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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Never Sleep Again: Your Ten Best Stories of Absolute Terror

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We asked and you delivered. With over 3,000 comments on this year’s Scary Story contest, this year’s submitters brought their best—sharing hair-raising, spine-tingling tales that were so scary that certain Jezebel writers were forced to sleep with their lights on. These are the ten most terrifying.

Reader, beware! These are not for the faint of heart.

Count the Crosses by Supernova: Bullshit Jedi:

I used to work in a very remote town, while living in my hometown 30 miles away. I was 20 and my Dad had just secured me my very first car to make the commute, it was a mid 1990’s Thunderbird with oxidizing paint, leaked every fluid I put into it, and had shitty gas mileage. Needless to say I was in love.

My parents knew that while I was a very reasonable person I was also 20 and had to drive down a two lane 18 mile stretch of very bad country road. Dad decided to give me an assignment for my first trip to work in my new car he called me as I was leaving for work on my first morning driving out there.

“It’s foggy today I want you to be careful.” Our area of the country is known for fog that has less than 300 feet of visibility on average.

“Yeah, of course I will. I’ll call mom when I park.” I had already told her I would.

“I want you to do something while you’re driving today.”

“Sure, what?”

“Count the crosses” he said.

As I drove to work in the fog I counted the crosses westbound of the road and made a mental note of the number. I got to work safely, called my mom before punching in and went about my day. At the end of my shift the fog had cleared and I drove home and counted the crosses eastbound. Later that evening my Dad asked me.

“How many were there?”

“I counted 19.”

“That’s 19 people who died on the road you’ll drive every day. Those are only the recent ones too, there have been more. You remember that when you’re driving.”

I got used to the drive every now and then there would be a cross that was new. Sometimes another would be gone or knocked over, some were replaced regularly around holidays, others were forgotten and were reclaimed by the Jimson and tumble weeds.

My job was toxic it was starting to harm my physical health and my mental wellbeing, my great relief was driving. I used to blast Tom Petty and Aerosmith over my killer stereo and sing along. I could shed worst of the day behind the wheel driving became my joy.

It was when I was driving home after a night shift around Labor Day when I first saw him. He was standing on the side of the road thumb out headed East. I was young and knew not to pick up a hitchhiker, they are very unusual in our area there was no car broken down on the shoulder and the area was so remote that it didn’t make a lot of sense for him to be out there, there was nothing for 10 miles in any direction. What was odd was he didn’t seem to see me, his eyes were fixed on the road behind me there was a stain on his pants and shirt but in the darkness I couldn’t tell much more than that. I kept driving.

My Grandmother was diagnosed with cancer that same week. She passed away on All Saints Day.

I saw him again in the same spot before New Years. I thought he was a farm worker and was cutting across the fields to get to the road to hitch a ride. I noticed again that his shirt and pants were stained once again he didn’t see me he was looking past me, eyes fixed on the road behind me.

I was hospitalized with pneumonia on New Years Eve after I had a seizure.

I saw him once more, it was the last time. It was June I was cracking at work, drinking, thinking that my loved ones would be better off without me. It was evening but the sun hadn’t set so I finally really saw him. He didn’t see me, I don’t think the other cars saw him he looked vacant, hopeful, staring into the sinking sun. He was about 40, he was Latino, he had on a grey tee shirt, dirty jeans and faded red baseball hat the stains I had seen on him before were blood. By then I knew they would be. I wasn’t surprised to see him but I was my expecting him. I was rattled pretty badly, I went home and drank until I could sleep and not dream.

I quit for my own wellbeing later, I was heading down a bad path it was the best thing I could do for myself. I went to pick up my paycheck and as I headed home I pulled over to the shoulder where he had always been. It was full daylight then, I looked around but it didn’t take me long. Strangled in some overgrowth I found the battered faded cross that read “Papi” 1964-2005. I planted the cross firmly into the ground and left one of my mothers nicer roses that had survived the summers heat. I thanked him for his help in my best Spanish and said a prayer to a deity I wasn’t sure existed anymore on his behalf. I drove away.

