A man didn’t shower for 21 years because she was always watching. A high schooler’s best friend wouldn’t stay dead. A programmer brought more than just a game to life.
These aren’t your average campfire stories.
Reddit’s r/nosleep specializes in a unique brand of horror. The subreddit's writers want to torment you in your insomnia-addled midnight hours. And these aren’t cheap scare gags. They’re original works that are so creepy and hit so close to home, they might as well be real.
“NoSleep isn't tacky,” moderator TG_Alibi told me. “My favorite aspect of the community is the sense of interactivity. We have the rule of ‘Everything is true on NoSleep, even if it isn't,’ which helps the story spill into and carry on in the comments section.”
The subreddit prides itself on encouraging readers to not just believe what they read, but to question everything. So for a special Halloween treat, I asked r/nosleep’s moderators to select their favorite stories. Here’s what they sent.
1) “The M Show Fan Club” by lenalona
It’s every little girl’s dream to be part of a fanclub for their favorite TV show. Only when these girls sent for their membership, they got something unexpected in return.
They took the children first. They were all so excited that few parents objected. Still, three or four parents came along and that calmed the rest. The next bus was supposed to arrive within a few minutes, to bring everyone to the set.
When I heard that I was excited like never before.
I ran to the street to look around so I could be the first on the bus. Scarlett followed me.
I didn’t see the worried expression when Brandi’s mother talked to mine.
I didn’t understand why the police came not even an hour later.
2) “I found a USB stick / The Long Face” by Fyve
When a man finds a USB stick lying on the floor on his way to work, he decides to look inside for clues to its rightful owner. What he finds instead is a trail of email messages that should never have seen the light of day.
“It's just so creepy and unique. It's a story that makes you think.” —RastaMom
The weirdest thing happened to me today. I was getting rid of some old dvds (holy shit remember four lions? Such a good movie), and I noticed there were 5 dvds on one of the shelves in front of me. It made me think of The Long Face. I laughed at myself, but as I went to put the dvd I was holding into the bag, I saw a face. On the bag I mean. The two clips looked like eyes, and the opening looked like the mouth. Yeah laugh if you must. I got 2 dvds out of the bag and put them on the shelf. The face was gone after that. I probably knocked the bag into a different position.
3) “Plot holes” by omegaokami
True friendships last forever. Even after death.
“It expertly toes the line of our ‘everything is true while you're here’ rule and really gets you thinking.” —Ibitemynails
When I walked in, I could feel something. It was strange but familiar. It was the same feeling I got when I looked at Jake. That something wasn't right and it was just...off. However, here, it felt like a lingering feeling. Not this fresh "what the hell?" I got when I saw my friend. I stepped forward and looked down. Sure enough, there was the damn hole he fell through! I let out a sigh of relief and bent over. So I wasn't crazy! I slipped out my usual flashlight and shone it down into the hole. Yes! There was the wreck I saw him land on! Just... no Jake. Did he get free? Did he magically regenerate or something? I shone my flashlight up to look toward the hole in the second floor.
It wasn't there.
4) “Butcherface” by dash32
You never know what you’ll find when renovating an old home—especially when it’s wrapped in a dirty trash bag and stuffed in a hole in the ground.
“Really visceral and unsettling. It’s one of the few stories that has a relatively concrete antagonist, so you know exactly where the fear is coming from, but that doesn’t make it easier to handle. It’s spread over multiple parts and takes you on quite the ride.” —1000vultures
We tore the carpet up and started ripping out the floorboards when we found what looked like a hole dug about five feet into the ground under the floor. Chris jumped down there thinking he could get better leverage to tear up the boards when he said something was down there. His father got a flashlight and we jumped down to check it out. It turned out to be a very warn box. It looked similar to a shoebox but it was about three feet long and extremely damaged by the elements. It was so tattered that you wouldn't be able to pick it up in one piece. We believed that whatever was in it would be just as damaged, but when we ripped it open, we noticed that whatever was in it had the added protection of a black trash bag.
5) “The Soul Game” by BLOODWORTH
Kids can say the darndest things. And if you’re not careful, they can also get your child to join a cult.
