5 Real Horror Stories People Found Themselves Living
Remember that nightmare you had, about running along a conveyor belt away from the chopping machine? It was scary at the time, but when you woke up, you realized it had been just a dream. In fact, you are dreaming at this very second, so take comfort in the knowledge that nothing around you is real.
The characters in the following stories had no such luck. Read what they lived through, and share in their terror.
Tandem Skydiving With a Dead Man
You can skydive two ways. If you want to jump out of a plane yourself, you need to learn how to do it and get certified. Otherwise, you can take route B: tandem diving. You jump out of a plane while strapped to an instructor, who pulls the ripcord and steers you. It’s a tad too intimate for some people’s tastes, but it comes with the benefit of requiring no training. It’s also less scary because there’s no pressure on you at all.
In 2009, Daniel Pharr went the tandem route. He jumped out of a plane over South Carolina while strapped to skydiving instructor George Steele. George got as far as deploying the chute, which is of course the most important part of a safe descent. But after that, when Daniel tried making conversation, the guy didn’t respond. He had died from a heart attack in midair.
Though the chute prevented the man and the corpse from hitting terminal velocity, they weren’t out of the woods. We mean that literally: They were headed toward trees and had to move to avoid being impaled. Daniel took hold of the chutes handles and dodged those trees, as well as a roof he may have crashed through. He had zero skydiving training, but he did happen to have military training, as well as some vague TV knowledge of how skydiving works. He survived the fall, and he even performed (unsuccessful) CPR on a dead Steele. We salute Pharr, with the knowledge that we’d just helplessly scream were we in the same position.
The Scorpion Invasion
Deserts don’t see much rain, and when rain does come, that can be a treat. You get the dust washed off your shoes for free, and if you’re thirsty, you can just look up with your mouth open and feel quenched. A rare heavy rain hit Aswan, Egypt, in 2021. No one gave the scorpions any advance warning about this, so when they saw their burrows filling with water, they found a new place to live: people’s homes.
The hordes of arachnids entered people’s residences, and they didn’t come quietly. Their stings sent over 500 people to the hospital. The city had to recall vacationing doctors who specialize in scorpions to deal with this plague God had dropped on the area.
The doctors must have done their job well because the venom killed no one. Three people did die during the storm, but according to a government spokesperson, these deaths were “absolutely not because of scorpion stings.” Uh, okay, we’re going to take their word on that, but that’s not the sort of clarification we like to need to be told.
The Half Ship of Doom
Mighty freighters sail across the Great Lakes, and sometimes, this leads to mighty shipwrecks. For example, one vanished on Lake Huron in 1913 and was never found (though, one man pronounced dead was found, when he showed up at his own funeral). In 1966, another ship sank on Lake Huron. The SS Daniel J. Morrell ran into a storm, sailors leapt off the and took their chances in the water and the 7,000-ton ship split in two.
Those sailors who took the plunge all died, as this was November, and the water hovered just a hair above freezing. The men who made it to a lifeboat stood a better chance of surviving. In fact, before too long, they saw a joyous sight. A ship was coming toward them. Rescue had arrived! Then they looked closer and realized the truth. They were staring at the remainder of the Morrell. Half had sunk, and the other had traveled in a circle and was barreling toward them, steered by no one.
When a rescue vessel really did come 14 hours later, only one man, Dennis Hale, was left alive. He was wearing just his boxers and a peacoat, and he said this saved his life, as the other men’s wet clothes froze on their body and killed them. A priest gave Hale last rites, thinking he was about to die. He lived another 50 years. The crash had to spare one man, one man to tell the tale.
The Morgue Body Awakens
It was late Saturday night, and plenty of drivers west of Johannesburg had a little alcohol in their systems. One ambulance picked up a passenger who’d got in an accident and now headed toward the hospital. On the way, they ran into an unexpected obstacle: a second car that had gotten into an accident and had rolled over multiple times.
When we say they ran into it, we really mean that — the ambulance collided with the wrecked car and got knocked out of operation. If anyone in the second car had been clinging to life, this ambulance’s violent arrival couldn’t have helped matters. Additional emergency personnel arrived on the scene, including a second ambulance, whose paramedics pronounced three passengers of the overturned car dead. They covered the corpses with silver blankets, police took note of the fatalities, and the bodies were shipped off to the morgue.
Hours later, as dawn approached, a morgue employee heard one of these bodies breathing. Her identity has been kept private, so all we know is that she was then transferred to the care of professionals whose job it is to treat the living rather than to dissect the dead.
We don’t know who had the scariest role in this story, the woman who awoke to find herself in the morgue or the worker who discovered a cadaver had apparently returned to life. Well, we suppose the worst experience was had by the people who died in the collision, but when we think about the banality of death, we’re the ones who wind up having the worst experience.
The House of Traps
In 2002, Belgian man Louis Dethy decided it was time to take revenge on his family. Years ago, his wife had left him after catching him cheating, and he remained bitter at his kids and grandkids for steering clear of him. Then his mother had died, willing the plot of land where he lived to his daughter rather than to himself, despite the fact that he’d built the house there with his own hands. Dethy could not let them take this from him. They had to die.
Dethy was 79 years old by this point, and he had years of experience as an engineer guiding him. The solution, as far as he could tell, was simple. He’d load the place with 19 booby traps. He would also leave clues, perhaps to let players in this game know how to escape, or perhaps to give them false hope.
One note read “le vin est tire,” French for “the wine is drawn.” This was a pun: Tirer can also mean “to pull,” and this clue led players into the cellar. A second trap also centered on alcohol, which gives some indication as to how Dethy spent his time when designing these deathtraps. The player had to remove bottles of beer from a crate, and after a certain number, a shotgun would fire at their head.
When police investigated the home, one officer opened a chest, and the trapped gun there went off, narrowly missing him. Then they found Dethy. He’d died by gunshot, and since the cops were still figuring out what was up with this place, they first pronounced this a suicide. It was not. He had stumbled into one of his own traps and set it off.
You may think you’re the mastermind in the horror story of your life. Don’t be so confident. You, too, will be tested.