One creepy locale that has become so entrenched in horror film and fiction that it has become a long-running trope is that of the creepy, dark basement. It is perhaps not surprising that such places down there in the dank depths of the earth with their creeping shadows should draw to them such a reputation, and they indeed make a really great set piece for horror. What is perhaps surprising is that there are numerous accounts from people who have had some rather frightening paranormal experiences down in basements, every bit as disturbing as anything within a horror film but supposedly real.
One of the weirder accounts of something odd lurking in a basement is actually one that was relayed to me by a reader some time ago. The witness, who calls herself “Jenny,” says that when she was around 14 years old she had a very unusual encounter while staying at her grandparent’s house one summer in the state of Maine. She says that the house was rather old, and had an expansive basement downstairs, which was used mostly as storage, since her grandparents could not easily get up and down the stairs. Due to the limits of space for everyone, she was left mostly sleeping in the living room, which shared a door that led directly down into the darkness of that place, and from which she on several consecutive nights heard a scrabbling, scratching sound coming from within, like clawed scampering feet. When she told her father about what she was hearing, he just told her it was probably rats or raccoons, and that was the end of it. Yet the anomalous sounds persisted, and one night she decided to crack the door open and take a look for herself. She would say of what happened next:
I creaked the door open and looked down into the dark, but all there was were those scratching sounds. I turned on the basement light, but it did little to illuminate what was down there. I was young and curious, so I took some wary steps down the stairs. Those sounds were more pronounced down there, and I was getting scared, but still curious.
The light barely reached to the bottom of the stairs, and I peered at that stone floor, expecting a rat or something to go skittering across. What I did not expect was the thing that loped past. It looked like “Gollum” from Lord of the Rings. Pale, hairless, hunched over, and with glinting eyes that reflected the light when it stared back at me. It seemed to grin for a second, and then scampered off. I screamed and ran to my sleeping father to wake him, but when he went down to check it out there was nothing there. Weirdly, there was another door that led out to the outside, and it was found to be ajar. My dad said it was just raccoons or a stray cat, but I know better.
An eerily similar account was posted on Reddit by a user calling herself “Claire.” She says that her and her husband had finally bought their dream house on the edge of a large forest, and that she had been rather happy with the arrangement at first, but something would change all of that. At the time her husband was apparently staying with a friend while he cleared up some business with his old job, so it was just her there in their new home with their dogs for the weekend. It was then that a strange series of events would begin to unfold. She says:
“I was unpacking boxes of our books and cd’s when, by accident, I opened a box of Christmas decorations. Chris and I had decided for our unused stuff to be stored the basement, as it was just a cement hole anyway. A cold, windowless room not much bigger than a walk-in closet. I walked down the wooden stairs and dropped the box in a corner when I noticed there was a small hatch on the wall under the staircase. Initially I got really excited, as I thought it was a safe or something. But then I noticed there was only a latch on it to lock it from the outside. I wondered if it could be a door, but the opening was quite narrow. A small person, such as myself, would maybe fit, but say, my husband, would have trouble fitting through. Stepping closer, I noticed a small plaque, that said: “KEEP SHUT AT ALL TIMES.” Naturally, I opened it anyway. There really wasn’t anything to see, though. It was really dark inside and the light from the basement was way too dim to light it at all. From inside came a clicking or snapping kind of noise. Not quite rhythmic but frequent enough that I thought it maybe was some type of machine. I didn’t dare sticking my head or limbs in for fear of getting electrocuted or cut in half, so I shut the hatch and resolved to take a look when I’d unpacked my flashlight.”