“The BLOODWORTH stories made me almost vomit (because of the graphic and sensitive descriptions) but none have really kept me awake (just lights on and teddy bear guards).” —Tashiwa
“Stan’s my new best friend,” Jesse would say.
“I know. I can’t wait to meet him,” I’d say back.
“Mom, Stan is great. You should meet him. He’s my new best friend. The best in the world.”
We must’ve had this same conversation a thousand times that night. When I tucked Jesse in bed, he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. He put his little hand in front of his face and wiggled his index finger, telling me to come closer.
I bent over him and he put his hands to either side of his mouth. You know, the little kid way of telling a secret? Well I turned my head and he whispered something into my ear that chilled me. At the time, I didn’t know why it chilled me, but it did.
He whispered, “You believe me. Right, Mom?”
6) “Wrong Way Charlie” by SammyFowler
Some cats need more than nine lives.
“I wouldn't say that this story literally kept me up at night, but it's the single story that's stuck with me. The reason for this is that Wrong Way Charlie is just too realistic and hit a little too close to home. This didn't happen to me, but almost did, and the thought of what might have been is really haunting.” —Ibitemynails
The kittens were tiny versions of Midnight. Eight of them in total. All the same jet-black color—except for one; he had a speck of white fur above his nose, with white front paws to match. That one… that one was mine. I knew the moment I saw him.
7) “Correspondence” by bloodstains
An email exchange between friends evolves into a chilling mystery when words start appearing out of nowhere.
“That’s probably the strongest example of the kind of community and continuity you see on r/nosleep that I was talking about earlier. The long and short of it is that it’s a series of datamined communications between people that slowly grow to reveal some creepy and unsettling facts. The community really got involved in that one in the comments. There are different accounts that come into play. It’s some pretty intricate and interactive storytelling. Great stuff.” —1000vultures
It was like a scene from a bad horror flick. We walked up this decrepit shack—this place was a dump. I knocked on the door but no one answered so we started to walk back to the car. Just as I was getting into the car, I noticed an older woman standing in the window. It was fucking creepy dude.
8) “I found a video tape …” by hauntedtape
Nothing good can come from a camcorder found buried in the sand with water seeping from every crevice.
It seemed like the camcorder itself was pretty much trashed but we figured it still might be possible to recover the data on the tape itself. I had an older Sony digital camcorder at home that used the same type of tape. I took the tape and camcorder inside with me when John dropped me off at home later that day. I set it down on my computer desk and forgot about it for almost a week.
9) “Autopilot” by skarjo
It starts with one little change in routine. By the time the day is over, something is gone and you will never get it back.
Have you ever forgotten your phone?
When did you realise you’d forgotten it? I’m guessing you didn’t just smack your forehead and exclaim ‘damn’ apropos of nothing. The realisation probably didn’t dawn on you spontaneously. More likely, you reached for your phone, pawing open your pocket or handbag, and were momentarily confused by it not being there. Then you did a mental restep of the morning’s events.
10) “She found her way into my home” by wdalphin
He hasn’t slept in several days. It terrorized him without even having to touch or communicate. And it all started after the woman showed up in his yard that one afternoon.
Everything was dark, because my wife had gone to bed before me. Our bedroom looks out over the backyard, and my side of the bed faces the windows, so I have to go past them to get in. As I was doing so, I suddenly got that same deep dread feeling in my stomach that I had gotten the first time I saw the figure in the backyard. Something compelled me to hesitate by the windows. My hands were shaking as I pulled the curtain back a bit and peeked through the shades into the backyard. It was a clear night, so the backyard wasn't shrouded in darkness.
The best of r/nosleep, 2013-2016
It’s been nearly three years since we first looked at the best, most chilling stories on r/nosleep, and the community is still going strong. Here are five of the best new tales from 2013 to 2016. Don’t read them with the lights off. —Jay Hathaway
1) “That Wasn’t My Husband Who Slept Next to Me Last Night” by TorontoScared1
A Canadian physicist gets a call from his husband, saying he’ll be back from his trip soon. But if Chris isn’t back yet, then who—or what–was in their bed last night? They’d better figure it out quickly, because it’s coming for them, and there’s something inside its suitcase.
