Ask anyone who's served in the military to share some of their creepiest and scariest stories, and most of them will probably fill a book with their experiences. During their active military careers, these men and women have seen things that most people never knew existed. Sometimes that's for the better.
A Reddit thread recently asked people who have served in the military to share the creepiest, most haunting, and most traumatizing events they have witnessed during their service. We've taken some of the stories, compiled them into a list, and edited them for clarity, so take some time and take a look at just a few of the stories that stick with these soldiers all these years later.
What’s The Deal With The Pillows
“When I was in Bagram, you would always see the locals with pillows tied or taped around their chests. They were always digging holes as well.
The base was an old Russian military complex before we got there, and the Russians had mine fields all around the place. Some parts of the base were fenced off and had ‘caution mines’ signs posted.
I never went as far as to confirm exactly what was going on. However, I think we were having them dig up the areas to look for mines, and the pillows were supposed to serve as protection from the shrapnel.”
Even The Bravest Can Get A Little Spooked
“As a Marine, I used to have the graveyard patrol shift at the Beirut Bombing Memorial. Part of the memorial was dedicated to a veteran’s cemetery. Oddly enough, I never got freaked out being completely alone in a remote cemetery, in the middle of the night, surrounded by dense woods on all sides. It was actually kind of peaceful, to be honest.
However, one night, I was patrolling near the perimeter fence near some of the oldest headstones when I heard the sound of a woman humming. I followed the sound and noticed a light glowing through the vines and brush of a large tree. As I approached, I could literally feel my hair beginning to lift as if there was an electric current in the air.
I pushed aside the brush and what I saw nearly took my breath away. It was an old, weathered headstone with a large cross etched into the marble. Only the cross was glowing a bright, vivid blue, like a neon bulb. The humming was also suddenly much louder and had a weird plurality to it like it was coming from hundreds of voices at once.
Needless to say, I freaked out. I screamed like a scared little girl and sprinted back to the parking lot. I radioed the guard who was supposed to relieve me and forced him to come early, then spent the rest of my shift in the cab of his truck. I don’t think he believed me, but he stayed in his truck and didn’t go out on patrol until the sun was fully up.
A few days later, I worked up the nerve to return to the grave (during the day, of course). As I suspected, in the light of day it was a completely mundane headstone. There was no name, only the aforementioned cross. I ran my hands over the stone and checked to see if maybe there was some sort of hidden light source or solar panel, but no, it was just plain, solid, unremarkable stone. The humming was gone, too.
I eventually returned to my normal shift, but never again experienced anything out of the ordinary. I never learned whose grave that was, either, but I find myself thinking about it from time to time. It certainly sounds absurd when I say it out loud, and I suppose it could have been a hallucination or a trick of my tired brain, but I don’t believe it was. I think it was real; a ghost or spirit of some sort, but I don’t think it was malevolent at all.”
Some Things Are Just Left To Mystery
“A buddy of mine was stationed at Kadena Air Force Base in the early 2000s. It was a regular day full of standard base activity, indoors and out, when the sirens went off followed by a warning for all staff to report to the base’s mess hall. My friend (and everyone else) was quite confused but followed orders.
Upon arrival at the hall, they found it was full of the base’s staff with a uniformed officer taking roll. The base commander settled everyone down and advised them that everyone was just taking a short break, that there was nothing to worry about, and that everyone would be back to work shortly. Everyone sat at the long lunch tables, scratching their heads and discussing what could be up. This particular room in the hall had no windows.
Once the roll was completed and everyone accounted for, the commander left, and soldiers carrying automatics closed the doors to the hall and stood inside them at attention (essentially barring anyone from leaving). This raised the chatter quite a bit, but nobody panicked.
Only a couple of minutes later, an incredibly loud engine sound could be heard approaching the base. As whatever is making the noise lands, ‘it shook the entire island.
Framed photos fell off the wall and trophies in glass cases were shaken over. The engine hum and shaking then ceased. Chatter again rose sharply, as speculation about what was going on increased.
