Throughout history and across cultures there have long been tales of entities signifying the avatar or personification of death itself. These spirits, gods, whatever you want to call them, have taken many forms, but in many Western cultures this is the distinctive entity of the Grim Reaper. A tall, hooded, shadowy thing with its face concealed and carrying a scythe in many incarnations, it seems as if it must all be surely a piece of legend and myth. Yet, there are many cases of people who claim to have actually come across this specter of death, and they have quite the stories to tell.

There are actually a surprising number of accounts of people encountering cloaked entities that seem very much keeping with the image of the literal Grim Reaper in both appearance and behavior. Of course this entails the entity appearing before a person’s death, and sure enough there are numerous tales of encounters seeming to herald such a tragedy. One such account was given on LiveAbout, with a witness named Dale R., whose mother passed away in February of 2013, but not before some very strange phenomena would go down. His mother had been very sick in bed for the better part of a decade with kidney and heart problems, and making things somewhat more difficult for the family was the fact that their house itself seemed to be haunted, with shadowy apparitions spotted and instances of objects moving on their own, and with the odd activity picking up noticeably in the days leading up to the mother’s death. Dale says:

At night when she was in bed, mom would see a person walk from the highway in a red glow until it got to her bedroom. It would come through the wall and approach her side of the bed. It had a long black hat that came down to a point and glowing red eyes.


On February 2, my mom went to the hospital with a high heart rate and low blood pressure -- telltale signs of heart failure. She came back on two days later and was alright all that evening, had hear favorite dinner, and watched her programs. My brother and I came and spent the night once more. Then around 3:47 in the morning, she hollered because she saw that entity again. My brother and I went in, but nothing was there.


The following morning, my brother picked them up for dialysis, but by the time they made it 300 feet from the house, my mother had passed away in the vehicle. They got her to Marquette Hospital once more, where the neurologist had said she had no brain function... and she was gone. Now I think of the creature my brother and I saw at a local cemetery while driving by it one night. It was large and had tattered cloth on it. It was standing atop a freshly done grave. Though I know what my brother and I had seen for that split second was the Grim Reaper, I can't figure out what my mother had been seeing all those nights.

Another account comes from the site Encounters with the Unexplained, from a poster who says this happened in the year 2000, and that it gravitated towards his great grandfather. The man told him about a dream he had had the night before, which would seem to be in some ways darkly prophetic. The poster says:

I have my own story to tell of the Grim Reaper coming to visit a loved one. It was early 2000 - my great grandfather woke one morning to tell us of a dream he had the night before. He said, "the man with the sickle came for me last night." That immediately sent a chill right through me. He continued by telling us that the door bell rang and when he opened it there stood the hooded man with the sickle in hand. He looked at my great grandpa and said he was here for Jacob (he said his last name also). When I asked my great grandpa what he then said, he proceeded to tell us that he told the entity that he had the wrong house and slammed the door shut in its face!! That caused each of us to let out a giggle or two and set our fears aside for the time being. We knew it would not be long before we lost him, as he was saying other things relating to the "other side". A few months later grandpa died at the age of 92- three days following my great grandma.

Did this dream have anything with the deaths and was it perhaps more than just a dream? Who knows? From the site Ranker, we have the account of a woman who claims she had been sick in bed at a hospital, sharing a room with a terminally ill woman who rather disturbingly never spoke or reacted to anyone. However, this would change on the night just before the witness was meant to be discharged from the hospital, when she would awake to a very bizarre experience indeed, of which she reports:

I was awakened by a voice in my room. It was a woman's voice but I couldn't make out what she was saying. I opened my eyes but there was no one in the room, just me and my roommate, who was incoherent the entire time we shared our room. Assuming it was a nurse in the hall, I tried falling back asleep. Suddenly, there was a loud, frantic voice shouting, 'NO, NO YOU CANT TAKE ME! I WONT GO!' I opened open my eyes again and the room was much, much darker and my roommate was sitting straight up in her bed, screaming with complete and utter conviction towards the foot of her bed, almost like a child objecting to bed time. She crying, still sitting straight up, looking at something, listening very intently for what seemed like forever. She began to whisper 'yes' and 'no' between whimpers and then she laid back down and I watched the darkness leave the room.

