Paranormal Activity : SFU students tell us their real life scary stories

What’s scarier: a squirrel or a sawed-off shotgun?

Courtesy of the Occult Museum

By: Alex Bloom, Maxwell Gallick, Jennifer Low, Gabrielle McLaren, Zach Siddiqui, Lauren Wallace, and Winona Young

It was too cold to play outside, and we weren’t yet addicted to video games, so somehow my best friend and I got the idea in our heads that playing in the basement by ourselves was the totally-not-creepy solution to our boredom.

The room was filled with an assortment of oddities from my mom’s career as a set and costume designer, and we spent hours searching it for suitable material to use as capes and swords to fuel our fixation with knights. Once equipped with scrounged bolts of cloth and small bamboo rods, we needed a fortress. The room obliged.

There were two large desks lining the walls beneath the clutter — only they weren’t quite lining the walls — for some reason they were a few feet away from the wall and buried in enough stuff to create a sort of tunnel that ringed the room. With the mock bravery of children masquerading as knights, we decided it was a good idea to climb into the pitch-black tunnel, because no horror movie has ever started with children finding a new tunnel in their basement. Once inside we found that there was a hollow at the end that made for a good place to bring flashlights and books. We had our fortress.

One day we were playing in the basement again, and I lost track of where Andre was. I had gone to the bathroom upstairs and when I got out he was nowhere to be found. As I climbed back into the dimly lit tunnel I noticed the silhouette of what I thought was Andre, sitting motionless in the fetal position. I called out to him. When he answered from upstairs I ran away in a blind panic, all notions of knightly bravado abandoned.

We never played in the basement again, and for years I felt like someone was following hot on my heels every time I had to walk up or down that staircase. I still live in the same house. – AB


One winter day, there came a tap, tap, tapping at my window. Perched on the sill, staring straight at me, was a squirrel. But this was no cute and friendly animal — it had crazed eyes, matted gray fur, and an open mouth, and it stared at me, drooling. Moments later, it was gone.

An hour later, there came a tapping at another window. The squirrel had returned even more crazed, baring its teeth and refusing to budge. With the Canadian home self-defence staple, a hockey stick, I was sent outside by my family to scare it away. The door was locked behind me.

The squirrel had disappeared. I scanned the backyard but couldn’t find it. I turned towards the door, and saw my family pointing behind me. The squirrel’s crazed visage in my mind’s eye, I whirled around, the hockey stick connecting with the beast mid-lunge. I rushed inside, slammed the door, and watched it limp away.

Fast-forward to spring. The doors and windows were open, and I was working on an assignment when I heard strange snuffling noises. I yelled at my brother to stop. Silence. Then it struck me — my brother had moved out the previous week. I was alone in the apartment; or should have been. Heart leaping, I peeked out of my room. Standing dead centre at the far end of the hallway, on its hind legs, eyes crazed, slack-jawed, was the squirrel. Inside the house. Staring at me.

Afraid to tackle this alone, I enlisted the help of my neighbour. We carefully searched the whole apartment to no avail, until we got to my room… And there it was, curled up inside the jeans I had left on the floor, almost placid. It was waiting for me. Inside my pants.

We shouted at it, but instead of bolting, it walked up to my desk, calmly wiped its feet on my report, climbed onto the sill, and leapt out the window like a comic villain making a dramatic exit. I never wore those pants again.  

The final time I saw the beast was months later, as it sat in the centre of a sidewalk. This time, three other crazed, gray-furred squirrels flanked it in formation. I didn’t want to tango with a swarm of angry, potentially rabid rodents, so I took a different route home and never passed through their territory again.

I haven’t seen them since moving out of that apartment a few years ago. I’m convinced Vancouver squirrels operate some underground mafia, and the grey-furred hit squad was sent to deliver a message. Well, message received.  – MG


Once when I was little, I was startled awake in the middle of the night with a shiver down my spine and the feeling I’d been awoken by a loud sound. My older sister, whom I shared a room with at the time, was still soundly asleep, so I decided that I’d likely just been dreaming and tried to go back to sleep.

Then I heard music playing, and I climbed out of bed, wondering why my parents would be awake and making this racket at such an hour.

The eerie melody seemed to echo through the house as my bare feet padded down the hall. I discovered that my parents were still fast asleep, as was my brother. The lights were off in the house, but the sound of that unfamiliar song drifted through the air ominously. It was loud enough that I was shocked that my family had not heard it. There were no lights on in the neighbours’ house either.

Suddenly, the street lamps flicked off, and I stared out into the black abyss, frozen. Just as quickly as they had turned off, the street lamps turned back on again.

I raced back to my room and woke my sister to see if she too had heard the music. In her sleepy daze she slowly nodded her head and then informed me that I was dreaming and that I should go back to bed. Unsure whether this was a dream or not, I quickly picked up one of my brother’s toys that he’d left on my bedroom floor and placed it on my bedside table.

When I woke the next morning, I asked my sister if she recalled the incident, but she didn’t and told me that I must have dreamed the whole thing. I wanted to believe her, but I’ll always remember the chilling feeling of seeing my brother’s toy car still sitting on my bedside table. – JL


My cousins and I went ghost hunting in Winnipeg, once. We were 14, 12, and 10, and for whatever reason, possibly because we’d watched Ghost Hunters or Truth or Scare on Discovery Kids, we had this sudden need to find out if ghosts were real — and an ideal abandoned former Hudson’s Bay Company fort where we could go to check, called Fort Garry.