After about an hour, the noise started up, and the island shook again as whatever-it-is took off and quickly faded away. Shortly after, the base commander entered and said everyone could get back to work, warning them not to discuss that day’s ‘break’ and to simply forget about it.
When I asked him what he thought it was, he immediately suggested that it was some kind of classified spy plane needing to land for emergency repairs or refueling. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘since they kept us all from seeing it, I’ll never truly know.'”
“Please God, Don’t Take Me”
“Back when I was in Vietnam, I knew this guy name Jedidiah. He was a mechanic, didn’t have any combat roles, but we saw him every day as he was a good handyman.
Jedidiah was kind of stupid, but he was relatively street smart and he was honestly the kindest man you’d ever meet. He was always helping someone. He told us because he didn’t fight, he would make our job easier. He cooked good food for us, fixed things for us, stole things for us. Everybody loved Jedidiah.
Well, one day, our camp was hit by mortar fire and when it was all over Dwight (Jedidiah’s mechanic partner) screamed ‘JEDIDIAH’S HIT!’
We all rushed over to him, and he had a massive gash around his liver. We all picked him up and rushed him to a tent where our medic Matt began to work on him.
We had to hold Jedidiah’s guts in because they were just pouring out. He was screaming: ‘I want my momma! Momma, where are you! Please, momma, help me!’
At this point, I knew he was done, his wound was too great, but I kept holding on while praying for a miracle. Finally, he grunted, his guts started really forcing themselves out and he began screaming, ‘Please God, don’t take me, I’m not ready to die! I’ve still got so much left to do! I want to see my momma again! I’m not ready!’ He then grunted and started convulsing, blood started pouring out of his mouth, and after a few seconds, he went limp.
Even though he passed, we all stood there holding him. I think I was still holding down some of his liver. After a few moments, Matt let go, and so do the rest of us. And we all looked at his mangled corpse, guts practically hanging out of his stomach. That was pretty scary.
I had been in Vietnam for about a year, so I had seen plenty of mangled bodies but seeing such a pure, innocent, genuinely good person like Jedidiah dying in agony really hurt. It hurt even more as Jedidiah was black, so he died for a country that didn’t even love him.”
Everyone Was Accounted For, But They Continued To Hear Someone Scream
“After my dad got out of Vietnam, he was stationed at an air force base in Greenland. They had bad blizzards often there, and when they came through, the base shut down and every section of the barracks would take roll call. These blizzards are intense. There were cables running between all the buildings you attached to your person with a carabiner, so if there was a sudden whiteout, you didn’t get lost and die. They had people die 20 meters from the shelter because they got lost in bad weather and froze.
He said for about five months every time they locked down for weather, they would hear horrendous screaming outside. Everyone was accounted for, so they didn’t risk sending anyone out to investigate. They wrote it off as an animal. However, every time this was heard, the engine room would be wrecked. Tools everywhere, paperwork all over the floor, tables, and toolboxes knocked over, even one time a several-thousand-pound jet engine had been lifted from its workbench crane and smashed almost 30 feet away.
The hangars and engine room had cameras covering every single possible entrance with spotlights that made them clear even in a whiteout. No animals, no people, no anything was ever seen entering or leaving those buildings. Then one day it just stopped.”
The Circle Of Death
“My squad was put on a rooftop overlooking a particular intersection that had been nicknamed the circle of death. It connected the main supply route that ran north to south and into Kuwait and the main supply route that ran east to west. They connected just north of Baghdad and was infamous for roadside bombs at the time.
There were four houses surrounded by absolutely nothing, so we inserted two miles out at dusk, cleared all four, and settled on the roof with the best view. Around 3 am, a massive US convoy was moving north from Baghdad up through Taji. They decided to roll with white lights on, even though the standard operating procedure in the area was to be blacked out. The convoy commander thought they’d be able to see roadside bombs better, so they were advised to disregard our SOP. The problem with this was our location was marked with an infrared strobe. So without them having any night vision capabilities, they had no way of knowing that we were Americans. We all tried to stay low so they wouldn’t see our silhouette and just start blasting away (the .50’s would have torn the building and us to shreds). My platoon sergeant low crawled to each of us and said that our command was having trouble getting the convoy raised to advise them that we were out there. He said if we started getting shot at, we were to jump off the back of the roof (we were on the third floor) and if we were still conscious, to try and roll on top of the ones that weren’t.