Was this the literal Grim Reaper? Also from Ranker is a report from a woman calling herself Ashley Dawn, who claims that her grandmother had spoken of seeing apparitions of a hooded figure in the year leading up to her death from pneumonia. Ashley did not believe these stories at first, dismissing them as the rantings of an old woman, that is until she saw something strange for herself one evening. The witness explains what happened:

I turned and saw it beside my bed. There stood a small, dark figure, about three feet in height, wearing a black cloak with a hood, no face, about two feet from my face. It looked like a small grim reaper without the blade. I was in shock but not scared. I looked at it for about a minute, and then it turned, glided out of my room. I got out of my bed and followed it down the hall to my grandmother's room, where it faded away.

Eerily enough, the woman would see the same apparition on several occasions, always lurking about her grandmother’s room, and the sightings would stop upon the death of her grandmother. A very harrowing account of the Grim Reaper appearing before death comes form the site Weird Darkness, with a witness named Heather Circle saying that her aunt, Amy, had seen it after spending one whole day looking for her child’s sippy cup without success. It started when her husband John was away on a business trip, with Amy being woken one night by a loud thud and the sight of a 7-foot-tall cloaked apparition that exuded a frigid coldness about it and was surrounded by a stench like rotting meat. She says of what happened next:

Frozen with pure terror, she tried to scream, but no sound came out. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the creatures face. It had a very small head, about the size of a grapefruit, on its enormous shoulders. Its face was wrinkled and saggy, shriveled like a rotten apple. The eyes were like jet black dimes. It was draped in, what my aunt described as, an Eskimos coat, thick with fur lining. In its gloved hand, it held a little pink sippy cup. After a minute of the creature’s unsettling stare, it dropped the sippy cup onto the floor and walked away. When Amy received motion again, she grabbed John’s hunting rifle and cautiously cleared the house. She checked the children, who were still asleep in their beds and then called her husband and my mother. The next morning, she found the sippy cup and her remote laying in the middle of her hallway. Amy described to my mother that the creature that visited her felt like “death”. Two weeks later, at the age of 25, Amy was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

This would become more harrowing still when the witness herself would be visited by this entity in the days after this terrifying experience, as her and her mother struggled to take care of her ailing aunt. One evening she says that as she was waiting for her mother out in her car the beams of her headlights happened to be aimed tight at her sick aunt’s bedroom window, and that was when she saw something she cannot explain, and the ensuing sequence of events would convince her that her aunt had been telling the truth, and that this had been the literal Grim Reaper. She says:

I saw the curtains move and at the very top portion of the window, I saw a face looking out at me. I saw a small wrinkled head with little, shark-like, eyes. It grinned at me and then disappeared behind the curtains. Within seconds of seeing the creature, the car began to shake violently. I had never been more horrified. I screamed for my mother. As soon as my mother walked out of the front door, the car suddenly stopped. As soon as my mother got into the car, I cried and tried to explain what happened. I couldn’t speak right. I stuttered. The words wouldn’t flow. As we drove down the street, the car seemed to be pulling from one side of the road to the other. It felt like we had a flat tire. My mother pulled the car over and inspected the wheels. The lug nuts on all of the tires were loosened to the point of almost falling off. I knew right then that the creature that I saw staring at me through the window did this. It was trying to kill us. At the age of 26, my aunt Amy passed away. I know now that the creature that visited my aunt and showed itself to me was the Grim Reaper. It has been twenty years since this all happened, but I still find myself thinking about it all of the time. I’m always wondering when I’ll see the Grim Reaper again.