He began crossing the road. In smooth, very human, unassuming steps he made his way across the road. He was standing in the parking lot, holding his suitcase and slowly advancing towards us. By now we could all see his trade mark feature.
It was my husband. It was my Christopher. It was the love of my life, but with the most grotesque oversized, swollen upper lip. It looked infected and engorged. I put both my hands on my Christopher, shielding him from the creature that was approaching from the passenger side of the vehicle. He came extremely close.
2) “Room 733” by The_Dalek_Emperor
There’s something strange happening in empty dorm room 733, popularly known as “The Suicide Room,” and the two girls living next door just want to get away before it happens to them. They only have to make it one more weekend before they can move out…
Someone was in there. Suddenly more angry than scared I again threw open our door and stomped over to the supposedly empty supply room. I banged on the door loudly not caring who else I woke up at this point.
"Are you fucking kidding me?!” I yelled at the door. “This shit isn't funny anymore. Come out of that fucking room, you asshole."
Silence. And then the doorknob started to turn.
I don't know what I'd expected to happen but it wasn't that. I backed up so far from the door that I ran into the opposite wall. When the handle had turned all the way down, something started to push from the other side. The door groaned loudly but the locks held.
3) “Borrasca” by The_Dalek_Emperor
A longer story, but worth it. This truly horrifying tale was the winner of r/nosleep’s Scariest Story of 2015 contest. It involves a mysterious treehouse, a place in the woods where terrible things happen, disappearing girls, and a conspiracy that seems to have driven a whole town insane. Where or what is Borrasca, and what dark secrets does it hold? The twist at the end is gut-wrenching.
I fell as I ran up to the tree, calling my sister’s name to the quiet wild. Kyle was right behind me and leapt impressively onto the rope ladder, climbing quickly up the planks. I kept calling Whitney’s name, waiting for Kyle to yell that he’d found her or that there was at least some sign of her.
And then I heard Kimber quietly say my name from where she stood at the Triple Tree. I ran over and tried to follow her eyes to confirm what I already knew was there. And then I found it, freshly carved near the top.
My breath froze in my chest and my vision blurred with unwelcome tears. And as the sun took its last desperate breath before plunging into the deep of the horizon, a deafening metallic whirl sang out from the wilderness and spilled down the mountainside.
4) “Operation Stingray” by Jaunt-701
Operation Stingray is in effect. God help us. This story of a sinister mind-control experiment begins with the disappearance of the protagonist’s good friend, a scientist, and follows the attempt to shut down Stingray before it’s too late. But phase three is starting soon, and it’s especially ghastly.
“Okay, Brian,” I whispered. “I found him. You said I'd know what to do when I found him, and I did. So now what?”
I walked out of the graveyard and back toward the town. I had to have missed something. Maybe LaFarge was just a code name or something, and I had to contact him a different way. Maybe there was another LaFarge in the town, and the bar hicks were just messing with me.
Or maybe I really was crazy.
My head was starting to feel better. The pill was wearing off. Either I was crazy, or they'd take over my brain soon. Either way, I was at a dead end.
5) “Infected Town” by vainer cupid
This one, about an Oregon ghost town with no name that’s been completely cordoned off, runs deep. It ties into a number of different stories around r/nosleep, all from people who claimed to encounter the same town. And some of the posters are starting to break down, posting cryptic comments and sending threatening messages. What the hell is going on in the infected town, and who’s behind it?
So, as for future plans, I’m still planning to go back, this time with reinforcements, and we’re going to figure out what’s happening there. It’s going to be me, Blake, and his girl Heather, who we met at a bar a couple nights after I got into town. They clicked immediately, so now we have a new team member. They’ve both been prepped on what’s going on, and both of them are aware of the risks and still willing to join me.
I haven’t slept well since leaving Oregon. I have nightmares nearly every night, the kind where something’s chasing you but you can’t see it, and you can’t quite get the muscles in your legs to move. I’ve mostly fixed the problem with melatonin tablets and Vodka (having no dreams at all is superior to having nightmares) but I’m hoping that exposure to mold spores hasn’t permanently altered my neurons or something (she says, as though she has any idea what she’s talking about).
Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevancy.
Illustration by Jason Reed | Snoo illustration via @redditnosleep