10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck

10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck

We asked readers to share your creepiest real-life tales, and you all delivered this year. Here are the best.

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Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth

The only thing scarier than a scary story is a true scary story. Whether the veil momentarily lifted between our world and whatever else is out there, or humans revealed their true capacity for creepiness, these are the kinds of tales we want to hear in October.

As Jezebel does every year, we asked for your own supernatural experiences or just downright terrifying stories earlier this month, and once again, you all delivered. From haunted houses to scary plants (yes, plants) to run-ins with weird ass strangers, here are your 10 best submissions from our 2022 scary stories competition.

You can read all of them in the comments of our call-out post from earlier this month. And for your spooky convenience, we’ve rounded up links to the previous decade’s annual scary stories posts: 2021; 2020; 2019; 2018 part 1 and 2018 part 2; 2017 part 1 and 2017 part 2; 2016; 2015 part 1 and 2015 part 2; 2014 part 1 and 2014 part 2; 2013.

Read on to scare yourself shitless as we roll into Halloween weekend.

(Editor’s note: We’ve lightly edited these for style and length.)

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Room 4

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth

Fresh out of nursing school, I got my first real job in a fairly large hospital in a department that I honestly never thought I would ever work in. It was a six-bed cardiac ICU, with rooms that overlooked the city capitol building. It was a very nice unit, and I started out working 12-hour night shifts.

The hospital I worked at had four other ICUs that were always full, so my unit always ended up being “code bed,” meaning if someone was arrested or went downhill fast, somewhere around the hospital, they came to us.

I had been working there for a year, and I was no stranger to death. Each patient of mine who had died on my shift was usually already on their way out. Their families were by their side, the DNR order was signed, the funeral home was already picked out. It was rarely ever a surprise. In fact, the only time I was ever needed to do CPR on my shift, it was not even in my department.

So I went on a nice long two-week vacation, got engaged, and had a beautiful tan. On my first night back, I received a report from the day charge nurse. She said she was off for a few days and suggested to remind the next day charge nurse that the priest was coming in the morning to bless room 4. I thought she was kidding at first, but she was serious: Apparently, while I was on vacation, every patient who was admitted to that room had died. But this came as no shock to me—people died often in our department, and it being a very religious institution, having a chaplain for almost every department, I just shook it off. Then she said that room four was empty and that it would serve as “code bed” for the night.

Around 2 a.m., I got a call saying that they have someone to fill our open bed. The ICU downstairs was now going to be “code bed,” so we were getting your run-of-the-mill chest pain, take-a-look-in-the morning kind of patient. Nothing to get excited about.

We get the patient admitted and all settled in room 4. He was a gentleman about 50 or so years old, very pleasant. His wife was with him and she looked dead on her feet. I got her some warm blankets and took her to our waiting room that had cots so she could get some rest. Around 3:30, I was watching monitors and the cameras in each room. All the patients were fast asleep. The cameras all cycled through about three seconds each on one small TV we had on the desk. Room 1 was fine, room 2 was fine, room 3 was fine, room 4...there was someone in there.

It cycled too quickly for me to get a good look, and the doors to the unit were locked. Maybe the other nurse let his wife back in? I walked down the hall and glanced inside: There was nobody. I shrugged it off. It was late, I was tired. I was probably just seeing things. I went back to the desk and continued watching the screen. Room 1, room 2, room 3, room 4...I was not imagining anything. There was someone in room four. The person was standing in the corner by the window, their figure completely draped in shadow. I could not move my body. It cycled through again. This time it was closer to the patient’s bed, by maybe two or three feet. The hairs stood straight up on my neck.

The next time it cycled through, it was even closer. It stood in the light coming from the hallway, but despite the light, it was still shrouded in darkness. It cycled through again, and it was right next to the bed. My heart started pounding, and I could barely squeak to the nurse on the other end of the desk. As soon as my words formed and I was able to make some kind of noise to get her attention, the alarm on the monitor went off, signaling that the patient had cardiac arrested. The overhead system came on: “A cart is needed in CCU room four.” People poured into the department—doctors, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists. They all rushed into the room, but I couldn’t move.

It cycled through the rooms again. Room 4 came up, and this time the lights were on and there were 10 to 15 people surrounding the bed, doing CPR and slamming meds into his IV. Someone went to get his wife from the waiting room. But there it was, in the opposite corner again: a dark figure watching this scene play out. Just standing there.

The man died of a heart attack. Room 4 was blessed that morning, right on schedule, and I put in my two weeks notice. —DizzyMissLizzy

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3 / 12

Slender Man?

Slender Man?

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

It was near the end of high school, 2006-ish, fall in northern Wisconsin—perfect stomping around town weather. One Friday after school, I was over at my on/off high school boyfriend J’s house playing video games, or whatever. Around 7 p.m., we typically would meet up with our whole crew at a local restaurant, but we still had several hours to kill. We were getting bored (miss those days) and it was so lovely out, so J suggested we go walk the train tracks on the west side of town. The town has been built up SO much since then, but at the time, there was only a Fleet Farm and a small burger joint near the tracks, and that was about it. Miles of woods on either side surrounded the tracks. As it was perfect weather, and that doesn’t last long in Wisconsin, I agreed, and we jumped in his car and drove across town. We parked his little car to the side of the burger joint.

