The Wind Moans, a Door Creaks: It's Time for Jezebel's Annual Scary Stories Contest!

The Wind Moans, a Door Creaks: It's Time for Jezebel's Annual Scary Stories Contest!

Illustration: Jim Cooke/GMG

Baby, it’s cold outside... because there’s a ghost over your shoulder and the lights have gone out? That’s right, my little ghouls and goblins—it is officially time for the greatest tradition in blog history—Jezebel’s annual Scary Stories contest! (Look, waking up every day in the year 2020 is enough to make your blood run cold, but you know what is actually fun? Terrorizing your fellow commenters with haunted stories so chilling, they’ll never get a wink of sleep again. Mwahaha.)

Here are the rules, same as they’ve always been:

  • Leave your scary stories in the comments below. If you absolutely must, you can email them to directly to me at with “Scary Story Contest” in the subject line, but comments are preferable. (Don’t you want to share with the class, anyway?) Keep in mind that the cut-off for sending in your scary stories is Thursday, October 22, 2020, 12 a.m. EST. I mean it.
  • The story must be true. We’re working on the honor system here, and while I know some of you believe in ghosts and some of you don’t (to that latter category—you’re wrong) consider “must be true” a reflection of your own perception of reality. Or whatever. But if you’re discovered to be in a lie, you will be hexed.
  • It must be scary. If you need some inspiration, I’ve selected some of my favorite contest winners from last year. Happy haunting!

Untitled by CopaDopa

Untitled by Stugglingsuzy

The Running Man by Dawn Keibels

URL: Senior Writer, Jezebel. IRL: Author of the very good book 'LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS,' out now.



What’s In the Bucket?

I submitted a story last year, and my friend, upon reading it, called me up in full Crocodile Dundee fashion and essentially said, that’s not a scary story. This is a scary story. And boy, was he right. So, with his permission, here it is (names and places obscured).

A few years back Alex moved with his family to their dream, multi-acre property in Upstate New Yor-England that backed up to a national/state forest. Alex and his partner, Joan, were looking forward to the peace, quiet and security that they thought would come with the move. They had two kids, also thrilled to get out of their crappy rental in town. They even got a dog.

During their first fall, things took a turn for the disturbing. The boys had made friends with the three kids of the nearest neighbor, Lupe. On the afternoon in question, Lupe is watching the kids while Alex and Joan are finishing up some renovation work. She brings the kids back up unexpectedly in the early afternoon. She then asks Alex to come down to the woods with her while the kids stay in the house with Joan. She was very insistent about the kids staying in the house. Lupe, normally calm and easy-going, is visibly worried.

She shows Alex the hole the kids and dog had excavated down at the edge of the woods. They’d found a plastic bucket, a five gallon model from a big box hardware store, two-ish feet down. The kids had gotten the lid and some of the sides uncovered before Lupe found out what they were doing. She has no idea what it could be, but sensibly did not want the kids anywhere near it.

Alex calls the cops but, this being the country, it’s going to be awhile before anyone got there. The dispatcher asks Alex to give a description so she could work out how much of a priority this call is. There are no visible wires nor is the barrel unusually wet, so they decided it probably isn’t a bomb. She tells Alex not to touch the barrel but to stay there to keep any people or wildlife from disturbing it more. The cops arrive about two hours later. One officer talks with Alex while the other pries the lid off the bucket (yes, probably they should have done more checking to be sure it wasn’t an explosive but small town PD).

The officer at the bucket suddenly starts repeating what the f**k over and over. Alex and officer 2 walk over to see what’s up. Officer 1 pulls the following out of the bucket: duct tape, zip ties, safety goggles (like you’d wear if using a saw or in a chemistry lab), a gun scope, a large hunting knife, a dark-haired wig and a bundle of something soft wrapped in black plastic bags.

The cops promptly radio for backup, which shows up in under ten minutes.

They escort Alex back to his house where Lupe, Joan and the kids are all starting to freak out. As is Alex. All the police in a twenty miles radius arrive, local cops, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol, everyone. They tape off the entire back part of their yard and some distance into the woods. No one is telling the family anything. They won’t even let Lupe and her kids go back to their house until late that night with a police escort AND armed cops are roaming around both properties.

The next day, even more law enforcement appear, including the freaking FBI. It is suggested that the family find somewhere else to stay for a few days while law enforcement ‘work the site.’ Alex and the kids are questioned by several law enforcement personnel, including federal agents.

Some questions they asked Alex: have you noticed evidence of people accessing your property without your knowledge, like footprints or discarded cigarette butts? Have you noticed evidence of anyone trying to force entry to your house, broken locks or windows, cut screens? Do you know of anyone who has gone missing in the area in the past few months or years? When they learn that Alex has recently moved in and that the house was vacant for several years before he bought it they then ask if he’s noticed any ‘disturbed ground’ (other than the bucket I guess) around the property, especially IN any of the outbuildings.

Then, after about a week, everyone leaves. Alex and his family are told to just go back home.

First thing they do when they get back is head for Lupe’s, checking up on her. She too has been questioned, as have her kids. Since Alex is new to the area, he asks Lupe about the missing person question. She says she can’t think of anyone who has gone missing in the area in the five years she has been in her house but is still deeply shaken. As is Alex. He heads down to the bottom of the yard to see what’s happened. Law enforcement has torn up about ten meters square of the yard. In the woods, they’ve marked trees at seemingly random intervals AND they’ve dug up parts of the root cellar under a shed.

To this day, Alex doesn’t know what law enforcement was looking for. He’s called and asked for updates, but has been told that the activity on his property is related to an ongoing investigation and they couldn’t share information. His kids now all but refuse to play in the yard, not that he and Joan really want them to anymore. Alex changed all the locks, added multiple new ones, security lights and an alarm system. The entire family suffers from nightmares about the incident. Joan and Alex even bought and learned to use guns, which are now kept in a safe in their bedroom. Lupe and her kids moved away as soon as their lease was up, but Alex and Joan couldn’t afford to sell. All they can do is lock up tight, watch the woods, wonder who left that bucket on the property and worry about what to do if that person comes back.