The Past Decade Has Been Terrifying IRL

by Hope Racine

Earlier this month, a photo of a cloaked figure near a North Carolina apartment playground went viral online, and according to the original report, residents of the complex in Gaston had been finding raw meat left around the area as well. Yeah, sounds like something freaky straight out of a horror flick. Let's be real though — a hooded figure dropping raw meat this summer is creepy, sure, but it isn't even one of the scariest news stories of the past 10 years.

This person in a Party City cape doesn't have me looking over my shoulder or jumping at every noise (and it turns out, it was just a college kid working on his homework). But there are some news stories that sound more like the plots fit for the silver screen than real life. Suddenly, you need to turn on all the lights just to read the morning news and do double takes as you pass by windows.

In case you don't feel like sleeping tonight, I've rounded up seven of the past decade's creepiest news stories. Some are harmless, but some are deeply disturbing. And each would be perfectly suited for Hollywood. (R.I.P. Wes Craven.)

Westfield Watcher

A family in Westfield, New Jersey, fled from their $1.3 million home after received horrifying letters from someone called "The Watcher." The Watcher claimed to have been tasked with watching the house, and he reportedly asked the former owners to bring him "young blood." The family had three children, and they were referenced in the letters. "I am pleased to know your names now, and the name of the young blood you have brought to me," one letter said. Another asked, "Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will." The news story broke this summer, when the family sued the former inhabitants of the house for not informing them of the letters. You can read the full case files here. It's horrifying.

California Clown

File this under something that is not at all funny. In 2014, there were more than 20 sightings of a clown hanging out in a California town several nights in a row leading up to Halloween. It appears that at first it was just one clown, and several copycats followed suit, including one who liked to chase children. It's possible that the creepy clown terrifying Californians was actually inspired by the equally terrifying Northampton Clown from England.

Texts From The Grave

Grandma had always been an avid texter, which is why one family chose to bury her with her cellphone. But in the weeks after her death, her granddaughter tried to cope with the grief by sending her grandmother texts. One day Grandma texted back, saying, "I'm watching over you, you'll get through this, you'll be alright." According to The Independent, it wasn't actually grandma — the number had been reassigned.

The Girl In The Water Tank

Elisa Lam's death is both creepy and deeply sad. The 21-year-old Canadian tourist's body was found floating in the water tank of a Los Angeles hotel after being there for up to 19 days. During that time, hotel guests had been using the water to shower, brush teeth, and drink. The water tank was covered and the roof door was locked, but the story doesn't stop there — the night of her death, Lam was recorded acting erratically in an elevator, pressing buttons, running in and out, and acting like she was hiding from someone who couldn't be seen on camera. Her death was ruled an accident. The case was so creepy that it's actually part of the inspiration behind the upcoming American Horror Story season.

The Worst Death Imaginable

In 2012, Jose Melena was doing repairs inside of a giant oven at the Bumble Bee Foods factory, but his coworkers didn't check the oven first before loading 12,000 pounds of tuna into the oven and turning it on. Melena was cooked to death inside of the oven, and the company was ordered to pay $6 million for "willfully violating worker safety rules" earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Don't Kill Me Elmo

A Florida family received an unwelcome surprise when 2-year-old son James' toy Elmo doll began singing "kill James." The Elmo Knows Your Name Doll was supposed to sing songs and recognize the owner's name, but one model became homicidal instead. The toy reportedly was working before the owner's mother changed the battery. Fisher-Price promised to replace the toy, and there's no word yet if other models also started spouting death threats.

Cell Phone Stalker

In 2007, a Washington family became the victims of an elaborate cell phone stalker. Their 16-year-old daughter Courtney's phone would send text messages by itself and would reportedly even turn itself on. Family members began receiving phone calls containing death threats or voicemail recordings of private family conversation — including conversations with police. The stalker knew details about what the family members were doing or wearing, and the creepiest thing of all is that all the calls traced back to family cell phones, even after changing numbers and getting new phones. The police were at a loss as to what was happening, or how.

Excuse me while I go hide in a corner. As if American Horror Story wasn't creepy enough, now I can't even escape being terrified by real life.

Images: Giphy