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  • Bonnie Randall

Spooktober! 5 Haunted, Cursed, and Creepy Real-Life Stories

  1. The Circleville Letter Writer

It is 1976: Hair is feathered, dresses are long, and men’s suits are pastel polyester. Porn has become more mainstream, and rumors about things like key club parties and couples swinging shock people who live in small town North America.

Or maybe they don’t.

In tiny Circleville, Ohio, everyone knew everyone…and someone knew far more than anyone had ever imagined. ‘The Circleville Letter Writer’, while not a haunting, is nonetheless one of the creepiest stories out there. For seven years, an unknown person (or persons) targeted community members by sending handwritten letters “outing” their various sexual proclivities and other highly private foibles.

And not ten or a dozen letters. Thousands of letters.

Penned in block script that looked as if it could have been written by someone’s non-dominant hand, The Circleville Letters turned sinister for one recipient in particular. Mary Gillespie, a local school bus driver, received the first letter which admonished her for an affair it alleged she was having with the local school superintendent. Shocked, Mary denied the allegation—vehemently—and when the letters stopped after that first year, she was relieved…until one evening her husband took a phone call which incensed him so much he stormed out of their house…with his pistol.

He never returned.

He was later discovered behind the wheel of his car, crashed into a tree. Beside him was his pistol which forensic tests revealed to have been fired, once that night. At who or what? And why?

It remains unknown. For despite the bizarre circumstances crouched around this accident, Mary’s husband’s death was written off by the Sheriff as a drunk driving misadventure—a summation that confused other Circleville residents, as Mary’s husband was known not to drink alcohol.

It confused the letter writer too, for now the Sheriff was in his or her crosshairs, receiving letters demanding to know why this death was covered up in a botched investigation.

After that, things escalated rapidly. Mary, driving her bus home after her daily run, was mortified to see that signs, again detailing her alleged affair, were tacked up on fence posts lining her route. Furious—and embarrassed—she stopped her bus and leapt out, intent on tearing every sign down.

Fortunately, she removed the first one carefully—for it was affixed to a trip-wire attached to a pistol. Had Mary ripped the sign down with force, the gun, aimed at the post, would have fired, likely killing her. This time police investigated thoroughly…and discovered that the gun used in this elaborate trap belonged to Mary’s brother-in-law, Ron.

Yet Ron insisted he had nothing to do with the trap, and denied being the Circleville Letter Writer.

Nevertheless, he was tried and convicted…yet here’s the rub. While in prison, Ron received a mocking letter in the same, strange block script as the others. The missive laughed at Ron for being the fall guy, saying: “The joke’s on you. When we set ‘em up, they stay up.”

Mary’s brother-in-law protested his innocence throughout serving his time, then went to the grave maintaining that he was not the Circleville Letter Writer.

Yet someone was. And there is so much to this tale that is utterly horrifying: being watched, stalked, judged, and punished by someone who is….who? Your neighbor? Your sister? Your Pastor? Your friend? To date this mystery has never been laid to rest with any satisfactory answers, and back in 1976, the following track, popular on the Hit Parade, could have been an anthem for Circleville…except with a far darker meaning than its disco beat ever intended.

“I’m your Boogie Man

That’s what I am

And I’m here to do

Whatever I can…”

2. Hollywood, California

Rumors of occultist immersion have long underscored movie stars; bizarre humiliation rituals are a consistent rite of passage. Strange symbolism is repeated with far too much frequency in photo shoots to ever be considered mere coincidence.

Music and movie stars regularly and oft-hand admit to having sold their soul to the Devil—statements that seem glib till you tally them up…then become creeped out at the frequency with which such blasé confessions are uttered. Stars are disproportionately represented in cult religions like Scientology, and a few famous people were actually raised together in the sinister Children of God. (Consider the odds of that). The Church of Satan was (is?) deeply imbedded in Hollywood, with members like Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr., and even Marilyn Monroe having once dated Satanic Church founder, Anton LaVey. Roman Polanski, famed director (and known pedophile) forced his wife, Sharon Tate to partake in sex magic rituals which he filmed. Then there’s NXVIM, the sex-magic cult du jour which includes many much-ballyhooed celebrities. And who can forget the strange obsession scores of stars have with ‘performance artist’ Marina Ambramovic, whose star-studded events include disembodied heads floating atop dinner tables, and cakes shaped into photo-realistic mannequins which, when sliced into, reveal insides of red velvet—a macabre and stomach-churning pantomime of cannibalism.

Who finds this stuff ‘enlightening’? And it sure as hell is not entertaining, and so…

What’s with all this?

Are all these pagan/occultist occurrences just a whopping coincidence? Or….?

