Art by Angelica Alzona.

We’ve read your emails and dug deep into the grave—sorry, the greys—to find the most buried, most frightening stories submitted by you, our dear readers, for this year’s Halloween scary story contest. What we’ve unearthed are 10 of scariest tales of ghosts, demons, stalkers, and murderers that we’ve ever read.

Without further delay, here are our winners. Careful while reading—you might pick up something—or someone—that you can’t shake off.

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(Note: Some stories have been edited by Jezebel for grammar, brevity, and clarity.)

This Is Maria by Libraryanneagain

My husband and I live in a small, unincorporated town on the outskirts of a bigger city. Although we are almost 50 years old, we are 30 to 40 years younger than any of our near neighbors. Most of them have grandchildren who visit regularly, and drive them wherever they need to go. Not so for the man I usually just called “Professor.” His wife, Elena, died 12 years ago. I only knew her briefly, but she and the Professor were one of those “Life Goals” kind of couples. I loved spending time with them. They were both so erudite, and witty, and clearly still deeply in love. Elena’s passing hit her husband hard. For the last year, he had been battling cancer. With no bus service in our rural area, and cabs from town an expensive, long wait, I ended up driving him to doctors.

The Professor had been in the U.S. since his 20s, but he still retained a charming foreign accent. My name, he pronounced as “AWN-eh.” Usually, when he phoned me, he would say “Good afternoon, AWN-eh.” Sometimes, he would call in the wee hours, in pain, able only to gasp “AWN-eh!” I would drop the phone and run to his house to help him with his meds or take him to the city’s emergency room. He was adamant about NOT staying away from home. He knew the end was near and he wanted to go in his own bed.

On October first, at almost 4 a.m., my cell phone rang, showing the Professor’s number. When I answered, a strange voice asked, “AWN-eh?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Professor?”

“No!” The voice giggled. “This is Maria. I’m taking him tonight.”

Then I... woke up? I was sitting up in bed, with the phone in my hand. My husband and our dog were sleeping soundly. So, the phone hadn’t really rung. Or had it? I started to call the Professor, but if he was managing to get some sleep, I didn’t want to disturb him. So I got up and dressed quietly, and the dog and I slipped out to the backyard. I could see the Professor’s house from there. No lights were on, and everything was quiet. I wasn’t comfortable, though, so I went ahead and dialed. Twenty-five rings, no answer. Damn. I knew then. I went back in and woke my husband. We walked to the house and knocked. Nothing. We had to phone the sheriffs. They broke in. The Professor had died, seemingly peacefully, in bed.

Because of our unincorporated location, any of the chores which would fall to professionals in an urban area are taken up by neighbors here. So, that evening, with a deputy’s supervision, the families on our block began to sort through the Professor’s papers. We needed the “deed” to his burial plot and any kind of will or link to distant relations. I looked through a small scrapbook of old photos that was on his nightstand. There was no “Cousin Marco from the old country,” or “nephew Bob, NYC, 1997.” It was mostly pictures of Elena and the Professor. And their never-spoken-of young daughter Maria, who had died in Oaxaca, in 1971.

At My Window by Margherita Atwood

When I was little, it was just my mom and I in this tiny tiny house in a small town. I have a freakishly good memory, so I can clearly remember the layout of my tiny room (which was the laundry room from the previous owners). It was long and narrow, with just enough room for my crib against one wall and a window high up on the other.

Now I’ve always hated windows at night. I won’t look out them, I keep the curtains shut or run past them. My fear has always been that I’ll look out and see a face staring back.

After a bad breakup in my early twenties I move back home with my mom and, after she observed this behavior, I told her my weird paranoia. She kind of laughed and proceeded to tell me when I was about two I would scream and scream that there was a man in my window. I had nightmares so she didn’t really think much of it until one night she came in to shut me up and there he was. A fucking man staring in the window. I looked at her like she was nuts. How could I not have known this?! Then she continued to tell me that man was the father of one of my really good friends growing up. He was know for peeping into single woman’s windows.

She also didn’t tell me I had a benign heart murmur and when the doctor discovered it in once again my early twenties, that scared the shit out of me too.

Thanks mom.

911 Calling by IndianaJoan

This took place when I was about 10 years old. My mom had rather quickly filed for divorce, but she only had a part-time job and made very little money, so finding a place to stay that was affordable and available immediately was tough. A friend of hers told her that she and her husband had a little mobile home that was currently sitting empty and we could rent it practically for free ‘til we figured out something else.

I immediately didn’t like the house. Part of this I’m sure was due to my parents’ abrupt divorce and having my life turned upside down, but it was also just the house itself. We lived in a mountain town, and this mobile home was way up a steep mile-long driveway. Beautiful pine trees surrounded it, but the house itself looked abandoned and out of place. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, so my brother and I shared a room and my mom took the bedroom with the attached bathroom. It was a very ‘70s home, with wood paneling and dated fixtures. There were also areas that showed strange damage, like holes in the wall that were badly patched up. For whatever reason, I immediately refused to use the hallway bathroom. I wouldn’t even step into it. My mom never really asked me why or questioned it, but let me use her bathroom.

Anyway, my mom was gone a lot trying to find whatever work she could, so I would be home alone a lot after school and on the weekends. Each time I received the 911 call, I was by myself.

My mom always told us not to answer the door, but we should always answer the phone in case it was her. So when the phone rang one afternoon, I figured it would be my mom since no one else really had our number yet. There was a woman on the phone who sounded very concerned.

“Hello, this is 911, returning your call. We received your call, but we got disconnected,” the woman said.

I immediately got a sick feeling. I told her that I did not call 911, and she asked me if there was anyone else in the house who might have called. I said I was home alone, but I started to get really worried that maybe I wasn’t. She said she would dispatch police to our address just to make sure everything was okay.

At that point, I was terrified to be in the house, so I sat outside and nervously waited for the police, who showed up in about 15-20 minutes. The officer asked me if I had called 911, and I said “no,” but they claimed I had called them. The officer just sort of shrugged, and said, “This kind of thing sometimes happens. They say that it can’t, that the numbers can’t get mixed up, but it happens.” He did a cursory glance around the outside of the house and left.