That would have been the end of it if it weren’t for the odd occurrences that would happen over the next few days. It began with her dogs acting oddly at all hours, barking at nothing or sniffing and growling at the shadows pooled into the corners of rooms, especially at the entrance to the basement. She then started to hear a faint clicking sound emanating from beyond the space behind the hatch, down in the basement, and she called her husband to tell him she thought they had an infestation of rats. In the meantime her dogs continued to act up, scratching at the floor and walls for no reason and licking her face to wake her up at all hours. It was on one of these occasions that the whole thing would take a swift right-hand turn into the bizarre. She would say of what happened next:
That morning, one of the dogs decided to pull me out of my slumber by aggressively licking my face. I groggily pushed it off and pulled the sheets over my face when I remembered the scratching. I cursed and hastily got up to check if he’d ruined the door, but then I noticed both the dogs were in my bedroom. Whatever had scratched the door last night was not one of my dogs (oh and it ruined the door by the way, nice). Also, when I went down for breakfast I noticed the bowl of dog food was completely empty, even though I’d just refilled it the night before. When I called Chris that evening I told him I thought we had an infestation of something big. You might think that I would have been scared at this point, but I hadn’t quite connected the dots and we live in an old house, so I figured anything was possible.
It must have been past midnight when I woke up from the motion activated lights in the backyard switching on. Half asleep I turned to look and what I saw shocked me wide awake. About thirty feet away stood a tall, slender humanoid figure. It was hunched over as it drank from the bird bath we had just put in the garden a few days ago. For a few seconds I just sat there, frozen in fear, watching it drink. The creature had long, thin limbs and its skin was pitch black. Like a shadow that just rose from the pavement and became a person. It seemed emaciated, the bones were sticking out so far under it’s dry skin it looked as if they were gonna pop out. And when it rose up, it’s face… God, that face will haunt me forever. Its clouded grey eyes lay way too deep in its skull. The worst part though, was the mouth. It was so big and it had so many teeth and it was somehow contorted in what almost seemed to be a smile. And it was looking right at me. For a second I thought that was the end of me, but then it just backed away into the darkness. As it sunk into the shadows it become immediately invisible. I heard the leaves rustle further into the woods and it was gone.
I locked myself and the dogs in the bathroom and quietly cried until sunrise. I eventually gathered up the courage to get out. That was this morning. I called Chris and told him everything, he said he’d come over ASAP. He should be here before dinner. I decided to unpack some more boxes today, to take my mind off of it all (and also because I didn’t want Chris to know I’d put it off all week). But while putting more boxes in the basement, to my horror I discovered the hatch was all the way open. I definitely closed it Sunday. I’m a hundred percent sure. I didn’t lock it. Whatever was in there, it’s out.
What in the world was going on here, and what was that thing? Strange basement dwelling humanoids make another appearance here with an account from Your Ghost Stories, by a witness who says that when her and her sister were children they went down into the basement of their home to fetch some waffles from the large chest freezer that was kept down there. She would explain:
Our bedroom is in the basement. When you walk down the stairs you enter the playroom. If you keep going forwards you will enter our bedroom. If you take a left at the bottom of the stairs then you enter the room we were currently in. (I’m not sure of the correct words to use to describe the layout so I just used a basic explanation). As we got to the bottom of the stairs my sister flicked the light off to the computer room (The computer room is where the freezer is). “Hurry up.”
My sister started rushing me, looking behind her the whole time. She was pushing a little bit as we made our way upstairs. When we got upstairs to the kitchen she sat in a corner and burst into tears. Our mother (In the kitchen at the time) came over and asked what was wrong. My sister explained how she had looked towards our bedroom after turning off the lights and saw a pale figure standing in the doorway. She told us that it looked like a short human with no features or clothing. It was just a peach coloured humanoid figure with no face, no genitals, nothing but white spiked hair (Much like that of Toshiro Hitsugaya from the anime Bleach) and insisted that she saw it slowly making its way towards us.
After hearing the story our mother went downstairs to see what it was (Possibly a burglar or something) but came back with no explanation. We concluded that it was probably just her imagination or maybe some sleep in her eyes. We’ve lived in this house for three to four years after that and haven’t had any other experiences with anything of the sort since.