I don’t know if there’s anything out there looking out for us. I’m not sure if there are ghosts, or if it was something my wounded mind made up to warn me that was teetering close to the edge. I doubt I’ll ever know. A man did die on that road none the less, another father warning me of dangers, like my own did. If he was real though, I hope he finally got a ride home.


John Told Me To by ramseyfay:

Over the summer I took my son and his friend on a ride at the local fair. My son has Down syndrome, which is relevant to the story in that he doesn’t have the sort of fantastical imagination of his peers. Said differently, he doesn’t make shit up. As we were sitting waiting for the attendant to buckle everyone in my son hit himself. (This is NOT at all normal behavior). So I was all “WTF?” He replied, “John told me to.” Me: “Who is John?” (We are literally locked and loaded into a spinning something of death). He replies, pointing in front of us: “John and Steven, the guys standing in front of us with ketchup [blood?] all over their faces.” No one was standing there. He has never mentioned them or done anything like this since.


Mom by LieutenantDanIceCream:

I was raised Southern Baptist. We didn’t tell ghost stories around the campfire growing up. We told possession stories. And we believed in them because demons are biblical. I remember having lively debates with my friends about the biblical case for demons and how not believing in them means you don’t believe something God said. But I still doubted. It seemed too supernatural, even for a Christian.

My mother was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and had a lot of mental health problems that she never got help for. I lived with her my entire childhood and found solace in the church. She had that sort of lukewarm faith, made lots of comments like “God and I have an understanding!” instead of doing anything remotely Christian. She didn’t keep me from pursuing my beliefs so I didn’t pressure her about her own.

One Saturday, I was taking a nap in my room and I had a dream. I dreamt that my mom came in, screaming at me, angry over nothing at all. The dream was very realistic and I thought it was real until I woke up in my bed. Moments later, she came in the room screaming. Over nothing at all. Just angry and mean, spitting with rage. I tried to just sit quietly although I was so confused and frankly freaked out by this weird prophetic dream. I chalked it up to “well, she is mad and yells a lot soo....coincidence!” and put it out of my mind. Later, when my mom calmed down and I tried to approach her for a calm conversation, she looked at me like I was making the whole thing up. She didn’t remember yelling at me about anything.

A few weeks later, I was inside watching tv when I heard my mom screaming from the backyard for me to come outside. When I stepped out on the porch, she was standing near the woods holding a huge snake. My mom stood may 5’2” and this snake was at lest 7’ long. She held it by the tail, not behind the head like I had been taught in my science class, and she beckoned for me to come take it from her. My mother had always been afraid of snakes and critters in general, but she held the snake up like she was proud of it. I ran back in the house and stayed in my room. At dinner, I asked her why she was holding the snake. She didn’t remember anything and told me that I had “quite the imagination.”

I had rationalized these experiences within the context of knowing that she abused substances and was probably too drunk or high to remember these scenes. But her behavior during these two instances was truly unlike her average altered state. High or drunk, she was silly and sometimes mean but not hateful. These occurrences were strange and she was more cruel than I was used to. The strangest, though, was yet to come and I get sick to my stomach thinking about it.

I was supposed to be staying at a church lock-in overnight. My mom had dropped me off at 8pm and wasn’t supposed to pick me up until 10am the next day. She was sober and acting normal when she left the church. My friend and I were challenging each other to stay awake all night, and we were writing down what time each person eventually fell asleep. I stayed up the longest and finally gave in at 4:25am. Just as I laid down in my sleeping bag, I heard a loud bang on the window outside the chapel where we were sleeping. No one else stirred. I figured a bird had flown into the window. I settled back down and a then heard a series of loud bangs, though they were coming in rapid succession, one knock on each window in the chapel. It was like something was circling the church and hitting each window as it passed. But it was moving so quickly there was no way it could have been one person hitting all the windows. My friends started to wake up, confused, and someone suggested it was the church chaperones playing a trick on us. The exits were locked from the inside and only the pastor had the key. He was supposedly asleep in one of the Sunday school rooms so one of the kids ran to check. He came back, pastor in tow, and the bangs stopped as soon as he entered the chapel. We told him what happened and he said he would go outside to check the grounds.

