Here Are the 10 Most Frightening Stories You Will Ever Hear: Our 2019 Winners
If I had to give this year a theme, I’d say...basically, all of nature is off-limits.In DepthIn Depth
Illustration: Angelica Alzona
In the countdown to our 2023 Scary Story Contest, we’re republishing the winners of the last couple of years.
Congratulations to every single one of you who contributed a terrifying tale to this year’s Scary Story contest. Because of you, not a single one of us at Jezebel will ever sleep again. That’s fine, though—judging by all of your submissions, the truly exciting stuff happens at night.
This year’s Scary Story contest was one of the spookiest ever. If I had to give this year a theme, I’d say it’s 1.) Don’t own a home 2.) Don’t own a car 3.) Don’t even enter a home or car and 4.) Don’t hike or go to the woods… basically, all of nature is off limits.
Read on, and (gulp) good luck.
Untitled by Lauren
The Running Man by DawnKeibels
Nope Forever Woods by Eek_afreak
Untitled by Stugglingsuzy
Untitled by Moronica Bobonica
Deliberately Evil by ouijaoutback (submitted via email)
*Names have been changed.*
Directly after graduating high school, I moved out of my parent’s home and rented a house with my best friend Jaclyn. We were both 17/18-years-old. We were regularly throwing huge parties, staying up until sunrise, and enjoying living on our own for the first time!
Somehow we came across owning a ouija board and this is where my haunting begins.
I grew up in a very religious household and full-heartedly believe in God; good and evil. I’ve always been very spiritual. When Jac, other close friends, and I started to play this oujia board, I was the communicator. Nobody else spoke to the spirits, or to the board, other than me. Time and time again we would have spoOoOoky encounters, but nothing to seriously freak out over.
Our house was basically a 24-hour hang-out spot and as we continued to play the ouija board, more friends, friends-of-friends, and complete strangers started reaching out to Jac and I, asking to come over and play the ouija board! People around our small town were hearing that “Kathy and Jaclyn were communicating with ghosts! Real ghosts!” Although spiritual, I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts. I do believe in demonic spirits that thrive in the form of physical oppression, mental anguish, and unexplainable events.
What occurred over the next three months of my life would only solidify that belief…
The first real WTF moment we had was during a “Ouija Session” with one of the larger random groups of people that visited. Everyone was standing around the table where I was seated with one or two others. All of the sudden a girl lost consciousness and falls to the ground. Her deadweight hit the floor. She nearly immediately regained consciousness and seemed more embarrassed than anything. She basically dusted herself off, nervously laughing, as we all mumbled to one another about “what in the hell was that,” with some laughter here and there. We disband the session not long after and this experience only gains attraction for Jac & I hosting ouija board nights.
We’d been playing for a few weeks and had plenty of moments where an answer on the board made the hair stand up on the back of our necks, or the whole room audibly reacted in a frightened manner. Since the girl passed out, nothing physical had taken place. I had become extremely comfortable and felt rather honored that I was the main communicator, although everything I was doing went against my upbringing. My mom had warned me against this kind of thing. I knew to NEVER tell her what I was up to.
One day, the encounters became physical.
Jaclyn and I were getting ready for a night out in Washington, DC. I was in the shower when I heard an insanely powerful *BANG, BANG, BANG!* on the bathroom door. It was only Jac and I at home and I knew I’d left the bathroom door unlocked for her to come in if needed. The pounding was so strong that it moved the door in-and-our of the door jam; the light strobing from more to less as it shone through the open crevasses around the door.
“YEAH?!” I loudly yelled, wondering why in the hell Jaclyn was pounding on the door.
“JACLYN?!” I yelled again, waiting to hear her response. I waited about 30-seconds and then turned the shower off, soap still in my hair and all over my body.
It was completely silent in the house.
“…. Jaclyn?” I cautiously called out.
