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Your Creepiest Halloween Stories

Donate Celebrating Halloween with the creepiest ghost stories sent in by you, our listeners.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions, Paranormal

Skeptoid Podcast #908
October 31, 2023
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Your Creepiest Halloween Stories

This week we have stories from all of you, the listeners, telling us your scariest personal Halloween experiences. What's the most frightening thing that's ever happened to you? Plenty of you sent me your stories, and we're now going to hear eight of them. But I warn you all — if you are faint of heart, or easily terrified into a state of gibbering insanity, then please do not listen to this episode. Unless, of course, it's Halloween.

The Phantom's Breath

We're getting started with a creepy tale from listener Jeff. He tells an experience that sounds familiar to us all, one that happens in just about every scary book or movie:

It was a dark and stormy night, with the wind blowing this way and that in great bursts, sending drafts through my historic 1920s apartment. Soon after bed, I heard my bedroom door go click, creak slowly open, and then slam shut. I thought it might be the creepy old landlord who lived in the car garage behind the unit with his feral cats, but I searched the apartment, found no one there, and both outside doors were locked and secure.

So I'm going to give my thoughts on each of these stories, and as you can probably guess, with Jeff's story I'd focus on the wind. It's a 1920s apartment, so it's probably really drafty, with plenty of wind coming and going through gaps around the windows and the eaves and whatever ventilation system it might have. Wind, of course, turns out to be one of the very most common causes of doors that seem to slam by themselves. So, I don't know. I'm not too scared just yet. Let's see if listener Jason can scare us a bit more:

The Prophetic Gameboard

Ah yes, the board game that comes straight from perdition itself: Ouija. What power does it have that compels the spirits to answer its questions?

 In college, a group of my theater friends and I decided to break into the theater at midnight on Halloween to have a Ouija experience. Of course, we were all afraid of someone walking in and us getting caught. After a bit of nothing happening, the board spelled out, "Who foresee you coming?" Seconds later, the main doors of the theater opened, and I presume a janitor came in. We don't know for sure who it was, because we ran out very quickly.

Regardless of whether it was a janitor or a ghost, how did the spirits controlling the Ouija board know they were about to come in? Or did they? I wonder what question had been asked. I wonder what other things the board mysteriously spelled out — and I use the word "mysteriously" with a qualification that the ideomotor effect is hardly the only thing that can move the planchette when a group of college kids all have their hands on it. Was this indeed a meaningful thing for the board to say, or was it one lucky hit out of twenty non-answers or wrong answers? I'm still not sufficiently frightened.

The Cartoon Terror

Listener Melanie seems to have had an experience that might seem a step or two creepier. Let's hear her story and find out:

 This is Melanie Trecek-King from Thinking is Power. When I was really young, probably five or six, I saw a ghost. I was sleeping in bed next to my grandma. She was staying over with us and I remember feeling a cold finger on my hand and then fingernails scratching up and down my arm really slowly. I woke up but I couldn't move. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an old woman. She had long, straggly, gray hair. And she was holding me down and keeping me from screaming for help. And I tried to wake my grandma to get her to help me, but I kept feeling her cold hand on my mouth and on my chest. I don't know how long it lasted, but it felt like an eternity. And I was terrified. Today, I know that that's sleep paralysis, which I still experience, but thankfully know what it is. And my ghost, by the way, turned out to be the witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,which was probably the scariest thing my young brain could think of to explain why I couldn't move.

We've known about sleep paralysis for a long time, and her description checks all the boxes. Both visual and tactile hallucinations, accompanied by paralysis and the feeling of pressure pushing down on the chest. The interesting part is the form that the hallucination takes (when it's present, which it isn't always). For much of western history, it's been a character called The Old Hag — for whom Snow White's queen is certainly a dead ringer. (The Queen's name, which you didn't know, was Grimhilde — a portmanteau of the names of two daughters of Wotan, the valkyries Grimgerde and Brünnhilde from Wagner's Die Walküre — and now you do know.)

The form taken by the hallucination in a sleep paralysis episode is specific to your culture, as discussed in detail in Skeptoid #8 from 2006(!!) on Nocturnal Assaults. So, since Melanie's experience turns out to have a mundane explanation, I'm still not scared. Let's see what Derral's got for us.

Mist from Beyond

I have high hopes for this one.

About 40 years ago, a man killed his wife about a half a mile from me on a dirt road, and drug the body across the road, and very shortly after, people started claiming to see a ghost. I ignored it, then about two summers ago I was walking that road about, uh, right at sundown. A light mist in the air, the light was flickering through the trees, and the mist was dancing around. It was beautiful, iridescent. And now I know what people thought the ghost was. They actually saw the shimmer and, I don't know, first thing, easy thing, it's a ghost.

