top of page

10 real ghost stories that'll haunt you in your dreams

10 real ghost stories that'll haunt you in your dreams

These scary tales about real-life supernatural encounters will make you believe.

Whether you’re a skeptic or believer, there’s no denying that there are some things that can’t be explained.

“The people that see things, the people that experience things, are the people that are paying attention,” Derek Hayes, host and creator of “Monsters Among Us,” a podcast where guests share their unearthly experiences, told TODAY. “You have to be aware of your surroundings enough to realize that there’s something strange going on around you."

Having had unexplainable experiences of his own, Hayes doesn't rule anything out, including ghost stories, which he says he's heard hundreds of.

"Every once in a while, one of them will actually get to me," he said.

Want to experience them for yourself? We've collected some of his favorites and they're not your average campfire ghost stories either. They're the scary kind you tell on Halloween when you really want to freak everyone out.

We've also got real-life stories from paranormal investigators, ghost tour operators and everyday people who've encountered things that continue to haunt them to this day. There's even a relatively tame ghost story that kids will enjoy about a mysterious woman who sings in the local church choir.

Grab a flashlight, pull the blankets over your head and read on. By the time you're done, you will believe.

The unexpected passenger as told on "Monsters Among Us"

In the 1990s, Julie, a resident of Portland, Oregon, was driving out the city to meet with friends when she found herself in traffic. The 18-year-old soon discovered that the cause of the slowdown was due to a dreadful car crash and to her horror, as she passed the scene, she realized that someone had died.

A moment later, “there was a woman sitting in my passenger seat.” Julie told Hayes on “Monsters Among Us." Though she admits it sounds crazy, Julie said she could see a woman dressed in work clothes seated next to her. Though she was in complete shock, the woman in the passenger seat was even more freaked out. “She looked like somebody who just suddenly ended up in somebody else’s car,” Julie said.

Panicked, the woman demanded to know how she got there and who Julie was. It was then that Julie noticed the woman had an unearthly quality about her and realized that whoever she’d passed on the side of the road was somehow in the car with her. “'Ma’am, you need to calm down, my name is Julie and I’m here to help,'” she told the stranger. Julie later went on to explain to the woman that she'd been in a car accident and somehow ended up in her passenger seat. The woman was stricken.

At that exact minute, they passed a clearing in the trees. With some encouragement from Julie, the woman peacefully walked toward the sun, then disappeared.

In completely disbelief, Julie pulled over and convinced herself she’d imagined the whole thing.

Several days later, however, a story came on the news about a trucker injured in a car accident. “Before they finished, they threw a picture up of the woman that was in my car and explained that she had passed away in the accident,” Julie said on the podcast. “It was unbelievable, it was too much.”

The ghost of The Stanley Hotel

Opened in 1909, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, was originally a posh getaway for guests seeking solitude in the mountains. As the years passed, however, occupancy declined and by the 1970s, the grand hotel had fallen into disrepair. It was around that time that famed author Stephen King spent the night there in the now-famous room 217 and was inspired to write “The Shining,” one of his most well-known novels.

The book and subsequent blockbuster film helped return the Stanley to its former glory and now guests come in droves to see the hotel that inspired one of the scariest horror movies of all time.

Given its spooky history, it should come as no surprise that many visitors report strange happenings. Aware of the ghostly rumors, Texas resident Henry Yau booked a last-minute getaway in April of 2016 to “check it out.”

After arriving, Yau had dinner, then wandered around the Stanley to take photos. Stopping at the staircase, he waited for people to clear the area, then took a picture, thinking nothing of it.

Later that night, however, Yau fell seriously ill. “I felt really sick, I had the shivers, I was like, something’s really wrong," he told TODAY. His companion suggested he go to the emergency room, but Yau refused.

On the trip home, Yau began swiping through the photos he’d taken when he discovered what he said was a “really, really strange image” of someone standing on the stairs.

Except no one had been there.

The next day, he posted the photo on Instagram, half-joking that he’d captured a ghost and the world took notice. Almost overnight, Yau found himself in the limelight with his ghost picture warranting attention from global media outlets and paranormal experts who wanted to examine the photo.

“Some experts say that there’s two ghosts and other people said that the reason I got sick is because the ghost was trying to materialize, taking energy out of me,” he said. “There’s so many theories about this.”

And what does Yau think? “I have no idea,” he said with a laugh.