He unlocked the front door and gasped loud enough to make the rest of us scream in terror. My mother was standing at the front door, looking wild, dirty, and sweaty. She was breathing heavily and muttering under her breath. The pastor asked if he could help her and she just started past him, directly at me. My heart felt like the only thing keeping it from stopping was sheer adrenaline. The last thing I wanted to do was walk out those church doors but I felt like I had no choice. She didn’t say a word; I just gathered my things and walked towards the doors. My pastor insisted that I did not have to leave and that I would be safe at the church that night but I ignored him. She was my mother, and I was terrified of her but I felt like is was the sort of fear any child would have towards a parent. I got into the car and she drove me home in silence. When I went to bed, she stood in my doorway, staring at me. I remember seeing the morning lights rising right before dozing off, still with her in my doorway.

Later that morning, she seemed genuinely shocked to see me walk out of my room for breakfast. She said she was just about to leave to pick me up from the lock in and wanted to know how I got home last night. She didn’t remember a thing.

My mom’s behavior could probably be explained through a combination of substance abuse and mental illness, but even today as an adult atheist I wonder if something more sinister was going on with her.


In the Basement with Me by foxGreyjoy and Sorrow:

When I was sixteen I would sneak out of the house at night get high and read a book (Such a rebel, I know). There was an empty forclosed home next door, and I would get inside via a basement window well and smoke in the basement’s bar area. One night it was raining pretty heavy, and I forgot to bring my lighter. I went to get it and it was still pouring when I got back.

I set up a comfy place at the bar, and turned on my camping lamp I kept there. Then I started hearing noises upstairs. I turned off the light and sat still for a moment, and realized the sound was actualy coming from the doorless room next to mine. I grabbed everything I could and made for the window, and with half my body through I heard someone running and shouting behind me. I felt someone touch me as I finished crawling out, and ran to my house where I snuck in as quietly and fast as possible.

I heard sirens soon after I made it into my house and worried that it was law enforcement that had caught me in the home. Sirens went on for a while into the night and I barely slept. I learned the next morning that someone on the next block had burned his mother’s home down with her in it, and he had been found breaking into a home later that night that was occupied several doors past the house I had been in.

It was likely him that was in the basement with me, and I still get scared thinking about it.


The Dead of Winter by ElZopilote:

Not mine, but here’s an old family story that comes by way of my late Great-Grandmother, a hardy rural Yugoslavian woman if there ever was one.

Back in the old country, a family member had died. It was the dead of winter, and family had gathered for the funeral. They’d conducted a nice service, and in the evening had all retired to the home they were staying at in the village. You have to understand these are small rural Eastern European villages, there are only like 30 residents to this day. I’ve visited.

Anyway, it was snowing heavily and the wind was howling as the mourners drank and shared memories of the deceased. All of the sudden, someone near the window heard knocking and went to investigate. Upon looking outside, the unlucky mourner was greeted by the apparition of the deceased woman they’d buried earlier that day! Knocking on the window and door. Everyone inside was terrified and remained huddled inside until it all seemed to stop.

The next morning, someone went outside to have a look around. The body of the “dead” woman was laying in the snow under the window, frozen solid. She’d been accidentally buried alive. She made her way out of the grave and back home, only to freeze to death pleading to be let inside. Everyone thought she was a ghost. My great grandma was in attendance as a little girl, and swore this was true until she died. Not a ghost story but horrifying none the less.


