Most ghosts are passive or even benevolent, seeming to scare people only by accident, never by intent. Ghosts that were violent, however (also known as poltergeists) are in a class by themselves. Some of these malevolent spirits have actually killed people, and the most famous cases of violent hauntings have inspired multiple books and movie adaptations. This list looks as some of the most vicious "true" hauntings around the world and throughout history. Hope you never end up on the receiving end of one of these angry spirits' wrath. You might not live to tell the tale.
It's one of the creepiest unsolved mysteries in L.A. history, but the death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel wasn't the first time this building had been associated with strange deaths. Indeed, the hotel has a long legacy of murder and the macabre, which is one reason it became the inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel.
Elisa Lam's case is exceedingly hair-raising, even to skeptics. Security camera footage shows she spent almost four minutes in an elevator, alternately talking to and trying to hide from someone who isn't there (maybe just invisible?). All the while, the elevator doors don't close, staying open much longer than they're designed to. She then leaves the elevator and presumably goes to her doom. She was reported missing shortly afterwards, and eventually her body was discovered in the hotel's rooftop water tanks after hotel residents complained about the water's taste and color. There's no plausible way Elisa could have gained easy access to the water tanks, and despite the fact that the coroner ruled her death an accident, it sparked numerous conspiracy theories, one of them being that she was either possessed by or trying to evade one of the spirits who haunts the Cecil.
Elisa's is only the latest in a long series of strange deaths and macabre incidents at the Cecil. Almost from the beginning of the building's history, it has attracted violence and tragedy.
In recent times, the Cecil Hotel was the home of two serial killers, Richard Ramirez ("The Night Stalker"), and later, his admirer and copycat, Jack Unterweger. And it is said that the Cecil Hotel is the last place Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was seen alive.
So, it's not a stretch to think the place might have some spirits lingering about who aren't very friendly.
The South Shields poltergeist is a recent case of spiritual harassment and assault where the entity seemed to have a fetish for toys. Specifically, the toys belonging to a three-year-old boy, which the spirit used to terrorize the boy's parents.
It started like a pretty standard haunting. In December 2005, "Marc and Marianne," a couple living with their young son Robert in South Shields, England, began to notice strange things happening in their house. Furniture moved by itself. Doors opened and closed of their own accord. Chairs would be found stacked in bizarre configurations.
Then it got nasty. One evening while they were in bed together, Marianne got hit in the back of the head with one of her son's toys. But Marc was beside her, and there was no one else in the room. The couple then tried to fight off an invisible entity that tried to steal their blanket. The encounter ended when Marc felt a searing pain on his back, and 13 red scratches appeared on his skin.
That's when the poltergeist's toy fetish fully manifested. It left a rocking horse hanging from a ceiling fan. Marc and Marianne found a stuffed rabbit sitting in a toy chair at the top of their stairs, with a box cutter in its lap. Malicious messages began to appear on their son's doodle board and even their cell phones (always from untraceable sources), saying things like "go die" or "you're dead."
Sometimes, young Robert would go missing for long periods of time, only to be discovered hiding in strange parts of the house, like closets and cupboards.
Paranormal investigators were called in, who claimed to witness several incidents themselves, and even to have seen the entity manifest. They described it as a midnight black, three-dimensional silhouette that "radiated sheer evil."
And then, as abruptly as it had begun, the haunting stopped. Thus far, nothing further has been heard from Marc and Marianne or the house they where they lived.
Yorkshire, England, 1966: the Pritchard family wasn't expecting trouble. And at first, the haunting seemed fairly innocuous: strange noises now and then, the occasional chair moved around, that sort of thing.
But sometime around August of that year, the entity at work in their home at 30 East Drive on the Chequerfields Estate decided to ramp up the horror.
Like many poltergeists, the thing focused a great deal of attention on children; in this case, the Pritchard's daughter, Diane. She was thrown from her bed, and at one point dragged up the stairs by her neck, leaving welts and bruises in the form of a hand print.
The entity began to manifest itself visually, in the form of a dark-robed figure that hovered at the feet of family member's beds.
And then, also like many poltergeist cases before it, the haunting stopped abruptly, never to resume.
Years after the events, a paranormal investigator discovered that the Pritchard's house lay on the former grounds of a medieval rectory, and across the street from an old gallows where many people had been sent to their deaths over the centuries.
Among those hanged there in the past was a Cluniac monk who'd been convicted of raping and murdering a young girl, not much older than Diane had been at the time of the haunting.
Based on this information, and the entity's description, it was concluded that the haunting of the Pritchards was carried out by this monk's angry ghost, who lost interest in Diane after she became too old for his sick desires. "The Black Monk" now had a moniker, and went down in the record books as one of Europe's most violent hauntings.
The case of Esther Cox and her virtual posse of abusive ghosts is one of the most famous haunting accounts in all of ghost lore. It centered around Cox and her home in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada, beginning in 1878. It seems to have been triggered by Esther surviving a sexual assault by a male friend. This understandably left Cox in great emotional distress, and there may have been a connection between that and the events that followed.
There were knockings and bangings in the night, and Esther's body began to swell as she alternated between high fevers and periods of very low body temperature. Then objects in the house began to fly around.
The doctor who was called in to help Cox witnessed her bedclothes being moved, heard scratching noises from an undetermined source, and saw the words "Esther Cox, you are mine to kill" appear on the wall at the head of her bed.
Esther tried moving to other houses, but whatever foul entities haunted her followed along. Among their tactics were the setting of small fires, one of which burned down Cox's host's farmhouse and resulted in her serving jail time for arson.
It would have been easy to chalk this all up to mischief on her part, but the problem is that multiple credible witnesses saw several of the events happen while Esther was under close observation. Eventually, attempts to communicate with the spirit through seances and spirit rapping revealed that there were at least five different ghosts following Cox around for unknown reasons.
The phenomena died down after Esther's jail sentence in 1879, and eventually ceased altogether. Esther Cox went on to marry twice and have sons from each marriage, and whatever had plagued her seemed satisfied with the damage it had already done.