The hauntings at the Lizzie Borden House

Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty I
Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty I

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and wife Abby Borden were found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts, home. Though murder wasn’t uncommon in the late 1800s, the fact that they were bludgeoned to death with an ax and the main suspect was their 32-year-old daughter, Lizzie Borden, certainly was.

The crime and trial that followed made headlines around the world. Lizzie was ultimately acquitted of murder, but she remains forever linked to the heinous killings as does the home where they were committed.

Now a bed-and-breakfast, the Borden home attracts history buffs and thrill-seekers drawn to the scene of the crime out of morbid curiosity and to see for themselves if the house lives up to its reputation of being haunted.

“When I started working here, it was more of the history, I really didn’t care about the paranormal,” Suzanne St. John, Century 21 realtor and tour guide at the Historic Lizzie Borden House, told TODAY.

That changed after St. John experienced a few unusual happenings of her own.

“Guests tell us they hear laughing and playing in the middle of the night, things get moved around,” she said, explaining that she once found toys scattered around a room that no one had been in.

There was also a picture that fell over and slid two feet across the floor without any plausible explanation. Plus, a closet door that opened on its own volition.

St. John said that on the eve of the anniversary of Andrew and Abby’s murder, she and two other tour guides felt sudden sharp, piercing pains in their left eye — the same exact location of Andrew Borden’s fatal injuries.

Perhaps the most unnerving, however, is a story St. John tells of a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden house who asked her group to silence their cell phones before starting the tour. Moments later, a guest’s cell phone rang, she looked up and said, “It’s my mom.”

The tour guide asked if she wanted to leave and take the call, to which the woman replied, “She died two years ago.”

The grandmas in the cemetery as told on “Monsters Among Us”

Jeff, a resident of Dayton, Ohio, was driving with his 3-year-old son, Miles, in the back seat, when they passed by a cemetery. It was a modest cemetery with only flowers and small plaques. “It basically looks like a giant garden,” he told Hayes on “Monsters Among Us.”

As they passed by, Miles, who’d been happily singing, abruptly stopped, pointed to the cemetery and exclaimed, “Look at all those people!”

Jeff turned to look, but didn’t see a single person there. Confused, he asked Miles what he was talking about. “All those people over there,” his son said. “There sure are a lot of grandmas.”

According to Jeff, chills ran down his spine and he asked his son what all the people were doing. “They’re all standing there, looking down at the grass,” his son said.

Completely unsettled by the conversation, he sped up and drove home. Later that same day, Miles was watching his favorite cartoon on TV when he looked at Jeff and said, “You know … they weren’t alive.”

Thinking Miles meant the cartoon, Jeff asked what Miles meant. “Those people we saw, they were all paused.”

“I don’t know if my kid has the sixth sense or if he just has a wild imagination,” Jeff said on the podcast.

The ghosts of Stone’s Public House

Bill Polo / Boston Globe via Getty Images
Bill Polo / Boston Globe via Getty Images

Named one of the most haunted restaurants in the U.S., Stone’s Public House in Ashland, Massachusetts, doesn’t have a ghost problem — it has a ghosts problem.

Janet Morazzini has been a resident of Ashland most of her life and now works as a bartender and manager at the inn, which was built by John Stone in 1832. Even before she started working at Stone’s Public House, she’d heard stories about a little boy that had died of influenza who now roamed the halls.

It makes sense, Morazzini told TODAY, since it had been used to house the sick during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. “That’s where they would quarantine all the sick people,” she said. “Apparently quite a few souls have passed just due to that.”

Unfortunately, the inn is also the site for other untimely deaths including that of Mary, a young girl whose mother worked at Stone’s. Legend has it that she was tragically struck by a train and killed while playing near the railroad tracks that border the property.

According to Morazzini, a father and young son went outside to watch the trains go by while attending a private event at the restaurant. When they came back inside, she overhead the father reassuring his son that there wasn't anyone else outside — despite the fact that the son claims he'd seen a little girl sitting beside them. “He’s like, ‘She was sitting right next to me. She was crying. You didn’t see the little girl?’ And the dad said, ‘There was nobody there, it was just me and you, buddy,'" Morazzini recalls.

Other ghosts are said to haunt the old inn including that of John Stone himself, who Morazzini said didn’t die there but is believed to be “watching over” the place.

