, disappear. These things are later found buried in the beach behind the house. On one occasion, the family dogs dig out a long line of socks and underwear, all knotted together and buried in the backyard. Naturally, my aunt and uncle questioned Maria but like them, she seems not to have a clue of what is going on.
I should mention that at this time, the electrical company has a hard time providing power to the entire town. This is a problem that persists for years to come. As a way to solve this, a power schedule is implemented so entire neighborhoods are left without electricity 3-4 times a week, and even then, there are unscheduled blackouts as well. In those days, by 6:30 pm, without any street lights, entire areas are enveloped in a thick mantle of darkness only interrupted by the faint flicker of candle lights. Evenings are hot and humid, so my aunt Esther likes to keep the windows open for fresh air, especially on nights when the power is out. And it is on those nights that someone begins to throw rocks into the house. They come in through the open windows. My uncle Justin and my dad, flashlights in hand, go around the perimeter of the property looking for intruders, but they never see or hear anything. The entire property is surrounded by a 7ft fence, has a generous front yard, and a backyard that backs onto a beach, and a river. Any intruders would have to jump the fence in and out, as gates are padlocked from within. But no one ever hears any rustling footsteps or any of the usual noises that are expected when someone is running away and/or jumping a fence that tall.
As the days and weeks go by, things seem pretty uneventful during the day. Maria is usually home alone with the boys, and she is often spotted taking them for walks, and playing with them. Things continue to go missing and at night, the rocks continue to be thrown into the house now with a greater frequency. In addition, candles are being blown out randomly by unseen forces. My uncle enlists the help of several neighbours, and even the local police is called in to help him patrol the property. It doesn’t seem to matter how many people are out there in high alert, the rocks are thrown in no matter what. The dogs go crazy barking at whatever unseen threat is lurking in the dark, yet no one ever sees a thing. Someone suggests calling in a priest, to bless the home and the property. Just in case.
My uncle is reluctant to go that route but after weeks of being on high alert and being unable to catch the culprit, he agrees: there is nothing to lose, and whatever this is, it might be time to consider it might not be of this world. . The priest is called and he comes with a small entourage of indigenous men. The indigenous men refuse to come into the property. They are genuinely afraid and keep shouting “the devil, the devil”. They wait outside while the priest goes around the house blessing and cleansing the space. Nothing changes and things keep on happening just as before, if anything, the intensity gets worse.
One night, while keeping guard out in the yard with all the neighbors, the dogs start furiously barking at the outside walls of Maria’s room. All flashlights get pointed that way, and a thorough search follows, but as usual, there’s nothing. My uncle Justin and dad decide to go check on the women and children, who are inside the house. Maria is in her room and they want to make sure she’s ok. They knock on the door but she’s hesitant to let them in. And the more she tries to stall not to let them in, the more suspicious they get. They end up kicking her door open and as soon as they do they notice a stench. They find her sitting on her bed, in total darkness trying to cover something up: a large pile of feces. My dad said no human could’ve produced such a pile, and that it’s something you’d expect from a large animal like a horse. They look under the bed, in her closet… but no one is found. They try to get answers from Maria, but she won’t say anything other than “it wasn’t me”. She refuses to speak and now the dogs outside are going mental, as the rocks are furiously thrown into the house, smashing windows and wreaking havoc. The neighbors are still outside on guard, but the rocks seem to come from everywhere and nowhere.
By now it seems clear to all involved that whatever is happening is tied to Maria. The next day they drive her back to her family home. Her parents play dumb at first, but then break down and confess that Maria is being haunted since puberty, by who or what is unknown. The family has moved several times since it all began, hoping this would solve the problem, but no such luck. The few items they manage to buy just disappear from the house, sometimes to be found buried somewhere in the property. At night, rocks are thrown in, things move. Anyway, my aunt Esther and uncle Justin leave Maria with her family and return home and, just like that, everything returns to normal.
The last thing my family hears about Maria is that her parents, counseled by their priest, have arranged for her to enter a convent, in hopes that whatever has been following her, will loosen its grip on her once she is living in such a religious setting.
