Folks, I fully chose the wrong time to move in to my first solo apartment. You submitted hundreds of stories about your encounters with the paranormal, the other-worldly, and the just plain creepy. There was no way to just pick 10—but after much deliberation and breaking out into at least one cold sweat myself, I selected the following spooky stories based on the likelihood they will make you go “oh, HELL no” to yourself after reading.
I’m going to have trouble sleeping for several nights now, and already have been. Your stories were too scary, too freaky, too… strikingly similar in some cases. (Has everyone been visited by a tall man at the foot of their bed in the middle of the night except me? No? Just checking.) But I love to be spooked, so I secretly enjoyed it, somehow.
Anyway, buddy system up and let a friend know you’re reading this, so you can check up on each other afterwards. Happy reading.
The Poltergeist Save by KJ (submitted via email)
When I was 16 in the mid-1990s, I used to “run away” from my crappy living situation at home, and spend weeks-long excursions at my older teenage friends’ places. One of these hovel-y xanadus was my friend J’s apartment, located at the very top of a mostly empty five-story complex, in an absolutely terrifying high-crime part of the city. The entire building, except the very bottom floor, was vacant except for J. It was a particularly isolating sense of freedom being there, as well as extra creepy.
Upon J’s moving in to said dump, we noticed something remarkable right away—this place was undeniably and very obviously haunted. This was made known the very moment I cleared the threshold on moving day, carrying a heavy box of J’s books; a large, warm hand ran straight up the back of my bare right thigh (I was wearing a tiny skirt even though it was autumn, because “teenager”) and the sensation of the hand running up the back of my upper thigh turned to a pinch of my butt cheek. I was frozen, of course, and could only think to fretfully call out to J, who was in the bedroom inflating a $10 air mattress. “Umm.. J… Did you just pinch my butt?” He stuck his head out of the room and looked at me like I was insane, and responded, “Uhh… No?” I told him what had just happened, and instead of scared, he seemed amused, because it was a silly situation to describe. After this incident, though, there was no end to the weird shit that routinely comprised an average day in his tiny one-bedroom. Set something down? It would disappear immediately. Walk into a room? The door would slam behind you, only to immediately re-open itself. Ready to force yourself to sleep through the confusion and only slightly-amusing terror? Hear the sounds of dishes and cupboards being banged around in the kitchen. One night J’s boyfriend stayed over, and the guy woke up the next morning with a stinging red bite mark on his wrist—the teeth marks didn’t match his or J’s (or mine), and we had been the only three there.
So it was absolutely no surprise when J’s house keys went missing. We tore the place apart looking for them, to no avail. It was Christmas Eve, so getting in touch with the apartment office to get a replacement key was not possible. J’s mom, in the meantime, had invited the two of us over for dinner that night, so we made the decision to just leave the door unlocked this once, so we could go. “We won’t be gone long,” we reckoned, and headed out bundled up for the walk to J’s mom’s house.
We ended up leaving a bit later than expected (about 11 p.m.), but the streets were totally isolated by this point due to the holiday and freezing weather. This made it particularly noticeable when we realized we were being followed home.
The man behind us was making no effort to disclose his action. He came out of absolutely nowhere, and stayed behind us keeping a pace of only about 9 or 10 feet. I looked over at J, and this was the first time I had ever in my life seen him scared. The man behind us was easily 6’5″, 300 lbs of fat and muscle. If you’ve ever seen a professional NFL player in real life, he was that size. His black eyes were laser-focused on us, a couple of scrawny teenagers in thrift store polyester bellbottoms. We were clearly poor, so he must have wanted… I don’t know… something else from us, which gave this whole scenario an even darker turn.
We increased our pace, he increased his pace. We turned a corner, he turned a corner. Unfortunately, every shop or business front we passed was closed, and cell phones were still brick-sized novelties used only by Miami Vice villains or dickheads in convertibles. There was literally no one else around except the three of us, lit only by passing Christmas lights.
We finally approach the apartment stairs. We are terrified to go up and announce where we live to this freak, but we didn’t know what else to do but to get inside, lock the door, and maybe call the cops if we had to.
We ascend to the first stair landing. He follows. Second floor. Third floor. J and I are sharing looks of panic as we try and remain calm as he clomps slowly right behind us. Fourth floor. There he is, close enough to reach out and grab us. We get to the apartment door, and the man has stopped, and is now just staring at us intently from the landing… waiting… as J and I stare helplessly at each other for what seemed like an eternity. I discretely reach to open the door, and it is LOCKED.