Never have I ever felt so helpless or horrified.”
What He Saw Couldn’t Be Unseen
“A friend of mine was in the initial push in Baghdad, Iraq. A suspicious van was reported. When they arrived, it was rocking. They surrounded and figured it would turn up to be a good laugh. When they opened the van, what they found was all but funny.
Two men were assaulting a 10-year-old girl. Their medic froze as the girl, same age as his own daughter, was crying and bleeding. My friend, a Staff Sergeant, stepped in and held a gauze pad to stop the bleeding.
The two men were tried and punished to death by hanging.”
This Isn’t Your Normal Cleanup Duty
“I was in Kosovo around the turn of the millennium. We were called out to clean up after someone had attempted to blow up a bridge, by piling mines on top of each other.
After a certain amount of weight, one of the mines would trigger. That’s what happened on this particular bridge. The pillar of the bridge was mostly intact, with only a couple of minor scratches and dents. The two men attempting the destruction? Not. So. Much.
There was plenty left. All over.
It was surreal walking around and picking up a piece of a jaw (with some teeth on it) or a boot with a foot in it.”
Some People Are Not Built For This Type Of Pressure
“I was by myself in the engine room of a submarine on the midwatch, just a newly reported sailor trying to find equipment so I could display knowledge to one of the watchstanders.
There are a number of bays in engine room lower level with narrow passages that pass through the center. I came down one of the ladders, and I swore I saw someone walk across the ship about 15 feet in front of me. I could hear his footsteps as he walked around a corner and out of sight.
There were problems with this: 1) He was wearing utilities, an older, light blue blouse, and dark navy slacks. Nobody had utilities anymore. They had been phased out three years earlier. 2) There was only one other person awake in the engine room that late at night, and he was standing at the top of the ladder behind me, waiting for me to come back up with an answer to his question. I wrote it off as sleep deprivation, but I’ll admit it shook me for a while.
Four months later, I had gone out to sea with another submarine of the same type. While I was there, I met a sailor who had previously served on my ship. After a few weeks of standing watch with him, he told me a story of a sailor who had committed suicide while on watch when he served on my ship almost a decade earlier. In engine room lower level. In his utilities.
I wish I could have gotten a picture of the look on my face. I’m sure it was the definition of disbelief.”
When The “Bigwigs” Are Unsettled, There’s Definitely Trouble
“I used to work with a guy who’d spent 20 years in the Air Force, some of those being at Cheyenne Mountain. He’d sat in on a couple of high-level meetings involving discussion of UFOs (he was one of the background guys running the media projector, not actually one of the bigwigs at the table). The thing that stood out to him, as he told me later, was that nobody had an explanation for the incidents being discussed – things were definitely being observed and were being closely followed, but despite multiple experts and various governments weighing in, everyone was completely at a loss. But all agreed that some bizarre stuff was going down up in the sky, and the bigwigs were downright unsettled by it. It was unnerving, he said, to see the people in charge seem to have no information on something so big.
The guy was a kidder most of the time, but this was one time where I could tell he was not joking around. The hairs of the back of my neck prickled when he talked.”
A Sight He’ll Never Forget
“While serving in the US Army in Germany in the ’80s, my job was to guard the border and do patrols at night. One night, we came upon a balloon flying through the sky from the east. This was a no-fly zone, and to see this balloon freaked us out.
Later on, we found out that it was a group of defectors from East Germany flying in the balloon and they landed safely about four miles from us. Although I never got to see the family, I later found they had tried once before and failed. Freedom at all costs. I still have chills from seeing that thing blasting the gas nozzles to lift it along. It turned out to be a huge event, and the balloon caught fire and almost crashed. Shocking to see that thing coming across the border and wondering what it was.”
He Wasn’t The Only One Hearing This
“I was stationed on a base in the northern part Okinawa from 2015 to 2017. I work with ammunition and explosives, so I worked inside an area that stored all of it. This place was a gated off 250-acre area on the cliff side. This place had multiple mass graves from the WWII days. During my time there, an elderly Okinawan woman along with a large group came and toured through the area and she pointed some spots for the sites.