I have read the Spooky stories in Jez for years and have always meant to tell this one. It is not that scary, but completely true.
We bought our little white weatherboard cottage 35 years ago and love it. When we moved in, we had a beautiful black Great Dane called Sally. The first night in the new home we arranged her bed (a child’s single mattress) in the corner of the family room and tucked her in with her favorite blanky and took ourselves off to bed.
Around 3 am we woke to the mournful sound of Sally howling. Thinking she was lonely; I went to check on her. She was shivering, her hair standing on end, crouched flat on the bed with her nose pointed to the doorway. I couldn’t see anything unusual to upset her, but I sat beside her, stroked her, told her she was a good girl. Suddenly she looked up at the doorway, gave a little ‘woof’, wagged her tail, and promptly lay down and went to sleep.
I thought nothing more about it. Then a few months later, Jess, the Labrador came to stay with us for the night. He and Sally shared the same bed (squeezy but they managed), until around 9 pm when I noticed Jess growling, hair on end, pointing his nose at the door. Sally was undisturbed, gave him a nudge and a lick whereupon Jess whined, wagged his tail, and lay down.
People, I tell you true, it happened time and time again. We have had many dogs and any new dog or puppy that came to stay or visit with us reacted the same way on their first night. A whine or a howl, hair standing on end, shivering, and cowering, nose pointed to the door. Once told they were a good dog, it was alright. then given a pat they would woof or bark, wag their tails and settle down.
Even my husband, who is not a believer in ghosts, would comment that the “Dog Ghost” was visiting again.
Until last year that is, when we needed some rather urgent repairs to the house requiring re-stumping to level the floors and stop subsidence. The workers spent much time digging out dirt, clearing around the foundations of the house until they all stopped work suddenly. The foreman crawled out from under the house and looked at me in confusion asking,
‘There’s a skeleton, I think it’s a dog. Just laying there, think it got trapped long time back.’
We buried the skeleton under the old gum tree in the yard under a stone that reads “Good Dog” and haven’t been visited by the Dog Ghost again.
Strange Living Room by anonymous
My childhood home was a typical suburban, mid-century creation located in the hills of suburban Pennsylvania. I believe it was built somewhere in the 1950s-60s. At any rate, my family acquired said property in the early ’90s after moving into town from out of state, when I was 2.
My parents were the first wave of the new generation of families that came to live in the neighborhood around this time, meaning that nearly all of my neighbors were elderly. This served me quite well as a kid, as my neighbor across the street was an elderly lady who became one of my dearest friends in childhood. An accomplished artist and former model who had traveled the world, she smoked, drank, and cursed nearly all day long, and I suspect had undiagnosed agoraphobia as she never, ever left her home in her later years. She was the best; she always made me feel welcome in her home and took a special interest in befriending me. As a member of the older generation of families who lived in my neighborhood, she had seen most of the families come in and out of the neighborhood as it was being built. My neighbor also had a middle-aged daughter who lived with her for some time, and with whom I was also very close.
My house couldn’t have been more different from theirs—immaculately clean instead of smoke-filled, modern furniture instead of dated—you get the drift. One of the intangible differences between the two homes, however, was that in my childhood home, there was always a sense of being watched. As long as I can remember, I was never comfortable in the basement or living room, and particularly at night, even when I was alone, I felt eyes on me. Our house, while typical on the exterior, also had some strange, inexplicable features. When my parents first bought it, the living room was carpeted. Not just the floor, the walls, too, in thick, dark blue carpet that enveloped the entire space in a way I have never seen before or since. The windows of the living room were blocked by pine trees, and the combination of the shadowy evergreen branches with the deep blue of the carpet on the floor, walls, etc. meant that the room was almost entirely devoid of light, even during the middle of the day.