There are many theories as to how Hollywood got its name, and one might be right, or all could be wrong, but when one considers the (highly abridged) laundry list of occultist creepiness above (and there’s more. So much more) it gives one pause to consider the following:

Hollywood is said by some to be named for the holly that grows in abundance on the southern California mountain range (including the *ahem* Hollywood Hills). Holly is also abundant on the Emerald Isle, where the ancient Druids of Ireland were known for their magic—with sorcerers and wizards of long ago using the wood of the holly bush to create wands. Waving their magic wand over something or someone allegedly created a magic spell, transforming it into a mystical, out-of-this-realm extraordinary. Sound familiar? Does cinema not also transform reality into something much different than what is actually there? And, if so, is it just ‘magic’? Or is it…magic?


Now add this: there is a town outside Rome called Nemi which is renowned for being a spot where ancient pagans (*cough* CULTS *) would lure, then sacrifice people to the Goddess Diana. The temple ruins are still discernible despite being ancient…and they weirdly resemble a stage. What’s more, the terrain around Nemi, the hills, are shockingly indistinguishable from the Hollywood Hills so far away.

Oh, and one more thing: Nemi, translated, means ‘Holy Wood’.


So, again—what is this? What accounts for the occultist symbols and practices in Hollywood that occur with enough frequency to not possibly be a coincidence? Is it the people? Or is it the place? What’s it all about, Alfie, and is it possible that Demonic/Satanic/Luciferian practices and places can somehow echo each other, across time and geography?

There’s an excellent horror story somewhere within this entire premise. I just don’t know if I’m brave enough to look into its abyss to write it.

3. Bohemian Grove

While we’re on the conspiracy/horror train, let’s head due north from Hollywood, and make a stop in the red woods at Bohemian Grove.

“Weaving spiders come not here”

What the hell does that even mean? Since 1878, the 2500 politicians, power-players, and (ta-da!) movie stars who are annually invited to the ultra-secretive retreat known as Bohemian Grove will not speak about this motto that hangs upon its entrance. They will not speak of The Grove at all—some have even become highly incensed and combative when confronted by the (few) brave journalists who’ve tried to pin them down to spill the beans about the place.

What do they do there? How deep does the rabbit hole go? It is naïve to imagine that all these men (only men) do is indulge in is coke, booze, and high-end hookers while they’re sequestered there in the trees. Because really—in 2019 would that even be a secret worth keeping? It’s not like anyone truly expects a moral compass from any of these characters anymore. (If we ever really did).

What we do know (from clandestinely sneaked footage) is that these ultra-powerful men take part in an opening ritual when they arrive at Bohemian Grove. It’s called ‘The Cremation of Care’, where a human-shaped effigy, said to be representative of the men’s cares and worries, is burned on an altar…after it taunts them for a while.

Ooookay. That’s not disturbing at all.

And that ‘weaving spiders’ motto? Well, all that means is that business wheeling and dealing is forbidden from taking place while the gents are enjoying the Grove. After all—they ‘cremated’ those cares for the two weeks they’re there, remember? They burned a human-er-effigy of a human.

How can no one find this to be, at the very least, merely odd—that our high-powered politicians partake in a creepy, ritualistic voo-doo/hoo-doo/what-do-they-do?

There is a pollution of rumors that swirl ’round Bohemian Grove. Men have come forward who claim that, as boys, they were used for sex and human hunts in those red woods. Some have even disclosed participation in snuff films.

And while all that may sound colossally far-fetched, consider that while none of the famous and powerful members of Bohemian Grove have confirmed these rumors…none have denied them, either. Seems those Weaving Spiders know how (and why) to keep their mouths shut.

Why so quiet? If it’s all just an innocent retreat, why not leak an agenda or itinerary out to quiet the whispers? And if it’s not occultist, why start the whole proceeding off with a sacrifice, real or symbolic? ‘Bohemian’ means ‘unconventional’. How unconventional are these people really?

Here’s a potpourri of other facts known about Bohemian Grove

  • Many members of Bohemian Grove were also members of Yale’s ‘Skull & Bones’, a secret society which is also centuries old, which also requires some bizarre rituals (like sleeping in a coffin), and which also includes a lengthy list of high powered politicians among its members. Gee. What are the odds? You’d almost think that membership carried some sort of privileges with it.

  • The statue before which the strange ‘Cremation of Care’ takes place is a massive owl. Owls have long been an occult symbol representing the Canaanite god Moloch (aka the Devil), to whom child sacrifice was once a common practice. Well isn’t that intriguing? Haven’t men come forward saying that as kids they helped participate in snuff films of other kids at Bohemian Grove? What a coinkidink! And weren’t we just talking about Devil worship when we were in Hollywood a few paragraphs ago? ‘Magine that!

  • The same owl at Bohemian Grove can be found (along with a whole host of other occultist shenanigan symbols) on the US dollar bill. Top right corner. Tiny, but there. Do you see it? Aha! You, with the sharp eyes! Good job!

