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.
Most people think of hauntings as something ghosts do, but the entity haunting 50 Berkeley Square in London, England proves it's a job for monsters, too.
The earliest verified account of the Horror dates from the 1840s, when 20-year-old Sir Robert Warboys took up a dare to spend the night in a creepy house which had already been the subject of scary rumors for years. He went in with a gun and a candle, and a guard stationed outside, just in case. He never came out alive. Late in the night, the guard heard sounds of a struggle, followed by a gunshot. When he got to Warboys's room on the 2nd floor, he found the young man had died of fright.
A second, better-documented incident occurred a few decades later, in 1887. This time, two sailors - Edward Blunden and Robert Martin - found themselves without a place to stay on Christmas Eve and so decided to crash in the empty house on Berkeley Street. Martin was able to get to sleep but was awakened in the night by the sound of Blunden fighting something. Martin saw a scene that caused him to flee the building in terror: Blunden was being strangled by a brown, formless shape that had tendrils, one of which it was using to strangle Blunden. (These tentacle-like appendages have led some to suspect the entity is not a ghost, but a "semi-aquatic, predatory, cryptid phenomenon" that's coming up from the London sewer system.)
Martin ran from the house and returned with a police officer, only to find that Blunden had been thrown from the second story of the house and crushed on the street below. (In another version of the story, Blunden's mangled body was found in the basement, at the foot of the stairs.)
The house is still there today, and hosts an antiquarian bookshop on the first floor. By police order, no employee or customer of the store is allowed to explore the building's upper floors, though they do report strange noises from that part of the house.
It's probably for the best, since the creature - or whatever it is - that lives upstairs has claimed at least two lives so far.
You might think you know this one, if you've seen The Conjuring 2. But like most movies, it embellished some of the details for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, the Enfield haunting remains one of the most violent episodes of ghost activity in modern times.
The trouble started on the night of August 30, 1977, when the Hodgson brothers' beds began to wobble on their own. The next night, their mother, Peggy, heard a loud noise coming from the children's room and entered it to find a chest of drawers moving all by itself. She wasn't able to stop the heavy oak chest as it moved toward the door and concluded that some invisible force was at work in the house.
Before long, the Hodgson family's youngest daughter, Janet, became the focus of paranormal activity in the house. It seems she had been possessed by the ghost of the house's previous resident, Bill Wilkins, who died of a brain hemorrhage in the home before the Hodgsons moved in.
Janet was often levitated by the alleged spirit, who also spoke through her in a creepy male voice, sharing details of his death. Objects flew threw the air, family members and visitors were physically assaulted, and matches were spontaneously lit by the restless spirit.
Some people dismissed the case as an elaborate hoax, but several eyewitnesses uninvolved with the Hodgsons came forward with stories to corroborate their claims. One of them was a policewoman who signed an affidavit attesting that she had seen a chair levitate and move on its own in the house.
The activity died down after a priest visited the home in 1978, but never stopped completely. Although Janet was never possessed or otherwise targeted again, the family continued to be plagued by strange noises in the night.
Maria Jose Ferreira was just 11 years old when she became the target of an incredibly vicious poltergeist - and she did not survive the ordeal.
It happened in Jaboticabal, Brazil, in 1965. The angry spirit manifested stones and bricks out of nowhere and targeted little Maria with various physical assaults, including scratches, slaps, and bites, leaving her constantly bruised. A visit by an exorcist did little to help; in fact, it seems to have provoked the spirit even further, to the point where it was setting Maria on fire in public places, in full view of many witnesses unconnected to the case.
A visit to a spirit medium revealed the source of the poltergeist's animosity: Maria had apparently been an evil witch in a previous life and was now being tormented by the spirits of people her previous incarnation had sent to their deaths with black magic.
The medium beseeched the spirits to leave the innocent girl alone, but to no avail. Maria returned home and continued to be tormented until she sadly took her own life with pesticides. After her death, the manifestations stopped.
The legend of the Bell Witch has been described as America's greatest ghost story, and some versions of the tale even involve a future US President. That last bit is likely an embellishment, but some claims about the story are known for certain.
In the early 1800s, the Bell family settled in what would one day be Adams, Tennessee, near the Red River. John Bell and his wife, Lucy, had three children: Elizabeth (Betsy) was born in 1806, Richard in 1811, and Joel in 1813. They also, apparently, had a very powerful spiritual enemy.
Beginning in 1817, John and daughter Betsy became the targets of violent attacks by an invisible entity that eventually began speaking to them. "Kate," as the spirit came to be called, would slap, bite, scratch, and otherwise assault everyone in the family from time to time, but seemed to hold special animus towards Betsy and John.
Before long, the spirit's manifestations became accompanied by curses, one of which supposedly killed John Bell in 1820.
The Bell Witch legend was so famous in its own time that the family's quest for help is said to have reached the ears of future US President Andrew Jackson, who came to visit the home with his men, armed with silver bullets to protect themselves. But like all others who tried to help the Bells, they were driven away by the vengeful spirit.
Eventually, "Kate" gave up her vendetta against the Bells and is said to have retreated to a cave on their old property, where hauntings and bizarre occurrences continue to be reported to this day.