Moving on, we come to an account from Unexplained Mysteries, with a poster who says that the Grim Reaper was witnessed by his sister in the days leading up to the death of his nephew, who had been handicapped since suffering brain damage in a near drowning years before. He says that the phenomena started one night when his sister woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of footsteps in the hallway outside her bedroom, which she had presumed to be her visiting half-sister, but there was no response when she called out her name. As she waited there in the gloom wondering who it was out in the hall, a very frightening experience would unfold, of which he says:

An average sized (my sister estimated him to be around six feet tall) being hooded in a black robe entered the room, whispering an incomprehensible chant and ending each time with "ma-MA!". She said that the being's presence felt very evil and she was paralyzed with fear. The being, interestingly, seemed to glide over the floor even though she initially heard footsteps. He came around to her side of the bed, continuing the chant, which became louder every time he said it. He then took his hand and grabbed my sister's crotch, which hurt badly and continued to hurt for a few days afterwards. She yelled "STOP!" and the being disappeared. My sister then ran to check on her kids, who were all sleeping and unharmed. Not for long, though. Within a week's time, my handicapped nephew passed away.

At first it seems that no one made any connection between the death and the spooky incident, and it was mostly written off as sleep paralysis, but this notion began to change when he talked with his sister. Upon speaking with her, a person who he describes as a “very intelligent, professional, level-headed person,” he began to consider that something very strange was going on here, and he says:

When my sister first told me this story, the first thing that came to mind was sleep paralysis. However, she insisted that she wasn't even sleep, she was just lying on her bed and didn't even intend on sleeping because she wasn't particularly tired. She has never experienced anything like this before, and is not a huge believer in the paranormal.


My sister has always been a very intelligent, professional, level-headed person; no history of mental illness, proneness to hallucinations/delusions, etc. Both of us have been searching for some kind of an answer ever since and neither one of us can come up with much of a conclusion. I then began to consider the possibility of an emotional vision possibly stemming from the fact that her son hadn't been doing all that well at the time and her fears/concerns were projected as a visual experience, but she insists that the being was physical considering it grabbed her.


At first, she considered the entity to be a "demonic hooded figure", it was only after I asked her whether her son died soon before or after the experience that I considered the possibility of it being the "Grim Reaper". Again, I am still skeptical that this happened in a physical sense, but it has certainly made a lasting impression on her and she vehemently denies it being a hallucination, a dream, or sleep paralysis. I do believe her, she's not the type to just make things like this up, but we're both still searching for answers on what this could have been.

Grim Reaper or something else? There is a commenter on David’s Musings who says that the Grim reaper has followed him around to appear and herald death on a couple of occasions. The first came when he was just 8 years of age, when he was on a field trip to Sea World in Biloxi, MS. He had been having fun with his classmates enjoying the pleasant day out, when he found himself needing a bathroom break. This is where he would have his first experience with the omen of death, and he says:

In those days, you did nothing without a teacher's permission.  I don't know how it is today.  But, back then, you asked for permission even for a bathroom break.    I first looked for my teacher, Mrs. Gromsley (not sure on the spelling, it has been many years).  She was sitting on a park bench with another teacher and a man wearing a long grayish suit.  I thought that was odd since it was the middle of September and it was probably 93 degrees in the shade.  I tentatively went to where she was and asked to go to the bathroom.  I looked at the man....his skin was chalk white and stared at me with these deep, black bags around his eyes.  He was also quite bald.  I looked at him and then asked Mrs. Gromsley for permission to go to the bathroom.  She immediately smiled, looked to her left to see what I was looking at, and told me to go to the bathroom.  I thought it odd she did not introduce me to the man.  But, I went to the bathroom.  After washing my hands, I went outside to quite a commotion going on.  One of the teachers was screaming , several other teachers were around the bench where Mrs. Gromsley and the other teacher had been sitting.


Mrs. Gromsley had collapsed.  She was laying on the ground motionless and one of the other teachers was pushing on her chest.  A teacher apparently had found a pay phone (no such thing as cell phones in 1959 or 911 service).  and told the operator an ambulance was needed immediately at the park.  About thirty minutes later, an ambulance did finally arrive.  But, it was too late for Mrs. Gromsley.  I found out later from my mother that my beloved, gray-haired, third-grade teacher had died of a heart attack.  I remember crying about that.  I was not sure what death meant at eight-years old.  I just knew Mrs. Gromsley would not be teaching me any longer.


