An urban explorer is someone who enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of the cities where they live or where they visit.
Like with any explorer, though, there are bound to be moments when you know you’ve walked into the wrong place at the wrong time, and if you listen to your gut, you turn around, fast.
It’s best to live vicariously in these moments, if you ask me, so that’s what we’ll do with these creepy stories.
1. Understatement of the year.
I was 16 or 17 (so like 2006ish), out in a park out in a western suburb of Chicago with some friends. Its a medium sized forest perserve with a big industrial lot leading to the parking lot, then a prarie area, then a big old forest with paths.
We’re walking around the forest for a few hours in the early afternoon and see some random pentagrams around and stuff, honestly nothing SUPER out of the ordinary but they seem concentrated by this field thats probably like 2000 sq ft of 4 ft tall grass. For whatever reason I thought it would be fun to walk into the middle of the grass field.
Right in the d**d center, there is like a 8 ft long, 3 ft wide rectangle of freshly dug ground…. like perfect for a body. Because of how tall the grass was, it was almost totally covered, but when I moved the grass back it was like a burial mound. I told my friend we had to leave and so we beeline back to the parking lot, my friend didn’t smoke in his car so we had a cig next to the car.
Cop pulls up, and we’re underage so we flick our cigarettes and start to get in the car. Cop turns on his lights and stops us. Once he sees we’re kids, he says something like “Better get out of here, its not a good place to be after dark”
Church Road. The abandoned house with religious pamphlets strewn about. We turn around and an old man is standing there behind us all of a sudden. Not shouting at us to leave just staring off through us. Down.
Needless to say we GTFO of there ASAP.
3. That’s one long day.
There was this massive salt storage facility that had a mountain of salt that a private company owned on a rather derelict property next to the city bay. I’m guessing the company sold salt to the city and other municipalities for road maintenance during the winter.
My friends and I, all about 12 at the time, as kids do at that age, thought it would be cool to sneak in and climb to the top of this major salt mountain. This salt mountain was about 200’ high, it was massive. We get to the top and celebrated, rewarded with the most gorgeous view of the city skyline and its buildings lit up across the bay as the afternoon had turned to dusk.
As we’re getting ready to come down off the mountain, there were about 5 guard dogs (I believe Dobermans) who were at the bottom of the salt mound staring up at us with a piercing glare. They couldn’t get up the mountain because they couldn’t get traction on the salt (and it probably hurt their paws). We all started freaking out, my friends little brother began crying, we began yelling for help but nobody was around, it was late on a cold Sunday afternoon in November. The sky’s hue darkened as dusk turned to dark. We were probably up there for 2 hours trying to figure out what to do.
We finally got silent, laid flat, and acted like we disappeared. The dogs must’ve gotten bored or distracted and began wandering away. We kept looking and looking and when they didn’t come back for 20 minutes, we traversed off of the salt mound as fast as we could and made a mad dash for the fence in which we entered and luckily all got out safely. Our parents were all pi**ed, ready to call the cops because none of us came home at dark. It was one of the most scariest moments of my childhood.
4. Sometimes you don’t want to know.
There was an abandoned house down the road from my high school that was still filled with stuff. Some friends and I would hang out in there from time to time. There was a point where the house got boarded up and we didn’t go into it for a while.
Jump to a few months later, and one of my friends told me he found a way inside. After a couple more weeks I went to the house with one friend to check it out again and relive some memories. When we got there, it was clear something bad had taken place. The stuff in the house was thrown all over the place. Any kind of dish from the kitchen was smashed on the floor. When we looked at the stairs to the second floor we both got the worst feeling, like we would find something terrible if we went up there, so we got the hell out of there.
After a couple more months, the house was demolished.
5. He went back!
Decided to solo mission an abandoned church. Dropped down through a window into the basement. After wandering through some hallways I found a large room with the stairs to the main level at the other end. Started crossing the room when I heard footsteps above me. It sounded like somebody walking with crutches or a peg leg making a weird thunk-THUNK, thunk-THUNK. The steps seemed to be going in a circle.