I tried to convince myself that the officer was right. It was just a mixed-up phone call, and hopefully whoever did actually call got the help they needed.

About a month later, the same thing happened. I got another phone call from 911, saying they had received a phone call from my number. I told them again that it must have been a mistake. The woman on the phone scolded me a bit, telling me that 911 wasn’t something to play around with and I was preventing people from getting help. She didn’t dispatch any police this time. Again, I was really worried someone was in the house, so I cautiously checked and made sure all the doors were still locked.

I don’t know why, but I always kept the hallway bathroom door closed. Maybe because of the eerie feeling I got from it. As I was checking the house, I just knew someone was in that bathroom. I was terrified. Part of me felt like I needed to open the door to check, maybe to prove myself wrong, but I was too afraid. So I just sat in the living room, watching that door. It was so quiet in the house, that after a few minutes I swore I started to hear faint little sounds coming from inside, like a kind of shuffling noise. I asked my mom to check the bathroom when she got home and she quickly looked inside. She made me come and look to see that it was empty and I was letting my imagination get the better of me.

The 911 calls happened three more times over the coming months, and only when I was home alone. The fourth time the dispatcher told me I could face criminal charges for what I was doing and they would contact my parents. I hung up the phone sobbing and terrified. I had that feeling like someone was in the house again, but if I called 911, they probably wouldn’t even show up. I felt like the girl who cried wolf, only it wasn’t me. It was like someone was playing a horrible, twisted joke on me. I sat and watched the bathroom door again, hearing noises like someone dragging their fingers across the door.

I decided my mom was right, and I was probably just letting my imagination get away. I decided to try and leave the bathroom door open so I wouldn’t get so freaked out by the thought that someone was in there. Then I got the fifth 911 call. This time though, after I hung up the phone with the dispatcher, the bathroom door slammed shut.

I ran. I ran all the way down our steep driveway and found a place to wait till my mom pulled into the drive. When she arrived, she was angry with me for leaving the house, but she saw how upset I was. I think maybe she thought I was acting out due to the stress of the divorce. I refused to be alone in the house again though, so we worked it out so I would stay later at school or go to a nearby friend’s house till she got off work. Not long after this, we got a notice from my mom’s friend that we needed to move out of the house because she her mom needed a place to stay. I was so grateful to be moving out. I told my mom she needed to tell her friend that someone was wrong with the house, but my mom thought that was a ridiculous way to pay back someone’s generosity.

I moved around a lot the next few years and tried to forget about that house. It wasn’t until I was older that I really thought about it. I witnessed an accident and had to call 911 and the fear and paranoia all came flooding back. I decided to do some research, which honestly, I wish I had never done. A few years before we moved in, a woman was killed in that house in some kind of “domestic dispute.” It was days, though, before she was found, shut up in the bathroom.

My Baby by Se7enHells

I will preface this with the fact that unnatural movements freak me out. A lot.

My husband and I were laying in bed one night when we heard a noise. Nothing crazy, just a small rustling noise. We argued over who should check it out, decided it was nothing and then tried to go back to sleep. Heard the noise again. What the hell? “You go!” “No, YOU go!”

While we were arguing (in whispers because my daughter’s bedroom had an adjoining door) we heard it again near the foot of our bed. I turned on my phone to use as a light and saw my daughter on the floor. She was on all fours, cocked her head, turned her face toward the light at a most disturbing angle, and then FUCKING SKITTERED on all fours back into her room and into her bed. My husband and I were absolutely horrified/terrified/pissing ourselves. She was sleepwalking (crawling) and had no recollection.

She did creepy sleepwalky things after that for years. Usually while we were watching scary movies or lying in bed in the dark. Kids are the worst.

A Different Kind of Grindr by Look_for_the_Nines

I’ve only told this story to my closest friends. I haven’t even confided in my sister (for fear of the obvious shame). Please buckle in because this tale needs to be told in length.

I went to college in a Chicago, which has a large gay community. Now, gay men are true champions of leveraging technology to their sexual prowess. Grindr was on the map as the go-to hookup app years before the straights got into a tizzy about Tinder. I normally used Grindr to expedite getting my rocks off, but I was having an off-week and decided to use a platform that’s more to the point: Craigslist.

I posted a listing looking for a hookup with a good-looking, slightly-older man, and within a few hours I settled on a fit 30-something. This was a Friday night, and he agreed to pick me up at my apartment building. Then he would take me back to his place and we’d fool around.

He picks me up at my nearest intersection. He’s just as attractive as his picture, yes, but something is off personality-wise. I can only describe it as he was a little “off,” but he wasn’t “off” in a slow or stupid way. In fact, it was the total opposite. He was incredibly nice. His voice was kind and light, but there was something too practiced behind it. In retrospect, the more I think about it, the more it feels rehearsed, calculated -like a razor blade hiding in a Popsicle.

He asked me a little about myself, but then he didn’t respond when I would ask him the same questions. He’d just smile and laugh it off. What I did manage to get out of him was that he worked in real estate (remember this).

He had told me earlier through email that he lived on X and Y street. I wrote this off as a blip originally because these 2 streets ran parallel, and he essentially told me that he lived in the middle of the road.

We were in his car for about 8 minutes when he had already passed these 2 streets by a few blocks. I lived in a popular, walkable area, and at this moment I told myself, “You can get out of the car now and you can run home. You’re still close enough,” but I ignored my gut. I told myself that I was over analyzing this.

We get to his place after a 35 minute car ride. We’re out of the city and in a neighborhood. Right away, his house is clean. But again, it’s too clean. Everything was so polished, nothing out of place. There was a Dexter-level of cleanliness to it.

We go into the kitchen, which was in the back of the house, and after a minute or two of more awkward conversation, I wrap my hands around him and kiss him.

Except he doesn’t “receive the kiss.” My lips make contact with his, but his lips remain flat and at-rest. There is a moment of pause, and he smiles against my kiss. This wasn’t a friendly smile; this was a “knowing” smirk. He tells me this is his first time, and he’s very, very nervous. He excuses himself and RUNS down to the basement. The stairs down are next to the kitchen. They are not a straight staircase; they turn at a right angle halfway down, which prevents me from seeing what’s downstairs.

