11 Real-Life Scary Stories That Will Make You Sleep With the Lights On

From unidentified appearances to terrifying houses to creepy children, the 2023 finalists of our annual scary story contest will freak you the hell out.

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The Knocking

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The Knocking
Photo: Getty Images

When I was 12, every night for close to two months, someone would knock on my bedroom window. It was usually after 11 p.m. and before 2 a.m. and, at the beginning, would wake me from a dead sleep. A few times I even heard the knocking in my dreams and then woke up and the knocking was still happening. I lived in a ranch in a newish neighborhood, so there weren’t any mature trees whose branches could be hitting the house. And I was certain of the distinct sound of knuckles on glass.

I had a small nightlight, but no nightstand lamp, so I would have had to get out of bed and go to the other side of the room to flip the switch to turn on the lights. I had mini blinds that covered the windows, but the thought of being illuminated with someone outside terrified me, especially because my bedroom window faced the backyard, which faced a giant cornfield. Everything outside at night was pitch black unless the moon was close to full.

After a week or so of the knocking, I asked my younger sister if she was doing it. She was seven at the time and me even asking about it scared her, so she tattled on me to my parents. They confronted me, saying I was telling stories and I swore up and down I wasn’t. The knocking kept happening for weeks and weeks, and my behavior changed because I was always scared and never sleeping.

A teacher pulled me aside to inquire about my dazed state and not paying attention in class, and I told her about the window knocking. She took me to the principal’s office, and he called my mom, and they had a meeting behind closed doors that my mom would not tell me about.

My mom slept on the trundle bed that night in my room to see if I was telling the truth. I woke up around 1:30 a.m. to the knocking on my window and reached down to wake up my mom and she wasn’t there. I was terrified stiff and laid there until the knocking stopped, maybe 30 seconds, and then slid to the floor and army crawled down the hall and into the living room. My parents were asleep on the couch with the TV on.

Out of probably fear, frustration, and disappointment, I started scream-crying, which startled my parents awake. My dad got angry and said something like, “Fine, then tomorrow me and you and my shotgun will wait outside.”

The next night I’d hoped he’d forgotten about that promise but nope, we bundled up in all black (me) and camo (him), and wedged ourselves between the back deck and the house, with a clear view of both the corn field and my bedroom window. A partial moon was up in clear skies, so you could make out the outline of the landscape and house. I star gazed for a bit but fell asleep pretty quickly and my dad woke me up around 4 a.m. to take me back inside, saying all he saw were some deer in the cornfield and maybe I’d been hearing bucks fighting. Then he went to bed.

Not more than five minutes later, I heard a loud BANG BANG BANG that hit so hard it rattled the blinds on the window. I almost peed myself I was so scared, and laid awake for the rest of the night with my heart pounding so hard I thought I was going to explode. The knocking never returned after that, and my parents maintain to this day it was all in my head. Seabassy

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