Deadbolted from the inside.
I start to sweat and almost scream, when J decided to knock on the door. I began knocking, too, and said as casually cheerfully as I could to the door, “Hey, it’s us! Open up!” The deadbolt clicked. The man, seeing that there was someone unseen inside the apartment, TURNS AROUND on the landing, and walks away.
We run inside, slam and lock the door behind us. Pretty sure we pushed the couch in front of the door, as well. We holler out “Thank you!!!” to the ghost, and laugh nervously at our sudden relief of fear, though still too shaken up talk about what just happened—any of it.
The next morning, J’s house keys were mysteriously returned to the bare counter by the door, where he’d always kept them.
It did not occur to me until later, that had the keys not been missing, this gigantic night stalker would have known that we were there all alone.
The Haunted Staircase by kazari
The Evil Vacant Apartment by Helline
Witch Bottle by SpookyKara
Was It a Rejection? by Katy Coduto (submitted via email)
A few years ago, I was getting ready to move from Cleveland, OH, south to Columbus. A week before my move, I went out of town with a friend. We stayed for a weekend and drove back the following Monday. The drive was long, we were both hung over, and all I could envision was getting to my own car, inhaling some fries, and sprawling on my couch. Plus, my roommate had already moved out. So when I got home, it was just going to be me and my cat, Harley. I was ready.
So sure enough, my friend dropped me off at my car that Monday evening, I drove down the street to McDonald’s for some fries and a shake, and then was finally, FINALLY home.
When I opened the front door, Harley was right there, waiting, like she usually does when she hears my key in the lock. But as I walked in that night, she was crying—making this horrific noise she doesn’t usually make. Normally, when I get home, Harley chirps a little, but this was a mewling that sounded painful. I knew something was up.
Of course I asked her (“What’s wrong, girl?”) and then looked around.
That’s when I noticed the TV I had in the living room was gone.
I immediately ran up the steps to my bedroom, and that TV was gone, too.
I ran back down the steps and called my roommate, asking if she had decided to borrow the TVs for the weekend (which I knew was super unlikely, but I was also trying to be optimistic). Of course she said no, and then said she’d come over, because obviously someone had broken in.
I called another friend, who had helped watch Harley while I was gone. He, too, said that there had been TVs there all weekend but that he hadn’t been in the house since Sunday night.
I went outside, sweating, realizing that I might not be alone in the house. I was afraid to go near the basement or my roommate’s empty room. I called the police; I called my landlord. Everyone converged on the house. It was only when the police were there that I went into the backyard and discovered that our kitchen window had been expertly removed. The window was propped against our recycling bin, which was on its side.
The police asked me if I had any idea who would want my TVs (and some other objects we discovered were missing, although the TVs were the most glaring items). I couldn’t think of anyone. My landlord kept asking if I had any exes that I had pissed off, which I thought was weird and I insisted that there wasn’t even an ex, much less an angry one. He asked at one point, “Not even a dude you rejected at the bar?” To which I asked how a guy I had rejected would know where I lived.
With all of the paperwork filed, the police said that a detective would come by in the morning to fingerprint the window and some other areas of the house. They advised me not to stay in the house that night, given that sometimes repeats happen. They also told my landlord not to touch the window itself, but that he could board the window opening with plywood temporarily. The police said everything in the backyard needed to stay exactly as it was.
I asked if my landlord wanted me to stay while he boarded the window; he said no, and told me to go stay with my roommate for the night.
I slept but was unsettled.
The next morning, I met the detective at the house. When we got to the backyard, the whole scene had been rearranged. The recycling bin had been moved across the yard; the window was flipped. Items that had been scattered from our kitchen in the backyard were thrown away. I told the detective, who kind of shrugged it off, and then he took fingerprints from the window as well as some furniture in the house.
Everything had either been wiped down or touched by someone wearing gloves. He couldn’t get any evidence from anything in the house or what was left in the backyard.
After he left, I called the police department again, as I was still concerned that the scene had been rearranged. The police chief ended up on the phone with me; he told me to never be at the house alone. It seemed someone might not be done with me. Since I was moving anyway, this was easy enough.
A friend with a pitbull sat with me the rest of the week while I packed. Harley and I stayed with my old roommate every night. I got a tattoo and had a going away party. I left the house behind.
While I was driving to Columbus, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about the break-in and the fact that someone had come back. It had been so clean; no broken windows, no broken locks, nothing.
And then I remembered, somehow, that just after we moved into the house over a year before, my roommate and I had run into our landlord while we were out. We had said hi and moved on, but then he kept texting me, trying to get us to a different bar. We never met up with him that night and never saw him out again.
