What are ghosts? Are they creepy figments of an overactive or jittery imagination? Or are they manifestations of souls that cannot pass on to the next phase?
If they do, in fact, exist, why do only certain people see or sense them? Why do some ghosts haunt places for decades only to disappear abruptly, while others appear only on the anniversary of a tragedy?
These questions are likely to remain unanswered as the debate around ghosts, and other paranormal entities continue. However, many people have had eerie real-life experiences that have shaken up and even convinced some skeptics that certain specters may be real. So here are 10 real-life eerie paranormal encounters that are sure to creep you out.
Related: Top 10 Creepiest Episodes Of Paranormal Television
10 Saying Goodbye
Nina De Santo was busy closing up her New Jersey hair salon one cold Saturday evening in 2001 when she spotted one of her customers standing outside the shop’s window. Michael had become a good friend of hers over the years, and she knew that he’d been going through a tough time after his wife left him for his stepbrother and he lost custody of his children to boot.
Nina had tried her best to cheer Michael up whenever he came to the hair salon and had even taken him for drinks a couple of times to give him a chance to talk. So when she opened the door to him that night, Michael seemed transformed and even happy. He smiled at her and said that he couldn’t stay long but just wanted to stop by and thank Nina for everything she’d done for him. They chatted a bit, and then each went their own way for the evening.
Early the next morning, Nina received a distressing call from a salon employee. The woman told her that Michael’s body had been found the previous morning, around nine hours before Nina had spoken to him at the salon. He had committed suicide.
In today’s terms, Nina had an experience with a crisis apparition which many are convinced is the spirit of a recently deceased person who appears to close friends and family to say goodbye. There is very little scientific research to fall back on when it comes to these apparitions, but some believe that it’s merely a trick of the brain.
9 No Time
Nature can be extremely cruel. When the 2011 Japan earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, people had mere minutes to flee their homes and try to stay alive. But hundreds of those who made it to evacuation sites were swept away anyway, as the waves overwhelmed them. As a result, nearly 20,000 people died, either from drowning or by blunt force after being hit by dislodged trees and other large pieces of debris.
Weeks after the disaster, as those who survived were trying to figure out how to go on with their lives without their loved ones, some people started reporting seeing ghostly queues outside what used to be a supermarket. Others were kept awake at night by disembodied voices crying out in the dark.
Shinichi Yamada and his two children somehow managed to escape the waves. Shinichi later salvaged two Buddhist statues he found in the wide-spread rubble and brought them back to his temporary home. Almost immediately, both his children became ill. An unexplained chill invaded the house and would follow anyone who came inside. Shinichi knew it was time to call in the help of an exorcist after he felt someone walking over him as he lay in bed one night.
The exorcist, Kansho Aizawa, also had her own frightening tales to tell. She had been seeing headless and mutilated ghosts ever since the disaster. She advised Shinichi to build a shrine for the statues, which he did. The ghostly activity in his home subsided a bit, but even though incidents still occur now and then, Shinichi believes the spirits that haunted his family are now at peace.
8 Ghosts or Demons?
Many people believe that there is no such thing as ghosts and that whenever lights flicker on and off or taps open and close by themselves, there’s a crooked demon finger doing the work instead.
Between 2011 and 2012, Latoya Ammons and her three children moved into a house on Caroline Street in Gary, Indiana. Almost immediately, Latoya sensed something was off. She and her mother Rosa would hear footsteps coming from the basement and doors creaking open when the children were fast asleep, and no one else was in the house. If they thought the house was haunted by ghosts, they soon changed their minds when swarms of flies invaded the house’s porch in the dead of winter, and the children suddenly started behaving strangely.
Rosa once awoke to loud screams only to find her 12-year-old granddaughter levitating over her own bed. Latoya found her youngest son in the closet talking to an unseen presence. Her son was also thrown across the room by an invisible entity.
The Department of Child Services was called by neighbors who thought the children were being abused. Case manager Valerie Washington interviewed the family at a local hospital. During the interview, she witnessed Latoya’s nine-year-old son crawl backward up the wall and ceiling, flip over his grandmother, and land on his feet.
It was then that an exorcist was called. Rev. Michael Maginot performed multiple exorcisms at the house and is quoted as saying that the property was a “portal to demons.” The Ammons family moved out soon after, and the house was demolished in 2016.
7 Creepy Phone Call
In the late 1960s, Simma Lieberman was in love and happy. Her hippie boyfriend Johnny had proposed to her, and they were to be married soon after getting an apartment together.
Late one night, Simma was at her mother’s house when the phone rang. Simma answered and heard Johnny on the line. He sounded rushed, like he was far away. She struggled to hear what he was saying through the loud static. She made out the words “I love you” and “I’ll never be mean to anybody again” before the line went dead.
Simma tried to call Johnny back, but without any luck. She finally fell asleep and awoke with an ominous feeling inside her chest. A few hours later, she received the news from Johnny’s mother that he’d been murdered the night before, shortly before the call came through to Simma. Throughout her life, Simma continued to believe that Johnny had contacted her after his death to say goodbye.