Fast forward many years later (when I was about 19) — my neighbor had sadly passed away, and I was chit-chatting with her daughter. We spent many hours together, and I had come out to her as being gay (which she told me she had known intuitively since I was a young child), and I also told her about the strange energy permeating my childhood home. She eventually disclosed, reluctantly, that prior to my family moving in, two other families had lived in the house. Each of these families had a gay son who was not accepted by their parents, and each of these sons had committed suicide. One in the house, and one a few miles down the road in Philadelphia. My family was the third to live in this house… and I was the third gay son, with conservative parents. My neighbors saw the pattern repeating itself in front of their eyes for the third time, and made sure to create a safe haven for me in their home, for which I am eternally grateful.
More years have passed since then, we have all left the neighborhood, and I still feel so lucky to have broken the cycle — and to have parents who ended up coming around to having a gay son. Oh, and the strange living room? We later learned that the husband of the prior couple who lived in the house immediately before my family was such a brute that he carpeted the walls and planted the pine trees by the windows so he could beat his wife, children, and dogs without the neighbors hearing or seeing (but they still figured it out).
She’s Always Watching by Erin
My younger sister and I lived together in college, and made friends with 2 other sisters that lived together and went to the same school. We got along beautifully and had so much fun together – we even moved to rent apartments in the same complex just to be close so our debaucherous (I know that’s not a word, but I like it) college activities would be more convenient – just walk across the parking lot!
The friend-sisters invited us to come to visit their hometown (small town southwest Texas), meet their parents, and stay with them for a fun-filled weekend, and so we went!
Their family had a large home—maybe 6+ bedrooms? It was a somewhat older house, maybe built around the ’50s. So there was plenty of room for each of us to have our own room. Of course, the friend-sisters elected to stay in their own childhood bedrooms, so my sister and I each took a guest bedroom.
The first night we were there, we had a couple of beers in the backyard and stayed up chatting and joking around. No one was drunk; nothing odd was discussed, just a group of young college girls having fun. We probably went to bed around midnight or 1 am. I went to my room, changed into sleepwear, and went to bed. I lay there, unable to sleep, and not sure why. I never really had any trouble just going right to sleep. But something just felt… off? Present? I don’t know. As I lay there with my eyes closed, I started to feel like someone was in the room, watching me. I had a strong feeling that it was coming from the corner of the room with a rocking chair in it. I told myself to ignore it and go to sleep, but I couldn’t push the feeling away. And then I thought I heard the rocking chair creak. Thoroughly freaked out, I slowed opened my eyes to find that there was a hazy figure of an old woman, kind of floating above the rocking chair, just looking right at me. She had on some type of long dark dress, and she had long grey-white wavy hair, worn down. She just kind of floated up and down in that corner of the room, above the chair, watching me with an intent gaze. And I don’t know how to describe the difference, but to me, it felt like she was watching me, not just looking at me. I could see the chair slightly rock, as though she was in it–but she wasn’t. It didn’t feel evil, and I didn’t feel unwelcome. It’s a jarring thing to experience nonetheless. I decided to close my eyes and tell myself I was seeing things, and try to go to sleep. And I did, but it was uneasy sleep. I never felt alone in that room. I felt watched the whole time. I dreamed of her some. I woke at some point in the night, and I didn’t see her, but I felt her. And the chair was still slightly rocking.
In the morning, we all got up and were going to go grab lunch, so we were all getting dressed and doing hair and makeup in the bathroom together. One sister asked me casually, “Did you sleep ok”? I said, “Eh, the bed is fine, but I felt like someone was in there with me”. The other sister playfully slapped at the sister that asked me, and said “Why did you tell her!?” I said, “Tell me what!? No one told me anything!”
The first sister confirmed that she hadn’t “told me” anything. And then both sisters kind of grew somber at the moment, faces kind of drained, and one explained: “We don’t know who that is. She’s just there. She’s always been there. Did she watch you? She’s always watching in that room. Sorry, we didn’t warn you.”
They didn’t say this, but it’s almost as if my experience somehow made it more real to them. Like, as if they had always just had a shared experience as sisters growing up together, but it was easily dismissed because they could just be imagining things. But since a stranger to the house came in, with no warning, and saw the same thing, it had to be true. I slept on the couch in the living room for the rest of the visit, and didn’t go back to that room except to gather my things.