I paused for a minute. I’d had run-ins with homeless people before that were generally amiable. I’d make small talk for a minute, give them a smoke and some change, and everything would be copacetic. I wasn’t normally scared to run into them.
This time I had a weird bad feeling. After hesitating, I took a couple more steps toward the stairs. I was so focused on the noise above me that I accidentally kicked an empty spray paint can which clattered away along the floor.
The footsteps above me stopped for a moment. Then whatever it was began running – still making that thunk-THUNK – towards the stairs I was about to start climbing. I was suddenly more terrified than I have ever been in my life. I sprinted full tilt back toward the window I’d come through as whatever it was began running down the stairs and somehow managed to quickly claw my way up and out.
I didn’t look back until I was safely out of the building at which point I could neither hear nor see anything. I waited outside for a few minutes but apparently whatever/whoever it was had decided scaring me off was good enough and had retreated back into the building.
Slightly spooky epilogue. About three weeks later I went back with a couple friends. We made our way into the building and up the stairs without incident. Inside the church we found obvious evidence of multiple homeless persons living there. There were mattresses set up in corners, some small fires had been lit, etc. Most of it was fairly normal. However, on the window sills we found multiple birds and small mammals all of which had been beheaded and their bodies carefully lined up.
After perusing and photographing the main sanctuary, I and one friend made our way up to the third floor which had classrooms and offices. Coming up the stairs I could see the door to a room off the landing at the very top. As I got to the last few stairs the door abruptly slammed shut. The room had been dark and didn’t appear to have any windows and I couldn’t feel a breeze or see any open windows looking down the hallway from the top of the stairs that could have pulled the door shut.
My friend tried to open the door and said that it felt like there was something on the other side pushing it shut. We elected not to explore the third floor and after going downstairs and consulting with our other friend it was decided we should leave. About three years later I revisited that church and when I came to the top of the stairs I found the door to that room wide open. Shining my flashlight in I confirmed that the room had no windows.
That church is fairly well known in the local exploring community and while several people have said they got a bad feeling or felt creeped out there nobody else has had any kinds of encounters. I assume the first incident was a homeless resident trying to scare me off, the d**d animals were the work of an unmedicated schizophrenic, and the slamming door was a homeless person not wanting his nap/high disturbed by some dumb kids. That said, the whole experience was hair raising and I still bring it up as an anecdote for new explorers on why you should never explore alone.
6. Truly terrifying.
I have a long, creepy as f**k story about heebie jeebies and why you should never, ever ignore them. Sounds made up but I promise it really happened.
When I was growing up my uncle owned a cabin in the middle of the woods up north. It was a small housing community (~50 houses) in the middle of the woods, meaning you had to drive five miles down a dirt road and then make a few more smaller turns here and there. No signs or anything until you were in the community so the only way to know it was there was if you owned property there.
Every summer we would spend a weekend there with my extended family, ~20-30 people. We’d tent outdoors around the cabin and have a good ole time. One game we liked to play was Survival which in hindsight was a terrible idea but it was the 90s. They had dune buggies so what we would do is the kids would team up into two teams. Each team would be blindfolded, driven down the backtrails deeper into the woods, then led on foot even deeper into the woods. Sit in a circle, wait for the parents to start leaving in the dune buggy, and then once we heard them drive away we could take off the blindfolds. The team who got home fastest, wins. As an added challenge, a white flag was previously hidden in the woods, so if you found the flag you got half an hour shaved off your time. We were given a long range walkie talkie in case of emergencies.
So here we are, a group of five cousins aged 5-15 (I was oldest) in the woods with no idea how to get back to the cabin. Each team had one of my uncle’s daughters who knew the woods so it was harder than it sounds to get lost lost (but it has happened previously). The final time we ever played, the entire time we were in the woods me and my cousin who was a year younger than me kept getting the heebie jeebies. Normally we go for the flag because it’s pretty easy but this time we just both collectively felt the whole “nope, let’s get the f**k out of here” feeling. We made it back in record time, flagless.
