Horror movies and books appeal to us because they’re finite. Eventually, the story ends, and we can move on with our lives. Maybe we have a harder time sleeping than we did before we watched It Follows or read The Shining, but we can have relative peace of mind knowing that those monsters are confined to fiction.
True ghost stories and strange encounters with the unknown are a different matter entirely. When we see or experience something inexplicable, there can be nowhere to turn. The 22 terrifying tales below are proof that when you have a supernatural experience, sometimes there’s no going back.
1. Happy Birthday Boo
Reddit user patenspatented has an eerie story about sharing their home with a dead former tenant. While they and their family were in the process of purchasing the house, the renter at the time passed away suddenly in the house from natural causes in his mid-40s. Soon after the new family moved in, patentspatented’s two-year-old daughter began to talk about a ghost in the house.
Given that she was two years old, patentspatented assumed that she was just impressionable. Halloween had recently passed, and she’d had a Halloween book that she enjoyed looking through. The daughter’s reports of seeing a ghost continued, although she never appeared to be scared of the man she claimed to see.
Patentspatented didn’t know how to feel about the so-called ghost, but just in case, they told the ghost several times that he was welcome to stay in the house or to leave, whichever would make him happier.
One morning, while patentspatened and their daughter were leaving for her school, she said that it was the man’s birthday, and they needed to sing him happy birthday. As a two-year-old, she was generally obsessed with birthdays. Patentspatented didn’t think too much of it, but joined their daughter in singing happy birthday to their home’s former tenant.
That evening, patentspatented looked up the obituary of the man who might be haunting their home. And, of course, it was his birthday.
2. Check the Front Door
Reddit user peachskylines was the occasional babysitter of a two-year-old boy. They had been warned that the boy would sometimes seem to hold conversations with his grandpa, who had passed away before the boy was born. Given that, they were prepared to expect a few creepy things during the evening — but this went above and beyond.
That night, the boy pointed to an empty wall and simply said “grandpa.” He then gripped the chair he was sitting in and began to chatter his teeth uncontrollably. Understandably freaked out, peachskylines decided to put the boy to bed. On the way to his upstairs bedroom, they realized that the front door was for some reason unlocked. They locked it, jiggled the door to confirm that it had locked, then went upstairs to tuck the boy in.
Twenty minutes later, once the kid was asleep, they went back downstairs and saw the front door was inexplicably unlocked again. They checked the house for an intruder but found no one, and spent the rest of the night waiting on the edge of terror for the parents to arrive home. Needless to say, they thought twice before agreeing to sit for that family again.
3. The Rescue
Reddit user XdannyX has an unsettling tale, albeit one with a happy ending. Their family was in the car together when they hit a patch of ice, and XdannyX was ejected through the window of the car and out onto the road. They tried to stand but were brought to the ground by a shattering pain in their shoulder. They don’t remember if they passed out or fell asleep, but they have a vivid memory of a force with strong hands lifting them to their feet and pushing them towards the car and their family.
At the time, they assumed it was their father. But after the dust settled, they learned that their father wasn’t able to search for them. So what or who lifted them to their feet and brought them to their loved ones so their family would know they were still alive?
4. The Farmer
Tucker48 was helping his three-year-old son take a bath one evening when his son asked him ‘why does Grandma call Mommy ****** ? (***** = a private nickname Tucker48’s deceased mother-in-law had called her daughter). The grandma had passed away when the son was only four months old, making it highly unlikely that the son would be able to remember that name. When they asked where their son had heard that name, he replied “The Farmer told me,” and explained that The Farmer was “his friend.” At the time, they lived in a 1930s house in Pasadena.
The next week, Tucker48 witnessed his son engaging in a long conversation with the invisible farmer. At that point, he and his wife became unsettled by their son’s new friend, especially when the son revealed that The Farmer would often walk out of the room when his parents entered.
Eventually, in the middle of the night, they heard the son say “Grandma says you and I can’t be friends anymore.” When questioned, he revealed that his grandma had said not to play with The Farmer ever again. Since then, The Farmer hasn’t made another appearance.
5. The Man in the Top Hat
When redditor Swallows84 and their brother were young, they lived in an old house and witnessed something unexplainable: an unfamiliar man in a top hat walking into the living room.
Decades later, Swallows84 shared the story with their daughter when asked if they believed in ghosts. Minutes later, their phone dinged. It was their brother, who wrote “I was just talking to (partner) about paranormal stuff, do you remember the guy in the top hat?”
Related: 5 Haunted House Books That Will Make You Think Twice About Moving
6. The Crying Woman
Coolman_Express has a story that is sure to keep you awake nights. When they were ten or eleven, they stayed up late, and were struggling to fall asleep when they heard a sobbing noise. They turned around to see a seven-or-eight-foot-tall woman with matted hair and ragged clothes sobbing in the far side of the room. Eventually, the terrifying woman made eye contact before turning around and walking through the wall.