At this point, it’s late afternoon, about dusk—sun about to set. We hop out of the car, walk about a block where the train tracks cross the street, hook a right down the tracks through the woods. That area didn’t get as many trains going through as a different set of tracks in town, and there was also plenty of space to the left and right of the tracks/into the woods if a train did approach. It seemed “safe:” You could see maybe a mile in each direction if a train was coming, and to either side, just tall pines.

We’re walking down, balancing on the tracks, talking shit, jumping over stuff, whatever for maybe five to 10 minutes. Up ahead of us, we could see a few boxcars off to the side of the tracks (this feels creepy, but it was normal). As we approached them, we could see there were two boxcars attached to each other, maybe another 10 to 20 feet, and then a single boxcar behind them. I got the heebie jeebies as we approached the boxcars, but they were both shut. So as we peeked around on them, climbed up, etc, they were less menacing. Cool. We keep walking, sun is now down and it’s twilight. Quiet. We are both looking down as we walk past the boxcars, balancing and such. We get past them maybe another length of a boxcar when I just have the sense to look up. That’s when I see it.

I stopped short. I swear the hair on my arms stood up, and suddenly I felt like a prey animal that had been spotted.

“J. What’s that up there? There’s someone on the tracks?” He stopped and looked up. What looked like maybe half a mile to a mile down the tracks, standing directly in the middle of them, was the shape of a person, or what I thought was. But for how far away it is, the figure was unnaturally tall—standing stiff and still, arms at sides, with what looked like the shape of a bowler hat or something. I can still picture it. Now J doesn’t fuck around with ghost stories and alien tales; he’s a non-believer. But he saw it too.

“Uh. We need to go,” he said. He grabbed my hand and spinned me back to the direction we came from. We were walking very briskly, but if you have ever been on train tracks, you know it’s all small rocks and pebbles, so it’s a little rough. About a minute passed. My heart was pounding, and I looked back over my shoulder. This “person,” who was originally about a mile away, was SO. MUCH. CLOSER. It’s like he suddenly jumped half the distance between where he originally was to where we were. But still, the same sickeningly tall featureless shadow with a hat, standing still, arms to sides, stood in the middle of the tracks.

“J!!!!” I actually screamed, making him whip his head around. I’ve never seen this guy scared. He grabbed my hand tighter and broke off into a sprint. J is about 6’ and I’m 5’4”, so his stride is a bit longer than mine. A couple years prior, I recovered from a fractured knee and femur, and it’s common knowledge I CANNOT run. If you’ve ever seen the cartoons with someone running and the other person is kind of flapping behind the runner, held by the hand, that’s what I felt like. He took OFF. My legs moved, but my toes barely skimmed the tracks. We ran past the boxcars off to the side, and as we’re about to get past the two that are hooked together, I stole one more frantic look over my shoulder. There he was, ONE BOXCAR AWAY—same weird proportions, like a dark opaque shadow. I swear my eyes bugged out of my head, and my body and adrenaline said GTFO. I forced my legs down and pushed my own damn self into a run.

We plowed forward, no more glances back, hooked back into the street and frantically fumbled our way back into his car, slamming and locking the doors behind us. I remember both of us sitting there, panting, staring forward for a good minute or two until snapping back to it with a “WTF!!!???” The sun went down, and nothing could be seen toward the tracks. We went to our hangout with the crew at 7, chomping at the bit to tell everyone what happened. No one believed us or cared, really. I told my dad later on, and he says so many people died building that railroad, it was probably a ghost. Thanks, dad.

Fast forward to maybe 2011-ish? I’m in college, J and I break up and don’t keep in touch. I get a text from him out of the blue, a link to that “Slenderman” game. I remember sitting in my dorm with a chill as I watched the preview and felt sick to my stomach, how he only moves toward you when you aren’t looking and is frozen staring at you when you look back. Ugh. I read the Wikipedia page and creepypasta and all that shit. I know all of that stuff is made up, but the similarity to what we experienced freaks me out.

Present day: I looked up the chunk of railroad where it went down in my hometown on Google maps. It’s much more developed with shopping and housing around, but there is still a little stretch surrounded by trees, which is the one we walked down. I’m going back for Thanksgiving and was thinking about taking a jaunt to the tracks, but reading all these spooky stories made me change my mind. Just in case it is some entity, I don’t want to take it back with me. —Chirp

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4 / 12

Late-night Laughter

Late-night Laughter

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

Just over 10 years ago, I was fresh out of college and had moved back to my parents’ house for the free rent/food for nine months, before I was leaving the state for graduate school. To earn some scratch, I took a part-time gig doing some light bookkeeping for a small business owner guy that my dad knew. They had a business where you could rent low-level farm equipment, a small mom-and-pop type thing in the sticks. Since they knew my family, they trusted me to go in there for about 15-20 hours a week and check and file the rental forms, make sure nobody missed a payment date, answer an email or two discussing prices/availability, etc. Super easy gig.

