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17 Creepy Real Events That Actually Happened on Halloween

For some of us, October 31st is the most fun day of the year. For others, it’s the spookiest. And here’s why…


Spooky happenings

If Halloween movies are any indication, bad things always happen on Halloween. That’s just movie magic and the stuff of scary stories, you think, Halloween is just like any other day. And, most of the time, that’s very true. Halloween goes by without any creepy hitch or spine-chilling occurrences to be seen. Spooky vibes and moon-light nights are peak Halloween energy, sure, but it’s just another day—right? Not in these 17 cases.

Sometimes unexplainable, scary, or downright horrible things do happen on Halloween. Costumes, decorations, and fear all cumulate in a melting pot of potential, which sometimes has disastrous consequences. If you’re bummed that Halloween this year will be quite different, take a moment to read through these too-incredible-to-be-true stories of creepy events that actually took place on Halloween.

Tree and house in fogMark Zhyhman/Shutterstock

Wrong place at the wrong time

In 1992, a 16-year-old Japanese foreign exchange student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, paid the ultimate price after accidentally ringing the wrong doorbell on his way to a Halloween party, reports Japan Today. Yoshihiro Hattori had been unfamiliar with the neighborhood when he and a friend arrived at the home of Rodney Peairs, a nearby neighbor who opened the door armed with a .44 Magnum revolver. Although Hattori allegedly said, “we’re here for the party,” Peairs claimed he feared for his life and ordered the student to “Freeze!” When Hattori misunderstood the command and kept approaching, Peairs shot him. After being questioned, the perpetrator was arrested but later acquitted of manslaughter. It’s unknown what kind of Halloween costume Hattori wore to warrant such a reaction. Find out which Halloween costume was the most popular the year you were born.

houdini Courtesy Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Harry Houdini died after being punched by a college student

Famed magician Harry Houdini claimed he could take a blow to the abdomen without being taken down, and on October 22, 1926, a student at McGill University asked if he could prove it. Houdini, who’d been sitting in his dressing room during an engagement at the Montreal university, obliged. Although he had allegedly braced himself, the student’s four punches left the performer in great pain. After suffering for two days, Houdini decided to seek medical help, but by this time he was suffering from a severe fever and acute appendicitis. Defying doctor’s orders, he performed instead of undergoing the recommended emergency surgery. When the curtains closed, the magician collapsed. Despite having his appendix removed afterward, Houdini passed away on Halloween, surrounded by family.

Old ice skate on the floor. Off center. John Arehart/Shutterstock

A deadly finale

On Halloween day in 1963, the Indiana State Fair held a “Holidays on Ice” skating exhibition for a crowd of hundreds. The grand finale was not what anyone had expected: Unbeknownst to organizers at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, propane gas had been leaking from a nearby tank into the poorly ventilated room. During a final act called “Mardis Gras,” the propane gas caught fire, leading to a horrific explosion that propelled onlookers from their chairs. The death toll was 74, and 400 additional people were injured. Take a break from this to see the petition on changing the date of Halloween that is gaining traction all over the nation.

Cars in north forestVitaly Alyabyev/Shutterstock

A prank gone wrong

The tradition of throwing eggs at people on Halloween is, at best, a harmless prank—at worst, it can turn deadly. That was the case for Karl Jackson, a 21-year-old data entry clerk at Morgan Stanley, who usually never left the house on Halloween, as he thought it was dangerous; on October 31, 1995, his worst fear became a reality, reports the New York Times. Jackson had decided to venture out to pick up his girlfriend’s son from a party. Along the way, a group of teens pelted his car with eggs, so Jackson got out to confront them. But as he was getting back into the car, one of the pranksters pulled a gun and fatally shot him in the head.

Person walking alone into the fog, young men disappearing in the cloudsWilliam.Vaccaro/Shutterstock

Vanished without a trace

To this day, no one knows what happened to Hyun Jong “Cindy” Song, a 39-year-old grad student at Penn State Univesity who disappeared without a trace after leaving a Halloween party after midnight in 2001. Song had stopped by a friend’s home in the early morning hours, still decked out in her bunny costume, and accepted a lift home at about 4:00 a.m. Slightly intoxicated, she managed to get inside her home and drop off her belongings, including her backpack and cell phone. She’d even removed her false eyelashes. But Song herself was never seen again. Investigators found no evidence of foul play and no activity on her credit cards or cell phone. The case eventually went cold. Find out the origins behind ghosts and these other spooky Halloween creatures.

open jail cellInked Pixels/Shutterstock

A murder predicted by a serial killer

David Berkowitz became infamous in the 1970s as the “Son of Sam” serial killer. But not many people know that he could also predict the future—well, sort of. Berkowitz was incarcerated when 39-year-old Ronald Sisman and 20-year-old Elizabeth Platzman were beaten and shot to death in their Manhattan home in the early morning hours of Halloween in 1981, reports the New York Times. A fellow prisoner claimed that the Son of Sam had previously told him that a cult was planning to carry out just such a massacre. Berkowitz was allegedly even able to describe the victims’ apartment to a tee—but police didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with involvement in the murders, which remain unsolved. Check out the chilling history of 15 Halloween traditions.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods, CA.Shishka4/Shutterstock

This freakish decoration was REAL

If there were a prize for most morbid Halloween decoration in Frederica, Delaware, in 2005, it would have gone to the body hanging from a tree. It would have beaten out the fake witches, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns dotting the neighborhood. For hours, people passed by admiring it. Of course, it had an edge over the other decorations. This was a real body. Police believe it was that of a woman who had committed suicide the night before. Don’t miss these other real-life ghost stories that will chill you to the bone.