He’s down there for a good 5-10 minutes. I hear stuff rustling around -metal things clanking together. I yell down to get him back up. The sound stops. No reply. It starts again.

I run to the bathroom and lock the door. I think about jumping out the window (it’s a ranch). I text a friend. He’s tells me to get out. But I don’t want to offend my host.

There’s a knock on the bathroom door and he says to meet him in the bedroom. The kitchen is next to the bathroom. I consider pocketing a kitchen knife.

He comes back up and we finally start fooling around. He won’t kiss, and he keeps telling me that this is his first time doing this. The weird thing is that he’s oddly comfortable with my body, and he is actually good at gay stuff. He gets very aggressive at one point. I looked around the room and spotted a blue, glass vase. I tell myself that I can use this as a weapon if need be.

He doesn’t finish, but I ask if I may finish on him. He agrees. He freaks out after I do. He gets up, without saying a word and completely naked. He walks back down to the basement.

I put on my underwear and walk to the edge of the stairs. I hear whimpers and whispers. There is no one downstairs except for him, of this I am sure. The clanking metal sounds continue. They’re nothing loud. They sound like a scalpel being placed on a metal surgery tray, or tools bouncing in a toolbox.

He’s downstairs for 5, 10, 15 minutes now. I’m fully dressed. I’m giving my friend a play-by-play through text, and he tells me to drop him a pin. I don’t know how to so he walks me through the process. When I finally do send him my location, he calls me: “You have to get out of the house. Now.” Why I ask? “Do you know where you are? You’re out by O’Hare!”

My fight or flight completely kicks in, now understanding that I’m stranded in an area that has no access to public transportation, and I don’t have a car. I yell downstairs to see if he’s alright. All sounds stop. No reply.

For a moment, I think about grabbing his keys from his jacket, driving his car a few blocks from my place, and leaving it wherever. At this point, I yell down, “I’ll be waiting outside.” I hear what sounds like chains dropping and footsteps coming heavily up the stairs. I run to the door, fumbling with the lock, until I rip it open and get outside. He was naked last time I saw him, so I figure getting dressed will at least slow him down.

I freeze for a moment, and then I took off running. I made it 2 blocks away before I broke down crying and called an Uber. This was February in Chicago, and it was maybe 22 degrees outside and snowy. At this point mystery man tries calling me, and I hang up. He texts: “Ha ha where’d you go?” I say that I got a ride and that I’m okay. I block his number.

I hid between 2 cars at a used car lot while waiting 30 minutes for an Uber to pick me up. I saw mystery man’s car driving around.

2 Ubers had already cancelled, and I had to call the third Uber to make him promise that he wouldn’t cancel on me because I was in danger.

I block out this experience, mostly. There are some nights when I begin to go over all the details in my head. It destroys me and turns my blood cold. And it’s the little, red flags that deeply unnerve me.

1. I’m convinced that we were in a model home, or at least a home that he was selling.

2. He was gay and comfortable with himself, but I believe he was referring to something far more sinister when he was saying that this was his “first time.”

3. The smartest thing I did, among many foolish choices, was not going down to that basement. I do not think I would have come back upstairs if I had.

4. There’s a moment in the end of the Girl with the Dragon tattoo where a man goes with the killer into his house, knowing by now that he is the serial killer. And he killer says something along the lines of, “You knew, but you still came inside. We’re too afraid of being rude to go with out animal instinct and get away from danger.” I experienced this first hand.

5. I always think back to the story that was submitted here last year, about a man who was almost killed by John Wayne Gacy at a hotel as a teenager. He says that one day, he saw Gacy’s fact on the TV’s after being caught, and he had a total breakdown (knowing what almost became of him). Something deep inside me tells me that I may have a moment like that myself one day.

A Real Fixer-Upper by picklejuiceinmypapercut

About five years ago, my husband Adam and I decided that it was finally time to start looking to purchase a house. We had always talked about buying an older, fixer-upper home because we’ve had the idea that they hold more charm and character. Plus we can appreciate a place that has it’s own quirks and we love the thought of turning something run down into something beautiful again.

With that being said, I grew up in a pretty rural farming town in Indiana that had more than its fair share of run-down houses. The surrounding areas had started to boom a little bit, with farmland being sold off and turned into new factory locations, along with new subdivisions for the people coming to work for them. I thought it’d be a great place to start on our house hunt. I figured we’d be a lot closer to civilization than I used to be growing up, but not so much so that we’d be living a stone’s throw away from our neighbors.

Adam and I decided to take a drive one summer Sunday afternoon so I could show him some of the backroads of my hometown and to also see what some of the properties we checked out online looked like in person. As we were turning off the main road through town and further onto a more secluded country road, we noticed that the very first house on the left was completely abandoned. We pulled into a small patch of the yard where the grass was the shortest (and where a gravel driveway used to be) to further investigate. It was painted a deep green color, which made it almost invisible against the tall grass, sticker-bushes, and weeds that had grown up around it. There was a massive tree in the front yard whose branches and leaves helped to camoflauge this place even further. The house looked as if it were at least 100 years old. It looked like it had sat empty for years. It looked neglected, weather worn, and in need of major love. In that moment, it was perfect.

There was nothing but woods across the street and no neighboring houses in sight, so Adam and I thought it probably wouldn’t hurt if we just trespassed a little. I completely justified my reasoning by thinking, “Well, we’re interested in buying the property, we’re not here to cause trouble! We’re doing someone a favor, we could take this burden of a house off of someone’s hands... we just need to take a look around first, thats all!” Plus, there weren’t any NO TRESPASSING signs anywhere, so I was perfectly armed with my new found inflated ignorance and arrogance to assess this property.

We walked carefully through the brush toward the left side of the house, where we noticed a well that was still standing, complete with bucket, rope, handle and the original overhang. My excitement for a picturesque country house was building. Directly across from the well, there was a side entrance into the house through what looked like an added on mud-room. The screen door to the mud room was closed, however there was a wooden door behind it that was half open. This was our “not-really-intrusive-because-we-aren’t-breaking-anything-to-get-in” way in.

