25 Terrifying True Horror Stories

Posted by , Updated on October 17, 2023

True horror stories have the power to invoke deep fear in people, often tapping into their most primal instincts. The darkness and uncertainty of these stories can evoke a range of emotions – from dread, anxiety, and paranoia to terror and paralyzing terror. They offer a unique glimpse into the deepest, darkest parts of our minds. For many people, they evoke feelings that can be both exhilarating and deeply unsettling.

What makes horror so compelling is the feeling of being completely out of control. As readers, we never quite know what is going to happen next or how truly terrifying it might be. This unknowable factor creates an endless sense of tension and unease that can keep us on edge throughout our interactions with true horror stories.

Moreover, The reaction you have to a true horror story can also be incredibly personal. One person might find a particular story too frightening while another may be able to experience it more objectively. This uniqueness is one of the things that makes horror so powerful – no two people react the same way!

With that in mind, let’s dive into the 25 terrifying true horror stories to keep you up at night!



25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

After WWII, the CIA started a program designed to use mind control against the enemies of the United States. They did this by giving unwitting test subjects, usually those who were thought to either be “secret agents” or expendable, large amounts of psychotropic drugs. The CIA’s version of the program started in the early 1950s, sometimes with their “subjects” and other times with everyday citizens. The citizen subjects would be observed if they were in public. But if the experiments were being done in the testing facilities, the subjects would be mentally and physically tortured.

These prisoners, as that was what they had essentially become, were given high doses of LSD, among other things. Barbiturates were given to make the subjects sleep, and then high doses of amphetamines were shot into their systems to keep them awake. Many other drugs were used, such as heroin, morphine, mescaline, and sodium pentathol. And don’t think it was just American citizens that were being tortured; experiments were also conducted on Canadian and Danish citizens as well.

The people behind this program built detention camps in countries such as Germany, Japan, and the Philippines so that if they were ever found out, they would be able to escape criminal prosecution. Finally, in 1973, 20,000 documents that had been stored in the wrong place were discovered. The rest were incinerated by the CIA to cover up their crimes.

Oh, and remember when I said at the beginning that the CIA’s version started in the 1950s? Well, America wasn’t the first to try this. Much of the early work was done in Japanese facilities and in Nazi concentration camps. And our government thought it would be a good idea to keep their work going.


Lizzie Borden

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Lizzie Borden took an axe,

Gave her mother 40 whacks;

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father 41.

That poem is about Lizzie Borden, a spinster who was acquitted of the 1892 murder of her father and stepmother, although there was circumstantial evidence that pointed to her being the killer. The community shunned her after the trial.

Today, that house is a bed and breakfast where the morbidly curious often stay to witness the strange paranormal phenomena that often take place. Pictures of the crime scene have been known to tip over and slide across the floor for no apparent reason; voices can be heard in the walls during the night; and once, a visitor taking the tour had her phone go off after she had turned it off.

She told the group it was her mother. The guide asked her if she’d like to step out and take the call; the woman shook her head and said, “She died two years 


The Mary Celeste

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

On a voyage in the eastern Azores, British Captain David Morehouse spotted a ship in the distance that appeared to be adrift. He changes course to intercept the floundering vessel.

He recognizes the ship as the Mary Celeste, which had set sail from New York 8 days before Captain Morehouse himself had set sail. Upon boarding, members Maorhouse’s crew saw a ship that was quite seaworthy, had plenty of food and supplies, and a cargo that was secured and intact. The only thing missing was the lifeboat and the entire crew. Nobody was ever able to discover what became of those who were once aboard. 


The Texarkana Phantom

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Late at night on February 22, 1946, 25-year-old Jimmy Hollis and his girlfriend, Mary Jeanne Larey, were parked on Lover’s Lane, a secluded road in Texarkana, Texas. Suddenly, a man wearing a pillowcase mask with eye holes cut into it shined a flashlight into their eyes, instructed them to get out, and hit Hollis with a gun, causing multiple skull fractures. He then sexually assaulted Larey.

This was the first of four attacks over the course of 10 weeks that injured three and killed five people. In each attack, the victims were a couple and were killed by being shot.

It was the work of a serial killer. Local, state, and federal agencies performed thorough investigations; although an arrest was made, the suspect never went to trial for lack of evidence. The killer was never caught.



25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Between 1974 and 1991, ten people were murdered in the Wichita/Park City area of Kansas. The police and media outlets received letters describing the method of the murders in detail and also containing taunts, strange poetry, and suggestions as to what his serial killer name should be.