My uncle went to go get the flag after we left and when he came back he was so upset. He pulled me and my cousin aside and sternly told us if we were playing a prank, we better tell him right now. We had no idea what he was talking about so he told us that someone had moved the flag from one tree to another tree, so someone was possibly watching us. That night everyone had to sleep in the cabin on the floor because they were scared someone may have followed us back. We could never play Survival again.
Years later when we were older we asked about it again. He actually went to the garage and came back with the flag which he had kept, along with this rusty old knife. He told us that it wasn’t that someone just moved the flag, they stabbed it into another tree with this old knife, which had blood dripping onto the flag. Written on the flag in some marker said “if you kids scream I will gut you like a fish”. Someone was out there. We’re thankful we didn’t try looking for the flag.
7. My own personal nightmare.
Little bit late here, but I once went exploring with my brother on an old abandoned naval base at midnight. We snuck into the officers quarters and were just exploring when we heard a weird noise. We’re both into photography so I decided to take a flash photo and see if I caught anything weird in the light.
The camera went off and we both saw a massive, 6ft long bees nest on the side of one of the walls. I think our presence has just disturbed them, because hundreds of them were already crawling in the outside of the nest.
It was the single most scariest thing I’ve ever seen, and it was gone in a second because of the camera flash. We noped the f*ck out of there right as a cop was pulling up to see what we were up to lol.
8. And yet he keeps going back for more.
Oh I’ve had my share of things that made me nope out. Here’s just a few.
1.) Found a gas leak in an abandoned house that had been building up for years a couple weeks ago. I gtfo, but not before finishing taking the photos I wanted with extreme caution. That one I reported to the cops, as it’s classified as the kind of hazard in the urbex community that supersedes discretion.
2.) Ran into the security guard doing an unexpected interior patrol. He definitely knew we were there so we had to book it for the tree line before he could get the cops out there to search.
3.) Some homeless dude chucking cans and bottles out the fifth story window of an old factory my friend and I were poking around to scare us off. We took a hint and left.
4.) Tripped a motion detecting camera in the basement of an abandoned building and had to bail. I know for a fact they got a full face photo of me staring directly into the camera with shock but I never heard anything more about it.
9. What on earth.
as a teen i used to break into an old aluminum factory a lot. led who was with me at the the time up a staircase winding around pill-shaped vats with small flap lids.
4 flights up we start seeing feathers, then a d**d bird, then a pile of d**d birds (with no open ceiling where they could’ve flown in).
we turn around and he stops me, says he saw some dust fall and we notice the lid on the vat next to us is open. there were no noises aside from us which was somehow comforting, still never went back after that.
10. That’s certainly creepy.
I was inside an abandoned brewery, looking at the old equipment. I climbed a lot of stairs and found a door with scribbles of graffiti on it, among them the sentences ‘Don’t look down’ and ‘Commit s**cide here’
We were about 4 stories off the ground at this point but my curiosity was k**ling me. I opened the door
Nothing. No stairs or balcony or fence. The door was on the wall of the building and opened into thin air, and you absolutely would have been k**led (painfully) had you fallen out
11. Definitely not funny.
Less ‘urban’ but sharing anyway
I was camping in BC with my gf at the time and her dog, had a couple of rough looking people who were the only other people in the area we were camping but it was late so we set up and thought nothing of it.
Guy wanders over while we’re in our tent (can hear him outside and dog is barking at this point) I get out and ask what he’s doing and he says he just wanted to pet the dog (this is at like midnight) told him we were settling in etc, guy wanders off without replying at all to what I’d said
Woke up the next morning to what looked to me like a single 9mm bullet sitting upright on our sites picnic table, and a happy face made with sticks and rocks on the bench part of the table below it.