7. A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words
When Tucker33 was six or seven, they were attempting to sleep on their grandparents’ couch when they suddenly heard whispering. They turned around to see that a picture of their aunt was talking to them. The aunt’s picture asked Tucker733 to get their grandpa, so they went upstairs and brought them down. The grandpa was annoyed to not actually see the aunt in their living room, but was suddenly distracted by a noise outside. Three people were attempting to steal the grandparents’ car, and they would have gotten away with it had it not been for the mysterious whispering picture of the aunt.
8. Grandpa Says Hello
Redditor jankylyfe shared the tale of his four younger cousins, born after their grandpa passed away. One morning as they came down for breakfast they pointed to a picture of their grandpa and announced ‘that’s him,’ and said the man pictured in the photo was the same who ‘comes and talks to us at night until we fall asleep sometimes’!
9. The Bunker From Hell
Twenty years ago, an anonymous Redditor who lived in Switzerland visited an abandoned World War II bunker with some friends. The door to get into the bunker was locked, but there was a small peephole they were able to use to look in. From that vantage point, they saw a strange light at the end of a corridor, behind which there was a silhouette of a person, as if someone in the hallway was holding a flashlight and shining it on them. Just then, they felt a huge slam on the door they were peeping through, as if someone was banging against it from inside. They ran.
When they saw each other the next day at school, they convinced each other that some kids must have broken in to the bunker somehow and played a prank on them. But when they went back later to investigate, their fears were confirmed: the door was indeed locked. There was no way anyone would have been able to get in. 20 years later, when the redditor returned to the same spot, they still got chills.
10. Time After Time
Casadeparadise still doesn’t know exactly what happened when they and a friend went for a mysterious hike while they were in high school. The explanation they keep coming back to, though, is time travel. The two arrived home from school at 2:45; Casadeparis’ mom would usually get home at 3. Casadeparis left a note saying they were going for a hike, and the pair set off exploring in the woods behind their home. On the return trip, they passed around an area they hadn’t seen before, where they found teepees put up around a lake. Assuming someone was living there, they switched paths and continued on their way home. But when they arrived home, it was still a few moments before three, despite how long they had been out. The two have barely talked about it since, but they both believe they may have time traveled.
Related: 10 Most Terrifying Ghost Stories and Paranormal Novels
11. A Nighttime Visitor
Redditor DongSoWrong68 was sitting up in bed one evening watching TV, facing the door of their room, with the door open. They were shocked to see a white figure hovering outside the open door, moving slowly back and forth. When DongSoWrong68 looked directly at it, it looked back. DongSoWrong68 ran to get help from their brother, and they went through the house with a bat but were unable to find anything that could explain what they’d seen. They never watched TV with the door open again.
12. The Prisoner's Caress
ArbyNoodleArmy has a harrowing tale of a historical haunting. While on a guided tour of an old Australian jail, they felt a slight, mysterious pressure on their neck, as if someone was constricting their windpipe. They didn’t think anything of it — that is, until the tour guide revealed that a man had once hung himself in that stairwell, and that people often reported feeling strangled there.
13. The Stranger's Voice
While at a friend’s house, ReDdiT_JuNkBoT fell asleep on the couch. When they woke up, they decided to leave and went to their friend’s closed bedroom door to say goodbye. Their response, although a casual “yup,” sounded somewhat strange. The voice was so odd that ReDdiT JuNkBoT opened the door to the room and discovered no one was there. When their friend arrived back at the home, he revealed he was accustomed to hearing inexplicable voices there. Apparently, a boy had hung himself in the home, and everyone who lived there since heard the voice. The story about the suicide was corroborated by the next door neighbor, the deceased boy’s brother.
14. The Man at the Lake
When Reddit user Lanaglugglug’s husband was a teen, he camped out at his friend’s aunt and uncle’s place by the lake in the country. At some point during the night, he went down by the lake to take a leak, and saw a man across the lake. It struck him as strange to see another person out there walking around late at night, so he said hello, but the man didn’t respond, and suddenly disappeared. Lanaglugglug’s husband went to tell the family he was staying with. When she found out, the aunt began crying. She said she’d been seeing that man for some time, sometimes standing at the front of her bed during the night. The tension over her ‘seeing things’ was so intense that she and her husband were heading for a divorce. She was incredibly relieved to hear that someone else had experienced the same phenomenon.