She never responded so I stepped out of the shower and quickly grabbed a towel. We had just gotten a puppy, Roo, and I couldn’t hear her barking at anything. For a moment, I wondered if they’d both just been abducted! I walk out of the bathroom and immediately turn the corner to enter my bedroom where Jaclyn is sitting on the floor doing her makeup.
“Jaclyn!” I said panicked.
“What?” She responded, laughing kind of confusedly.
“Did you just pound on the bathroom door?” I asked.
“Um, no?” She said.
“Did you hear that?” I asked, now visibly freaked out.
“No!” She stood up and we huddled together as I recounted what just happened.
Jaclyn and I were thrill-seekers; we were popular, sought out trouble together, and we thought we were invincible. This was fun and while scary, it was adrenaline inducing! We had the club to get to so we rushed to finish getting ready. The entire time we were getting ready from that point forward, Roo would randomly start backing away from specific places in Jaclyn’s bedroom with her head down. She would growl and bark at seemingly nothing – she’d never done this before. Jac and I were squealing, totally freaked out, but again, entertained and more focused on partying. We went out for the night and thought nothing more of it.
From that point, I started to have experiences that I felt were only explained by a haunting of sorts. Once in my room, alone at home, I smelled something burnt in my closet. We smoked pot, maybe it was an old joint or something! I traced the smell to an old notebook where I’d keep notes from Sunday church sermons. One single page in the midst of hundreds was so badly burned that as I opened it, ashes fell to the ground. It was one specific page with some scriptures on it. No other page was burnt or even marked. Just the one. It was still attached at the top in perfect condition, the serrated line untorn and unburnt.
Other times I’d be alone at home doing my makeup (on the floor in front of my mirror) and I’d lose a foundation or mascara that I had physically been holding and set down directly beside of me. After spending minutes looking for it, I’d find it exactly where I’d set it in the first place. During instances like that, it was as though someone was watching and snickering at me. I felt like someone was deliberately playing tricks on me.
The most persistent physical encounter would be when I laid down to sleep. I’d hear relentless scratching on my ceiling. It would always be directly above where I lay. Scratching, scratching, scratching. Like someone trying to claw their way to me. Jaclyn witnessed it, her boyfriend, our friends. We eventually put mouse traps in the attic, but of course never caught a mouse. The food on the trap would never be touched. The scratching persisted, night after night. I recall throwing the blankets over my head and calling out “in the name of Jesus, GO AWAY!”
You must understand throughout this time I was actively praying. I never became a “devil-worshiper” or anything of the sort. I’d listen to worship music in the morning and play ouija board at night – “for fun.” I was also practicing lucid-dreaming, meditation and heavily studying the law of attraction. I’m a super optimistic person and can easily be naive. Looking back, all of these things made me the perfect candidate for demonic oppression.
The three final encounters with this oppression would occur in a single weekend. I worked at a bank during the day and closed a cash-office for retail at night. I’d leave in the morning, come home at night. I drove a Subaru Outback. We lived right off of a well-traveled country road so I always locked my car doors at night. Always. I remember this distinctly because it was my first time owning a key-fab.
One morning as I reached out to open my car door, I find that it’s already opened. Unlocked and ajar, resting as though it had been gently placed to sit, but not to close. I immediately thought my car had been broken into, but as I checked I found my iPod, some cash, and other small valuables. Perplexed, but unshaken, I drove to work.
I worked 8am-4pm at the bank and took my lunch at 12pm. I walked to the parking-lot during my lunch and as I got closer to my car, my jaw dropped. I quietly gasped.
“No fucking way…” I whispered under my breath. I started speed walking to my car.
I got to my vehicle and the driver’s side door was open, AGAIN! Ajar, but resting. That eery deliberate feeling of being tricked came over me. Like someone was watching and laughing. I looked over both shoulders, checked the parking lot and my car – nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing stolen. Nothing to explain this. I knew I’d closed my door. I knew I locked my car. In fact, every other door was still locked!