Maybe it was just a shitty joke, but we sure as f**k didn’t stay around to find out.
12. Not even a question.
Came upon an active shooting gallery in a tunnel one time, I noped TF out of there in a hurry.
13. Lucky it was empty.
My friends and I explored an abandoned grain factory in Johnson City TN. It’s been torn down now, but it was massive. Stories upon stories. It was like 11pm and pitch black in there, and we had cr**py little flashlights.
We were getting this horrible smell (like d**th), but kept exploring like dumba$ses. We went all the way to the top floor, and discovered it was a (currently) empty heroin den, complete with spoons and sh%t.
Definitely scrammed at that point.
14. Well that’s proper creepy.
Boy oh boy do I have a story. Went urban exploring in an abandoned college campus, was pretty cool, due to be demolished and there was some really nice graffiti. At the time I kept sending video messages to a friend of me roaming around looking at everything.
The way the area was set up was pretty much a singular building in this giant lot with nothing on it, right in the middle with it being open area about 100 meters either way. The building was three storeys and on the ground floor had an open area where there appeared to be an abandoned car.
So I was messing around looking at this graffiti and the random junk everywhere and recording videos for my friend when I finally went to record the graffiti right next to the car. I started filming a video of the graffiti when what do you know. The car turns on. I immediately throw my hands up and point towards the gate to gesture “Sorry didn’t realise someone was here, I’ll be on my way.”
When the guy starts blaring on the horn and starts revving the engine, at this point I’m startle and decide to gun it down the driveway back to the gate and WHAT DO YOU KNOW he starts speeding after me in the car whilst still blaring on the horn. Due to being startled and running I apparently accidentally hit send to the video I took on my phone to my friend, whilst all captioning it “1111” as I was running away. (I have the video saved if anyone’s curious.)
At this point I was right in the headlights with him right behind so I turned off the driveway and ran over a pile of rocks, falling down on my way down the other side of them. Scratched my knee really badly, glasses went flying off and got scratched up too. I get the glasses and sprint (more like hobble quickly) to the fence where there’s some bush covering, the guy pulls up near by and winds down the window and you could smell the car from how far I was, it was putrid and the guy for sure looked like he was living out of the car. I have insane adrenaline going and sort of slink further away through the bushes but can’t get over the fence. I figured I could wait the guy out.
I was there for around 20 minutes whilst he sat there with his car idling. By this point my friend was practically having a panic attack thinking I just got m**dered and my adrenaline was wearing off and the pain from my leg was setting in so I couldn’t climb the fence and get away quickly without him noticing.
My friend was messaging me like crazy asking if I was okay and she ended up DRIVING to the place to rescue me. She pulled up a bit up the street and the guy drove up towards there which gave me the chance to climb the fence, she rushed down to where I had said I was, picked me up, and we drove off.
Never have I been so scared in my life, and have never appreciated someone more.
15. If you want to get shot…
I used to enjoy exploring abandoned places here in rural Iowa, but I stopped a couple years ago after a couple run ins with some meth labs. Sh%t’s crazy here. Scary as f*ck too.
Those dudes will shoot your a** without hesitation. They’re typically tweaking and/or unstable, too. That makes them unpredictable.
I work for a utility company and have to go on site visits in some sketchy areas of small towns to recon where to put power lines. This puts you in all sorts of abandoned areas sometimes. I’ve heard enough stories from field guys and seen plenty that was a red flag.
New locks and dogs in abandoned areas means GTFO yesterday. Drug epidemic hits the midwest hard, man.
16. Like, yesterday.
I was taking a look at some of those massive smokestacks in an abandoned factory and I heard a radio squelch
That’s time to go, right there
17. One terrifying moment.
I was exploring an old storm water filtration plant once. The lower levels of the main buildings were all flooded (which was super creepy) and it was pretty overgrown.
This was my second time there and I wanted to see more than I had last time. A friend of mine and I had the bright idea to climb into one of the pipes that had an open man hole cover- really stupid for a whole bunch of reasons.