15. The Late Shift
Reddit user trudenter was working night shifts as a security guard. One evening, he saw on the cameras that someone else was entering the building. He assumed it was just another security guard arriving early for their shift, but when they didn’t enter the office with him, he began to worry. He searched all over the building, but didn’t find anyone there. When they got home, they called their manager to see what the cameras had captured from around the time the man entered the building. She said the camera froze for an hour around that time.
Related: 19 Real, Scary Ghost Stories That Will Haunt Your Dreams
16. The Vision
One night, Danish-one’s mother, who suffered from epilepsy, had a seizure and started to suffocate herself in her blankets. Paramedics arrived and got her breathing again, and they took her to the hospital around 4:30 am. Before Danish-one had a chance to call their grandmother (their mother’s mother), the grandmother called them. She said she’d had a dream in which Danish-one’s mother visited her. The mother was bathed in golden light, and said that she was dead. At that point, even the doctors didn’t know that Danish-one’s mother was brain dead. The grandmother had seen it in a dream long before anyone else knew.
17. The Running Girl
When reddit user Anweow9069 and their friends were in high school, they decided to spend some time ghost hunting in their small Illinois town. They went to a local bridge where people sometimes claimed that they saw the ghost of a young girl who had drowned there. They got to the bridge around 3 am, and at first, nothing happened. Then, they heard a blood-curdling, horrifying scream. They began running back to their car, but all paused for a moment to witness something chilling— a girl running on all fours in the woods.
18. Man's Best Friend
In college, LillyYoyoINeedGogert was walking home with their sorority sisters around two in the morning when they saw an old man using crutches, walking a black dog. A few blocks along, they heard the sound of crutches coming up behind them again, and saw that it was the same man, although this time he was walking a brown dog. They made eye contact with the man, commenting to him about how funny it was to keep running into each other, but he didn’t answer. They kept walking, and then again they heard the sound of crutches behind them. It was the same man again — but this time with a yellow dog. To this day, they don’t know how the man was catching up to them so quickly, or why the color of the dog kept changing.
19. The Warning
One night, gndcd402 had an intense dream that a baby told them “please...protect my sister” then showed them the image of a car crash between a silver Corolla (a car driven by gndcd402’s friend) and a black Ford Explorer. Gndcd402 called their friend and asked her if she had a sister, to which the friend replied “well … my mom had a stillborn girl.” Gndcd402 gave their friend a drive where she needed that night, and when they watched the news that night, they saw a report on a black Ford Explorer that was involved in an accident.
20. The Lady at the Window
SJMoore86 was visiting a graveyard with some friends on Halloween. Right by the graveyard was a building which frequently housed restaurants, although restaurants in there often went out of business, and at the time the building was abandoned. Surprisingly, the lights were on in the former restaurant, and a woman wearing a pink dress was watching them from the window. She appeared to be following where they walked from window to window, moving so fast that she was gliding. Finally, they started running, but she still appeared at each set of windows before them, watching closely.
Related: The Most Haunted Graveyards in the World and Where to Find Them
21. The Goodbye
After Reddit user Mustang_Gold's grandmother passed away, their extended family participated in their typical ritual. The family creates a shrine for the dead, and at 7 pm, for the first week after the death, they observe silence in order to allow the deceased to say goodbye. On the final day, a glass vase that had been safely sitting in its position for years fell and shattered during the hour of silence. The family was understandably a little shaken up, but things only got stranger when their aunt called. They had been performing the ritual at her house when a door had suddenly slammed shut. The aunt’s family had looked around all over, but couldn’t figure out what made the door suddenly close. Mustang_Gold says they’re not sure something supernatural happened that day, but it sure was an alarming coincidence.
22. The Footprint
Redditor whattchuknowboutthat grew up in a house in an area that used to be prairie land. Over the years, they and their mother discovered a number of arrowheads on the land. Over time, they came to the realization that the house was haunted. Often, they would hear inexplicable footsteps echoing throughout the home. One day, whattchuknowboutthat’s mom was out of town, so they invited a friend over. They headed down to hang out in the basement, but noticed on their way down that every poster in the home was skewed slightly to the left—each poster and picture on the wall, 10-15 in all, were slightly skewed. The door to the small storage room was also open with the light turned on. Whattchuknowboutthat crawled into the storage closet and called their mom to ask her if there was any explanation. Their mom didn’t know what to say; she hadn’t been in the basement for weeks before leaving on her trip. Just then, whattchuknowboutthat looked into the storage bin and saw something they hadn’t seen before—a mangled, distorted footprint in the dirt.
Featured photo: Ján Jakub Naništa / Unsplash; Additional photos: Nicole Mason / Unsplash, Krista Mangulsone / Unsplash, Kecko / Flickr (CC), Ashim D’Silva / Unsplash, Jimmy Cabalum / Flickr (CC), Dave Edgar / Unsplash, Bob Broglia / Flickr (CC)