One night when Morazzini was closing the inn by herself, she heard footsteps walking directly above her on the second floor. “I was just like, there is no explanation for that whatsoever. I’m leaving," she told TODAY. That's not all: According to Morazzini, lights turn on and off by themselves, doors open and close, and handprints appear mysteriously on the windows.

Still, she doesn’t believe that the spirits have bad intentions. “I’ve never had that scary, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-gotta-get-out-of-the-building feeling there,” she said.

The singing church ghost

Photo courtesy of Destination Salem
Photo courtesy of Destination Salem

Alicia Diozzi, teacher, tour guide and owner of Salem Kids Tours, typically sticks to telling the tales of the long and diverse history of Salem, Massachusetts.

However, there’s one story Diozzi likes to share about a ghost that haunts First Church in Salem, which also happens to be her personal church. The plot twist: Only children who can see it.

“The little ones, maybe age 4 or 5, will ask about a ghostly presence that they see up in the choir loft in the main sanctuary of our church,” she told TODAY.

They always point to the same spot, and when asked what they’re looking at, children describe a woman in a dark, old-fashioned dress. “The kids will say she’s in a long dress, long-sleeves, and that she sometimes can be heard singing with the choir.”

The church itself was built in 1836, but tales about ghost sightings have been circulating since at least the 1960s — if not longer, according to Diozzi.

She might otherwise have shrugged off the tales had her own son not pointed up to the loft 15 years ago and asked about “the lady who sings with choir.”

Was she chilled? “Yes, definitely,” Diozzi says. “I feel like the main sanctuary at First Church has that feeling, you do kind of feel the presence of the past.” It’s not a bad feeling she said, but rather a history or energy that’s comforting in a way.

The prison ghost who followed her home

Photo provided by The Haunted Housewives
Photo provided by The Haunted Housewives

Aside from being the location for “The Shawshank Redemption,” the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, boasts an unpleasant history. It was originally built as an intermediate penitentiary in 1896 for boys too old for juvenile detention but who hadn’t committed crimes warranting prison.

After immediate success came decades of budget cuts. Eventually, it was converted into a maximum-security prison.

By the 1980s, conditions had become deplorable and according to Theresa Argie, author and paranormal investigator known as “The Haunted Housewife,” it was a horrible place. “It had this incredible vein of violence that ran through it almost from the beginning," she told TODAY.

According to Argie, several suicides, murders and riots took place there, and eventually it was shuttered in 1990.

“You can imagine why a place like that would be haunted,” Argie told TODAY. “There’s something negative there, you can just feel it in your bones.”

And, indeed, there are plenty of ghost stories from the old prison.

“We ran into female spirits there, which I thought was incredibly interesting,” Argie said. One, she said, is the wife of a former warden who was shot with a gun sitting atop a box that she was pulling down from a closet shelf.

According to Argie, they've captured recordings of a woman crying — the warden, most likely. They've even smelled rose perfume in the bedroom.

Another spirit that’s said to haunt the reformatory is a woman who sits in the prison chapel and cries. “When you approach this woman sitting in the pew, she disappears. Other people have seen her walking," she said.

Argie doesn’t think she’s part of the prison, though. Instead, she believes the spirit might be associated with one of the objects donated to the prison while it was being restored as a historical monument.

Then there's the malevolent presence that she detected in one of the prison solitary confinement cells along with her paranormal associate Cathi Weber and a psychic medium.

As Argie began to ask questions, the medium told her that she needed to leave because the spirit in the cell was angry and didn’t want her there. “He would literally be cussing at me,” she recalled.

Still, they came back again and again to gather new recordings and photos that helped them determine his true identity: a former prisoner. While their sessions with the angry ghost were unnerving, it wasn’t until he followed Argie’s partner home that they were truly terrified.

“One day, she saw him, through a reflection of her window, she saw this thing in the back, this shadow figure, and she knew it was him," she told TODAY.

According to Argie, the spirit continued to follow her partner until she enlisted the help of an expert to rid her of the ghost. “Luckily, we haven’t seen him since," she said.

The ghost of Willoughby Coal

The Haunted Housewives / Willoughby Ghost Walk
The Haunted Housewives / Willoughby Ghost Walk

The Willoughby Coal building in Willoughby, Ohio, was built in the late 1800s and housed a variety of businesses including a train depot, cheese factory and flour mill.