US Marine UniformAfrica Rising/Shutterstock

Men in tutus shouldn’t criticize

Note to self: Not everyone’s wearing a costume on Halloween. In 2012, in the early hours of the morning after Halloween, a tutu-clad Marine spotted a uniform-clad man in a wheelchair and thought the man’s costume was a weak attempt at mocking the military. So he attacked him. As the Marine learned upon his arrest, the man’s wardrobe was not a comment on our servicemen and women. He was, in fact, a disabled veteran.

bright sweets and candy on Halloween with bats and pumpkin on the black stoneAnn Yuni/Shutterstock

There really are monsters

It’s every parent’s nightmare: Your child comes home from a night of trick-or-treating with spiked candy. One of the Halloween stories that helped propel this fear was the murder of Timothy O’Bryan in 1974. The eight-year-old from Deer Park, Texas, died Halloween night after ingesting poisoned candy. Making this crime more horrific is the fact that the perpetrator was not a neighbor, but the boy’s own father, who sought to cash in on his son’s life insurance.

student writing in the notebook with black pen on wooden surfaceAlex_dobrii/Shutterstock

The note

The most frightening thing about the graveyard kit an Oregon woman bought at Kmart in 2012 was the note she found inside. It was written by a Chinese factory worker who claimed he and others were tortured and enslaved in a forced labor camp making toys 15 hours a day with no pay or days off. He went on to plead for the letter to be forwarded to the World Human Rights Organization. The woman did just that, and the Chinese worker was freed when the camp was exposed months later. Next, see how an Ouija Board really works.


Neither rain, nor sleet, nor decomposing body …

It’s bad enough to have collapsed and died alone on your own porch steps. But adding insult to injury, the morning after this 2012 Halloween tragedy, the mailman, assuming the body was an excellent Halloween decoration, sidestepped the deceased on his way to delivering the corpse’s mail. Looking for more creepy Halloween stories to tell? Check out these spooky tales from the world’s most haunted places.

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) Turns on Pavers - captive animalGeoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock

Next time go as a ghost

Sometimes, a costume is just too good. In 2012, a nine-year-old wearing a black outfit and a black hat with a white tassel was mistaken for a skunk by a relative and shot. The girl survived.

young man with white mask, studio shotcoka/Shutterstock

A killer costume

The year was 1957. Halloween night. A couple was getting ready for bed when the doorbell rang. It was late, but the husband answered the door, ready to dole out more candy. Instead, an adult wearing a mask shot him in the chest, killing him. Was it a trick-or-treater dissatisfied with the candy selection? Not quite. The murderer, it turns out, was the girlfriend of a woman who had had an affair with the murdered man’s wife. The woman convinced her girlfriend to do away with the husband in order to have the wife for herself. Learn the real Halloween stories behind costumes, black cats, your other favorite spooky traditions.

halloweenLeeAnn White/Shutterstock

Hangry much?

Candy might be important, but it’s certainly not worth your life. It was Halloween night 2011 when a 55-year-old Chicago resident realized his candy bag was missing. He blamed a neighbor for the missing sweets and took his revenge to an extreme, stabbing her to death with several steak knives. Check out some happier Halloween stories with the 15 best Halloween books for kids.

CreepyCameron Cross/Shutterstock

A devastating prank

Halloween is known for both tricks and treats, but some pranks just go too far. In 1998, a Bronx man was in the car with his girlfriend to pick up her nine-year-old son from a Halloween party. When a group of teens started egging the car, the man got out and an argument started. After he sat back down in the car, though, one of the teenagers shot him fatally in the head.

memory with baby stroller walks at sunset.ganggadd foto/Shutterstock

A missing tot

On Halloween Day in 1955, Marilyn Damman went to a Food Fair on Long Island to do some shopping. She brought her children, two-year-old Steven and seven-month-old Pamela, with her. Telling Steven to be good and watch his little sister, she left the children outside while she went into the store. She returned ten minutes later to find that her children had disappeared, stroller and all. Pamela’s baby stroller, with the unharmed seven-month-old inside, was found a short distance away, but Long Island police were never able to locate Steven. What happened to him remains a mystery. Check out these Halloween etiquette rules you should be following.

Dark wooden barn with autumn leaves on roof in forest.Ysbrand Cosijn/Shutterstock

Don’t lose your head

People thinking dead bodies are Halloween decorations seems to be a gruesome trend in these Halloween stories. However, in 2017, the opposite actually happened. In mid-September, police in Green County, Tennessee received a panicked phone call from a man who believed there was a beheaded corpse in his neighbor’s driveway. Police arrived on the scene only to find that the owner of the home had actually just put out his creepy Halloween display a little early. “Do NOT call 911 reporting a dead body,” the police department’s Facebook page wrote. “Instead, congratulate the homeowner on a great display.” For more creepy Halloween stories, check out these horror movies you didn’t know were based on the truth.

For more fun facts, costume ideas, traditions, candy inspiration, spooky entertainment, and updates on how October 31 will look different this year, check out our Halloween Guide.


Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.