In that moment, I realized without a shred of doubt; whatever this thing is, it can follow me. It IS following me! Finally, I was terrified.
Until then, I hadn’t collectively pieced together the pounding on the door while I showered, the burned page in my notebook, the missing & then quickly replaced make-up, the relentless scratching above my bed at night. As the oppression inched closer and closer to me, it finally found its way into my car. It was after ME! It was WITH ME. I. Was. Terrified.
But I was also 18, invincible, and felt oddly attracted to seeing this thing play out. Honestly, I wasn’t sure of what to do next any way. There was always the thought in the back of my mind that I was making it all up, imagining things. Even with Jaclyn and MANY others as witnesses, I wouldn’t allow myself to understand how deadly this could possibly be… until it was too late.
The final encounter was the following morning after my car door was found opened twice in a 24-hour period. It was Saturday morning and I was driving down that well-traveled country road to the bank. I always sped and I most usually was doing my make-up in the rear view mirror. I can attest on this particular morning, I was not doing anything other than driving. I was NOT distracted. I admit I was going about 10mph over the speed limit.
Both hands gripped on the wheel, no music on. My right peripheral catches a glimpse of a metal land-marker to the side of the road. I didn’t even have time to blink when the wheel was ripped out of my grasp and SPUN to my right. I was flying up an embankment, my car completely airborne. I’d never been in a car accident let alone off-roading at high speeds upwards into a field.
I had no control over the vehicle and no time to maneuver a correction. I knew I was going to die or be severely hurt. I closed my eyes and braced myself as hard as I could. I clung to the steering wheel with white knuckles and drove the brake into the ground as hard as I could. I only had breath to muster one single word out of my mouth:
“Jesus.” I was ready to meet Him.
I didn’t open my eyes until every crash, crunch, and metal twisting scraping sound was completely silent. My vehicle was up on the embankment and had just ripped an entire telephone pole out of the ground. The giant pole swung in the road, still attached to phone lines. My Outback was spewing smoke and completely totaled. I stepped out of my vehicle, on two feet, unscathed. I immediately broke down in sobs. What in the fuck just happened?!
The one and only car directly behind me was an all-black SUV. It was at a complete stop. When I looked over to it, expecting the driver to get out and run to me, to come console me, the SUV started to accelerate. It slowly drove around the still swaying telephone pole and sped off. It was like a hit-man that missed his target and needed to leave the scene. They just drove off.
In the moment, I believed this was a complete asshole. As I look back, that vehicle abandoning me and driving away seemingly as a “mission-failed” is extremely symbolic as what was meant to happen to me that morning. I was supposed to die. Someone failed. Someone lost and it wasn’t me.
I stayed at my parents house for two days & nights. I didn’t dare tell them what happened, certainly not my mother. I had no logical reasons to give for the cause of the crash. I remember sleeping for what felt like the entire 48-hours. I never went to the hospital, I didn’t need to. I only had two bruises on my knees from bracing myself against the dash. I wasn’t even wearing a seatbelt. Had I died, it would’ve been classified a “freak-accident,” an un-explainable car accident with an unprepared driver.
There was nothing accidental about that wreck.
When I returned home, Jaclyn and I burned the ouija board in our fire place. It was the one and only fire we’d burn. I swore witchcraft of any kind off and I will never touch anything of the sort again. I’m positive that spirit still lurks for me. I’ve had small encounters here and there, but as I strengthened my walk with God I simultaneously lessened my walk with evil.
The spiritual realm of good and evil, life and death, is real, y’all. I will continue to tell my encounters to those who think it’s fun and games, make-believe, or just scary stories. I used to think that, too. I mean, after all, Oujia boards are sold in retail game sections. You’ve been warned.
