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6 Terrifying Horror Stories That Will Keep You Up at Night

Ancient Theory

Author: Ancient Theory

Published: March 3, 2023 / Updated: March 22, 2023

Some of the most terrifying horror stories are not those with ghosts, demons, malevolent entities, or pagan rituals, but those based on true events.

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6 Terrifying Horror Stories That Will Keep You Up at Night

Tales of spooky places, weird occurrences, mysteries, and unexplainable apparitions have always fascinated people. 

While many of these short horror stories and urban legends are known only by small and isolated communities, some urban legends have surpassed the “local horror stories” classification and become known worldwide. 

Some originate in hundreds of years old tales, while others are contemporary and spread quickly on the internet.

Slender Man

Horror Stories - Slender Man

One such urban legend is the horror story of the Slender Man monster. 

It became popular in 2009 after a frightening tale was posted on the Something Awful forum as part of a competition. 

Contestants had to process and edit photos to depict strange creatures or mysterious and unexplained phenomena. The images had to be accompanied by a short horror story.

Several hundred horror enthusiasts participated in the competition. They posted thousands of such images, all accompanied by short horror stories, each more bizarre or frightening than the last. 

But two photographs were particularly noteworthy.

On June 10, 2009, a user known by his pseudonym Victor Surge (his real name was Erik Knudsen) posted two black-and-white photographs showing several children playing in a park. 

A dark silhouette was watching them from somewhere in the background. 

The images were accompanied by the following description:

One of the two photographs recovered from the party at Stirling City Library. The photos were taken on the day 14 children disappeared without a trace and show this strange silhouette which has become known to investigators as ‘Slender Man.’ The deformities were cataloged as defects of the film. Stirling City Library was engulfed by a devastating fire a week later. The actual photographs were confiscated by authorities – 1986.

Photographer: Mary Thomas, disappeared on June 13, 1986.

Knudsen’s horror story caught the public’s attention. Thousands of forum users picked it up and posted it on other similar websites and forums. 

Users described the strange creature as a very tall man (likely over two meters tall), skinny, and wearing a black suit. 

His unusually long arms hung, like tentacles, almost to his knees. The creature had no facial features.

As the legend of Slender Man grew in popularity, people worldwide came up with evidence to prove the monster could actually be real. 

The narrative changed from the typical horror story imagined by Erik Knudsen to a genuine phenomenon that had enthralled thousands of paranormal enthusiasts, all trying to prove the story’s authenticity.

For example, some mystery enthusiasts from Brazil published several photos showing various rock paintings discovered by archeologists in the 1980s. 

The drawings depicted abnormally tall, frail individuals with very long arms. 

Other amateur researchers uncovered some bizarre German horror stories about a creature called “Der Grossman” (eng. “The Tall Man”) that, around the year 1700, had supposedly terrorized the villages south of the Black Forest. 

Another Eastern European legend mentions the existence of a “Tall Man” who, around 1800, had allegedly lured and killed several children.

Here’s a brief description of this “Tall Man,” as it was recorded in several old journals: 

The Tall Man stood in the glade, fully clad in black like a nobleman. Shadows danced around him, dark as a moonless night. He had many arms, all long and thin, like snakes, writhing like worms on a hook. He did not speak but made his intentions clear.

The Statue

The Statue: A Terrifying Urban Legend

The horror story “The Statue” is a bone-chilling tale based on an actual event. 

Different versions of this urban legend circulate online, with some talking about a marble statue while others mention a tall clown doll. 

Regardless of the variant, this horror story remains a spine-tingling horror.

The events depicted in “The Statue” horror story allegedly happened in the house of an ordinary family in the United States. 

The couple hired a nanny to care for their two children – a girl and a boy – while they had to attend a fundraising party. The nanny was instructed about the children’s schedule and warned not to wander around the house decorated with valuable art pieces.

The nanny’s access was restricted to the living room, kitchen, and the children’s bedrooms upstairs.