It was probably in the mid-90s outside that day, so when we entered ( Adam first) we were met with thick, stifling heat. The kind that holds so much humidity that it almost takes your breath away. What we thought was a mud-room was an extended pantry area or canning kitchen—it was tiny with one window, an old rusted sink, a small stove and the walls still held shelves upon shelves of canned (and spoiled) vegetables in jars. I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, this’ll be great, I totally remember how to can, and we can have a garden, and, and..” (Insert all kinds of other giddy thoughts women have while in the throes of house hunting here) It also had the doorway into the main part of the house, and this is where my elation came to an end.

Through the doorway was the the kitchen. What remained of the cabinets and sink were against the wall on the left, but they were either broken or hanging on for dear life or both. The kitchen connected to a wide open living area, with one side having walls streaked with black that led up to a half sunken, gray ceiling. There had been a fire at some point. The windows on that wall were filthy, covered in dust or ash that made the room much darker than it should have been in the middle of the day. My heart sank. I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford a costly repair of a house fire, but I kept that disappointing thought to myself.

The open living area had not one stitch of furniture, save for one small wooden rocking horse that a child would have. The floor was littered with magazines, as if someone had a giant stack of them and just threw them up in the air to see where they’d land. Curious as to what the former home owners liked in regards to reading material, I decided to check them out. Almost every single magazine was related to dolls in some way: porcelain doll collecting, barbie dolls, making dolls by hand, clothing for dolls. I felt a little creeped out by it, especially under the surveillance of the rocking horse’s dead, painted-on stare—but I figured that an old lady must’ve lived in the house before, and I created a self-medicating idea that her husband probably died and this was the only hobby she had to pass her time.

We decided to check out another room that was connected to the half-burned living area. Through the doorway to the left was a weird combination of a molded, stand-up shower with handicap handles, and assisted toilet next to it divided down the middle by a wall. On the right was a wall made entirely of built-in book shelves. The shelves were full of paperwork, manilla envelopes, books and even more magazines. It struck us as a pretty weird set up, but thought these people must’ve really loved to read while sitting on the toilet. My husband and I thought we could find out who the previous homeowners were since some of the paperwork on top of the stacks seemed to be old bills. If we wanted to look up property records, at least now we would have a name to go on. I grabbed a stack of papers and began to flip through them, when about half-way through the changed from being old telephone bills to printed out color pictures from the internet. Of porcelain dolls.

I put the stack of papers back on the shelf, and picked up a small, red, five-star notebook. I started from the beginning, casually leafing through and seeing daily entries of medications taken, blood pressure and glucose measurements written in a neat hand. About 20 pages in the entries started to change entirely. They became crude drawings of twisted faces, done in red ink. The faces had horns or bloody fangs. Then full on drawings of devils appeared in the pages after. I wanted to believe that a child had picked this up to doodle in, but I felt like this was something much different than that. After the drawings, the notebook became someone’s personal journal—written in what I assumed was an elderly man’s cursive. It told of how he knew he was coming toward the end of his life, and how he remembered being just a young boy when his mother passed away. He described, in detail, how the wake for his mother was held in the front room of his home and how during those nights, he crawled on top of his mother’s body in her coffin to sleep.

I could’t believe what I was reading. Even though I had been sweating from the thickness in the air, a sudden rush of goose-bumps came over me. I immediately showed it to Adam, flipping to the pages of devils and snarled faces—and then read, aloud, this stranger’s memories of his mother just to see if it was the same the second time around. After I finished, he said, “Well, this just got a whole lot weirder,” nodding to what he held in his hands. While I was reading the notebook, he had continued rifling through the mountains of papers—one stack not only had more printed pictures of dolls, but now they contained pictures of real women—in torture bondage: ball gags or electrical tape placed over their mouths, jumper cables twisting their nipples, being hog-tied with rope. Sometimes there was more than one woman in the picture. It felt as if a brick had been tossed into my stomach. For some, those images wouldn’t be disturbing, but in the context of our visit- my panic was starting to grow. I was torn between wanting to find out more and getting the fuck out. Adam reassured me that while it was on the creepy side, it wasn’t anything to necessarily lose my shit over since the women didn’t seem to be suffering or bleeding.

The burned-out living area was separated from the rest of the house by a staircase. The staircase had a room directly across from it, and a small hallway on the other side that led to the main room at the front of the house. We debated on going up to the second floor, but decided against since since it already felt as if we were roasting in an oven and were unsure of the stability of the second story.

Going into the room across the staircase, we noticed a few more doll magazines on the floor, but not near the number as the other rooms held. There were scattered plastic doll pieces here and there—random arms and heads. To the left was the original fire place with a couple tiny vases on the mantle. Smack dab in the middle was a framed picture of an elderly couple, smiling and happy. These certainly weren’t the type of people that would have pictures of women bound and gagged hidden away in their bathrooom. “These people could have been my grandparents,” I thought to myself.

To the right was a big bay window, and smack dab in the middle was a yellowed piece of paper with faded black, printed handwriting on it. It was for anyone on the outside of the house to see (before it became overgrown.) Reading it backwards from inside it said, “IF YOU’RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT JESUS, GO AWAY.” “That’s kind of hilarious,” Adam said after reading it for himself. “Yeah, it kind of is,” I half-chuckled, but something in my brain was now starting to nag me even more. Something wasn’t computing correctly for me. Thinking back, my mind was putting together that an elderly couple in this town would more than likely be pretty religious, and by the super small chance that they weren’t—it would have been gossiped about had someone seen that in the window. It was as if the house had held two very different personalities within. I told my husband that I just wanted to go into the one last room down the little hallway and then I would be VERY ready to leave.

Going down the small hallway, it became darker and cooler. It was a relief from the oppressive heat that we had been dealing with since first stepping inside. The shade from the giant tree in the front yard had blocked out a lot of the sunlight making it about 20 degrees cooler, but we soon realized that wasn’t the only reason this part of the house’s temperature was much more tolerable.