What was this creature or entity and where did it come from? Was this a ghost, an inter-dimensional interloper, or something else? It is hard to say. Other accounts seem to point at what seems to be some sort of ghostly entity or even a demon, although what exactly it is remains unknown. Take the account from a witness calling herself “Carrie,” who also relayed her experience to Your Ghost Stories. She says of her creepy encounter:
My roomies and I just moved into our new house about a month ago, and since the basement was a nice clean finished basement I wanted my room to be down there. Starting from about a week after we moved in I have been waking up in the middle of the night to hearing voices, I would go upstairs and of course everyone would be sleeping, so I just assume they were dreams etc.
That was until last night, I had just turned out the lights and lay down and was wide awake mind you when I heard a small child laughing sounded like it was right in front of my face! So very freaked out I turned my light back on and TV and calmed down trying to think of any logical explanation-of course there wasn’t one. I finally fell asleep and woke up around 4 a.m. To extreme pain in my leg I looked and I had a bright red bite mark and small handprint on my leg… I did not tell my roomies this morning as I’m sure they wouldn’t believe me considering they don’t believe in ghosts, demons, or anything supernatural. Also in our utility room off from the basement, some previous tenants (I’m assuming) had wrote 666 and had drawn pentagrams on the walls, but I painted over that before we even moved in.
In another case we have something that seems to to be rather vague and ambiguous, yet very creepy and food for thought nonetheless. The Reddit witness simply says:
Mommy told me never to go in the basement, but I wanted to see what was making that noise. It kind of sounded like a puppy, and I wanted to see the puppy, so I opened the basement door and tiptoed down a bit. I didn’t see a puppy, and then Mommy yanked me out of the basement and yelled at me. Mommy had never yelled at me before, and it made me sad and I cried. Then Mommy told me never to go into the basement again, and she gave me a cookie. That made me feel better, so I didn’t ask her why the boy in the basement was making noises like a puppy, or why he had no hands or feet.
There is frustratingly little other detail given, so what in the world did this witness see? Another account on ThoughtCo. starts with the witness explaining how their house is located on what was once an open prairie that had various Native artifacts lying around. Creepy enough already, but it gets even more so. The witness says that not long after moving in he would often hear the sound of someone walking about even when no one was there, especially at night, and that he would have a very surreal experience down in the basement of the home. The witness describes how one day he and his friend came to the home on a hot day and decided to hang out in the basement, and he says of his experience:
We walked inside and headed straight for the basement where it was cooler than the rest of the house. While walking down the stairs I noticed that The Beatles Yellow Submarine poster hanging at the bottom of the stairwell was tilted slightly to the left. No bother I figured, it must have gotten bumped by me or something. I fixed it and we walked into the main room. Mind you, we had pictures and posters hanging everywhere in the basement. What my friend and I saw instantly creeped us out. All 10-15 pictures on the walls were each tilted slightly to the left. Just as the Beatles one had been. But the weirdness of the situation didn’t stop there. The storage room (essentially a dirt floored room that is lifted about 4 feet off the ground) had its door cracked open. So I walk over and see a golden glow emanating out. There is a pull chord light located about 10 feet from the door that is turned on.
I hop up and into the storage room, crawl on my hands and knees to the light, and turn it off. Hoping that all of this had a natural explanation I call my mom up and ask her about it. She says she has no idea what I’m talking about and hasn’t been in the basement for weeks before she left on her trip. Shivers shoot down my spine. I look back into the storage room, and in the dirt there’s a footprint. The most distorted and mangled footprint imaginable. I’m frozen in fear. My friend is too. Without words, we look at one another each feeling a sickening, gut-wrenching feeling. I slammed the storage space door shut, locked it, and we bolted out of my house as fast as we could. I’ll never forget how sickening and mangled that footprint looked, and thinking that I had crawled in there to turn off the light still gives me shivers to this day.
Another report that seems like it must be a ghost or some demonic entity comes from The National Cryptid Society, and revolves around a witness who was in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, along with his nephew to check out a supposedly intensely haunted house in the area. The whole area is already a hot spot for paranormal activity, having been the site of some fierce Civil War era battles, and they were checking out a house that had supposedly been investigated by several paranormal TV shows. The witness describes what happened to them:
We didn’t trespass or anything, we had stayed on the sidewalk. And we thought it was a bit odd that there was fog on the windows constantly. I took my flashlight out to look around, and in the basement there was two glowing things which I assumed was just my flashlight hitting something that reflected. So I asked my nephew if he saw it too, by the time I turned around my nephew had ran to the car and I immediately followed.