However, when the young nanny stepped into the house, she immediately felt a strange disturbance in the air, like an inexplicable pressure from negative energy surrounding the house. 

Feeling uneasy, the girl quickly inspected the rooms she was allowed to access but noticed nothing unusual. Hence, she proceeded with her duties, preparing dinner and putting the children to bed. 

At around 10:00 PM, she went to the living room to relax with a glass of wine and a book.

A few minutes later, she heard a creaking sound from one of the room’s dim corners. There, she noticed a strange silhouette hiding in the darkness. 

Now, depending on the variant of this horror story, things are different. Some versions talk about a tall marble angel, a doll, or a harlequin figurine; others talk about a giant clown doll. 

The girl tried to move the statue to another room but found it unusually heavy. 

Confused and still scared, the nanny returned to the couch. However, she couldn’t escape the strange, inexplicable feeling that something wrong was about to happen.

A few moments later, she heard creaking footsteps on the old wooden floor… the statue was now a few steps closer. 

As the moonlight grotesquely reflected on the statue’s face, the girl noticed a large smile revealing sharp, shark-like teeth.

She immediately called the parents and asked if she could take the statue outside because something was wrong with it. 

After a few seconds of silence, the parents yelled at her to take the children and run to a neighbor’s house.

The horror story ends as puzzling as it began. The parents eventually told the nanny that they didn’t have any statue like the one she described in the house. Still, the children constantly complained about someone watching them while they slept. 

They also noticed bruises and scratch marks on the little girl’s body but wrongly assumed the older boy had inflicted them.

Police called by the parents found no trace of the statue in the house.

The urban legend of “The Statue” is a terrifying story that has spooked many people. The tale highlights the fear of the unknown and the idea that malevolent forces may lurk in our midst.

The Black-eyed Children

Ghost Stories - The Black-eyed Children

The “Black-eyed Children” legend began in the late 1990s in Abilene, Texas, after the journalist Brian Bethel published a story about his encounter with two mysterious teenagers. 

Bethel said he was sitting in his car outside a movie theater when two young boys knocked on his window. 

When he raised his eyes, Bethel noticed two boys who could not have been more than 14-15 years old. The adolescents wore hoodies and stood next to the car, completely motionless.

Not understanding what was happening, the reporter lowered the car window and asked them if they needed help. 

The boys requested a ride to their mother’s house, claiming they had forgotten their money and needed a ride to retrieve it.

However, when Bethel looked at the boys more closely, he noticed their eyes were entirely black and felt a sudden terror. 

“I felt as if Death itself had taken me and was trying to drag me into the abyss,” he recalls. 

While the adolescents were trying to convince him to let them get into his car, Bethel glanced at the digital display at the entrance to the cinema, noticing that the movie they were talking about had already started.

By the time it would have taken him to take the boys home to get their money, then back to the cinema to buy tickets, the movie would most likely have been almost over.

When Bethel tried to explain it was too late for the movie, the older-looking boy became more insistent, almost aggressive. 

They repeatedly said that the car ride would not take more than a few minutes and insisted on him opening the door. When he refused, one of the children started hitting the window with his fists. 

Overcome by panic and unable to utter a word, the journalist drove off at full speed and only pulled over 10-15 miles away from the cinema, near a bridge.

He eventually stopped a few kilometers from the cinema, near a bridge. But he immediately heard loud knocks on the window of his car and some distorted voices from outside: “We can’t come in unless you invite us. Let us in!”

This time Bethel didn’t stop the car until he got home. He recalls feeling close to death but could not explain why.

After publishing his story, Bethel received numerous messages from people claiming to have had similar experiences. 

Each time, it was about two children (not necessarily boys, some witnesses encountered a boy and a girl) who would ask for help. 

For example, one family awoke in the middle of the night to two children knocking on their door and asking to use their bathroom. They asked the owners for permission to enter. 