Rounding the corner into the last room, it took a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the difference in light, but the change of the air was noticeable immediately. It was if we had stepped into a cave; the smell was dank and left a dampness on our skin. Once things came into clear focus, that’s when we saw it. The main reason our senses had shifted so quickly... the large hole in the floor.

At first we thought that perhaps the wooden floor was so weak that it had simply caved in on its own, or that the roof had leaked and caused this exact area of floor to rot away but upon getting closer it became obvious this wasn’t the case. The hole was about five feet across and went straight down into the earth, with about a two feet of space between the remaining floor and dirt. This hole was there because it was made to be there. My husband and I looked at each other. My heart was racing so fast that I thought it would burst through my chest. I said aloud to him while pointing, “What the fuck is this?! Why is this here?!

I panicked, my breathing becoming more rapid and shallow. Nothing was making sense and yet, the thoughts that had been running in the background of my brain were all coming together like a jigsaw puzzle. Then we saw them. The worn and faded social security cards, a few old and molded-over drivers licenses just thrown around haphazardly, checkbooks, credit cards. As if someone had emptied their purse or wallet in this room and then just disappeared into the hole.

I was overcome with terror and dread. I had to get out of this house. My skin felt like static, as if my whole body had been taken over by the sensation of when your foot falls asleep. I had tears forming in my eyes, and my mind just told me to run. Without having to speak, Adam quickly took me by the arm and led us back down the hallway, through the burned out living room and kitchen, out the side canning room and back out into the light of day. We ran back down the mangled and tangled driveway to the car. Remembering back, I get the eerie feeling that we weren’t the only two people in the house that day. Alive or dead.

(A side note, the house still stands. We never called the police to report us breaking into this house and finding a giant hole in the floor. However, we drove past it about a year later and the large tree in the front yard had all its branches removed. All the windows had been boarded shut, and after doing some research found out the land it sits on is for sale. The house itself has been condemned.)

The Cat’s Paw by downndanny

When this happened, I was living in a small house with my boyfriend (now my husband) and our two cats. I was especially close with our male cat, my baby. My boyfriend always joked that he followed me around like a little dog. He was always happy to see me, always wanted to cuddle me, and would even lick my hair when I was upset. I had never loved a cat so much.

My boyfriend was out of town for most of the week for work. I had stayed late at work myself this particular night so it was dark by the time my train pulled into the local station. I usually walked home since it was such a quiet, safe place and only about a 20-minute walk. Part of the walk took me past a church with a small graveyard, the edge of the graveyard sort of overlooking the road. I’d never been particularly afraid of cemeteries, always found them rather peaceful, but that night the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I hurried past, but still sort of felt as if I was being followed. I kept checking over my shoulder and had my cellphone gripped in my hand, but I didn’t see anything. I yelled at myself a little for being so stupid and scaring myself. I got home, was grateful for the lights, and locked the door.

My boy cat was at the door to greet me. I thought he might want to go out into the yard, he wasn’t really an outdoor cat but he would wander around the yard with me watching him. He usually begged to go outside with me, but this time, when I went to unlock the door he gave me a strange look and didn’t seem to want to go out. I left the door locked and turned on the TV to try to calm down. My baby stuck with me all night. He seemed more skittish than usual. Anytime there was a loud noise on the TV, or his sister cat or I moved, he would half-jump up and look around wide-eyed.

At bedtime, both cats followed me upstairs. By now, my girl cat was acting jumpy too. I had finished in the bathroom and was standing on the landing at the top of the stairs about to go into the bedroom. I noticed my boy cat staring up at the ceiling, so I looked up. Above the landing was the door to the attic. Suddenly there was a loud, scrapping sound, like metal being dragged along the attic floor. I ran down the stairs and both cats instinctively followed.

I hit the lights on downstairs. I could still hear the noise, now with a rattling sound. I was trying to think what to do. My cat was beside me, looking up at me. He had a funny look on his face, as if he was concentrating hard. He opened his mouth. He said “out.” My boyfriend and I had joked before that his meows sometimes sounded like actual words, but this was so clearly the word “out.” It was still cat-like, like what I imagine a cat accent would sound like if they spoke English, but it was just so clearly the word “out,” that I couldn’t believe it.

I opened the door, scooping his sister cat into my arms as she was freaking out by now, and we all went out. I closed the door behind us but I really had no idea what to do, as it was all so weird and I didn’t want to seem like a crazy person.

I walked towards the front fence caring the one cat. My baby wasn’t following now, but had his back to us while he stared at the front door. And then he just lost it. I’ve never seen a cat behave as he did. He was screeching, twisting his whole body around while he slashed at the air. I put my other cat down and tried to go to him, but he turned around, hissed at me, and gave a slashing motion like he wanted me to stay back. This carried on for a whole minute, while he jumped around and slammed into the ground and look like he was really getting hurt. I was in tears, as I didn’t know how to help him.

And just as suddenly as it started, he stopped. He stared off into the distance a few seconds, then started calmly washing his paws. Eventually he came over and rubbed himself against my leg.

About a month later, I noticed he was bleeding from his paw. I took him to the vet who said he probably got his claw stuck in something and tore the skin getting free. She said is should heal by itself, but after another week, it hadn’t so he had to have stitches. Almost exactly a year later, he started bleeding from his paw again. They ran tests on him but everything came back normal and all they could do was stitch it up again. The bleeding paw continued off and on for another couple of years, although it never seemed to get in the way of his being a happy, fun-loving cat.

Unfortunately, during another round of testing this year, they found cancer, and though he is doing well probably doesn’t have long. I still have no idea what actually happened that night, but it does feel as if he saved me and his sister from something. Sometimes, I wonder if the cancer is related.

Whatever it all means, he is a wonderful brave cat and I will always love him.

An Invitation by Dylan (submitted via email)

This happened almost 10 years ago now. I was in high school, the summer before my senior year. I was your typical angsty teen who couldn’t wait to get out of the ‘burbs and go to college. I got a job at the big movie theater in my town. It wasn’t too bad, I sold tickets or manned the concession stand. The best part of the job was getting to see all of the movies for free. I would come in even in my off days and see whatever was playing. I didn’t have many friends back then, so this was a great way for me to kill time and not focus on my lack of a social life.