In the end, he was finally known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill). The killings stopped in 1991 and remained unsolved. People were understandably nervous and frightened during this time and wanted to beef up their security systems and safety measures.

In 2004, the letters began again. This time, detectives were able to trace the source to a man named Dennis Rader, a trained electrician, church board member, and serial killer. This is unnerving enough as it is, but this final fact makes it so much worse: his job during the time of his crimes? He worked as a security system installer for people afraid of BTK.


Lost Toys

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: www.bbc.com

Not all stories have to be supernatural to be scary. Sometimes you find out something about the everyday world in which we all exist that sends shivers down your spine. This horror story is one simple sentence long, and it should be the scariest thing you ever hear.

Are you ready? Your world will change after you hear this:

The United States currently has six nuclear weapons that have been lost or stolen. I have no idea where they are or who has them. Nuclear weapons are missing. 6 of them


The Bunny Man

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Air Force Cadet Robert Bennett and his fiance were parked in an open field across the road from the house of Bennett’s uncle. After a few moments, they saw something in the field running toward them. As it got closer, they realized it was someone dressed in a bunny suit and wielding a hatchet.

“The Bunny Man,” as he would come to be known, was screaming that they were trespassing and started to attack the car. This incident was repeated several times, all with slight variations, one reporting that The Bunny Man had eaten a local resident’s runaway cat. Finally, there was talk of missing children and murders seemingly attributed to the Bunny Man.

Since then, over 50 sightings of The Bunny Man have been reported, all at or near the Colchester Overpass, which has now been officially renamed “Bunny Man Bridge.” Some even swear that his ghost appears every Halloween to mark the anniversary of his death.



25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: commons.wikimedia.org

A young girl is sound asleep in her bed. It is a quiet night, and all seems well. Then, from under the bed, emerges a horrifying clown. The video goes viral. Then, the clown is seen wandering on the roadside in the middle of the night.

Before long, stickers of the clown with a phone number are seen on street signs, flyers, and the internet. People call the number and find out that the clown can be hired to scare anyone they’d like for a fee.

Eventually, a documentary is made, revealing the clown to be a 65-year-old, unidentified man. But then, a person claiming to be the real Wrinkles says that the man in the documentary is his alter-ego, and he, the real Wrinkles, is a performance artist, and the mystery will be explained in 2023.

Maybe it’s not horrifying, but it certainly is unsettling. The horrifying part is that in 2016, clown sightings began to take place. All through the US, Canada, parts of Europe, and as far as New Zealand, people began to see a solitary, evil-looking clown and sometimes entire groups standing along the roads, near schools, outside homes, seemingly everywhere.

No explanation has ever been learned about how or why this happened. And no arrests were ever made, which means they are all still out there.


The Stanley Hotel

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: commons.wikimedia.org

A writer is startled awake in the early morning hours after having a dream about his son trying to escape an evil entity (in the form of a fire hose) as it chases him through the halls of the hotel in which he is staying. He lights a cigarette and begins to write feverishly. By the time the cigarette has burned down, the bones of his book are set. He settles back to rest in room 217 and readies himself for another day.

The hotel was the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the writer was Steven King, and the story became The Shining. But the story gets weird if you think about it. At the time of King’s stay, the Stanley was on its last legs—once great but now rundown.

The hotel was used for the filming of The Shining, and King really hated the adaptation. So he puts together a little production company to film the book the way he wants it. In doing so, the hotel is essentially renovated in the main areas and now has notoriety as a boost.

So the dream comes to King in what is rumored to be a hotel filled with spirits and hauntings; he writes a book about said hotel; a movie is made there; the place is refurbished and renewed and is saved from decay and ruin. It sort of makes you wonder if the spirits of the hotel set in motion the means to its new life.



25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: commons.wikimedia.org

There is a murder. Then, news outlets receive a letter from the killer. The letter contains a cipher that must be solved, and the killer wants to be published. More murders happen, more letters are sent with the same cryptic ciphers and codes, and the killer’s claims get more and more outrageous. Sometimes he follows through, sometimes he doesn’t. Some of the letters even come with pieces of the victims’ clothing attached to prove he is the actual killer.

In all, there were five killings that could be attributed to the madman, two survivors, and 20–28 more killings believed to be the work of the killer, although he claimed to have murdered 37 people in total.