We figured we knew/ had a pretty good guess where it would come out as there was another man hole on the other side of the compound in line with where the pipe was heading. When we got all the way there though, it turned out to be welded shut. The worst bit was when we turned to go back we realized we’d been slowly going down hill. The pipe was fairly slimy and it seemed for a minute like we wouldn’t be able to go back the way we’d come
I’ve never quite felt that level of claustrophobia before or since.
18. Your gut always knows.
I convinced a group of about 5 or so of my friends to go with me into this old house that was in an odd sort of industrial area, like on one of those service roads next to a highway. The only way in was to go through the basement and through a hole in the wall at the top of the stairs.
After exploring for a while I thought I’d do a “scout mission” for fun that involved me just walking around the house to check for cops. Well what do you know, there were cop cars just pulling into the street with sirens on that were pulling into the restaurant next door, someone probably reported us.
The exit was on the other side of the house from the cops, I quickly called up to the others to climb back out and we somehow managed.
I don’t generally believe in intuition but I do find it odd that I had the urge to do a sweep right when the cops showed up
19. Just reading this freaked me out.
Not urban but a mate of mine, his then gf, and I were exploring a cave system we found, 3 hours into a hike in a national park, kilometers from the nearest road access, in a coastal region called Wilson’s Promontory, in southern Victoria, Australia. Now I’m a skinny 6’1″ but rhey were both skinnier and shorter, so we got to this one narrow bit that we could all get down by sliding on our butts.
The cave was pitch black and wet, though we had our phone torches thankfully. Weird cave bugs kept dropping on us, and eventually we headed back. So they both climbed back up the tunnel, but it turned out that my shoulders were too broad to actually move my arms enough to clamber up. Thankfully my arms were extended, and my friend could reach my hands.
He almost dislocated my shoulders but thankfully with a bit of wriggling, I was pulled out. The alternative was a long, dark, cold, stay in a hole that would have become a major rescue operation requiring heavy machinery, and possibly the destruction of some pristine wilderness that I’d never have forgiven myself for!
Claustrophobia hits you hard when it’s intense, and boy was that intense
20. They got what they wanted.
Went exploring in an old textile mill in rural Alabama. It was easy enough to hide your car for parking and you could even pull you car onto the site if you had 4 wheel drive. We went often and one time parked right in the middle of the mill’s back lot and decided to climb the ladders to the roof.
Once we got to the roof the sun started setting so we got our headlamps ready, watched the sunset, then decided to head back down from the roof. As we’re walking to the ladder my car alarm down below starts going off, and immediately from the rooftop across from us someone flashed a flashlight at us but they never said a thing.
I was way too nervous about my car being stolen to really care about the other person but they didn’t chase us, yell, nothing, they just kept their light on us so that we could never see them and followed us with their light til we got into the car and left. I never went back after that. It’s torn down now.
21. That’ll do it.
When me and my friends were young, we lived in a trailer park community in a bad part of Phoenix, but we loved exploring anyway, we found a large old storm drain behind our community covered in graffiti and weeds and we decided to explore, walking in with mini flashlights we kept seeing spots of blood and more strange graffiti, after about 30ish minutes we started hearing tapping, we got scared and started to walk back out, when we noticed it seemed to be following us we ran like our lives depended on it.
A few weeks after that our community manager discovered a body near the entrance of the storm drain. That was the last of our exploring.
22. Seems to be common knowledge.
In a building I found the basement. Then the sub basement.
It was dark. Heard a sound. Then an an animal running sound…. and dogs barking. I f**king booked it back up the stairs and closed the fire door and gtfo.
Speaking to some urbex mentors they explained if you hear dogs or see them, to not go in the area as it’s probably used for a drug lab.
23. Pics or it didn’t happen.
Was exploring an abandoned TB hospital. Heard a sound that sounded a lot like a homeless person snoring. It took a while for my friends and I to work up the courage to go in the room where we heard it, but we were rewarded with the sight of a vultures nest.