I know this is far from the scariest story—nothing bad/evil happened—but it is real and true. And it will live with me forever. I can never un-see her. I wonder why she’s there? Why does she watch?
Haunted Museum by Jenny
Everyone who works in museums is used to stories about the resident ghost. In my most recent job, I worked in a dingy children’s museum, and when I started some of the front desk staff told me about Johnny. No one has an exciting back story about Johnny, but most of the desk staff had pictures with orbs. This didn’t bother me, and neither did stories about a child’s voice in the fifth floor offices late at night after closing, but I didn’t like the stories about how Johnny would mess with the freight elevator. My coworker told me that when Johnny got on the elevator with me “I would know” and that you have to say “Stop it Johnny” to get things under control again.
Anyway, one day I am at the museum at 4 am, setting up for our signature breakfast fundraiser. I am the only person in the museum, waiting for the rest of my team to make it through an unexpected snowstorm. I am loading up the freight elevator with all the dishes from the fifth floor to go set up the first floor for the event. The doors to the freight elevator are really sensitive, and open if anything is close to them and stay open for a long time if they are triggered. I have to be careful to make sure everything is far away from them or the doors won’t close. As I get on the elevator with my cart of dishes and decorations, I push the button and pull out my phone. Suddenly the elevator stops on the fourth floor. No one is there. Then it stops on the third floor. No one is there. We go back up to the fifth floor, the second floor, the third-all opening onto empty rooms. I check to make sure nothing is touching the buttons, but all of my stuff is shoved in the back to not trip up the sensors.
Finally, we get to the first floor and I am getting ready to get out of this weird elevator ride, but the doors only open halfway and slam shut quickly. We go all the way back up to the fifth floor and the doors half open and then shut again. I keep pushing the 1st-floor button but nothing is happening and I am scared that the elevator will malfunction if I push on too many buttons. After we stop at the vacant 2nd floor again, I remember what my coworkers says and say (feeling foolish) “Stop it, Johnny.” Next stop is the first floor, where the doors open like normal. I get out, and wait for the rest of the team before I get all my stuff out of the elevator so I don’t have to be in there alone. Anytime I am alone in the elevator at work again, I always say hi to Johnny and tell him I can’t play.
Ghost Girl by notyourlostlove
This happened when I was around seven and living in a small farm town outside of Chicago. Each night I’d go to bed and from the ceiling above me a little girl, in the shape of a shadow, would watch me. I recall she had this curly untamed hair and no facial features, but she definitely read as a little girl around my age. I told my very religious mother about this and at first, she said it must be my guardian angel. She also told me not to stay up late reading books with the light on, that it does things to my head. I was confused by that because I never read books at night. I figured it couldn’t be all bad, as the little shadow girl never did anything to me. She never even spoke to me. After a few months though, I started to have these terrible dreams. I’d go to sleep and see horrific car accident scenes, and murders, a man inviting me to go into a maze with him, or a large angry person chasing me. As the chaser dropped their hand on my shoulder, something would pry my eyes open and I’d suddenly be awake in my bed, staring up at the little shadow girl.
I started to think something might be up with her. I’d scream and cry and ask my mom to sleep with me, but she didn’t want to. My father told me the little girl was just a reflection in the window or a figment of my imagination. They both tired of me talking about her. The shadow girl watched me until I was probably 9 or ten years old, then she gradually faded back into the ceiling where she came from and I didn’t think of her for years. Over time, I chalked her presence up to my wildly out-of-control imagination.
In my 20s, my brother and I decided to go back to the home where we’d grown up to visit. A family we’d known from our town and purchased it, so they were happy to invite us in and let us check out the old “haunt” again. When we got to what had been my room, the mother of the new family became, for the first time, very sheepish and was hesitant to let us in. She mumbled something about bad spirits and this is the room they don’t use.