Now tell me: who needs Epstein when Bohemian Grove has been around far longer than that sicko had his depraved island?

Tell me this, too: would you be brave enough to run through those red woods in the dead of night, knowing that over those 2500 acres, human hunts—and human sacrifices—are alleged to have taken place?

Not that you could even if you wanted to. Guards patrol the entire circumference of Bohemian Grove 365 days of the year—fully armed and prepared to shoot to kill.

Because Weaving Spiders most certainly weave something while they are there. And what’s woven is no one’s to know. After all—two can keep a secret…but only if one of them is dead.

4. The Dead Zone

Ever been somewhere that you know—just know—has bad energy? A place where, for reasons your five senses cannot lay claim to, you are unnerved, disturbed, and cannot wait to get out of?

I have been to two such places. One I nicknamed ‘The Dead Zone’, a 5k (or so) westbound stretch of Highway 16 in west-central Alberta, swallowed by trees and invisible to the east-bound lane adjacent to it. You’re aware, the moment you enter ‘The Dead Zone’ that you’ve arrived there—and you can feel when the oppression lifts off on the ‘other side’. Cell phone coverage is inexplicably spotty in The Dead Zone (yet works perfectly fine on the eastbound lane on the other side). Satellite radio will be swallowed then spat out by silence. It is an arena ominous for how it raises the hair on your neck and makes you shiver, physically shiver, involuntarily as you cruise westward, into it.

I have no idea if it’s haunted. For years I have pushed my writer’s imagination into the throes of The Dead Zone, trying to understand it, and possibly exorcise it with a story of which I’m in control.


Not even my imagination has been able to come up with a decent premise—or any premise—as to why The Dead Zone settles upon one like a feeling of doom and a longing to escape. What’s more, while I’ve lived near it for 25 years, I have not once heard a single story or legend or snippet of folklore that could form the foundation as to why that area exudes the dread that I, and many others, encounter upon being there.

It is a mystery, and yet—mention to any local or quasi-local ‘The Dead Zone’ and they will tell you, without needing explanation, precisely where you mean when you say that. Its energy is that palpable. What’s more, I’ve had friends travel that highway without ever having been there before, and I’ve challenged them: “When you think you’re in The Dead Zone, make note of it, and I’ll tell you if you’ve described the right spot.”

They have, without fail, thus far known exactly where I’ve meant.

So what is there? Why is it there? Does it have a purpose, a genesis, a goal? All I know is that if I ever broke down on that soulless stretch of highway, there is no possible way I’d step foot from my car.

5. The Boogeyman

Just because something has never been scientifically proven not to exist, does not mean that it does, and yet…The Boogeyman. Hobgoblin. Baba Yaga. Puki. Pixie. Wendigo. Oude Rode Ogen (Old Red Eyes). Old Scratch. Tata Duende. Babaroga. Shapeshifter. These are but a handful of names from all over the world for the same monster: a creature who can hide in the shadows (although, more typically, in the woods) and who preys upon children and the feeble.

Or who can take the form of someone’s worst fear. (Ahem. JK Rowling’s ‘boggarts’ in Harry Potter are derived from Bogge or Bugge, which spun into Boogeyman much, much later)

If the Boogeyman doesn’t exist, then why does every culture, both obsolete and still present, have its own name for it?

Some say it’s because cultures across the globe have tried to use the same tactics to scare their children into behaving.

Perhaps they have a point.

Still others, like law enforcement officer-turned missing persons researcher David Paulides have amassed reams of data on people who have vanished with no trace in North American forests…and the common denominators among these cases are not only striking—but they also strongly indicate that only a supernatural explanation could suffice for the bizarre anomalies they share.

Then there are the thousands upon thousands who swear they’ve seen Big Foot / Sasquatch / or some other mythical being. Are they all sharing the same delusion? Is it some sort of cellular memory flashback to a creature who’s now extinct? Or is there such a thing as a shapeshifting monster?

What about the similar score of people who report eerily identical stories about being kidnapped by something they determine is ‘alien’? Is it an alien? Or are we sharing the planet with ancient monsters who, far, far older, and infinitely wiser, prey upon our vulnerabilities, fears, and foolhardy endeavors?

I once had a wise friend impart upon me an uncomfortable truth: the reason stereotypes and superstitions survive is because they’re true.

And with that I will leave you to ponder your own conclusions—or enter with me into discussion. After all--it’s the scariest time of the year, and sometimes it helps to talk through your fears.

**another real-life haunting intrigued me enough to craft a story. Come with me into Los Angeles’ notorious and blood soaked old Hotel Cecil, where you’ll meet Lucas and Della, a therapist and a psychic determined to unravel the evil within the walls of a hotel with No Vacancy, on perma-sale of .99cents on Kindle!

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