The old building where I worked was about 90 years old and at the top of this little hill. The downstairs used to be an old country bar until the 1970s. I could work any hours I wanted to as long as the work got done, so I’d usually go in after 7 p.m. and stay until around midnight or 1 a.m., since I knew I’d be alone and could listen to music loud and take my time. The office was on the second floor of the building and looked out onto the long driveway. One night during winter, it had snowed a few inches, but I was desperate to get out of the house, so I went into work at about 8 p.m. I always left the gate open at the bottom of the hill, since (believe me when I say that) nobody ever showed up at night—we were literally in the middle of nowhere. To even turn onto our short road, you had to only be coming to our specific building and know it was there beforehand.

So I was jamming away to some Fall Out Boy (everyone makes mistakes when they’re young) and having some coffee, and I kept glancing at the snow outside as I worked, since our one orange street light reflected onto the ground at the gate and was causing the light to shine off the snow in a really cool (dare I say beautiful) way. Around midnight I went downstairs to do my bathroom business, then came back upstairs and got settled back into my work. I probably did about five minutes of work, when I glanced outside and saw a HUGE IMPRINT of something in the fresh snow just below the orange light. It seemed like a huge dog or substantial animal had just rolled around on the ground there on its back or something. Since I didn’t notice it just 15 minutes before, it had to have happened while I was in the bathroom. I shook it off and assumed an animal was attracted to the light or something.

At around 2 a.m. I was leaving and got out of my car to lock the gate, and to be honest, I had pretty much forgotten about the imprint in the snow. But when I looked down, I was shocked to see that it wasn’t just some disturbed snow, but it was undeniably the imprint of a human-made snow angel. I used to make snow angels when I was a kid, and they are also very recognizable, so I 100% knew for sure that’s what this was. And it was deliberately made underneath the light post. But it wasn’t from a kid—it was from a very large person. And I already knew: Whoever had made this snow angel could easily have looked up and have seen me through that window, so they must’ve waited for me to head downstairs to the bathroom to make this angel.

No cars had pulled up to our building (I would’ve seen/heard them, even from the bathroom), so I glanced around for footprints in the snow and saw that there was one set that led to the nearby woods to the right of the building. It was clear the person didn’t use the road, but instead came from the opposite side, which instantly made me uneasy, since that side was just trees and darkness for miles and miles. By now, I was freaking out and trying to get back in my SUV.

And that’s when I heard it. Before I could get inside, I heard loud, high-pitched laughing coming from the woods. It almost sounded like a fake laugh, like the witch in The Wizard of Oz—like someone was doing it fake on purpose. It was close enough that I knew they could see me, but I couldn’t see them at all, since other than the street light I was under, there was no illumination. After a few seconds of laughing, they stopped. And then it was just silence everywhere, except for my heart beating through my ears. Then, the laughing started again, though LOUDER this time—more like screaming and laughing combined. I sort of froze for like five seconds, listening in a panic.

Now, I spent a lot of time in that area, and I know what coyotes and foxes sound like at night with their high-pitched screeches during mating season; but this was very human. It felt like it was an adult man trying to emulate a woman laughing, like someone was deliberately trying to make a fake-scary shriek laugh in order to scare someone. Well, it fucking worked. After five seconds, I immediately filled up with adrenaline, got in my car and drove the hell away from there as fast I could without sliding off the road.

I worked there another six weeks or so and never had a single issue, though I knew where my boss kept his gun, and I always made sure it was there when I started my shift. And I certainly always locked the gate from then on. —sstephenstephenss

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5 / 12

The Servant

The Servant

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth

I went to a small college for women tucked away in a quaint New England town. In my second year, I was lucky to get a spot in one of the oldest dorms on campus, a stone building that students called The Castle, covered in gargoyles and ivy and twisting turrets. It was built in the early 1800s. The rooms themselves had been “modernized,” but it still felt like living in a gothic fever dream. As a 19-year old-romantic, I absolutely loved it.

I was surprised to get a room in the Castle. When it was my turn to pick, and I saw that room available, I thought I had really lucked out. It was the smallest room in the building, but I still grabbed it without hesitating.

I moved in the following September, and things were going great—at first. I loved my classes, and I had made good friends in my first year. But within a few weeks, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my life was on a downward spiral. Sometimes I sat in my room and just cried for no reason. I thought about how hopeless my life was, that I was never going to make anything of myself. Part of me knew that none of this made any sense. I was a straight-A student at a good college, had family and friends that supported me—but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doomed.

Whenever I went to class or hung out with friends on campus, I felt better. But every night when I got back to my room, the sadness would eat away at me. Soon I became convinced that my outside life was just distracting me from the true hopelessness of my situation. I began turning down my friends’ invitations, just to stay in my room and cry. I skipped class to sleep. I was in so much mental pain, I even started to self harm by cutting. I had never done this before. It may sound hard to believe, but when I was in this room, there was no way to convince me that my feelings of hopelessness weren’t valid. I was doomed! I knew it in the depths of my soul.

My friends noticed how bad things had gotten and gently suggested that I should visit counseling services. I refused—until one day, something happened that convinced me to get help.