If this sounds like Riddler from The Batman, you wouldn’t be far off. This was the work of Zodiac, a real-life serial killer on whom Paul Dano’s Riddler character was based. For over a year, this game of cat and mouse murder was played. The police were never able to learn the identity of the killer.

Unlike in the movies, sometimes the bad guy wins.


The Kuykendalls

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: unsplash,com

You get a text from someone you don’t know. You wouldn’t usually make a big deal out of it, but this text says that the person sending it is going to murder your kids. The texts start to happen every day. And they get much worse and much more intimate.

The messages start to describe what you and your family are wearing or doing. Then you start receiving phone calls and messages that are recordings of your conversations—not your phone conversations, but your conversations that occur between family members in the home.

At this point, you are terrorized and contact the authorities, but they are stumped. They trace the calls, which appear to be coming from the phones of family members. Do you feel that anxiety creeping in yet?

This is a true story that happened to the Kuykendall family of Washington State. No reason was ever given for the harassment, and no one was charged because nobody was ever able to figure out how it was done.


Pa Hank

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: unsplash.com

On the podcast Monsters Among Us, a woman named Jaqueline told of her childhood when she would visit her grandparents in Oklahoma. She reminisced about sitting in the backyard with her grandfather while he told her stories about his life. One thing he told her was that he had been a bootlegger during prohibition! He was quite a character,” she said.

She said that it was one of her most cherished memories to sit with him while they talked and played together under a big tree in the backyard. The bond they had made her family happy as well. They always hoped that Jaqueline and “Pa Hank,” as she called him, would become close.

The odds were certainly stacked against it ever happening. You see, Pa Hank had died the year before Jaqueline was born.


Berkshire County

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Thomas Reed and his family drove along a country road one night in 1969. Above them, a disc roughly the size of a football field appears. They are engulfed in light and begin to feel like they are levitating. Other than a few flashes, they remember very little. Thomas awakes on his back in the back of his property, his daughter on the banks of a local lake.

You may think this is a made-up incident to elicit attention. But no. Over 40 other people reported seeing the same ship that night. The people were not connected in any way, but when they gave their stories, all of their details matched.

If you still think this is silly, consider this: In early 2022, the US government and the Pentagon confirmed over 400 interactions with 


Villisca Axe Murder House

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: www.villiscaiowa.com

It’s 1912, and the Moore family, along with two sisters who were friends of the Moore children, arrived at their home. They had just spent the evening at a children’s day celebration at their local Lutheran church, an event Mrs. Moore had helped plan. After spending some time together, they all settled down for a good night’s sleep.

Sometime before dawn, each of them, adults first, children after, and lastly their 2 little guests, were bludgeoned to death by an intruder (or intruders) that may or may not have been hiding out in the attic of the house, waiting for them all to go to sleep. The only person who received injuries from the blade side of the axe was the father.

Although there were many suspects, no arrests were ever made. The house is now a tourist attraction that gives tours and can be booked for overnight stays in one of the rooms where members of the family were slaughtered.

Sleep tight…


A Past Life

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It was the anniversary of 9/11, and a couple sat down to watch a special about the event. While they watched, their three-year-old daughter was coloring. As the television showed one of the planes hitting the tower, the little girl looked at the screen and, in an emotionless voice, said simply, “I died there.”

The parents sit in stunned silence as the little girl simply returns to her coloring. It has been said that children are especially receptive to the strange energies around them. That bond could be even more powerful when the child is connected to an event from another life.

After making her announcement about her previous death, every time anything about 9/11 came on, she would tell her parents, “Turn this off.” “I don’t want to see this.”


St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis CathedralImage: en.wikipedia.org

In New Orleans stands the St. Louis Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the area. You may be thinking, “These are supposed to be scary stories!” “Surely there would never be anything scary at church!” and you’d be so wrong.

St. Louis Cathedral is said to be haunted by many ghosts. One of the best known is Fr. Antonio de Savilla, who was a priest at the church. Many people say they have seen him walk down the alley next to the church, and parishioners have attested to having seen him at multiple Christmas masses.

But don’t think a kindly priest is the only spirit you could see. Among the devoted parishioners of St. Louis were the Voodoo queen, Maria Laveau, and socialite Delphine LaLaurie, one of the most evil women ever. Many have said these two practitioners of the dark arts still roam the grounds of the cathedral. 



25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: facebook.com

Most people in Western culture fall into one of three categories: they do not believe in ghosts and therefore do not care about them; they believe and are freaked out by them; or they have a completely open mind about the possibility of their existence. In eastern Asian countries, it would be far stranger for you not to believe in ghosts and restless spirits.