He’s the only person I “rejected” who also knew where I lived.
The Basement Window by Catherine (submitted via email)
First off, I love Jezebel Scary Stories. I’ve gotten so many people hooked on it over the years. My story is something that happened to me back when I was a teen. It took some time for me to recount it to friends (like 10 years) because it had scared me so much at the time. I also refused to sleep in my room for about a month afterwards. And, needless to say, I now sleep with my curtains firmly shut!
I grew up in a remote north eastern town in the province of Quebec. After my parents separated, my mom moved my siblings and I into an older house on a cul-de-sac street. The neighbourhood was for the most part a decent place to raise kids and teens, however the area had experienced issues with a high volume of break-ins in the recent years before we bought the house. The previous owners had installed locking metal braces on the basement windows to prevent potential intruders from entering. Our next door neighbour had placed a huge spotlight on a pole in his backyard that subsequently lit our yard as well . This kind of stuff was foreign to us as my hometown is a place where people rarely locked their homes and cars. These precautions were unusual practice to us and seemed a bit excessive. My mom had a six-foot wooden fence built around one side of the house that enclosed all of the basement windows. This was not done out of fear of trespassers but rather for added privacy and to define the borders of the property.
I was about 14 at the time and being the oldest kid, this meant I got dibs on the only basement bedroom. I was happy for the privacy, freedom to blast music and access to my own bathroom. But, the basement creeped me out with it’s old fashion cellar, loud furnace, spiral staircase and a floor-to- ceiling wall of mirrors in the TV room. It was dark, the furnace made strange noises at night and I was far away from where the rest of my family slept. The window in my room was basically a half window because the surrounding area had been dug out and an aluminum window well installed. I wasn’t too keen on the darkness of the creepy basement so I usually slept with my curtains open. My neighbour’s spotlight partly shone into my room, creating a sort of night light. My bed directly faced the window but I felt comfortable not closing my curtains since my window was enclosed by the wooden fence.
One night I was in my bed nodding out, not awake but also not quite asleep yet. For some reason I opened my eyes and looked towards my window. I could see something in the area where the window well met the grass, the top half of my window that was unobstructed. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see very well and the light was shining into my room making it harder to see outside. Initially I thought it was an object that had blown up to the window like maybe a soccer ball or a bag. Groggy and not quite awake still, I sat up in bed to get a better look. The object started to resemble a face. I leaned my body from one side of my bed and then to the other, trying to catch a glimpse at a different angle. In doing that I could finally see the features of a man’s face. The face slowly turned and followed my movements as I shifted from side to side in my bed. He was completely expressionless, just intently looking a me. I froze. There was someone outside, laying belly down on the grass and looking at me from that small exposed top half of the window. After a moment of being frozen I reacted and in one giant leap hoped out of my bed and ran upstairs.
I went to my mom’s room and got in her bed, thoroughly freaked out but also confused at what I’d just seen. She woke up and asked me what I was doing and I told her that I thought I saw a face in my window. She got up and took a look through her bedroom window but didn’t see anything. She was much more dismissive than alarmed since I didn’t know for sure what I’d seen and there was no sign of anyone. Also, it was dark and I didn’t have my glasses on so it was possible that I was mistaken.
The next morning before school, I decided to go outside to the area where my bedroom window was, still unsure of what I’d seen (or not seen). The wooden fence surrounding the back of the house had a door, a point of entry to the backyard. My window was the first next to that door. At some point earlier in the year, the handle had broken on the fence door and could’t fully latch on and stay shut. In order to prevent it from opening and becoming a noise nuisance in the wind, my mom had placed a cinder block up against the door on the inside of the fence. That morning, the cinder block was not blocking the door. It had been moved and the door was unlatched. Thinking back now, I must have been awoken from my not asleep/ awake state by the dull thud of the cinder block toppling over in the grass. And, some time after that I came to the realization that there was a face in my window, looking at me.
Need a Ride? by Nikki (submitted via email)
In my first job out of college, I moved from a big city to rural coastal Louisiana to work for a newspaper. I’m talking an hour and a half south of New Orleans, deep in the swamp, alligators on the roads, old people still speaking French to each other, and the only way between towns was miles and miles of remote two-lane highways winding along bayous.