I was sitting on the bed in my dorm room, trying to study. Instead, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain inside me was so great, I was tempted to self-harm by cutting, just to make the inner turmoil stop for a moment. I closed my eyes and suddenly, with great clarity, saw a girl sitting on the bed in front of me. She had brown hair that hung to her waist, and she was looking down at something, so I couldn’t see her face. Then her eyes shot up toward me. She was crying and snarling all at once, the nastiest face I’ve ever seen a human make. Her arms were covered in blood. I had an overpowering feeling that she wanted me dead.

I opened my eyes and sprung out of bed. A heavy mood hung over the room. The bed was empty, but I could tell she was still there. I had never believed in demons or evil spirits, but this was a feeling of absolute hatred that I can only describe as pure evil.

I left my room and went to the RA. Suddenly, I knew that I had to talk about how I’d been feeling. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I told my RA about the depression and hopelessness and self harm. Talking to someone lifted a weight that I hadn’t even realized I was carrying. But I didn’t mention the ghost girl on my bed.

When I stopped talking, I expected the RA to send me straight for counseling (which I did end up doing, eventually). Instead, she asked if I knew about the history of that room. She didn’t want to scare me by telling me before, but, given what was happening, I had a right to know: Way back in the early 1800s, the college had a program for students from low-income families. They could attend the college for free, but they had to work as servants to the richer kids. My room was reserved for students in this program. One year, the girl who lived there was relentlessly bullied by her richer classmates, whom she was forced to serve as a maid. The stress got to be too much, and she flunked out of her classes. When the college asked her to withdraw, she slit her wrists in her dorm room bed, dying by suicide.

I stayed with a friend until student life could find me another room. As soon as I left, the depression lifted. And to this day, I’m convinced that if I had stayed, I would not have made it out alive. —SylviaInTheAttic

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6 / 12

House of Horrors

House of Horrors

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

It’s the ’80s, it’s Halloween on a weekday and I, being the oldest and a girl, am responsible for taking two younger brothers trick or treating, along with two young sons of my parents’ friends. My parents and the kids’ parents are at our house playing cards and smoking cigarettes.

Having had a lot of babysitting responsibilities and chores that my younger brothers did not have, plus missing out on going trick or treating with friends, I was definitely bitter and ill-tempered throughout the evening.

Because it’s a school night, we’re just doing the three blocks of my street and heading home. We make it down one side and back down the other and are about three houses from home, when we get to the house of an elderly woman who lives alone and never gives out candy. But for the past couple months, she’s been renting the basement to some guy. I’ve seen him around a few times, and he either ignores me or yells at me for riding my bike on the sidewalk, though he did seem to be pleasant and say hello to my brothers. So the guy is on the sidewalk with another guy, there’s a folding table set up, and there’s a notebook on it. The men tell us that they don’t have candy, but they are giving away prizes for anyone who goes through their haunted house. As they’re explaining this, a few boys my age from my school show up and ask what the prizes are. They list pocket knives, baseball cards, and the grand prize is a BB gun. The men tell them they need to fill out their names, age, addresses, phone numbers, and when’s a good time to contact parents to get permission for the prizes.

The boys fill out their info quickly, and, honestly, at that point in my life, I was excited about all those prizes too. Basically all the houses on our street were the same, I knew the layout of the basement, and I did not believe the haunted house could possibly be that scary. My brothers and the other two little boys were also excited to do it. I filled out my own info, along with my brothers’, and and we’re all about to head around back to enter the basement door. Then one of the men says, “Girls aren’t allowed.”

The boys from school immediately start laughing and lightly taunting me and are joined in by all four little kids. I feel my face get hot and a lump in my throat as they all walk away from me. I am embarrassed, humiliated and seething with anger. The unfairness of it all—having to constantly be expected to babysit these brats, cook, clean, do laundry for zero dollars and not even have a fun Halloween like a normal kid, and now I don’t even get a chance to win anything. I want to flip the table over and destroy something. Then I get the idea to take that notebook, which has several pages of boys’ contact info in it, and shove it into the sewer drain by the curb. If I can’t win a prize, no one will.

Just then, another group of about five boys from my boy-heavy street come by and ask what’s up. Again, no parents present, cause it’s the 80s. I take a deep breath and calmly as possible explain about the haunted house, prizes and writing their info in the notebook, which they all do right away. We hear the group come around the side of the house laughing and bragging that they weren’t scared. The men wait til they finish putting their info in the notebook and then start taking the new group back—they don’t even notice I’m lagging behind. I grab that notebook and shove it in the sewer drain and get the heck out of there.

The next day at school, it seems every boy in my class and maybe the whole school had done the haunted house, and each one thinks he will be the winner of some prize or another. I have a sense of satisfaction every time I hear them talk about it, because I know there will be no winners, as the notebook is gone, never to be found. To me it feels like justice, but I tell no one for fear of getting in huge trouble.

About a week later, still no winners, and kids have moved on and stopped talking about it. Around mid-morning our teacher gets called out to the hall to talk to someone for about five minutes and comes back looking wide-eyed and scared or something. Each boy in the class gets called to the office and does not return.