Just a trick of the light? What a bummer! Another mundane explanation, and no real ghost. I'm starting to think ghosts might not be real after all. But that would certainly be an outrageous leap of logic, as so far none of these stories have disproven their existence.

The Malevolent Bedsheet

It seems that ghosts, if they exist, might have some window into our subconscious, since Neil's story also involves a state of something less than full wakefulness:

 Exhausted after a day of writing exam questions, I fell asleep in a London hotel room. I woke up to discover that I was being strangled by my own bedsheets. I was being sucked into a huge hole in the wall and there was clearly a malign force behind the whole thing. I was about to die. A classic hypnagogic experience, obviously. I was working really hard at that point, and the only down time I'd offered myself in the previous two weeks was to watch an old Freddy Krueger movie, where significantly, the same scene that I'd lived through actually takes place on screen. These days, this is a story I tell audiences for my own skeptical talks.

As much as I love a good hypnagogic hallucination — which is an imagined (yet often frightening) sound, touch, or visual hallucination just as you're falling asleep at night — it's still a mundane explanation for what I was hoping would be the permanent loss of Neil to the underworld via some infernal portal.

Incidentally, I keep hypnopompic and hypnagogic straight with a little mnemonic device: hypnagogic contains "go" as in "go to bed" because they happen at night when you're falling asleep; hypnopompic has a "p" as in "pour me some coffee" because they happen in the morning as you're waking up.

Advice, Remembered

So if we're not going to find any ghosts, let's see if Todd's daughter's experience can at least qualify as an inexplicable coincidence:

 My daughter once called and interviewed me for a class about grief. I told her the only thing I grieved was our good times as a young family, but I had decided back then to be in the moment so that I would have memories. The next day we got a call that my daughter had been rear ended by a drunk coming 60 miles per hour over a hill before he rear ended her car as she sat behind a school bus. She told me later she usually checks her hair and makeup when stopped in traffic, but she remembered our talk about being in the moment. So she looked to the right and saw grandparents waiting for children to get on the bus. To the left, she saw that the bus had a stop sign out, so there were no cars coming down that lane. Then, looking behind her, she saw the approaching SUV and floored her car into the left hand empty lane. She lost the back half of her car, but was uninjured. Coincidence? Or, of course it was coincidence, but the creepy kind.

This remembering of specific advice right at the moment it was needed is a variation of the familiar thought experiment of happening to think of some relative right at the moment when they die. We can do the math on coincidences like this: How often did she contemplate that advice; for how long did she remember that she'd contemplated it; how often does something happen where remembering the advice would have come in handy? We can get an estimate of how many times a year this might happen. And we can multiply it by how many people exist, and depending on the variables, we end up with a mathematical prediction that something so seemingly improbable probably happens to tens or hundreds of thousands of people every day. So, I'm still not scared.

The Organic Specter

A ghost made of actual organic material? OK, I'm all in. Let's see if this is the proof of the supernatural we're after:

 Hello, this is Adrienne Hill from Skookum Studios, here to tell my ghost story. When I was five or six, I was woken up in the night by the sound of footsteps outside my window. I peeked out the window and saw no one there. I thought I must be dreaming, so I lay back down in bed only to hear again. Nothing outside. It must be a ghost! I screamed for my mother, who also heard the footsteps, and we huddled in a room until the next morning when my dad arrived home from night shift, only to discover that a large sack of potatoes had fallen over on the landing of our basement steps and had emptied with potatoes rolling down the stairs. Thump, thump, thump.

Wait. Potatoes were the organic specters? OK, that's just lame. I am beginning to suspect there is no such thing as ghosts after all. I will give my listeners one final chance to persuade me. Let's see what listener Lee has got for us — and he's an international bestselling author so I expect his story to be told with great skill and a glorious display of literary mastery:

The Haunted Reflection

 I was looking at my image in the mirror, and it blinked.

That's it — we're done — clearly the only reasonable explanation is that it was a ghost reflection. A ghost somehow inhabited the mirror and took over the reflection of whoever was looking in it. The winner of today's best ghost story can only be Lee, with his gripping masterpiece of the haunted mirror. Ghosts having thus been proven to be real, I must now go and retract about three quarters of the Skeptoid back catalog. So, if you'll excuse me, this won't take but a month or two.


By Brian Dunning

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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Your Creepiest Halloween Stories." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 31 Oct 2023. Web. 27 May 2024. <https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4908>

 

 

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