The Proof Is in the Poison by Flahda:

Okay, so this year I can participate since the main player who would be scandalized by airing the laundry has passed. As background, my mother had me in her late thirties and her mother in turn had her in her late thirties. My mother was the youngest of eight children and had brothers much older than she, which is how I have an uncle that is more than fifty years older than me. I went to university in the 80s, the same southern university that most of my family attended. My sophomore year, I met a senior aerospace engineering student and crushed on him badly – he looked like Peter O’Toole circa Lawrence of Arabia. We’ll call him Pete. Walking across campus one day with my gorgeous roommate, we ran into Pete and I thought I’d show off by speaking to him. This backfired as he was clearly interested in Roomie and asked her to come to a game night in his dorm room that Friday (oh, and yeah, I was invited, too). The senior engineers lived in a quad area of older historical dorms, touted as “historical” but in reality just old and unrefurbished. Roomie and I went; there were about twelve people and various board and drinking and board/drinking games were played. Fun times even though I was still crushing on Pete, unrequited.

Partway through the evening Roomie took a sip of beer and said, “Gross! Dang guys, who put Pepsi in my beer??” The guys laughed and said, “Oh, probably our ghost.” They went on to tell her that they would come back to the room and find all the books on a shelf turned around, spines in, or that everything in the medicine cabinet would be out and laying in the sink. Food left out would be covered in salt or pepper. Silly prankish things and stuff moved around that they finally had attributed to a “ghost”. I said, out of nowhere, “Maybe it was my Uncle Bennett.”


I couldn’t have stopped the party any better if I had dropped a fart in the middle of the room. Feeling uncomfortable, I just kept talking to cover it up and said that my uncle Bennett Lastname had attended the school in the late 30s, early 40s, and had been the victim of an unfortunate accident. He used what he thought was mouthwash that turned out to be something else entirely and died due to the poisoning. Pete told me to come over to his closet, which was really more of a built-in armoire/closet/shelving unit. Carved into the rolled wooden edge of the shelf on the left at about eye-level was the name Bennett Lastname. My uncle.

Now that would be spooky enough, but there’s more to the story. Pete and Roomie started dating, and they also started “investigating” the ghost of Bennett Lastname. When they went to the records office of the university, they found that his roommate back in the day was Matthew Othername, from the same town as my uncle, and then they checked the university microfiche newspaper archives for info on Matthew, so they could maybe talk to him. Turns out Matthew had died a few years previously. Died in prison. Where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife, Dorothy. Murder by poisoning.


The YouTube Video by KinjaNinjaGinga:

Two years ago—around late September, early October—I experienced something that I truly believe to be malevolent and paranormal in nature.

I was living on the Upper East side of Manhattan (think Yorkville). I rented a seriously small, first floor, front-of-the-building, studio apartment (Around 350 sq ft - maybe less) and it was a loft, so my bed was above the kitchen/bathroom. And there was a gigantic window out to the street. I also have an 8 lb miniature pinscher, named Miniature, who thinks she is the ultimate guard dog. Setting details.

One night, I was clicking through the internet watching police brutality videos because the Treyvon Martin case was flooding the media and I just kept clicking on the youtube suggested videos, torturing myself. Somehow I eventually clicked on some video, I don’t even know how I stumbled across this shit, but it looked like a fucking documentary or home video made like 30 some years ago. I swear this shit was absolutely real. And it definitely dealt with the occult. There was definitely something weird happening.

For almost 7 minutes, I sat watching this shitty, old video. I was pretty confused about what I was watching and then what can only be described as a child (maybe 10?) who was either seriously suffering from the most intense mental disturbance ever or actual demonic possession, started doing HORRIBLE things to another child and I closed the computer window IMMEDIATELY. Shut my computer. Stood up and paced the fuck out of my apartment for a good 15 minutes. I was shaking and crying and I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t believe what I just watched. I felt a fear I genuinely cannot explain. I only know it made me feel terror.