As this is happening, the remaining kids have no idea what is happening until one boy, Scott, comes back and tells me everything. Apparently, Jimmy, a kid in the other fifth grade class who was small for his age but the fastest runner in the whole school, was walking to school that morning and a guy tried to pull him into his car. Jimmy thrashed around wildly and kicked the guy several times as he was trying to pull him in; he eventually got away and ran as fast as he could down an alley and got to his grandmother’s house, because it was closer than school or his own house, and he knew she’d be home to help him. Jimmy recognized the guy who tried to kidnap him as the one who had the haunted house in the basement apartment. So all the boys in the school are being individually called to the office and questioned by the police.

During the questioning, each kid mentioned the notebook, and so the police did not want any kids to be home alone (as most of us were after school because, in our neighborhood, typically both parents worked). The notebook basically gave the men a timeframe of when kids would be home alone: “When is a good time to contact your parents?” Each kid filled out when a parent would be coming home from work, and the concern was that they’d have a guide of a good time to kidnap boys.

When Scott told me all this, I had an immediate sense of dread—and not because I was afraid boys would be taken from their homes while their parents were at work. I KNEW that could not happen because they didn’t have the notebook, but I was truly afraid I would get in trouble for hiding it. Later, everyone found out that the police had gone to arrest the men, but they were not found. The apartment was searched, and there was no sign of the notebook, but “pictures” were found. As a teenager, I was finally told the pictures were graphic and included violent child pornography involving young boys.

Our whole town was on high alert, and many of us latch-key kids came home to our first babysitter. Ours was a high school student named Sharon, who was the youngest of three girls in her family, and she was wonderful. I slowly got over the nagging fear that the notebook would be fished out of the sewer and my fingerprints identified, and I fully enjoyed my time with her. For once in my life, I was not a servant and second class citizen to the boys in my house. She was kind to all of us, but she made it clear that I was her favorite. I never got to go to tumbling or gymnastics classes, because we didn’t have extra money for that, but the first thing Sharon did with us on that first day was teach us all to do cartwheels. My brothers lost interest after that, but she went on to teach me front and back walk-overs, back handsprings, and aerials/cartwheels with no hands. She painted my nails and French-braided my hair. She would talk to me constantly, tell me about her teachers, her classes, friends, boyfriends, and listen intently to whatever grade school or family drama I had, asking questions or offering advice. She was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, and I secretly marveled at the series of events that brought her to us.

She sat for us for close to two years. We got older, and she needed to move on as well. This was pre-internet/Facebook, and sadly I lost touch with her. I knew that she had moved out West and had done some modeling as well as some acting and was doing well. Then in my 20s, my mother called me in my apartment to tell me that Sharon had been brutally murdered in her home, stabbed over 30 times by a man she dated only a couple times who had been stalking her. —smoochiebear06

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7 / 12

Our Daughter

Our Daughter

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

We moved into a new-to-us house six months ago. There are two large bedrooms upstairs, and two small bedrooms on the main floor. My husband and I take one of the upstairs bedrooms, and our 2-year-old daughter is in the other. Since moving in, she’s been a bad sleeper: up several times during the night, sometimes crying, sometimes talking. We put an extra bed in her room and take turns sleeping with her so at least one of us gets a decent night of sleep. The ceilings slope in the bedroom, and the only window is at the end of the room, so we have a twin bed on each side of the window with a six-foot space between the beds.

Our daughter is very active—walks, talks, crawls and climbs. One night, it’s my turn to sleep with her. She gets into bed with me, lying alongside me. I don’t know what time it is, but it’s dark outside, though we get a bit of light from the neighbor’s garage through the blinds that don’t quite close. Usually, when she talks or gets up, I ignore her—I don’t want her to wake up even more; I even keep my eyes closed lest we make eye contact and it’s GAME ON, as she’s up for the day. But this night, she gets in bed and is still. I’m sleeping on my stomach, and she moves so she’s laying on my back. She’s a solid 2-year-old and quite heavy, so I shift a little to get her to move, but not fall off me. She keeps climbing and putting her arms around my neck. She’s cold, but it’s a chilly night, and if she’s climbing on me then she’s just not been covered by a blanket. She’s very persistent, and this feels like it’s going on forever. I’m getting frustrated that she’s not just going back to sleep. She’s on my back, scooching down and laying on my legs, then back up to my back with her arms around my neck. I finally crack and say, “Will you please just go to sleep?” at which point my daughter, from the other bed across the room, asks “What’s that, mummy?”

The weight on my back instantly lifts, and I look over to see my daughter sitting up in bed—literally on the other side of the room—looking at me. I take her and book it into the main bedroom. The next day, we move her bed to a downstairs bedroom and take turns sleeping on the floor next to her bed. Nothing felt ominous, just somewhat playful, though I’m not eager to experience it again. —jesterincanada

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8 / 12

The Black Dog

The Black Dog

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth

So, this story is pretty simple, but it always stuck with me. I grew up in the thick of southern Appalachia. I never gave much credence to the old folk tales I heard—and there were plenty.

I met my boyfriend when I was 16. Drugs had saturated our area. To party, we would ride down the mountain in his black Honda Civic, out the several miles of gravel road to the army camp at the river to party. This particular night there was going to be a meteor shower and we wanted to see it.