24. I would have peed my pants!
I came across a bunch of doberman deep in the middle of the woods one time. There was at least 20 of them scattered among the trees next to the dirt road. I thought they were statues at first cuz they were sitting so stock still.
But their heads rotated on a swivel following my car. I noped out of there so f*cking fast.
25. Better than rattlesnakes.
In Oklahoma I was looking around some land that my mother and aunt inherited. I found a foundation and basement for a homestead that had been destroyed. As I got closer to it I started to hear this hissing sound and I freaked out a little because there are like four different species of rattlesnake here and the closest hospital is half an hour away.
I kept going and look into the basement/cellar thing and there are two baby buzzards, turns out they hiss when they get scared.
26. My stomach clenched.
Spooky cement tunnel that seems to lead underground. Very dark and echoes go on for ages. We had no clue what it was, didn’t seem to be any kind of drainage tunnel because it was square/bone dry and out in an open field. There are definitely some old bomb shelters and missile silos on our area that are out of commission, so we decided to take a look.
Only about 20 yards in and the light from outside starts really fading behind us. Someone takes out a flashlight and we start seeing bare human footprints on the ground leading deeper into the dark.
None leaving. We skedaddled.
27. That cat saw something bad.
Not terribly urban, (back when I lived in the rural south) but my friend and I went to an abandoned trailer because she wanted to show me all the old playboys that were left lying around in it.
There were pentagrams painted on the front door and on one wall of the bedroom that was through the kitchen but that wasn’t too spooky. My brother was one of those edgy teenagers and I had seen more than enough crookedly spray painted pentagrams to know it was just idiots goofing off. Nah, the scary part was the half d**d cat hung by it’s back legs from the ceiling fan in the back room down the hall.
We went to take it down so we could call the cops and then hopefully get to bury it at her house and give it some peace. And then it woke up and started squalling. It scratched me on my arms and her on the face and tried to get away but it was so weak all it could do was stagger.
We eventually got it wrapped in my shirt and walked home to explain to her mom where we were and how it happened. That crotchety old cat lived like another six years with no teeth, dislocated back legs (fixed by the vet of course, but the cat still limped forever) and horrible cataracts.
28. Wait, what?
In an old gun range (it was night, so no shooters, completely safe) there was this giant crack in a mountain that led to this weird system of caves and giant pipes. It was a pretty straight shot in, not many branching paths, but as we get further in we start seeing more ominous graffiti—stuff like “Closer…” and red hand prints and stuff.
Then around a corner there was a little shrine with more graffiti and some d**d candles all surrounding the words “Shrek 2.” Truly did find god in those mountains.
29. A wise decision.
I was exploring an abandoned mineshaft for the second day in a row.
It was also a 10 minute walk from the nearest road. This time I went with different friends and better flashlights.
The door I had gone through the first day was now padlocked shut, that should’ve been the first red flag, but we found an entrance from the rooftop into one of the main buildings and continued to explore anyway.
After exploring about 3 floors of mineshaft below ground, we were back on the main floor exploring the workshop/garage and I was looking through the cracks of light coming through the rusted metal walls, when I noticed a bright color that stood out from the rest of the area. It was a man looking back at me through the cracks, I was seeing his blue sweater. I could see two sets of eyes looking into the room that we were in.
After whispering to my friends that there were people watching us through the wall. We f**king booked it out of there and jumped off the roof and into the woods.
The men were in a pickup truck and drove around looking for us, even getting out of the truck to look around. We couldn’t see them from where we took cover but we could hear the truck stop, the doors open, and foot steps breaking leaves and twigs only ~20ft away from us.
We hid there for about 15 minutes while the men searched all around for us. It is harder than most people think to try and quiet your breathing after sprinting. It was terrifying.
I’m not going back there.
I love exploring, too, but I get freaked out easily!
Share your own almost-terrifying tales with us in the comments!