Late one night I was coming back from an assignment extra tired. I worked hard at my job, slept bad and the stress was bone deep. I just wanted to get back to the office, finish my writing for the night and go home. Bayou Sale Road would get me to my destination sooner, though I hated to take it at night. It wound in sharp corners through the open pitch-black marsh. No shoulder, no street lights, just a few skeletal trees and the open grassy water. I slowed down to a crawl to drive it. This was the end of the world and no one was coming to get you if you made a mistake.
But when I took one of the hard, blind corners, I had to slam on my brakes. There was an older man in the road, and he didn’t flinch even when my brights caught him in their spotlight. I wondered if he was drunk and worried about what I should do. There were no houses around here and he might be in some kind of trouble.
I sat there with my foot on the brake, waiting for him to say something, some small desperate tale like, “Thank God you came, I’ve been in an accident!” or “My car broke down and I need a ride into town!” But he was as still and quiet as I was, and we only stared blankly at each other waiting for the other to make a move. You could just leave, you know, a small part of me said. You’re a woman, and you’re alone. No one would blame you. The only way past him on the narrow road would be to pass him so closely he could have reached out and touched my car door.
I cracked my window and asked if he needed some help. He only looked at me. I started to feel a creeping panic, my body responding to the idea that something was wrong. Fuck this, it screamed. Not now. Not today.
“I’ll call someone,” I told him finally, and rolled my window up firmly, checked the door locks and took off around him. He didn’t waver from his spot in the road even as I hit the gas and carefully dipped around him, crunching on the narrow gravel shoulder. One quick turn and he disappeared behind me in the marsh.
I was spooked, so I drove fast and didn’t stop and waited until I finally saw the first lit up signs of civilization, a gas station and convenience store, to get out of my car to call the cops in the presence of other people. The clerk listened silently while I reeled off my story on the phone to an officer who promised to drive down there and look for the man after taking my information. When finally hung up, she said, “You were down there on Bayou Sale?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“He was alone? No car?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I have no idea how he got out there, there was nothing.”
“He ask you for a ride?” she said.
“No,” I said.
“You offer to give him one?” she said. Great, I thought, now she thinks I’m some kinda asshole.
“No,” I said. “But—”
“Good,” she said. “Because that probably wasn’t no man this time of night.”
The road, she said, was haunted by spirits who would often try to catch tourists, people who didn’t know any better, and if you agreed to pick the spirit up, he could ask for for another favor, usually your soul, she said. I nodded gravely at the woman but laughed hysterically to myself when I finally got back into my car, still shaking a bit with adrenaline and fear. What a stupid thing to get taken in by, the hitchhiking ghost was a classic kid’s campfire story. I had more to fear from any living man than a dead man.
When I still couldn’t shake the creeps the next day, I called the cops back to see if they’d ever picked someone up, sure he’d just been some old drunk. They drove the road several times, the cop said. There was no one.
MOTW by SpaceyKacie
Family Forever by Pricilla Kumar (submitted via email)
As a kid, I always loved being on the freeway. If we were on the road, it meant my family and I were going somewhere exciting, adventurous. Whether it was my uncle’s country home in Sacramento or my other uncle’s home in San Francisco, overlooking the bay; the memories I have had with my family and friends have been pleasant. To say the least.
Which is why I was always shocked when people wanted to visit my family and I in boring old Modesto. The town was boring, the fashion was lame, and all my “cool cousins” lived on the other stretch of the highway.
Then one day, everything in our family changed. In just under one minute, our whole entire lives would change as we know it.
Getting married at an early age and going back to my family’s home country of the Fiji Islands was normal (if you can call it that) thing for most Indian girls in the 90s. It was common for an Indian girl to be setup with a compatible partner from her parent’s hometown and then married off to his family. At the age of ten I didn’t realize how vile this practice would come to be in later years. However, back then, it was business as usual.
One particular cousin, Sue, had done just that. At the tender age of 17, she agreed to marry a young man around the same age that she had never met before. Her lavish wedding took place in the Fiji Islands and those family members that had more change in the bank than the rest of us, attended the festivities overseas.
My family is large, in the hundreds. But, when we got that phone call, one blistery night in Winter, I never truly realized how losing four family members in one night would impact our family. One of them had just stepped out of a plane from the Fiji Islands and touched American soil that very day. He was to be our brother in law. We would never meet him.
The accident on 132, late Saturday night, was pure havoc. There were body parts scattered across the perimeter of the highway; a famous freeway known for her curvy roads and unforgiving blind spots. We will never know what caused Sue to slam the breaks on her new sports car (later we would find she might have been showing off for her new husband, I get it, girl, I get it) and slam into two other vehicles, catapulting nearly three feet in the air before crashing down in a fiery crash and terminating the lives of seven people. Including herself.