In 1912, it became the very prosperous Willoughby Coal, supplying coal to local residents before it was sold to Henry Windus and William “Don” Norris in the 1930s.

Over time, the relationship between the two owners grew contentious, according to author and paranormal investigator Theresa Argie. “Henry Windus wanted to buy the business from Don Norris, but Don was unwilling to sell," she told TODAY.

One morning, Norris allegedly told his wife he was going out for bread and to check on repairs being done on the Willoughby building.

He never returned.

Several hours later, his body was discovered in front of the door. “He was laying in a bloody heap,” Argie said.

After an investigation, it was determined that Norris’ death was an accident. Argie said this ruling didn’t sit well with his family. “They thought that when Don Norris arrived at the property that morning, he was greeted by someone of several someone’s who jumped him, dragged him up to the third floor and pitched him through the window," she told TODAY.

While no one knows what really happened, Argie says they're confident that his spirit still haunts the building.

“We have come in contact with him on many, many occasions,” she said. Argie claims that others have reported seeing faces in the window and police have been sent to investigate unexplained footsteps and other unusual occurrences.

But Norris isn't alone.“We’ve probably got five or six resident spirits in the building."

The ghost of Captain Joseph White

Photo by Katie Sherburne
Photo by Katie Sherburne

Witches aside, there’ve been plenty of other chilling stories throughout Salem's 400-year history. One of them is the tale of Captain Joseph White, a wealthy merchant who was found bludgeoned to death in his bed.

It was a crime motivated by money, according to Giovanni Alabiso, owner and tour guide at Salem Historical Tours. The 82-year-old was allegedly targeted by greedy brothers hoping to get their hands on his will.

Brothers Joseph and Francis Knapp enlisted the help of Richard Crowninshield to help get the job done. “Late in the evening, when Captain White is asleep, Dick Crowinshield comes in, he goes upstairs to the second floor and takes a club and bashes the captain over the head and crushes his skull,” Alabiso told TODAY.

The murder resulted in a scandalous trial and is said to be the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart" as well as the game “Clue.”

Whether it’s the brutal nature of the crime or revenge for the attempt to steal his money, the spirit of Captain Joseph White is said to still wander the halls of his former home. “People believe Captain White is roaming around that house, protecting whatever treasure he reportedly has," Alabiso said.

Tourists take photos of the house and despite being empty, many pictures reveal shadowy figures in the windows and on the landing of the Gardner-Pingree House. “It’s definitely, absolutely active," he said.

The ghost nanny as told to “Monsters Among Us”

Kip, a caller from Western New York state, told Hayes on "Monsters Among Us" the story of his wife, who purchased a beautiful old home while they were dating. After buying the home, his wife invited her sister and newborn baby to come for a visit.

“The stayed in the downstairs bedroom and my wife was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom,” Kip explained. “She said the first night that they came, she could hear her sister saying something out loud in the middle of the night.”

The next morning, Kip’s wife asked who she’d been talking to and the sister replied, “I woke up in the middle of the night and there was an old lady standing over my baby and I had to tell her to get away.”

But that was just the beginning.

Lamps mysteriously moved and once, while outside working in the garden, Kip’s wife heard the smoke alarm go off in the house. “She immediately runs back into the house, figures out that it’s the smoke alarm in that same downstairs bedroom going off,” Kip said on the podcast. “When she opened the door, she said for a split second all she could see in the room was this white fog.”

Within moments, however, the white fog disappeared and the alarm shut off.

Convinced her house was haunted, Kip’s wife reached out to a neighbor to learn more about the property. She learned that the previous owner had been a 90-year-old woman who tragically died in a house fire.

The neighbor ran over to help and discovered that the garage was on fire. Once in the house, they found her walker at the top of the stairs, but not the woman. It was determined that the woman was in the garage when she died.

“Why did this 90-year-old woman get up in the middle of the night, abandon her walker that she needs to get around, go down a flight of stairs,” Kip asked. Beyond that, no one could understand how she could've opened a heavy door and made her way to the car —without her walker. Plus, what would have caused a fire in her car?

“The more we thought about the story, it makes more sense that she didn’t do this, somebody else did,” he said on the podcast.

The truth remains a mystery — one Kip and his wife didn’t stick around to solve.

“Needless to say, we fixed up the house and got out of there as fast as we could and moved someplace else.”

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page