The children inspired fear and exerted inexplicable control over the victims.

Bethel gathered all the testimonies he received and turned them into a book entitled “The Black-eyed Children.” 

In an interview in 2016, Bethel stated that the mysterious appearances of the Black-eyed Children have significantly decreased in recent years. 

Moreover, the journalist affirmed that in all the years of collecting testimonies, he had not found anyone who could tell him what would happen if the teenagers were allowed to enter.

Now the question arises whether the whole horror story is a hoax.

However, why would Brian Bethel, a successful local journalist, risk his entire career for a hoax? 

And if it were a bad joke, how do we explain that so many witnesses offered similar details, including descriptions that Bethel had not published until that point?

The Bunny Man

The Bunny Man: A Disturbing Horror Story

The unnerving urban legend of the “Bunny Man” has its roots in a small town in Virginia, USA, dating back to 1904.

As per this spine-chilling horror story, the local community was enraged by the authorities plan to expand a sanatorium that housed patients with severe mental disorders. 

The proposal was to construct a new wing that could hold more than a few dozen potentially violent patients. 

However, the town’s residents were apprehensive about having such an institution close to their homes and refused to cooperate.

After a massive protest, the authorities were compelled to abandon the project and, more significantly, shut down the existing sanatorium. 

As the patients were being transferred to another hospital, a bus carrying some of them was involved in a horrible accident. Most patients died on the spot, but a handful survived and escaped to a dense forest on the town’s outskirts.

Despite the authorities and local volunteers’ diligent search for the escaped patients, only Douglas Griffen and Marcus Lawster remained unaccounted for.

But this horror story doesn’t end here.

Weeks after the incident, the locals began to report sightings of a strange figure clad in a bunny suit near the forest. 

The bunny-clad figure reportedly terrorized the area and attacked anyone who approached it. It is believed that this figure was none other than one of the escaped patients, Douglas Griffen.

Many variations of the tale have surfaced over the years, with some even claiming that the Bunny Man was a vengeful spirit seeking retribution for the wrongs committed against him. 

Others have claimed that the Bunny Man was a deranged farmer who had gone mad and now stalks the countryside.

The Bunny Man legend has become integral to American folklore, spreading beyond Virginia and becoming popular nationwide. 

His story has been adapted into several books, movies, and documentaries, further cementing his place in American culture.

Despite the Bunny Man being a legendary figure, several sightings have been reported over the years. 

Many locals claim to have seen the Bunny Man standing in the woods, and some have even reported being attacked by him. These reports have only added to the mystique and horror surrounding the Bunny Man.

The Bunny Man is a legendary figure whose story has captured people’s imagination across the United States. 

Whether he was real or a product of the townsfolk’s imaginations, the Bunny Man’s story fascinates and terrifies audiences with its perplexing complexity and suspenseful narratives.

The Smiling Man

Horror Stories - The Smiling Man

One of the most spine-chilling urban myths is that of the “Smiling Man.” This terrifying tale originated in Seattle, United States, in 2011.

According to an online article, an outdoor enthusiast was on his usual evening walk when he spotted a stranger a few dozen feets away. 

Seeing someone else enjoying a night walk was not unusual, but the man’s bizarre movements caught his attention. 

The stranger was gracefully dancing, jumping from one foot to another, and performing complicated pirouettes effortlessly. He was tall, skinny, and wore a faded suit. 

His head was tilted far back, his gaze fixed on the sky, and his face was imprinted with a peculiar smile. Frightened, the young man crossed to the other side of the road to avoid contact. 

But suddenly, the mysterious character vanished.

Puzzled by the strange occurrence, the man turned around, intending to return home. But seconds later, he was interrupted by the sound of a broken street lamp. 

And there he saw him again. The same stranger sitting in the shadows under a broken street lamp. Then, the unusual character took a step into the light. 

His eyes fixed on the sky, and with the same terrifying smile on his face. He took another step and stopped for another few seconds. 