I suspected she may have had an encounter with the shadow girl and I laughingly said, “Wait, have you guys seen the ghost girl too?”
The woman’s face drained of color. “That is no ghost,” she said. She told me she’d seen the shadow girl in my former room, mostly, but also walking around the home and into her children’s bedrooms at night. The woman had called her “psychic” sister-in-law to do a mini exorcism and the SIL’s chants had not gotten rid of the spirit entirely, but had relegated her to this room. At the time, the SIL had half-jokingly called the spirit a soul hunter.
At this point, I wasn’t freaked, so much as amused. I also felt justified that I hadn’t been imagining things all those years ago. When I got home, I called my mom to let her know there had been a ghost girl who’d watched me and the new family had corroborated my experience.
During this call, my mother became shifty and obtuse and I sensed there was something from back then she hadn’t told me. I pressed my mother to tell me what was up.
My mother said that back then there had been several nights where she’d walk past my door at night and see this unusually bright light coming from the sides of and beneath my door. For a time she’d thought it was me with my light on reading the American Girl Doll series or something and ignored it, but then when I started talking about the little girl, she’d become more curious. One night, after seeing this light, she’d peered into my room and saw a giant glowing orb floating over my body. It wasn’t a car-light or reflection, this was some kind of mini planet standing “guard” over my body. In the next moment, I had shot up, suddenly awake and she’d run to comfort me and tell me to go back to sleep. Since this hadn’t been a shadow, she, being deeply religious assumed that I’d mistaken a friendly angel for a ghost.
But now both she and I are convinced whatever she saw was protecting me from the little shadow girl (who is not a girl at all), and every moment I’d shoot up suddenly awake from whatever horrific nightmare I’d be having, it was that orb thing pulling back from some predator in a dream.
House Fire by mariest
About 11 years ago, myself, my husband and our one-year-old daughter moved into a house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a great neighborhood. The house had been built in the ’70s and had not been updated, so inside it wasn’t overly attractive, but it was spacious with a nice little yard and it was affordable. Weird things happened there such as things being found in strange places, noises, etc and most people who visited would comment that the house had a “creepy” feeling. Most of the scary stuff though involved my oldest daughter.
My daughter had never been an overly good sleeper, but once we moved, she was impossible to get to sleep, never mind sleep through the night. Our first night in the house, she screamed and cried for hours. It was the start of a trend. Every night she’d fight sleep as hard as she could, most nights, she’d wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Eventually, bedtime got slightly less difficult, and I decided the move had probably stressed her out.
Six months or so after moving in, I was sitting in the living room while my daughter was taking an afternoon nap in her bedroom upstairs when I heard a huge crashing sound. I immediately became panicked and ran as fast as I possibly could to get to her room. I opened the door and my daughter’s chest of drawers is on the floor, face down, the things that had been on top of the dresser are scattered on the floor, except for a decorative candle that my daughter was holding. My voice cracking, my eyes full of tears, I move to pick up my child. I scoop her up and look her over, making sure she is OK. I try to ask her what happened, but she was a year and a half old so all she would say about it was “Uh oh.”
After this, she started with all kinds of mischievous behavior, nothing out of the range of normal for toddlers, but I always feel like mentioning this when I talk about the time in this house. She’d break toys, color on walls, rip papers, smear creams all over walls and carpets, she took a hairpin once and dug the end of it into the brand-new TV we had just purchased causing deep gouges in the screen. When she got old enough to speak more fluently, she would always insist these things weren’t her fault, that her “bad friends” did it/made her do it.
We brushed off her mention of “bad friends” at first, figured she was just being an imaginative child and we didn’t want her to think we believed her excuses.
A few months after my oldest turned two, I had another baby girl. My oldest was not thrilled about this top and would avoid her sister often. One day, they were both supposed to be napping in their own rooms when I heard footsteps so I went to check on them. My oldest had climbed into the baby’s crib with an extremely sharp pencil and was holding it as if she meant to thrust it into her baby sister’s face. My husband and I could not figure out where or how she could have gotten a pencil, especially such a sharp one. We did not own a pencil sharpener or even pencils.