We crept through the darkness—down the winding mountain, across the bridge, down the access road towards the river. I had been there a hundred times.

The night felt unreasonably dark. Heavy, almost. There were no real residences on this road that led right to the waters of the freezing New River. I was not really a believer of anything supernatural; I’m still really skeptical. We were rumbling down the road ,and nothing seemed out of place until we saw it.

In the road ahead, a black dog. Not a wolf, but easily just as big. A Great Dane, if I’ve ever seen one—and I had not, not in real life. There are no residences, nothing around that would make you think that this expensive dog would be on this road.

But there it stood in our headlights, and my boyfriend rolled to a stop as we looked at it. It was kind of postured? I don’t know. It was illuminated by our headlights, hackles up in a way I’d never really seen. It just stood there.

He beeped his horn and started creeping closer in the car. This dog did not care, was seemingly unconcerned. The closer we got, the more unreasonably unnerved I felt. It was just staring at us. Like I could feel its gaze. Through the windshield. Until it was practically against the bumper and it was not going to move. We were at a stand-off.

So, my boyfriend went around. He painstakingly cut his wheels, went off the gravel road to go around this unmoving hulk of a black dog. If it was in the middle of the road, we veered to the left of it so that it was on my side as we moved past.

I remember how it stared at me. It was so tall that it was eye-level with me in the passenger seat. I remember begging him to hurry past because there was this awful feeling that it was aware of my discomfort.

I’ll never forget staring into its shock-yellow eyes, right at eye-level, as we veered around. It stared at me, unmoving, unbothered. Then we just rolled around it. Its head didn’t move; it didn’t adjust its gaze as we continued. It disappeared into the inky darkness of that road, and I felt so cold. So upset.

We got to the river, and I refused to leave the car. I had this unmistakable feeling that that THING was still out there. Just beyond the trees. Somewhere out in that pitch black. There was a meteor shower that night, and I barely watched it though the car’s sunroof, because all I felt was that gaze, those horrible yellow eyes. It was still out there. I never liked going back to the river after that. I can’t even describe the sense of dread, the feeling of a thing being so out of place...I never saw it again, though.

But I’ll never forget it. I never knew something that seemed so common—it was just a dog—could make me feel such deep dread, such palpable unease. Even now, thinking of those eyes makes my throat tighten. I feel like I saw the devil that night. —Merryminstrelsy

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9 / 12

Beach Town

Beach Town

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

We moved to a small beach town about four years ago, became friends with our neighbors, and enjoyed the more relaxed and slowed down lifestyle that a small beach town offers. Nothing spooky here. The only thing “off” about it was the drug problem in the neighborhood: We’d occasionally see people passed out behind the wheel of their cars. One time, we found a note in our bushes imploring us to “give back my children (I have several young ones)” and that she/he/they (the writer of the note) was coming back to get them. Weird, and worth a call to the local sheriff’s department, but that was it.

About a year ago, or maybe longer, since I think it was mid-pandemic, my incredibly capable and stout hearted neighbor—I’ll call her Mary—knocked on my door and asked me out to the middle of the street to talk. She then apologized to me and asked if we were alright. Surprised, I said, “Yeah, we’re OK, why?”

Mary is a no-nonsense, second-generation German American, about 65, works all day in her garden, taught for 40 years, and is fazed by NOTHING. She says sorry, because she didn’t get to talk to us last night or check on us during all the commotion, and that it wasn’t very “neighborly” of her but it was “just so late and her nerves were frazzled.”

I told her that nothing happened last night and that there was nothing to apologize for. That’s when I see another neighbor, Ron from a block over, walking up to us. Unbelieving, she says “What!? I could have sworn I saw you outside last night during the commotion.”

Ron, (not his real name) now right next to us, says, “Dude, how could you not have heard it…”

Apparently the night before, around 1 a.m., Mary heard a loud booming coming from her front room. Like all the houses on our street that face the coast, hers is dominated by a large picture window that overlooks the hill down towards the water. Thinking it was just sonic booms, or artillery testing (we live next to a military base) rattling the window, she didn’t think much of it. However, after a while, Mary said that she thought the booms were getting louder and that they might break the window, so she got up. When she walked from the back bedroom she shares with her husband (who was still asleep) into her front room and turned on the light, the booming on the window stopped. She noticed after turning on the light, that her front picture window now seemed to be covered in mud.

After looking around for a few seconds, seeing nothing, she turned off the lights and headed back to bed (again...fazed by NOTHING). As soon as the house was dark the booming started again, this time coming from the front door. Inset slightly from the window, the front door has a tall thin window next to it that allows you to see who’s in the inset.

In the dark, Mary said she peeked through the window and saw movement. Immediately awake, she went back to the bedroom to get her husband.

Now Mike (not his real name) is an old school beach bum and firefighter, has seen it all, and has no time for nonsense. So Mike gets up—forgoes getting the guns that Mary says he has (after all this is a nice beach town)—and walks with Mary behind him to the front door. Carrying just a tennis racket, Mike turns on all the inside lights, as well as the porch and outside lights.