I called a friend and talked about normal things for a while, not mentioning anything about what I watched, just to clear my mind of it. I had a glass of wine. Put my dog up in my loft and crawled up and went to sleep. All normal.

Except, at around 3am that night, I was woken up by a very bright, flashing light. I honestly thought someone was taking pictures outside my window. I couldn’t see the source of this flashing light, but it wasn’t the light in my apartment I could tell and coming from the window was the only other reasonable option.

I lay there, terrified, trying to think of what I should do. Finally, I grab the crowbar that I kept next to by bed, crawl down from my loft to peek out of the window. Nothing. I figure I must be crazy. So I crawl back up to my loft. Lay my head down. My TV down below turns on. I think, ‘maybe I stepped on the remote when I was downstairs’ (I didn’t, the remote was absolutely on the coffee table). I crawl back down. Turn off the TV. Stand there for a second to confirm that the TV is, in fact, off. All of a sudden I hear music coming from my loft and my dog is whimpering like crazy. I crawl back up to find that my iPhone, which is plugged in on the opposite end of my loft, 4 feet away from where I seep, has started playing music I have never heard before. I freak out, grab my dog and my phone, turn on all the lights and watch Golden Girls until I have to go to work.

While I’m getting ready to leave for work, my dog continuously barks at nothing in my loft. I go to work. I come back. I unlock my door and open, but something is partially blocking the entrance. It’s my dresser, which sits next to my front door (NYC loft, remember). I have to use ALL of my weight to push my door and dresser open enough to weasel my way in. My dog is shaking in the corner. I move my dresser back and close the door. I watch the news. My friend comes over. We’re hanging out, laughing, catching up. I get up to use the restroom and when I walk back to the main area, my friend has a horrified look on her face. She says everything on my coffee table fell over sideways. Like all at once. And she didn’t bump into it or anything. Obviously, this scares the shit out of me, but I don’t mention what happened the night before because I honestly just don’t want to talk or think about it. My friend leaves, I go to bed.

3am. The bright flashing light. I hear a knocking on wall my this time. Not from the door. From the wall. Next to my head. I grab my dog and close my eyes and tell myself it’s not real over and over until I finally fall asleep. I wake up and feel sick. Like, irritable and on edge. I get ready for work. My dog is barking at the loft. I leave for work. I come home. I open my door. ALL the books on my bookshelf have not just fallen off—they’re scattered around my apartment. On my couch, in my kitchen, throughout my living room and my coffee table has moved like 4 feet. I sit on my couch in shock, wondering if I’ve been robbed, but nothing is missing. My door and window were locked.

As I’m sitting on the couch, a lamp like 5 feet away from me breaks. Like, shatters into pieces. I FaceTime one of my bffs in Texas because I am just really unsettled and need to talk to a person where I can see them. My friend and I talk for like, an hour, laughing etc. etc, and randomly, I see what looks like a speck out of the corner of my eye. Mind you, this is fall in NYC, where it gets dark well before I leave work for the day. This is not the glare from the sun. I decide not to pay attention to it, but as I continue the conversation with my friend, I see she has a look of horror on her face.

Now, I haven’t mentioned the sinister shit of late at all. So when she tells me she saw a face next to my face, like a face that looked like it was screaming at my face, I freak the FUCK OUT. I tell her I have to go. I immediately pour a glass of wine and call my very religious cousin and ask her a billion questions about ghosts or whatever. She tells me things that only make me feel more unsettled so I just ask her to pray or whatever with me right now, because I am truly fucking scared. I am not a religious person, but I urgently felt the need to pray.

Nothing happened that night. In fact, I made my cousin pray over the phone with me every night for a week. And things happened, though less often, with the flashing lights, and the knocking, and the music playing, and things knocking over and my dog barking at nothing. I still felt a very dark, ominous presence. I bought sage to burn. I spoke with a priest. I bought holy water.