Maybe a week later, I found my oldest daughter in the hallway with a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner to her lips. I took the bottle, cleaned her hands and face then called poison control. When everything settled, I asked her why she was trying to drink that and she again blamed the “bad friends”. I also couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten her hands on the bottle of cleaner. The hallway closet I kept it in had 5 shelves originally, however one broke and cleaning supplies were kept on the top shelf. I could have believed she climbed the shelves to get to it, but with the one missing, that would be very unlikely.
One day, I was trying to get my daughter to take a bath, she didn’t want to so she ran into my bedroom and closed the door. I didn’t hear her lock it, but figured she must have because I could not open the door. It was a flimsy indoor lock that was decades old, any other time I was locked out of my room I could open the door just by wiggling the knob a bit. This time, it didn’t work. I could hear my daughter laughing on the other side of the door, I asked her to unlock the door but she just laughed and then I could hear her jumping on my bed. I took a pen and tried to pick the lock, that didn’t work, tried a few other things to no avail. By this time, my daughter was bored of being in there I guess because she knocked from inside and said she wanted out. I told her to unlock the door, I could hear her twisting the door knob but still, it didn’t open. At this point, we were both panicking. I tried not to let it show, but it was scary and my little girl was crying that she was scared and wanted out. I called a friend from nearby and she couldn’t get it open either, so we called the fire department. They came and opened it with a crowbar. When it was opened, the door had not been locked, we could not figure out how it was so stuck.
One day, my daughter was in her room alone, she was sitting in her closet colouring circles on the wall and talking to herself. I walked in and took away the crayons then asked her why she was colouring on the walls when she knows she shouldn’t. She again gave me the line about the “bad friends”. At this point, she’s about 4 years old and has blamed things on her bad friends for years, so I finally decide to ask her about them. She tells me they are very, very old and they like to do bad things. They live in her closet and have very white skin, very long grey/white hair and light blue eyes. She tells me they are bad and they don’t listen when she tells them to leave her alone. It was really crazy to me how she had so much detail and I got chills listening to her describing these things. She repeated this unchanging story to my husband and other relatives many times, it was always chilling.
A couple of days before she was going to start pre-school, my daughter came out of the bathroom with her hair hacked off of one side of her head. There were some spots that were totally bald and looked shaved, some were an inch or two long. It was this awful splotchy mess. My daughter was crying and wouldn’t explain how or why she’d done this. She did not have access to scissors, my scissors were still in the cupboard above the fridge, and my husband’s electric clippers were in a closet in our room. When I went into the bathroom, there was no hair mess, I expected chunks everywhere but I found none, I also found no scissors and no knife. I figured she must have flushed the hair, but still found it remarkable that there wasn’t loose hair on the floor or counter.
The whole time we lived there, my oldest had terrible nightmares, she’d wake up screaming and occasionally get out of bed and walk around screaming. We moved when she was 5 and immediately, the night screaming stopped. So did most of the “mischievous” type of behavior. She began sleeping well and now it’s her favorite activity, lol!
We didn’t like to talk too much about how scary it was there, and didn’t even connect all the stories until last year when my kids came home all excited about a haunted house story they heard. I brought up the old house and the “bad friends” mush to my husband’s dismay (he is still super terrified; I wonder if he had experienced more and is holding out on me!). My daughter didn’t remember any of the time spent in the house, but she wanted to hear all about it. I told some quick, toned-down versions and quickly decided that I shouldn’t terrify them with more, so we left it and moved on. That night, I woke up in a panic at 3 am, my mind was screaming at me that fire alarms were going to go off. I got out of bed and checked on my kids, the house was quiet and fine but I couldn’t calm down.