As soon as all the lights are on, Mary screams. All the stuff on the front window that she thought was mud gets lit up. But it’s not mud, it’s blood—hundreds of bloody hand prints of someone banging on the front window. And now that banging was coming from the front door.

Mary tells Mike not to open the fucking door and picks up the phone to call 911. At this point, two things happen: Mike opens the door, and the person at the front door starts screaming.

Mary says that all she could hear was, and I fucking kid you not, “Help me! Help me! They’ve took my kids and are eating my face. They’re eating my face.”

Through the crack in the chained door, Mike is now looking at a woman, or what he thought was a woman, with long black hair, covered in blood and pounding on the door. “Help me, Help me, they’ve stole my kids and are trying to eat my face,” was all this person kept saying. Mary said that there was so much blood on this person that she couldn’t tell what he/she looked like. And what they at first thought was long dark hair was actually blood pouring in rivulets from their scalp.

Here’s the kicker: Mary, now on the phone with the sheriff, starts relaying to them what going on, and this is what the sheriff says back: “Ma’am. We’re aware of the situation and are handling it.”

“How exactly are you fucking handling this?” she says.

The 911 operator tells her that the sheriff and deputies are on the street in front of her house and are “monitoring” the situation.

This is when Ron jumps in. Apparently, this truly disturbed person had been going to every house on his block (and our block) pounding on the windows and doors while screaming the same thing—basically, that someone stole their children and was trying to eat their face, while the fucking cops followed them from a distance. They had hit at least 10 houses with this same shit.

For some reason, the sheriffs decide to take the person into custody right before they reach our house. I have SEVERAL young kids, as well as a large old picture window that surely would have broken after a few good slaps.

That morning, Mary shows Ron and I her front door and window. SO MUCH BLOOD.

There was never any follow up from the sheriffs as to who the bloody person was or what eventually happened to them. The only thing we ever heard was that it was someone known to them, and that drugs were involved. —buildabetterhouse

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10 / 12

The Photo

The Photo

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

Every summer, my wife’s family spends two weeks at a lakeside cabin that they share with other members of the extended family. The cabin was built by my wife’s grandfather and sits at the end of a dead-end road. Beyond the street’s end is a dense wooded area. I’ve only ventured back there one time, where we found an old abandoned cabin.

The family cabin has just two bedrooms. The kitchen and a living room/dining room make an L-shape that wrap around the bedrooms, bordering two sides of the cabin. The living room/dining room has a screen door on each end, one leading to the lake at the front and the other the driveway in the back. The exterior wall of the living room has windows end to end.

As you can imagine, the two bedrooms get crowded quickly when adult children and their families are all staying there at the same time. I have sleep issues, including insomnia and sleep apnea. I stopped using the CPAP because having my mouth and nose covered gave me panic attacks. Probably the only sleep issue I’ve never had is sleepwalking.

One night at the cabin, I was tossing and turning and decided to go sleep on the couch in the living room/dining room so my restlessness and snoring wouldn’t bother the other three people in the bedroom. It was already after dark, so I left the wall of windows uncovered. I scrolled through my phone until I felt tired enough to fall asleep.

The next day we were all enjoying the lake, and I took several photos with my phone. Later, I was going through my photos and noticed one I didn’t recognize. I opened it and found a photo that appeared to have been taken in the dark with a flash. There was a mayfly illuminated by the flash. Then I saw it: Behind the mayfly was a glimpse of my car’s driver’s side mirror, and part of the driver’s door window. It had been taken at 1:42 a.m. the night before.

My car was parked directly outside the wall of windows where I had been sleeping. —Mich2000

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11 / 12

The Window

The Window

Image for article titled 10 True Scary Stories That Will Raise the Hair on Your Neck
Illustration: Jess Ebsworth/Alex Citrin-Safadi

This happened to me the summer I turned 11, and is one of the scariest, weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. I’d think it was a nightmare except at the end, there was another witness.

That summer, my parents sold our very regular, one-story house and bought a much larger, incredibly unique house in the next town over. The architect who built it used all kinds of old, reclaimed materials, and almost all of the windows were antique stained glass that came from England. The outside had wide, rough cedar planks instead of regular siding, and my brother and I learned early not to run our hands over them, or we’d get splinters. It was the coolest house I’ve ever lived in.

My room was also huge. It had its own bathroom and a walk-in closet. There were two large stained-glass windows facing out towards the street, but at an angle—these windows were deeply recessed under the roof line. It was Florida, and this kept the scorching hot sun from shining directly in any of the rooms. When we moved in, my mom put my bed against the inner wall, facing the windows.

Again, coolest, most beautiful, most original house I’ve ever lived in. Our parents didn’t tell us about the house until the deed was done. Then they took us over there to see it, and we were SO EXCITED. It just seemed so huge and exotic and grand.