One night, I came home very drunk from a night out and my dog was whimpering and running around in a circle, like her bum was hurting. I picked her up and just started yelling, “Listen, fucker! I’m moving out in like two months! I don’t give a shit about you! You don’t scare me at all! And if you fuck with my dog, I will find a way to fucking kill you whoever you are, understand?? Now GO THE FUCK AWAY!!” And I then I crawled up to my loft with my dog and passed the fuck out.

I wasn’t much afraid of the thing after that and it didn’t fuck with my dog ever again. I moved out two months later. And I don’t watch random youtube videos anymore.


That’s Not Pawpaw by tsaritsa:

My grandfather (Papaw) died in a car accident when I was still an infant. Naturally, my mother - always a Daddy’s girl - tried to insure that I had some idea and concept of him growing up. We had dozens of photos of Papaw and my grandmother around our home, and I spent my very early childhood with a solid idea of what my grandfather looked like in life. With the exception of his height. For some strange reason, every photograph was taken while sitting. But it was definitely him, with his dark hair and eyes and spectacularly 70’s glasses.

I don’t remember when it started, but I began to get visits from Papaw. He would come into my room at night and sit on the foot of my bed. It was never frightening, because I knew that it was just Papaw. He would stand by my pillow and brush my hair from my forehead. He would pull the blankets up around my chin. He would often just stand in the doorway, silhouetted against the living room light. I remember exactly where he stood to on the door frame due to the stickers I had placed everywhere. He was short - he came only up to a scratch and sniff pickle, and he never spoke.

These visits went on for many years.

One Christmas, I decided that I wanted to make Papaw a card. I worked very hard on my construction paper and glitter monstrosity for several hours. Eventually, I caught the attention of my mother who wanted to know who the card was for. I told her it was for Papaw, and when she didn’t seem too concerned, I told her all about his nightly visits and how nice I thought it was that he still came to see his granddaughter. She asked a few questions about what he did and I grew more excited and rushed over to my bedroom door to show her where he stood.

“Do you think he can smell the pickle?” - I remember asking. “Because that’s right where his head is.”

It was then that I learned that my grandfather had not been a short man. In fact, he was a very tall man. My stickers did not go nearly high enough to reach his 6’4” height.

I have no idea who the man was who visited me for so many years, but my mother swears it was not her father.


The Ad by FridayFriday:

This truly happened to me, and maybe I should have contacted the police about it but I didn’t. I try not to think about it.

When I was in college, I made some money by modeling. Sometimes just letting photography students take pictures of me for practice, other times I’d work with professionals on fetish shoots. Did you know cast fetish is a thing? It is, and I once had a very nice crew of cast fetishists come out to my apartment, cover me in fake casts, and take pictures of me for their website. The stranger the fetish, the more money I made.

Anyway, one day I saw an ad on craiglist. Standard creepy craiglist deal - amateur male photog seeking woman willing to pose nude for him to practice his art and also add to his “private collection.” It was summer, and my jobs on campus had dwindled down to nearly nothing. I needed money, bad, so I replied to this very sketchy ad. Guy wanted me to take a bus to the Big City several hours away from the small town where I went to college. Then I would meet him at his “studio” and I would be paid $200 to model. He said I could bring a male friend along for safety. He was not expecting anything more than modeling, he promised. It would be ok, he was a normal man in his 40s with a professional job (doctor) and he just wanted more practice at his hobby.

I’m desperate to make rent. I say sure, we set a day. Day of, he emails me to be sure I’m coming alone. I say no, I’m bringing my friend as we agreed. At this point the emails are getting weird. I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach that things are not ok with this guy. I stopped replying to the emails and obviously did not attempt to go to the gig.

Life went on. Two years later, I’m living in another state but I just happen to see a news story on Facebook. It was about a trial. A professional man - a doctor - in his 40s was on trial in Big City for murdering a woman who had answered his ad for a nude model. He had murdered her in a horrible way. Based on details from news stories, I am certain - it was the same ad I had seen, the same man I had emailed, the gig I had almost taken.