I worked the early shift on most weekdays and got to know the matinee crowd. Mostly it was older folks who complained about the stale popcorn (pro tip: don’t order popcorn in the morning, it’s from last night). It was during one of these shifts I first met Brian. He stood out from the usual crowd because he was younger, maybe late 30s, and handsome. He came several times a week and saw almost as many movies as me, always carrying some sketchpad into the theater with him. He was always friendly with me. After one of my shifts, I popped into a theater to catch the second half of some CGI movie. On my way out I ran into Brian. He asked what I thought of the movie and we started talking. After maybe ten minutes of conversation I asked about the sketchpad. He told me he was an illustrator of children’s books and was taking some time off between projects. He came to the movies for inspiration. I asked to see some of his work, and he nervously showed me what he had sketched during this movie. They were hysterical. He put the cartoon characters in bizarre and dark situations. I told him I loved them and he said he would show me more.

From then on, Brian came in more often. Seeing him was the best part of my shift. I would tell him what movie to see and ask for specific drawings. The darker the better. My favorite one had the rat from Ratatouille cooking his human friend and serving him to guests. I could tell he loved showing them to me.

I know our friendship could sound sketchy, what with him being an older guy and me a high school student. But I really felt like we were just two awkward people that clicked. He treated me like an adult and never did anything inappropriate.

One day, towards the end of the summer, Brian came in when I was working the evening shift. We were really busy so I didn’t get to talk to him much before he went into his movie. A group of girls from my high school came up to the concession. Their leader was Michelle. She was the most popular, pretty, athletic, etc. etc. girl in school. On top of all that, she was really nice. I hated her at the time, but looking back it was obviously just jealously. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to be friends with me given my shitty attitude. When they came to the counter, I panicked and hid. I called over my coworker and he took care of them. Later on, Brian came to see after the movie got out. He said he saw me run away from those girls. I was so embarrassed that he saw that. I panicked, and made up an excuse. “Those are just the mean girls at school. They try to make my life hell. I don’t really care, I just didn’t want to deal with it today,” I lied. Brian got a very serious look, more serious than I had ever seen before, and told me “Don’t worry, bullies always get what’s coming to them.”

Brian didn’t come around over the next few days and I was a bit relieved because of how stupid I acted the last time. One evening I came home from work and my mom told me I received a large letter, probably an information packet from a college. I opened it up and found a sketchbook, immediately recognizing it as the same type Brian always carries. Before I opened it, I started thinking how weird this was. How does he know where I live? If he wanted to show me his drawings, why not just do it in person like always? I flipped to the first page, which had the words “An Invitation”, in big fancy font. The next page showed a young girl tied to a chair. It was Michelle. She looked terrified. All of Brian’s drawings, even the most gory ones, were whimsical and cartoonish. This was photorealistic. Two dark figures in masks approached her. They pulled out knives, and I couldn’t keep turning the pages. It was stomach churning. Did he think this I would like this? Is this a joke? I forced myself to keep reading, looking for answers, until I reached the horrible end. After Michelle was long since dead, the two figures removed their masks and were revealed to be me and Brian. The last page just said “RSVP soon.”

I didn’t know what to do. So I did nothing. The next day I tore up the book and threw it out in the dumpster outside the theater and went to work like nothing had happened. I waited in dread that day for Brian to come in but he never did. The next week, I was working the ticket counter and saw him approaching from the parking lot. I froze. Before he opened the door, he stared at me. I was petrified and felt all the blood draining from my face. After what felt like minutes, he shook his head, turned around and walked away. I never saw him again.

Don’t Worry, I’m Leaving by Pee Before You Go

This happened to a friend of a friend earlier this summer (as told by my friend). I’ll call her friend Jane. Jane is a nurse who works a specific shift at a local hospital and keeps a really consistent schedule. She gets up at 5am, takes a shower, and then heads off to work. Jane lives in a bungalow a block away from Green Lake in Seattle. For those of you unfamiliar, Green Lake is a really popular place for running, outdoor and park activities, dining, etc and is super busy during the summer.

It’s common for people to be out late at night during the summer, so Jane didn’t think anything was amiss when she heard noises outside her house at midnight. She woke up again around 3 a.m., but this time the noises were louder, like something was hitting or tapping her house. She turned on all the lights and walked around her place, but didn’t see anything and went back to bed. She felt uneasy and didn’t sleep well the rest of the night, and woke up a just before her alarm went off at 5 a.m..

As she sat up in bed, she looked through her open bedroom door to see a man on all fours, army crawling down the hall towards her bedroom. As my friend tells it, Jane screams, and as she goes to grab her phone to call 911, the man calmly stands, looks at her, and says, “Don’t worry, I’m leaving.” The man turned around and walked toward the front door. She shut her bedroom door and called the police.

After the police arrived, she discovered the man had removed all of her window screens and presumably entered her home around the time she woke up at 3 a.m. The police did not believe he intended to rob her, since he didn’t take any of her valuables. The only things he did take were her car keys and her house keys that were in her purse by the front door.

My friend’s husband is a cop and believes the only reason this guy was so calm is because he has likely done this before. He also thinks he had probably been watching her for some time and knew her schedule well enough to attack her when she was most defenseless (naked, in the shower). Whether he took her keys as a mindfuck or because he intended to come back is beyond me, but it’s so creepy.

Venka by Benthic Born

In the early ‘70s, my aunt Sarah studied education at a college in a very conservative small town. Sarah lived on campus, while her boyfriend Jack (who eventually became my uncle) lived in a crappy house in a crappy part of town off campus.

Because the college was in an industrial town, there were surrounded by really big feedlots and beef packing plants (slaughterhouses) that ran 24 hours a day and among the blue collar workforce were many undocumented workers that were paid under the table and lived off the grid.

Part of my aunt’s coursework for her degree was going into the local district and trying to help illegal immigrant families get resources for the kids (stuff like free lunches and pre-natal care if the moms were pregnant). Mostly, the work was depressing as fuck. The families wanted the resources, but they didn’t want to bring any attention to their undocumented status. It was just a disaster.