We moved in, and my brother and I spent the summer exploring the neighborhood (which was a lot older than the one we moved from, with a bunch of cool older houses in it) and trying to meet some kids. Which we did. And when we did, we found out why our parents got a great price. The guy who built the house, who was a well-known local architect who’d built quite a few unusual, unique homes in the area, was also a convicted pedophile. He built the house we bought not long after he got out of prison for his wicked deeds. All the kids in the neighborhood knew about it from their parents, and when they found out which house we lived in, oh boy. “YOU LIVE IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE.” “The guy who built your house is a pervert and went to jail for it,” etc. etc. We got big eyes at the pervert revelation but snorted at the haunted house one—since no one lived in the house before us what, exactly, was haunting it? I mean, it LOOKED like it could be haunted, but it was also technically brand new, reclaimed materials or not.

I also happened to read The Amityville Horror that summer, long before it was debunked as fake. I’ve always loved scary stories, ghost stories, stuff that scares people, and never felt especially scared or freaked out myself. But for some reason, that stupid fake-ass book scared the shit out of me, resulting in my developing some serious sleep issues that summer. It didn’t help that we were in a huge, strange house that I wasn’t used to yet, and also because the house had so much wood inside and outside of it that every room had a smoke alarm with a red light that was really noticeable at night. The one in my room was on the wall right next to the closet, and after reading that dumb book, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and see the red light and immediately think of Jodie, the pig-demon thing with red glowing eyes the daughter in the book saw, and I’d lay there thinking about the book and freaking out about the light. It usually took me hours to relax enough to get back to sleep.

This happened almost every night. Then, one night, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom, did it, get back in bed, and then lay there looking at that light and wishing for the millionth time I’d never read that damn book. It was after 2 a.m., the whole house is silent, and I was really not jazzed that the rest of my family was on the other side of the house, which isn’t that far in the daytime but seems like miles in the dead of night. Then I saw something in the window out of the corner of my eye, and holy god, there was what looked like a human head peering in the window at me. Two stories up, a head looking in.

OK, this next part is difficult to write because it was so fucking weird, and I really don’t like remembering it. The windows of my room were very large, a two-part design where the larger, lower half was a rectangle topped by a smaller sideways rectangle, intersected by a thick wooden frame. My mom put in shutters on the lower half and sheer curtains on the top half. Some parts of the window were clear like regular glass, some thick wavy glass, and some colored glass. When you looked through them, you’d get a distorted view of the outside, some clear and some not. So the head (or whatever it was) wasn’t easy to see, except as a shape. It kept rising up above the shutters like it was trying to see into the room, then would sink back down. I have no idea how long it was doing that before I noticed it.

My first thought was that someone was standing on a ladder, trying to see inside. But if that was the case, then either the ladder was propped against the window glass below, or the person was very tall. But then the head shape did something so horrible, so strange, I almost screamed out loud. It had been peeping up from below the shutters like a regular person would, but then it disappeared, and when it reappeared it was LOOKING IN FROM THE SIDE, like whatever it was changed position and was suspended sideways in the recess. Which was impossible.

All thoughts of “weird dude on ladder” flew right out of my head, and bad, bad thoughts about demons and monsters flew in. I lay there in absolute terror, watching as the figure would appear and disappear, sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right, then most horribly upside down as if whatever it was was on the roof, hanging over and looking in. Except again, these windows were in deep recesses, and the head was right next to the glass, meaning, it was clinging (or god help me, floating) right outside. At some point I realized I could hear it as well; it made these faint scratching sounds as it moved around, sounding just like when squirrels scrambled around on the cedar planks. I couldn’t see any facial features, and it didn’t look like it had hair, but it definitely had an oval-shaped head.

I don’t know how long I lay there, scared to death and watching this *thing* look in my room, but then, having no idea what was happening, my brother walked in to use my bathroom. One of the less convenient features of this house was that his bathroom was actually located off the laundry room on the first floor, and HE didn’t like walking through a huge dark house in the middle of the night, so he used mine instead, which was fine with me and especially welcome at that moment, because it broke the strange spell. I screamed at the top of my lungs, the thing disappeared with a loud scratching noise like it had claws that slipped off the cedar planks, and my brother said, “What was THAT?” I started crying. “What WAS that?” my brother kept asking, and he was almost as shaken up as I was. He told me later that the minute he walked into the room he knew something fucked up was going on, as the hair on his arms stood straight up.

I spent the rest of the night sleeping in his room on his spare twin bed. The next day, we went outside and looked all around, but there was no sign of anything—no marks in the ground if there was a ladder; no marks on the side of the house; no evidence at all that something had been crawling around my window, trying to see in.

We never told our parents—they weren’t the kind of people who believed in the supernatural and would have dismissed it as a nightmare. And it was the kind of soul-scarring experience that would be made so much worse for being dismissed out of hand as imagination, when I knew it really happened. Nothing like it ever happened again. We lived in that house for years and everything was fine.

But I wasn’t taking any chances either. The next day I rearranged my entire bedroom so that my bed was now between the windows, and I moved my dresser and mirror to a position where the mirror didn’t face the windows either, so I wouldn’t wake up and see something looking in reflected in the mirror. I also put a piece of tape over the red light in the smoke alarm, much to my step-father’s annoyance. I told him it kept me up at night, which wasn’t a lie.

Here is a link to an old listing for the house. Picture #17 is my old bedroom, and the window to the far left is the window in question. Picture #25 shows how deeply recessed these windows are. —Pantrog

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