Dave Is Calling by Tara Babcock:

Here is a story that I have not shared before because honestly- it creeps me the fuck out. I don’t like thinking about it. I don’t like the things it implies about the nature of the universe we inhabit, and it fills me with existential dread. It also happens to involve a friend’s suicide, so it’s not the easiest thing in the world to talk about, even without the paranormal stuff.

About seven years ago, my friend Dave* blew his brains out with a shotgun. Tragic though it was, it wasn’t much of a shock for those of us who knew him; the dude had always had some serious issues with depression and he had threatened to end his life before, many times. Add to this the fact that he had recently separated from his wife and had moved back in with his brother and was using meth again, and… yeah. The writing was pretty much on the wall.

About three weeks after his death, his widow, Jessica- who happens to be my best friend- came to see me. She was clearly upset. She shoves her cellphone into my hand and tells me that I need to hear this voicemail. She doesn’t tell me anything else about it. So I listen to it.

It was static. But underneath the static… there was a voice. It sounded like it was coming from far away and across a very bad connection.

It was Dave’s voice. I would have recognized his gruff baritone anywhere.

And he was shouting my friend’s name over and over again. “Jessica!....Hey, Jessica!...Hey!.. Jessica!”

Hearing his voice, knowing that he was almost a month in the ground, and the fact that he sounded so desperate and afraid made my blood run cold.

I handed the phone back to Jessica and just kind of stared at her stupidly for a moment. “That was Dave,” I finally said, when I could speak.

“I know,” she said.

The voicemail had apparently just shown up in her voicemail inbox, with no record of a missed call and no phone number attached to it.

We both listened to it again 3 or 4 times, just to be sure, but when Jessica went to show someone else a few days later, she was surprised to discover that it had spontaneously deleted itself. It was just gone.

About a week or so after that, my ex-husband, Ivan, stopped by to drop off our son for a shared custody arrangement. He had been Dave’s best friend since childhood, so even though things were kind of tense between the two of us, I wanted to let him know how sorry I was, and that he shouldn’t blame himself for not being there. We talked about Dave for a few minutes, and I mentioned the strange voicemail that Jessica had gotten. Far from being shocked like I thought he would, he simply nodded knowingly.

“I got one, too.” He said. “Same thing. Static, but his voice, underneath that. Only he was screaming my name instead of Jessica’s. And my phone actually showed that the voicemail- and a few other missed calls- came from Dave’s cell phone. I never heard the phone ring, though. And this was all weeks after he died.”

I was pretty disturbed by this, so I began casting about for explanations. Was it possible that Dave’s phone was still functioning? Maybe his brother was carrying it around in his back pocket and butt-dialing it? Maybe the family hadn’t turned it off yet? Ivan rejected each proposed explanation, since he had already investigated. Apparently, Dave’s family had terminated his phone service within a couple of days of his death. It should have been impossible for that phone to make any calls. And while butt-dialing might explain how a dead person’s phone could make calls weeks after the owner’s death, well… it doesn’t really explain those voicemails.

I asked Ivan if I could listen to the voicemail on his phone, but he shook his head.

“It’s gone,” he said. “It just disappeared after a few days. So did the record of the missed calls from Dave’s number. I went to show them to somebody, and they suddenly weren’t there.”

It’s been many years, but thinking about that voicemail still makes me break out in goosebumps. It was frightening to me for many reasons. For one thing, I don’t like thinking that my friend Dave, who was so tormented in life, would continue to be so in death. I don’t like how he sounded in that voicemail. He sounded terrified.

I struggle with depression myself, and there have been times in the years since when I have found myself staring over a literal or proverbial ledge, contemplating ending it all. But always, the memory of that voicemail, and of Dave’s voice, will come to me.

And I talk myself down.

Because wherever Dave was calling from, I don’t want to end up there.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the other people in this story, both living and dead.


Happy nightmares, everyone.

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Art by Jim Cooke.