Several days after my teacher's funeral, I asked the other teacher (whose name escapes me) who was the bald-headed man sitting next to Mrs. Gromsley on the park bench.  She looked at me with puzzlement.  "There was no man sitting next to Mrs. Gromsley in the park, David," said the teacher.  I insisted there was a man seated next to Mrs. Gromsley and he stared at me the entire time I was there.  She told me I had to be mistaken, that the death of my teacher had me seeing things.  I insisted that was not the case.  The teacher dismissed my statement.  I asked several other people who were near Mrs. Gromsley and the teacher that day.  No one saw any man.  Nothing.  Only I saw him.  I told my mother about it and she just hugged me.  No one believed me.  I know what I saw.  Grim Reaper?  You tell me.

The very same witness claims to have seen the Grim Reaper the very next year, right around his 9th birthday. He says he had gone out on a cycling trip with some friends at the time with a friend he calls Ronnie, along with Ronnie’s brother Bill. At the time they were making their way to a peaceful waterfall they had been to before, which fed into a creek that was only about 4 feet deep. It was as they were all playing there that the witness says that he saw a stranger with blonde hair, in a tan-colored shirt and black pants directly behind Bill. He says of what happened next:

Panicked, I told Ronnie we had to go get Bill, there is a  man up there.  Ronnie looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  "It's only Bill.  What are you talking about, David.  It's not funny," said Ronnie.  I started running up there and so did Ronnie.  Bill was still looking at me with that odd smile on his face.  The man was still there.  "Who are you?" I asked the man.  He only looked at me with an expressionless face.  No movement, no blinking of his eyes, no nothing.   Now, both Bill and Ronnie looked at me as if I had completely lost it.  "David, this isn't funny.  Stop it!!!!," said Ronnie.  As Ronnie stepped toward Bill, he must have stepped on one of the many slippery, flat rocks in the creek.  Ronnie lost his balance and fell over the waterfall into the creek below.  Both Bill and I roared with laughter.  Neither one of us thought for a minute that Ronnie had hurt himself.

But, Ronnie had hurt himself.  When we got down from the top of the waterfall to the creek below, Ronnie was face-down in the water.  I pulled him up and discovered he was not breathing.  He also had blood pouring from the left side of his head.  I screamed at Bill to go get help at the Holloway residence, about a half-mile from us.  Bill took off on his bike, crying as hard as he could.  I lifted Ronnie up, and got him in a sitting position.  This got him to breathing again.  I had two blue towels that I had brought with me.  Both were blood red quickly as I tried wrapping them around Ronnie's head.  As I was doing this, I noticed the blonde haired man in tan shirt was only about 10 feet away from us. "Why don't you help me???," I asked frantically.  He, once again, just stared motionless at me.  I was only nine-years old.  But, I knew some choice words and I used them against this man.  It had no effect on him.  Finally, the man did make a move.  He looked to his left, looked back at me and disappeared into the forest.  Almost immediately, Bill and Mr. Holloway showed up in his pickup truck.  We took Ronnie to the hospital with Ronnie bleeding all over us.  Ronnie stopped breathing as soon as we got to the hospital.  None of the doctors could revive him.  A fractured skull usually meant death in 1960.  Plus, Ronnie had lost a lot of blood.  It was a miracle he lasted as long as he did.

So what are we dealing with in cases such as these? Are these instances of encountering the actual personification of Death itself? Is it just the imagination, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, or something else, all mixed with strange coincidences? One theory as to such sightings could be that these are entities of an inter-dimensional nature, taking the form of what we expect to see, in this case The Angel of Death. In this scenario, these are specters that have seeped over from some other parallel realm to somehow trick us for some inscrutable purpose we may never understand. Is that is what is going on here? Or is there perhaps a real Grim Reaper waiting in the shadows for us to die? There is no way at all to know, and such cases remain mere spooky curiosities for out consideration and pondering, and a testament to the age old belief in the very avatar of death itself.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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