6 Mischievous Spirits
Not all supernatural presences are out to possess people. Sometimes, it seems, they just want to have a little fun. In 1937, W.S.J. wrote a letter to Country Life in which he recounted a ghostly experience he’d had in 1885. W.S.J. described being a schoolboy on summer vacation with his family at a holiday home on the Isle of Wight. He recalled the garden at St. Boniface House being one of the most charming he’d ever seen.
However, things soon turned paranormal when ghosts started pacing the floor in his sisters’ bedroom, causing them to flee. W.S.J. also noted that a figure would walk up and down past the housemaids and ring bells in the dark of night.
Eventually, the village priest was called in to help, and after blessing the house, the spirit activity subsided. W.S.J. claimed that the house had been torn down, but he hoped the garden would still shelter those who visited it by night.
5 Quarantine Ghosts
When lockdowns were put into place around the world in 2020, most people were simply wondering how they would get through the specified number of days without going insane staring at their walls. And spending so much time confined at home, some believed that they weren’t as alone as they thought.
Lockdown for Kurt Schleicher happened in the Tampa, Florida, house where Victor Licata killed his parents, siblings, and dog in 1933. Kurt witnessed his dog sitting and barking at the wall in the bedroom where the mother was murdered and claimed to have felt the temperature drop abruptly in the bathroom.
Adrian Gomez, who lives in Los Angeles, heard and saw a doorknob and window rattling so violently that he thought an earthquake was happening. After realizing that there was no earthquake to speak of, he started believing that something paranormal may be happening. This belief was fortified when a window shade in his bedroom began shaking against the closed window while the adjacent one remained perfectly still.
Those in Indonesia who were lucky enough to live in non-haunted houses but decided to break lockdown rules were locked inside homes believed to be haunted as punishment.
The story of the wailing woman is well known around the world. However, in a tale that still makes the skin of professional skier Drew Tabke crawl, the wailing woman takes on the form of Lola at La Parva. La Parva is a popular ski spot in the Chilean Andes and the place where many people say they knew Lola before she died.
It is said that Lola and her son were spending the day on the slopes when a thick fog rolled in. Mother and son made their way down the mountain but lost contact with one another. Scared that he would fall, Lola began screaming his name. Then she stumbled and fell down a steep slope. A lift operator found her as he returned to his cabin before the inevitable storm hit. He found that Lola was still alive, and he managed to get her to his cabin. He went for the doctor, but when the men returned to the cabin, Lola was gone. The only thing that remained behind was bloody sheets.
It is believed that Lola went back into the fog and ensuing storm to find her son. Neither she nor her son was ever found again. But whenever skiers, including Tabke, go near that cabin, they hear Lola wailing for her lost child.
3 Then Who Was in the Closet?
Sometimes a Reddit thread produces some of the scariest paranormal encounters ever. And whether the accounts are told as they happened or embellished for dramatic effect, they do send shivers up spines worldwide.
Redditor tooabstract788 was home alone one night, playing games, when his dog started barking at the closet. When he got up to see what was agitating the dog, he heard scratching sounds coming from inside the closet. As he got closer, the scratching got quieter until it abruptly stopped when he stood right in front of the closet. About to go back to his game, tooabstract788 was shocked when he suddenly heard a loud crash followed by several softer ones as items started hitting the inside of the closet door.
He ran outside at once and only went back inside when his friend came over to check on him. They checked the inside of the closet and found clothes and hangers scattered over the floor of the closet. But they never found any secret openings in the walls or ceiling.
2 Someone’s Watching
When Hilary Prue began her job as an usher at the du Maurier Theatre Centre, now known as the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, in Toronto, the first story she heard from employees was about the two ghosts haunting the venue. The spirits, a man and a woman dressed in period clothing, caused at least one security guard to quit after he saw them while locking up. The building that now holds the theater is said to have originally been an ice warehouse and also a temporary morgue after a boat sank in the harbor.
Hilary initially didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary as she went about her daily tasks. Then one day, while alone in the office, she heard a terrifying scream. She walked around the building, and there was no one else inside. But one of her colleagues later confirmed that they’d had a similar experience.
After this incident, Hilary continuously felt like she was being watched. Once, she thought that a co-worker had brought their children to work and that one of the kids was messing with her, but that turned out not to be the case.
When a ghost hunting group visited the theater, they not only spotted the woman in a Victorian dress and the man wearing a bowler hat, but they also claimed to have seen a little boy who hid in the rafters. Suddenly, Hilary knew who had been watching her all that time.
Donna Stewart had several best friends when she was six years old. One of them was Danny, who often came over to her house to play. On one particular morning, Donna and Danny had a play date, but it was to be cut short so that Danny could go to the hospital for scheduled surgery to have his tonsils removed.
The following day, Donna was in her bedroom when Danny appeared in the doorway. He asked if they could go outside and play.
Donna went to her mother to ask if she and Danny could spend some time playing outside and was confused at her mother’s reaction. The woman instantly turned pale. Then she broke the news that Danny had died the day before after suffering an allergic reaction during the surgery.
Donna ran back to her room, but Danny was gone.
Years later, Donna joined a paranormal investigative team in Oregon. She believes that the encounter changed how she saw the concept of death. She also believes that those who die are never far away from their loved ones and appear to them during times of trouble and grief.