I did a three point turn in front of the house, I turned my brights on and whatever it was turned and looked at me, with glowing red eyes. And from what I’ve seen the basement isn’t small, so this thing was standing at least 6 feet tall. It’s eyes were too wide apart to be a human, or any animal that I could think of. Through all the references, I immediately thought of the many werewolf movies I’d seen. That, or perhaps we saw a demon that night.
It certainly seems somewhat demonic in nature, whatever it was, and one is left to wonder just what it was they saw lurking down in that dank place. So far every one of these cases has originated in the basements of homes, but this is not always the case, and another quite possibly demonic case, and one that is certainly more violent in nature, is one that allegedly happened in the basement of a military base in Germany. The account was given by a witness named Adolph Schäfer, who claims to be the equivalent of a sergeant in the unified armed forces of Germany, called the Bundeswehr. He claims to have had a very anomalous experience when he was just a cadet at boot camp in East Germany. One evening at around 5 PM they were apparently out doing drills when they heard some sort of “eerie, unexplainable noises” coming from one of the nearby buildings. They did not think much of it at the time, but then at 8PM the power grid began to go on the fritz, with lights flickering everywhere, which was odd as it had been inspected just a few days before.
The base drill sergeant was convinced that it was just a faulty generator, and had the witness go out with three others to fix it. The men then made their way to the basement where the generators were kept, and there they found that two of the generators worked fine, although one had inexplicably been turned off. It was when they got to the larger third generator when things would get ominous down there in the dank basement, and the witness says of what happened next:
The third generator was the largest main source of power in the base. The first thing I noticed were the scratches: this seemingly super-hard-to-break hunk of metal had what I think were scratches and cuts – claw marks – piercing its outer metal shell like a buzzsaw. So deep, the scratches had cut the cords inside and had damaged the batteries as though they were paper. After a moment of thinking I knew this couldn’t have been a person doing this, seeing as nothing any cadet had could cut through that tough metal so easily, I immediately rushed up the stairs to tell my drill sergeant, hoping he would know what to do. He told me, “The most we can do is tell base command and put someone guard the door, and have the generator replaced. Good thing reporting this, cadet Schäfer.
After getting a pat on the back, I resumed my daily training routines without anything too odd happening. But some hours later, sometime in the night (I can’t be exactly sure when), I heard scratching noises, but not from the basement, they were too close and too loud… as if they were in the sleeping quarters. After that moment of realization, I opened my eyes and looked around. I saw what I thought was someone in the corner, going through a bag… But, when I looked around the room, sheer terror came into me: all the bunks were full, every one. “Wait….the hell?”, I thought to myself. But, then, as if it had heard what I was thinking, the “thing” in the corner turned to face me. It was a pale grey, with no nose, and claws like razors. This thing was skinny and two feet taller than my six-foot self. After that I just froze in a blank stare of horror. In my mind seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days….I think I passed out of terror, because all I remember after that is waking up to my buddies and sergeant looking at me, while talking to me, telling me I looked sick. And I felt sick too, like all energy from me was drained for days on end.
Was this a demon or some hideous entity from a realm beyond our own? Once again, we are left to merely speculate. These tales of basement encounters with the paranormal really seem to run a range of different types and details, leaving us to question and try to classify what was seen in any of them. There is of course the possibility that these are just the result of overactive imaginations, phantoms of the mind more than anything crouched there in the shadows, wraiths planted there by fear, all exacerbated by the innately spooky ambiance of these places. Yet, what if these people did see exactly what they say they did? Were these ghosts, demons, creatures from some other dimension, or something else? Why are they hiding down in the confines of these eerie basements? Who knows? Whatever one wants to think, basements are certainly inherently scary places that have a way of pricking at the back of our mind and conjuring up dread, and if there really are such monsters and specters out there in our world this seems like exactly where one should find them.