Then another step and another and so on… slowly approaching the young man who was just staying in place, mesmerized by the stranger’s dance and his unnatural pirouettes. 

Suddenly, the stranger rushed towards the young man with incredible speed, his torso bent forward and his arms flailing like they were being carried by the wind. 

His glassy eyes fixed on the young man, and his strange smile turned into a macabre grin revealing small, sharp teeth.

The young man’s heart pounded in his chest as he ran. 

He stumbled and fell, scratching his palms and knees. But he got up and kept running without looking back. 

He could feel the creature’s breath on his neck – the smell of death, the overwhelming miasma of a walking corpse thirsting for blood.

Exhausted and wounded, the young man jumped over the wooden fence, opened the door, stepped in, and slammed the door shut behind him. 

He was safe in his house. 

The creature, seemingly mad with rage, violently banged his head on the door, growling and screaming. 

Then nothing. Just silence. 

The young man looked outside and saw the creature vanishing into the night, dancing gracefully, jumping from one foot to another, and performing complicated pirouettes effortlessly.

The Midnight Game

The Midnight Game

The Midnight Game is a supposed pagan ritual that has turned into a famous horror story, much like the tale of Bloody Mary. 

The game can be played by anyone with the necessary materials, but be warned: this is not for the faint of heart.

To play The Midnight Game, you will need a few items: a candle (regular or black), a few drops of your blood, something to write with (pencil, pen, marker, or crayon), a source of fire (a lighter, matches, etc.), a sheet of paper, and salt. 

It is also crucial that the game takes place in a room with at least one wooden door.

If more than one person is playing, each person should bring their own materials.

According to the horror story, here’s how to play the game:

  1. Gather all participants in the center of the room;
  2. Use the salt to draw a circle around each player. Make sure the circle is uninterrupted;
  3. Each participant must write his name on a piece of paper, fold it, and drip a few drops of blood on it;
  4. Turn off all lights in the room;
  5. Go to the door and put the paper on the floor right in front of the door;
  6. Light the candle and place it on top of the paper;
  7. Knock on the door 22 times. You must time it, so the knock happens at midnight;
  8. Quickly open the door, blow out the candle, and shut the door;
  9. Immediately return to the center of the room, step inside the salt circle, and relight your candle. 

The Midnight Game has begun, and the Entity is already in the room.

Once the game begins, the only objective is survival while the Entity is in the room. Participants may feel a cold draft or hear whispers; some have even reported seeing a silhouette in the darkness.

It’s crucial to not let the candle go out and to stay within the salt circle, as the Entity may try to lure you out of the protected area. 

Trust no one, not even the other players. 

The game will continue until 3:33 AM when the Entity will leave.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during the game:

  • Do not turn on the lights in the room;
  • Do not use any other light sources other than your candle once the Entity has entered the room;
  • Stay awake until the game is over;
  • Do not use someone else’s blood for your game;
  • Do not provoke the Entity in any way.

According to this horror story, the Entity cannot be banished permanently once summoned, even if the game is finished. It will continue to follow those who called it into the world.

The Midnight Game is not recommended for people who are easily frightened or do not believe in pagan rituals. 

If you’re up for the challenge, play at your own risk.

At Ancient Theory we only use trusted sources to document our articles. Such relevant sources include authentic documents, newspaper and magazine articles, established authors, or reputable websites.

  • Mehera Bonner - The True Story of Slender Man Is So Much Creepier Than You Ever Realized.
  • Slender Man - [Source]
  • Katie White - 7 Terrifying Tales From the World’s Most Haunted Museums, From the Red Man of the Louvre to Monet’s Restless Ghost in Cleveland.
  • Don’t Let Them In! The Urban Legends of Black-Eyed Children.
  • Black-eyed children. [Source]
  • Bunny Man. [Source]
  • Antics of 'Bunny Man' Start Police Hopping. The Minneapolis Star.