My uncle, who answered the phone that night, was the only brave soul who went to identify the body of his sister, her husband, their teenage daughter Sue, and her new husband. He’s never been the same since.
Because of the severe nature of the situation, the faces of Sue and her parents had to be resurrected; a request made by Sue’s only brother who demanded that his parents and his sister have an open casket, proper, Indian funeral.
Funeral homes never creeped me out. As a matter of fact, I find comfort in sitting next to the dead; it reminds me of how lucky I am. As a sat in the pew, not yet quite ready to approach the three casket baskets that sat woefully in front of me, I had to mute out the anguished screams of the elders beside me.
Indian weddings and funerals go hand in hand; the cries of the women are ungodly. Another brave (is brave the right word?) family member swung past me, holding a video camera. I couldn’t believe it, why were they taping this? To show other family members who couldn’t attend, I was later told. The fact that a VHS tape exists still bothers me to this day; I wonder where the lost tapes could be….
The fourth casket you ask? The one with Sue’s husband’s body? Well, his family blamed Sue for their young son’s untimely death and forbid his body to reside next to her for eternity. His body, after the investigation, was hauled back to the Fiji Islands for a private ceremony. I still to this day don’t know his name….
I couldn’t help but think that my cousin had just gotten married, flew back to the United States on her own, waited for her husband for months to arrive, and when he did, she chose for my family to meet him first.
Sue was beautiful, but as a cadaver, they made her into a human doll. Her face was polished to perfection, full of feature filler that made her look ravishing and glowing. Her lips were blood red and her hands, which looked awfully fake, had Lee press on nails with tiny specks of glitter.
She looked terrifyingly beautiful.
Her parents that lay beside her were also primed for viewing. My uncle was missing his legs and I couldn’t help but think how hollow he looked. He was so full of life when I had last saw him and now he lay there in his casket, bare, devoid of most of his limbs. Becoming this drying, carcass waiting to be doted on by allthe bleak mourners.
My aunt’s face was full of wrinkles and cracks; areas where the makeup had settled and begun to desiccate. The camera man stoically zoomed past me as Idespondently walked pass the caskets, saying my final goodbyes to this sweet family. The dead don’t really scare me. I fear the living far more…
What I didn’t mention about Sue was the clothes she had requested to be buried in. Her wedding clothes. If you know anything about Indian weddings, we go all out. Back then, the clothes weren’t Sabyasachi style by no means, but all the glittered is gold and Sue was glowing from inside her casket. Perhaps it was from all her wedding jewelry that was placed around her face. I missed Sue’s Indian wedding in Fiji, but now, for the last time, I got to see her as an Indian bride.
The problem isn’t that my family died and went to heaven. The problem is they never left their home. Shortly after the funeral, when the house had settled and the guests began trickling in a little more slower and the nights got darker, the three of them began showing their presence slowly throughout the house.
One day, I cornered Sue’s brother, more out of morbid curiosity than anything, to ask him why there were so many priests being brought into the home lately. He told that the whispers, sounds of people talking, and the footsteps that just didn’t stop. He would walk past Sue’s room, in which the doors would remain close, and he would hear the bed creaking, doors creaking, and the sound of footsteps descending in the room. When I asked him if it scared him, he replied that he was used to his sister getting ready every morning before she went to work. He found comfort in knowing she was still around.
The priests were brought in because Sue’s brother’s wife was the one that was affected the most. She would wake up to lash marks on her face, the feeling of someone lying in bed next to her when no one was home, and the feeling of always being watched.
Sue never liked her brother’s wife. Her brother was divorced within that year. Sue’s brother moved out of the house shortly after.
The rumors began circulating; family members came out of hiding. The stories came from different family members, those that have lived in Sue’s house, those that have stayed the night, those visiting from overseas, those that rented rooms in the large home, now too big for just two people. Over the years, our ears were filled with tormenting recounts of Sue making sure her presence known.
Of course, no one physically saw them.
But, they were there. Next to their shadows when they walked, in the television reflection when it was switched off, in the rearview mirror when they least expected it. That brief reflection as they scurried past the sliding door; daring not to look to see who was following them that night. No one in our family could explain it. And, some of them stopped talking about it years ago.
Then there are those VHS tapes…..
It was the whispers that would eventually drive this family to sell their home and move out of the state. The hushed voice next to them while they tried to sleep, the whispers that would come late at night, when the other one wasn’t home. The whispers you would hear inside Sue’s closed door room.
I suppose the saying is true… family is forever.