In my head, I just kept thinking about fire and I was certain that the fire alarms were going to sound at any moment. I walked around my whole house several times, even the garage and everything was fine. I’m pretty sure I stayed up the rest of the early morning because I was that worried and so certain a fire would break out. Several hours pass and I’m scrolling Facebook, when I come across a comment in my old community’s page about a fire. I immediately tense up again, my parents live in the area, maybe my scary fire thoughts were about them! So, I click through the comments to see if anyone mentioned where exactly it was, and then my heart jumps into my throat. My old house was on fire, pictures of firefighters on the front lawn as smoke billowed out of the house flooded the comment section.
Rachel? by mgnd12558
Back in 2015 while in grad school, I moved into an apartment with a friend of a friend named Rachel. Being that this is San Diego and not many apartment buildings are *that* old, this one was built in the 20s, and was propped up over a deep canyon. My room was located in the back of the apartment, on the canyon side, well away from the street, which wasn’t a busy one regardless (an important detail).
Rachel was a scientist who traveled often and owned several strange pets like snakes, tarantulas, and one very snippy, loud parrot. This parrot would squawk incessantly when someone entered the apartment, and it would take forever for her to settle down. She had a huge cage in the dining room, which was an open floor plan to the kitchen.
About 10 months in I had a random offer to move into my own place, so I put in my notice to move. Things started to feel funky after that, and a general air of upset or anger permeated the apartment when I came home – and I’m not talking about the roommate. Something about the apartment just seemed… angry at me.
One night while eating dinner with Rachel she suddenly broke her normal character and our conversation, went pale and looked at me with a strange deathly look in her eye and said and said, “I mean, you have to leave? You’ve only been here 10 months.” Alarmed I said “What? I didn’t think you cared.” She looked back down at her food, then up at me again. The dark look in her eye was gone. “What?” She said, as though nothing had happened.
One weeknight while Rachel was traveling I had just come home and was doing the dishes. I suddenly had a feeling that I was being watched, and heard the parrot start to wrestle about in her cage. The floor creaked ever so slightly right behind me, and with a sudden, piercing squawk, the bird was going nuts. I turned around in time to see the white blurred figure of a short woman with long hair quickly turn away from me and walk down the hall toward the bedrooms.
I knew deep down she wasn’t in the house, she wasn’t home, but I was in such denial that I dropped everything and ran down the hall.
“Rachel!?” Nothing. Bedrooms dark and quiet.
A few days before I moved out my boyfriend came to stay the night. In the middle of the night I woke up suddenly to see a white light on the wall just below the ceiling on the opposite side of the room. It was blurry, I couldn’t make it out, but I just laid there watching it. And then it started to move. It drifted higher onto the ceiling, and began to float toward the bed, much like if a car light were shining into the room through a window, and as the car starts to move so too does the light. Except… remember that my room was nowhere near a road, and there was no window from which this light could be entering. And it was moving so slowly that I had enough time to nudge my boyfriend awake.
“Look,” I said, “what is that?”
We both stared until it came close enough to see.
“Is that a… it looks like a… a mask?” I whispered.
“It’s a… it’s a face,” he stammered.
And sure enough, it was a face. It wasn’t male or female, it was definitely mask-like. White and still, floating up above us. And as it reached the point directly above us it began to slowly fade. And then something weirder happened: my boyfriend started to laugh. It wasn’t his normal laugh. It started as a giggle and turned to a maniacal, deranged-sounding laugh. I looked over to him and could see in the dark that his eyes were wide and staring up as he laughed, almost like he wasn’t there anymore. Something else was there. I said “why are you laughing like that? Stop it!” And shoved at him. He immediately stopped laughing, snapped out of it, looked at me and said grumpily “what?” before rolling over and going back to sleep like nothing happened.
The next day, to be sure I wasn’t dreaming, I asked him if he remembered the face. He did. I never brought up the laughing. I had a feeling he wouldn’t remember that part. Needless to say, I hightailed it out of that place ASAP.
Face on the Glass by yael631
When I was a kid, in the summers my family would visit my grandfather’s cabin, located in a remote area in the woods in northern New England. The nearest neighbor at that time was about 5 miles down the road. The cabin was just yards from a lake ideal for fishing and boating, and I suppose you could say that the area had a rugged beauty, but I always felt uneasy there.