We spent the day preparing: looking up ghost-hunting techniques and finding apps to download on our iPod touches that would measure fluctuations in electromagnetic fields or let us use digital Ouija boards. For whatever reason, our moms were OK with this, and my aunt even helped me find a spare bike in the shed I could use since I was from out of town. They slathered us with mosquito cream, the good stuff, because after all this was Manitoba, and then we pedaled away to Fort Garry.

We walked around chasing cracked branches and coldspots, and took a bunch of pictures hoping to capture a ghost or at least a floating orb on film. Overall, our evidence wasn’t conclusive, but we were pretty sure that ghosts aren’t real.

We pedaled back homemade s’mores, and waited until the following day to take a closer look at our footage on the computer, because our moms told us to go to bed, and they were definitely scarier. – GM  


When I was younger, we were living a pretty idyllic nuclear-family life in Victoria, and had just moved to a house that needed a lot of repairs. My mom, the PTA-attending preschool teacher, was getting rid of a white grapevine that had expired during our first year in the new house. Now imagine this lady, who’s finally in the ultimate suburban dream of a two-storey house in a cul-de-sac with a double-car garage and a huge yard for the kids. She digs down into her new garden, and hears a big thud. She expects a big root that she’ll have to dig out, or a lost paving stone, or maybe a cool rock she can show her eight- and six-year-old kids.

What she pulls out is a non-descript black garbage bag. And inside that garbage bag, is a gun. She pulls it out, and finds that not only is it a gun, but it’s a sawed-off shotgun, loaded. It’s been used, and it’s in a garbage bag, buried in her backyard. “Panic” doesn’t quite describe exactly what followed.

The policeman who answered her call to the local RCMP thought she was just a silly housewife whose imagination had gotten away from her while her husband was away, misidentifying some kid’s airsoft rifle as a “deadly weapon.” When he finally came by, my dad had arrived back home. I believe the quotation when he brought the officer over to the work bench it was on was “HOLY SHIT.”

However, the cops didn’t want the crackpipes we also found hidden in the walls of the house (they had too many at the station). To this day, my mother refuses to allow my dad to call up his scientist friends to have them use ground-penetrating radar on the six-by-four-foot rectangle of random concrete that’s poured in the backyard, three feet away from where the shotgun was. She doesn’t want to know. – LW


I suffer from frequent episodes of sleep paralysis, and by far the scariest experience I’ve had was five years ago. I was still in high school and I lived in a small apartment with my sister. One night, I woke up in bed and realized I couldn’t move.

For some reason, this didn’t scare me. When my eyes adjusted to the dim surroundings of my room, that’s when I saw it: a figure who must’ve been six feet tall.

I couldn’t see any of their features, but I thought it was my sister, who was fairly short. I tried calling to her, but I couldn’t move my mouth at all. So I just stared at this figure, who just stood still there, motionless. I closed my eyes for a second, and when I opened them, the figure was now at the foot of my bed, closer. I still couldn’t move.

I closed my eyes again, and when I opened them, the figure was right next to me, by the edge of my bed. I still couldn’t make out any of their features, or even move. Suddenly, the figure started to slowly lean over me its arms reached over me, it slowly started getting closer and closer, and I closed my eyes one last time.

In that moment, I fell asleep.

In hindsight, the whole experience terrified me, but while it was actually happening, I wasn’t afraid at all. I’ve never seen a figure like that during my sleep paralysis since then, and I hope I’ll never have to either. –WY


Some ouija board horror stories happen in the dead of night as you ask the spirits to confirm their RSVP to your sleepover, some happen in overly gory B-movies, and some happen before you even get the ouija board.

A few summers ago, I was staying with family in Washington, where I discovered that my cousins had developed a strange taste for horror-esque spooky scenarios (little did they know that their whole country was destined to become one.) We spent the weeks Googling around for sinister spots in the area and strolling through allegedly haunted gardens (but in broad daylight, for some reason).

At first, we mostly missed out on supernatural encounters, though we did find a long stream of clothes and textbooks in a ditch at one point, torn and quite wet, so either there’s a dead alcoholic med student left unaccounted for somewhere in Seattle, or American fraternity hazing rituals have somehow gotten both weirder.

Anyway. My cousins decided that we wanted to play with a ouija board and invite the devil into their home to chat, because why not. Therefore, a group of us was sent to drive over and buy one from Toys R Us.

But I think the occult was sick of the one-sided summer fling our motley band of Muslim teenagers kept trying to build with it, and so the spirits ghosted us the one way they knew how. We ended up in a car crash . . .

. . . which wasn’t terrible so much as it was just lame. Literally nobody was maimed or even given whiplash. Because of how not-metal this crash was, we got no sympathy points from my uncles when they found out what happened. I can’t really prove that this was Lucifer’s work, but I don’t have to. The type of refined low-key judgment from family which you can sense in your bones is scary enough.

And we never did get that ouija board… – ZS