On the NPR podcast The Truth That Creeps Beneath Our Spooky Ghost Stories, Ryan MacMichael told about his experience while visiting his wife’s family in Vietnam. MacMichael tells of a figure that woke him up by shaking him. Because it was 3 a.m., MacMichael was still well out of it. The figure helped him stand and pointed him in the direction of the bathroom.

Now awake, he couldn’t make sense of what had just happened. He realized it couldn’t have been a member of the family as he had to unlock the door before leaving his room. The next morning, he told the family about the occurrence, and they seemed not to care at all. It was normal for them, and they told him that it was probably just the ghost of their grandfather who was trying to help him.


CCTV Hampton Court

25 Terrifying True Horror Stories

In 2003, a CCTV security camera captured what appeared to be a skeleton wearing clothes that looked hundreds of years old and who was closing a huge fire door. Originally not thinking much of it, security staff figured it was likely a camera glitch. While logging the guest book for that day, someone wrote that they saw a strange figure in that same area. When they went to the security footage, they saw the apparition clearly.

Some people believe it was camera trickery, but those familiar with Hampton Court Palace have no problem believing that Skeletor (the fun name they gave the apparition) is not the only spirit haunting the place. It is believed that King Henry VII’s third wife, the mild-mannered Jane Seymore, and fifth wife, the Screaming Queen, Catherine Howard, roam the halls. Also, the Grey Lady, Sybil Penn, a devoted former servant and wet nurse, also resides in the palace.


Stone's Public House

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

One evening during a private event, the manager of Stone’s Public House observed a father and son coming in the back door of the pub, where they had been watching the trains pass by on tracks that back up to the pub’s property.

He heard the boy telling his father, “Shouldn’t we help that crying girl out there?” The father replied, “You and I were the only ones out there, buddy!”

The son looked at us fathers in confusion and said, “She was right next to me!” “How could you not see her?”

The manager knew exactly who the boy was talking about. It was Mary, the daughter of a woman who had worked there and had been killed while playing near those very train tracks.

Stone’s Public House was built in the early 1800s. It is believed to be haunted by spirits that have been tied to the house since its construction.


The Watcher of New Jersey

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: Pinterest.com

A family moves into a beautiful 1.3 million-dollar home in New Jersey. The family is settled and happy; everyone loves the new neighborhood; and all seems well with the world. But then…

You start to receive letters from someone who will only identify themselves as “The Watcher.” The letters include phrases like “the house has been the subject of my family for decades.” I have been put in charge of watching and waiting until its second coming.

Soon, the letters will start to include references to your children. The Watcher writes, “Have they learned what is in the walls yet?” and “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me.

This story is completely true. It happened to a real family. No one was ever able to find The Watcher, and the family was forced to flee the house. A lawsuit has been filed against the previous owners.


Elisa Lam

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

A blogger travels through the western United States. She documents her trip to share it with the world. In late January of 2013, she checks into the infamous Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. On the 31st, the blogger disappears.

The only clue to her disappearance is a security video from the hotel elevator. In the video, the blogger, whose name is Elisa Lam, can be seen talking to invisible people, crouching down, and looking cautiously around the door.

She opens and closes the elevator door multiple times.

Finally, she exits the elevator and is never heard from again. Authorities search for her without results. In February, the hotel received complaints about the water having a foul smell and an odd taste.

A hotel employee went to check the water tanks located on the roof of the hotel. When he looks inside, he finds the decomposing body of Lam.

Although the authorities determined the death to be accidental, questions remain about how Lam was able to get to the roof, which is always locked, and get into the tank.


Delphine Lalaurie

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Anyone who knew Delphine Lalaurie thought she was an upstanding member of society. She was a New Orleans socialite, comfortable in the upper echelons of class and privilege.

As it was with most rich people of the day, LaLaurie owned many slaves who worked the grounds of the mansion as well as performing upkeep on the house itself.

In public, she was friends with many slaves from the different houses in town. Yes, she was a slave owner, but for her time, she appeared to be someone who cared deeply for them. Behind closed doors, things were very different.

What no one knew was that Delaurie was a vicious serial killer. Stories began to leak about her treatment of those she owned. One afternoon, a young girl fell to her death while she was on the roof, attempting to hide from horrific beatings.

On another day, a fire started at the mansion. As it turned out, the cook, who was chained to the stove 24/7, started it in an attempt to commit suicide.