My brother and I shared a bedroom that had a bunk bed in it parallel to a window with no curtains. We drew straws over who had to sleep on the top bunk – if you lay on your side on the top bunk facing the window you could see right out into the dark woods around the cabin, which creeped us both out. You always had this sense that someone was watching you. Whenever either of us slept on the top bunk, we slept with our backs to the window and the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Fortunately, the temperature at night dropped quite low, so we could keep the window shut and locked even in August. We never talked about this with our parents – they were both no-nonsense, pragmatic types who would have had no patience with this kind of irrational fear.
Our last night there I woke with a start. It was pitch black in the room. I had drawn the short straw (again), so I was lying in the top bunk. I thought I heard a sound just outside the window, like the crack of a branch. My heart began to pound, and a paralyzing fear gripped me. I didn’t dare turn to look to identify the source of the sound and just lay there trembling. My brother in the bunk below was silent, and I assumed he was sound asleep – in any event I would not have dared call to him in case I was overheard.
I must have finally nodded off again, because next thing I knew I could hear birds singing outside and saw that it was growing light. In the bunk below my brother whispered, “Did you hear that?” It turns out that he had also heard something, and like me, lay trembling with the blankets over his head not daring to move or make a sound.
As the sky grew lighter outside, we both climbed out of bed and approached the window cautiously. My brother gasped – and pointed to the top of the window. Visible on the glass was what appeared to be a partial print of a human face with palm prints on either side as if someone had leaned at the window peering in through the glass at us. I felt nauseated when I realized that the face and palm print were 8 feet above the ground outside—and there was no ladder or other object for anyone to stand on.
The Dindin Deedee by Kendall Gray
When I was a child, according to my mother, I had an imaginary friend, whom I referred to as the Dindin Deedee. It was red, like a lobster, shaped like a kid, and very spindly and segmented. It would come into the room I shared with my brother, in the early hours of the morning. He never woke up. I always did. It would sit by my bottom bunk, and just watch me. Did not talk. Did not tell stories. It would scuttle in on long, sharp looking yellow nails, and then scuttle out.
This, of course, terrified me. But I was a phlegmatic child. After a couple of screaming fits, running into my parents room- to be told it had to be a nightmare- I realized that it _was_, when it turned up, just sitting there. Watching me.
So I started watching it.
Eventually, it stopped showing up, per my mother, and I stopped talking about it. And, in the passage through the years from childhood to adulthood, I forgot all about it.
In my 20s, something I said reminded my mother of the Dindin Deedee. And so she told me the story- what you’ve just read, though at greater length. The Dindin Deedee appeared to my younger self for quite a while, and I was, per her, proud of having learned to deal with it, to not fear it. To just sit back, when it turned up, and stare back.
Per my mom, it never worried her. After the initial terrified runs into their bedroom stopped, she asked me about it, and I explained that I was studying the thing. I would turn up for breakfast every couple of mornings, tired, explaining that the Dindin Deedee had turned up. But I never again acted scared.
After that stopped, she recalled asking about it again. To be told, in that out of patience way that children excel at, when they think their parents are being thick, that it had gone away.
She was surprised, after telling me this, that I had forgotten. It had been many years. We’d moved from the apartment where this all happened, from the city and the state. And in all the comings and goings and doings of life since- i figured it just sort of evaporated. Still, She seemed surprised.
It was, from her perspective, a cute little story- an example of my creative mind at work, early in my life. But it had seemed very real to my younger self. Not like something I would forget.
A few weeks later, I was visiting the city where we lived, when I was a child. I got to see our old apartment, which had been converted into an office space, and the people there were kind enough to let me wander through.
I went to my old bedroom. I sat, looked out the window, lost in memory.
And noticed that the sill, as well as the paint beneath it?
Covered in long, thin scratches.
I spoke to the people working there- they’d been told that the kid who used to live there had scratched it up, and they’d get it painted, and never had.
They were surprised, actually.
Because after pointing this out to the landlord, they’d just forgotten all about it.