Untitled by CopaDopa
Bees by yes-no-maybe (submitted via email)
Towards the end of college, my roommate, Ally*, and I moved into a new apartment. We wanted a place that felt more like a home after our last place. Which was flourescently lit and infested with mold, leaving Ally with a constant cough. What we picked, though seemingly cozier, was also weird. It was a 1960s, maybe ’70s, house in a nice neighborhood. On the outside, it looked like many of the houses in Boulder with exposed brick, stain glass window accents, and a sort of welcoming mountain vibe.
Inside, the house was split into three units, a front one, a middle one (ours), and a back one. The front unit had most of the guts of the original house. So the back two, clearly intended to be rented by thrifty students and added-on as afterthoughts were kind of cabin-like and a bit ramshackle. Our only entrance was a breaking sliding glass door that opened into a living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Above that, a second floor landing stretched partially over the room like a balcony, making the landing visible from the front door but obscuring much of the view from the second floor onto the first. The ground in living room was rough, cold stone, and the kitchen in back, separated by a step as the floor became heavy, worn wood, could only be fully viewed from walking all the way into the house. Right before the entrance to the kitchen, stairs and banister made of splintering, unfinished wood led up, then turned to the upper level. Where there was a creaky landing, a small bathroom, and two bedrooms. Both of bedrooms had incredible wood lofts, raised well above head level, reachable only by unbolted ladders, and overhanging the entrances to our respective rooms and where my bed eventually sat.
Moving in, Ally and I were mostly good. We had been friends since high school and had this codependent bond, but an often-contentious, uneven power dynamic. But, Ally had a new girlfriend who kept her busy and we were genuinely excited about the new apartment as a way to start over. So as a commitment to making this an actual home, Ally and I decided to substantially decorate the space and paint our rooms. However, Ally, off with her girlfriend, left me alone to set off to work. More often than not, I stayed by myself, late into the night, moving and painting. Immediately, I felt nervous. The house was old and so made noises and could seem animated, but I grew up in a much older house. What bothered me more was that it was designed so wherever you were inside, there were strange blindspots. The kitchen in back, under the stairs, the second floor landing, the loft above my bed. In every single room in the house, with exception of of the bathroom, you couldn’t see the whole room. In each, there were several corners you couldn’t see past, and it began to feel like something resided in them.
Sometimes, when I was upstairs, I’d hear movement in the kitchen. If I was in my room painting, I’d swear I’d hear someone come up the stairs and onto the second floor landing, where they’d stop. If I was in my loft, I’d hear what sounded like footsteps move up the stairs, onto the landing, and into my room, stopping underneath the overhang just where I couldn’t see them. Occasionally, I would see a figure out of the corner of my eye, a woman, I assumed. And, more than once, I’d hear the footsteps or see the figure and start talking to it. “Hey Ally, how was your night?” Or “What’s up?” Before realizing, Ally wasn’t back. A couple of weeks in, having never mentioned it, I started talking about to Ally about the feeling I got in the house. And, without missing a beat, she says “So you think we have a ghost too?” She relayed similar experiences.
After that, having finally spent some time there, Ally painted her bedroom a bright yellow in contrast to my navy blue. She then asked if I would draw something on her light switch cover as a finishing touch. I, seeing her cheery yellow, decided to draw bees believing that to be a fitting theme. That evening, we reinstalled the etched cover to her wall. And the very next day, Ally’s loft was swarming with bees. It didn’t make sense, we didn’t have a hive nearby and they weren’t building one. We often hung out on the roof outside the window and checked again today, no hive there either. They also weren’t even the more common wasps, they were proper bees and a lot of them. Mostly though, the timing was eerie, the morning after I adorned her room with bees, it was filled with them. From then on, it became a running joke that the ghost gave us bees. But what became more apparent was that whatever it was, for whatever reason, was keeping an eye on me. It seemed to spend a lot of time around me. At night, if I was studying in the loft, I’d hear the footsteps or the landing shift. In bed, I would hear what sounded like something heavy moving, sometimes breathing, in the platform above me. Books kept up there rustled and little keepsakes rattled around like someone was inspecting them. In the day, I’d climb up and things would be scattered where I hadn’t left them. And I always had that uncomfortable sense of someone being around me, even though I was alone.