Sometimes stuff would happen that would require someone to go there during off hours. Because of my position at the time… it was always me. One night an alarm went off, and the standard protocol was for the MP’s to get one us from our barracks (me) and we would all head in and reset it. The MP’s were there to make sure it was not legit and to give you a ride since the area was huge. We made our way to the front gate and get let in by the guards. After driving up for a few minutes we made it to the alarm location.
The area was pretty well lit by orange-ish lights on the front of the structure. The rest of the place is pitch black. The only thing you could see was the next lit up structure down the road. I walked up to the panel and reset the alarm that constantly gives us problems. No biggy. Same stuff different day. I head back to the car with the MP’s and were kinda just standing around shooting the breeze before we headed back down. As we were getting the car and I was cramming myself into the backseat of this patrol car, I heard the loudest blood-curdling scream ever.
My blood pressure shot through the roof and we were all wide-eyed asking each other ‘what was that.’ One of the guys I was with said it must be a mongoose. There was no way. Then again this eardrum-shattering scream. We noped out into the car and started driving slowly away while the driver hit the treeline on the side of the road with his spotlight. Then again the scream! It stopped quickly but this time while the light shined through the wooded area we could hear branches moving. Like someone running towards us from within the jungle. We sped off down the road and to the front gate. We told the guards about it and they weren’t even surprised. Said they hear crazy stuff all the time. Sometimes they see the black figures way up the road just walking. That was my only experience. But I have some friends who have seen and heard wild things up there too.”
The Knowing Nod
“I was working the night shift in an old SCIF that was originally built back in the ’50s. I was starting to feel sleepy, so I went for a walk to wake myself up and ended up getting lost in the maze of underground tunnels, finding myself in a part of the complex that obviously hadn’t been used in decades. Everything looked like it was just left there and forgotten one day, eerily frozen in time.
I was extremely tired and stressed out from work and that really didn’t help me to be able to rationally retrace my steps. Everything around me seemed like something was hiding in the shadows and watching me. It took a long time, but I finally made it back to my position and didn’t tell anyone what happened. Luckily, it was the night shift and no one noticed I was gone.
A year later, we got a new guy, and in the middle of the night shift, he got up and went for a walk. A couple of hours later, he came back looking like he’d seen a ghost. I just gave him a knowing nod, and he knew I knew exactly what he just went through.”
They Had No Idea What They Hearing
“I was still in basic training, but we were on a week-long bout of guarding in the middle of nowhere, and I was stationed in this watchtower alone. There was a radio there (like proper civilian radio, not army/CB/walkie-talkie radio), and I noticed that it could also receive shortwave transmissions. I’ve never had a chance to try out shortwave but knew I could theoretically hear international broadcasts. It was late, I was bored, and even though it was against the rules, I turned it on and started jogging the dial.
It was mostly static, but then suddenly I heard a female voice. I tuned the radio so it was more voice than static and I tried to make out what she was saying. There was a robotic sounding woman who was slowly saying ‘Romeo, Charlie, Alpha, Zulu, Foxtrot, Sierra.’ Pause. ‘Romeo, Charlie, Alpha, Zulu, Foxtrot, Sierra.’ Pause. Then a tune played, silence, and then she started reading out words again.
I was freaking out by then but had no idea what was going on. I recognized that this was phonetic alphabet ‘code, but I had no idea why this was on the radio. I just turned off the radio and waited out the rest of my shift slightly more terrified of every sound I heard.
I had no idea at the time, but I encountered a real number station. The whole concept of number stations is pretty freaky on its own, but for me in the dark of the night in the middle of nowhere, it was terrifying. (Number Stations are radio stations that broadcast encoded messages to intelligence agents in the field. Anyone can listen, but only someone who knows how to decipher the message can understand. Usually, the messages are a mix of numbers and letters, combined with lullabies/ soft music and various voice types. No intelligence agencies confirm the use of Number Stations, but most of them (from many countries) use them.)”