Uncle Jack lived across the street from a crappy apartment building that housed several of these families and often, groups of children would be playing outside. One day while visiting, my aunt noticed this kid, a five or six-year-old little girl, sitting alone on the apartment’s crumbling balcony. After that, whenever she’d visit during the week (day or night), the girl would be there, but she was always gone on weekends.

There were a lot of people who lived in those units, so on the weekends, there would be tons of kids of all ages running around, tearing crap up, generally being little jerks, like kids do. They moved into the house in August, so it was blazing hot and the sun didn’t set until almost ten at night, so the kids were always out running around.

Any given weekday, though, that kid would be sitting there all by herself, just staring over at them, well into the evening. My aunt said at first she just thought it was sad that the kid didn’t have anybody really looking after her.

But then it started turning to fall and the days were getting shorter and colder. One night, my uncle was walking my aunt out to her car and she remarked to him that the little girl wasn’t out there, a relief because it was getting so cold. But then a car turned down the street with its brights on and when the headlights hit the balcony of that apartment building, the kid was still there. My aunt said she must have been wearing dark clothes because when the headlights passed over her, all they could really see was this very pale little face, the headlights washing away all of her features. She’d been there the entire time. They just hadn’t seen her because it was so dark.

That was turning point for my aunt. By now, she was into her internship with the district and she was doing a lot of outreach. So one weekend afternoon when it was still pretty nice outside, she and my uncle approached the families mingling outside. She asked about the little girl, but no one would talk to her. She said even the kids pretended not to be able to understand her.

Winter came and still the little girl could be seen on the balcony, appearing like like she wasn’t wearing a coat. At this point, my aunt decided to stage an intervention to get the kid a jacket and maybe even enroll her in school. So she sees the kid one morning and heads across the street and up the stairs that lead to the second level. But by the time she gets there, the kid is gone. My aunt didn’t hear any footsteps. She didn’t hear any doors closing. Nothing.

My aunt figures it’s the same thing from before—they’re just scared of an outsider. But now she’s more determined than ever because this kid clearly needs some resources.

That week it snowed, so when the weekend comes, a bunch of the little jackals that were living across the street were outside stockpiling snowballs to throw at each other. My aunt has learned from the last time, so this time she doesn’t take my uncle, but she does take candy. And a bunch of silver dollars.

The older kids avoid her like the plague, but a couple of the little ones come over and my aunt starts asking about the little girl. The kids are way more interested in the candy and silver dollars than the questions and most of them refuse to answer until one of them finally says “Venka”—the name of the child, my aunt presumes. She’d never heard of a name like that, but gives the little kids some candy and money anyway which eventually entices the older kids over to start talking to her, Until she asks about “Venka.” Then the older kids completely clammed up, gathered up all the little ones and in like thirty seconds, everyone was gone.

One winter evening when it was hella dark, my aunt saw the kid. By now it was absolutely freezing out—there had been an ice storm the night before and that kid was still out there. Flipping out, my aunt headed over, fully intending to get the kid and call the cops because it wasn’t just neglect at this point, it was abuse.

When she finally made it up the apartment building’s icy stairs, the kid was once again gone, which finally got my aunt to freak out—because there was NO WAY a kid could have moved that fast on icy concrete and she knows that none of the doors to any of the apartments were opened. Still, she pulled it together and decided to walk the length of the balcony just to make sure the kid wasn’t there.

Reaching the midway point, where this kid was always sitting, she saw, deep in the ice, these... she didn’t know what to call them. They weren’t footprints, because they weren’t shaped like feet, not even little feet. And they’re weren’t just on top of the ice, they were all the way through it, down to bare concrete. It was like the the kid had been standing there during the ice storm the previous night and the ice had built up around her feet.

Terrified, my aunt tore ass off the balcony and down the stairs, managing to trip and take a spectacular chunk out of her shin in the way. (She still has the scar today.) After making it to my uncle’s house and saying what happened, he and two of his roommates headed over to check it out while she stayed back and had someone patch up her leg,

After about 10 minutes, the guys came back and told her that, yeah, they saw the footprints, though none of them could come up with any kind of explanation and they tried to play it off, working out all these different scenarios that seem plausible, like maybe there had been some empty cups or something sitting there and the kid kicked them off the ledge, and that made the weird footprints. They convinced her that if they went over and looked in the morning they’d probably find some cups on the ground. And then they said that maybe my aunt hadn’t seen the kid at all. At this point they’d ALL seen the kid, at least once. She was always over there. But they pointed out that they all got so used to seeing her, that my aunt probably just saw a shadow and took for granted that it was the kid. (Which didn’t make any sense if they really thought the kid had kicked over some cups, but whatever.)

After winter finals, my uncle and has roommates decided to throw a giant kegger before everyone headed home for Christmas. It was the first time my aunt had been back to the house since all of the stuff on the balcony happened. But everything now seemed fine. The little girl is nowhere to be seen.

The party ends up being low-key, with only my uncle, his roommates, their girlfriends, and one roommate’s sister—Marisol—in attendance. The night wore on and another ice storm began outside, causing the power to go out and the roommates to light a fire in their fire place.

They were all fairly trashed at this point and one of the roommates brought up the weird footprints—something they’d yet to speak of out loud. Finally, around the fire, my uncle and two of his roommates admitted that it was creepy as fuck.

“I know it’s not possible, but it looked like...” began one of the guys.

“A goat hoof or a pig hoof,” filled in the other roommate, leaving my uncle to remark, “Yeah, like something was standing there with cloven feet.”

The entire energy in the room, according to my aunt, was still uneasy when the roommate who said it looked like a goat hoof turned asked, “What’s the girl’s name again? Velma?”

“Venka,” my aunt corrected.

My aunt says you could have heard a pin drop at this point, but eventually someone changed the subject and everyone continued to drink and goof around. At some point, however, my aunt went into the kitchen and was followed by Marisol, the roommate’s sister. Alone in the kitchen, Marisol, a weird expression on her face, asked, “Did you say the girl’s name was Venka?”