When people came to help and save the slaves from the fire, the LaLauries would not allow it. After the door was broken down, the crowd was able to save quite a few.

What they found upstairs, however, was a shock. Bodies were laying all over the upper room of the house, some well into decomposition.

The ones who were still alive had been mutilated. They even found one that had had her bones broken and reset to resemble a crab. Investigations took place where dozens of bodies were found in the house and buried on the grounds.

The mob that found out about the horrors tore the house apart, leaving nothing standing but some walls. As for Lalaurie, she fled the mob and took a ship to France, where she lived out her days in exile.


HH Holmes

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

The legend of H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, is far more exaggerated than it should be. It was thought that Holmes designed a “Murder Castle” where he lured people visiting the Chicago World’s Fair.

The hotel was fashioned with trap doors, hidden chambers, gas chambers, a body chute, and a crematorium in the basement.

While some aspects of the story are true, the legend makes him out to be a homicidal genius. But the truth should be much scarier.

Holmes was a con artist who killed to steal identities, marry multiple women, and defraud investors and insurance companies. And yes, he was also a meticulous serial killer.

In reality, it’s not ghosts or monsters that we should fear; it’s our fellow man that is the most dangerous creature alive.


The Poe Toaster

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Every year, starting in 1949, a visitor wearing a black cloak with a white scarf would slip into the small church graveyard where Edgar Allen Poe was originally buried.

He said a few private words, laid three red roses on the grave marker, and left a bottle of French cognac for the deceased author, then slipped away back into the night.

It always happened on January 19th, Poe’s birthday, between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. A small group of people would always stand vigil and wait for the Poe Toaster (as he came to be called).

No one ever approached the figure or tried to unmask him, always giving him space and respect (aside from a 2006 unsuccessful attempt to unmask him).

This tradition went on for nearly 80 years before coming to an abrupt halt in 2010, when there was no visit.

The figure was never identified, and no sign of him could ever be found after he disappeared into the night.


Grandmas in the Cemetery

25 Terrifying True Horror StoriesImage: en.wikipedia.org

Another creepy story that was shared on the Monsters Among Us podcast was told by a man named Jeff who was driving with his son, Miles, in the Dayton, Ohio, area.

As they drove, they passed a small cemetery that only had flowers and plants, with small plaques to mark the graves. When they passed the little graveyard, Miles pointed and said, “Look at all those people!”

Turning to look, Jeff saw no one. He asked Miles what people he was talking about, and Miles said, “All those people over there!” “There sure are a lot of grandmothers there.” Miles explained that they were all just standing there, staring at the ground.

Late in the day, while Miles was watching his favorite cartoon, he passively said, “You know, they weren’t alive.” All those people we saw “They were on pause.”

I’m not kidding when I say that kids can be super creepy sometimes.

If you enjoyed reading about 25 Terrifying True Horror Stories, you’ll definitely enjoy “25 Camping Horror Stories!

Photo: 1. Simon Burchell, churchyard,_Barton_Stacey_18, CC BY-SA 4.0, 2. Midnightdreary, Poe Toaster, CC BY 3.0, 3. murderpedia.org, HH Holmes (Public Domain), 4. www.headstuff.org, Delphine Lalaurie (Public Domain), 5. LAPD, Missing Person (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 6. www.pinterest.com, The <a href="https://list25.com/25-terrifying-haunted-houses/" title="25 Terrifying Haunted Houses Few Are Brave Enough To Live In">Haunting of a Dream House</a> (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 7. DaveFrancis1971, Stone's Public House, CC BY 3.0, 8. , CCTV Hampton Court (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 9. NPR podcast, NPR podcast (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 10. Brandon, St. Louis Cathedral , CC BY 2.0, 11. joyshotsphotography, kid-coloring, CC BY-SA 3.0, 12. villiscaiowa, Villisca Axe Murder House (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 13. Dbenbenn, Berkshire County (Public Domain), 14. sebastiano_piazzi, grandad-holding-hand, CC BY-SA 3.0, 16. zodiackillerfacts, Zodiac killer (Public Domain), 17. Miguel Vieira, Stanley Hotel, CC BY 2.0, 18. D.Begley, Scary Clowns, CC BY 2.0, 19. KeeferC, The bunny man hatchet, 20. www.bbc.com, Lost nuke (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 21. Kansas Department of Corrections, DennisRader (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 23. Wikipedia, Mary Celeste (Public Domain), 24. Wikipedia, Lizzie Borden, 25. Central Intelligence Agency, MKultra (Public Domain)