At the same time, my relationship with Ally started eroding. Her girlfriend became her obvious, only priority and years of mutual resentment started destroying any goodwill. She was inconsiderate, and dirty, and clearly no longer invested in us (not that I was either). But, I often felt unwelcome in my own home. Over these months, I also started getting sleep paralysis. Some nights, I’d hear the sounds in my loft. Horrified, I’d wake up entirely frozen and mute to watch a dark figure glide down the ladder, float into the corner of my room, and just stay like a shadow until I finally regained movement and switched on a light. I began playing Veep while I slept because the voices drowned out any noise and it felt like I wasn’t alone. We also made a joke about the ghost liking Veep. But in the end, I still wasn’t sleeping much. Often, if I did, I woke up painfully contorted, my legs or arms hyperextended and wedged beneath me. The tendons in my knees started hurting from the strain. So, I started driving down to Denver most evenings to stay at my mom’s. Sometimes, during the day, I’d return to the apartment and Ally tell me what the ghost had been up to. Walking around the kitchen or up and down the landing late into the night. Turning on and off lights. Occasionally moving things. Whatever it was, it seemed to be more active, maybe even upset, after I was gone. When I slept there regularly, it certainly was around, but more passively. And although I found it deeply terrifying to be woken up by it, for the most part, it just seemed to want to hang out with me.
Until one afternoon, I arrived back in Boulder after several days away and Ally, still reeling, said, “I saw the ghost.” She then described in detail how she and her girlfriend had fallen asleep in her bed the night before. At some point sometime around 3A.M., she heard someone whimper “Al…All…Al…Ally?” At first she thought it was odd. I wouldn’t have been coming home that late at night and even if I had I never would have woken her up. That’s when she opened her eyes to a figure. She said it was strangely solid with a faint shimmer, but still clearly decrepit and frail. It stood uncomfortably close, hunching over her so that she couldn’t see its full body without tilting her head. Which she did. Its head looked almost human, but featureless. Instead, a red pattern crept across the face. It glowed and shifted, contorting and flickering like a shadow. Or, she said, an LSD trip. And she could feel was how how angry this thing was with her. It, glowing literally red, was mad. It took her a moment before she finally registered fear, screamed, and tried to kick it. Within an instant, it vanished. Her girlfriend woke up disoriented and tried to convince her it was just a dream. She wasn’t so sure.
For me, that was pretty much the end of it. I never wanted to see this thing. Ever. Much less figure out what it actually wanted. Part of me still couldn’t determine whether its seeming affection for me was benign or sinister. So, I immediately went to my mom’s recommended psychic (I know) and told him everything. He very calmly said, “Well, I think it’s safe to say, it likes you. And hates Ally.” He then told me that if I didn’t want it to bother me, all I needed to do was audibly and clearly tell it exactly what I expected it to do. Compromise with it. Unless it truly wished harm, it would listen. So, the next time I slept in Boulder and heard it in my loft, I woke up and spoke to it.
“Hey. You can stay here because I’m assuming this is your home and you’re just confused. And so long as you don’t want to hurt me, that’s fine. But, you can’t keep me awake like this. I don’t want to hear you. And I certainly don’t want to see you. I don’t want to be scared of you, but I am. So let me be very clear, do not ever, ever show yourself to me.”
Mercifully, it never responded. After that, I’d still hear footsteps or the occasional noise, things would be moved, but it truly did get better. Ally, for her part, stopped talking about it as much and never mentioned seeing it again. Eventually, we finished college, our friendship ended, and we both moved out. A few years later, I met a girl who went to school in Boulder shortly after me. I asked her in passing where she lived, and sure enough, it was my old address. I mentioned the ghost. And she, horrified, said, “I cannot be alone in that house.”