And my aunt nodded, telling her that that was what kids—the regular kids— across the street told her.

Marisol nodded and didn’t say anything for awhile, but when my aunt turned to leave, Marisol put a hand on her arm and said, “It wasn’t Venka. It was ‘venga.’ It’s slang. It means ‘come here’ in Spanish.”

And that’s when Marisol told my aunt the story: It was the first year the district and the college tried the internship my aunt was participating in and Marisol, participating in the program, was stuck literally going door-to-door, trying to find the families with kids that need to be enrolled in school. She got a hell of a lot farther than my aunt ever got because she spoke fluent Spanish. The families still didn’t like her nosing around, but they would at least speak to her.

Marisol says she went another crappy apartment building, not across the street from my uncle’s rental, but close. While there, she saw all of these kids, including a little girl dressed in dark clothes, who appeared to be by herself.

So Marisol talked to the more friendly kids and their families, convincing them that they can qualify for services and going to school is really a good thing to be doing. Getting up to go, she asked about the little girl she saw outside. Upon mentioning her, an older woman—probably a grandmother or great grandmother—crossed herself and shook her head. She told Marisol that what she saw wasn’t a little girl. It was a bad spirit and Marisol should forget she ever saw her.

At the time, she figured that maybe the kid was illegal, or possibly stolen or sold to another family (sadly, it happens). But then, when she tried to really think back to the girl’s features, nothing came to mind. It was sort of blank. Just a general impression of a girl in dark clothes.

Over the weeks and months, Marisol started to eavesdrop and more and more, she would hear about this venga girl. Apparently she was called that because she would whisper “venga” and try to lead people off into the woods. Marisol wasn’t clear on what supposedly happened to anyone who dared to follow her and, according to the conversations she overheard, all of the kids knew better than to go with her or else they’d be beaten within an inch of their lives by a granny armed with a wooden spoon. She then swore that she would catch glimpses of this kid in different places around town.

By this point in the story, my aunt was super dunk and totally freaked out. Getting away from Marisol as quickly as she could, she informed my uncle that he needed to take her back to the dorm. Heading away from the apartment and by this wooded area, my uncle—either because of the ice storm or because he was tanked—ended up hitting the curb hard enough that it blew out a tire. It being the middle of the night and freezing, he left my aunt in the car and got out alone to change the tire by the light of a flare, the only light source he had.

In the car, my aunt was terrified. The red light of the flare was bouncing off the ice and flashing everywhere, and there, in the woods about 20 feet away, is the girl. The flare was bright enough for my aunt to get a good look at her face, except... there wasn’t one. The face was perfectly pale and featureless—no eyes, no nose, no mouth. It was just completely smooth.

Even over the sound of the heater and the radio, my aunt says she could hear the girl whispering “venga” to her and she could see her crooking a finger toward her. This was the first time my aunt saw the girl’s hands—they’re bleeding with long cracked fingernails. And her feet weren’t feet, they were like hooves.

At at this point, my uncle climbed back into the car and my aunt, pointing him to the girl, finds that she was gone.

The next morning, as soon as the sun was up, they packed up and drove all the way home for the holidays. After that, my aunt refused to go back to the house and they never saw the girl again.

When the Spring Came by overtheriver1991

My good friend—let’s call her Jane to protect her identity—told me her ghost story last year, and since then it has been confirmed to me by several people who were around at the time. It took place back in the late ‘90s when she was in her early 20s.

Jane was living on a farm in very rural Appalachia with some other folks around her age because they were trying a back-to-the-land-type situation post-college. Most of their neighbors were really friendly and helpful, lots of old ladies making food for them and former coal worker guys who would help around the farm. There was one neighbor in particular named Jim who was known to be a former meth addict, but was cleaned up and acted as sort of a paid handy man around the farm. The farm was really old, including the main house which was built in the early 1900's. Each of the people who lived there had their own room, including Jane, who took the room closest to the front door of the house.

Eventually, one of the neighbors told Jane and her friends that the house was rumored to be haunted by a ghost of a man who lived there in the 1930s. Jane and her friends never really took it seriously, but they would joke around and try to scare each other in a pranking way. One night, though, Jane woke up because she felt the presence of something unusual in her room. She opened her eyes and could see a dark, ghostly figure standing silently in the doorway, staring at her. She repeatedly told the figure to leave, saying “You need to go now. I do not want you here.” Eventually after a few minutes the figure left. She didn’t tell any of her friends because she didn’t want them to freak out or think she was crazy.

A few days later, one of the other women who lived in the house told Jane that the ghost had appeared at her doorway and had actually come in her room, but she had laid in her bed silently in response. Jane then confessed the same thing had happened to her earlier, except the ghost left when she told it to leave. The ghost continued to appear to Jane occasionally, but she would just tell him to leave and he would.

That autumn, they had to stop paying Jim the handyman because they were running out of funds and couldn’t afford to have him around. Angry, he turned on the farm people and started doing terrible things to the farm, including vandalizing the barn, messing up the garden, etc. They never had proof that it was him, so the police couldn’t really do anything, but they were convinced he was the one doing it. One horrible morning in the middle of winter, Jane came outside and saw that the farm dog was hanging from a tree. They all assumed it was Jim who had done it and they called the police, but Jim wasn’t in his trailer up the hollow. It looked like he had skipped town.

When spring came, the snow started melting and one of the neighbors found Jim’s body in a creek that had been covered in snow for a while. The police investigated and surmised that Jim had been high on drugs, fallen into the creek, hit his head and froze to death. He died around the same time the dog was killed.

Anyway, the creepiest part of the whole thing was that Jane realized that the “ghost” had stopped appearing to her around the time that Jim went missing, but didn’t put two and two together until they found his body. She told me that she’s now pretty sure that it was Jim standing in her doorway silently at night, and that is so much creepier than a ghost.

Sleep tight. Don’t forget to lock your doors at night.

UPDATE: One of the winners has since admitted that her story was fake, a clear violation of the rules. As such, the story has been removed and replaced, but you can still read it here.

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