Our Readers' Spookiest Gaming Stories

Halo 2
Halo 2

Haunted houses are passe. It’s 2017. We have haunted video games now.

Kotaku is celebrating all things ghostly and gaming this week with Spooky Week. All week, look forward to ghoulish blogs on the unlikely games that scared us most, the real tales behind some of gaming’s most legendary scary stories and what specific mechanics make us twitchy when we play horror games.


For our inaugural Spooky Week post, we wanted to share some of the real-life scary stories we’ve heard from gamers who are pretty sure they’ve come in contact with the supernatural—or at least, something that made their hair stand on end. Ghost, glitch or good luck? You decide. And share your scariest stories of when games got too real in the comments.

20 years ago, when he was a teenager, LazyCouchGamer picked up a used copy of the fantasy role-playing game Secret of Mana at a video rental store. He was playing through the game’s fire palace alongside a princess when enemy blobs of lava appeared. They began multiplying. Suddenly, an enemy blob seemed to grab the princess and disappeared, he recalled. Her HP gauge disappeared, too. It was like she had never existed. He freaked out, but reconsidered, thinking it was just a sudden and unexpected plot twist in the game. But later on, he couldn’t progress further: The game would wait and wait for a text box from the princess, who had vanished into nothing. He reset the game, and for years, joked that it was haunted.

In the mid-2000s, SaskFPS and his buddy were flouncing around Halo 2 on the Xbox 360, launching themselves into the air with super bounces, as one did. Another friend logged on to join them on Headlong, Halo 2’s multiplayer map. The host changed to the mutual friend. They all continued playing, just jumping around and shooting all over. Moments later, an unidentified player joined. That player hovered around the brownish map, no name above their head. Confused, SaskFPS eyed the scoreboard. Nothing about them was there. SaskFPS recalled a video he’d seen called the “Ghost of Lockout,” a Halo 2 superstition that made the rounds back in 2006. Some players claimed to have encountered an unidentified, no-name white Spartan who repeatedly blew up their party with plasma grenades. Seemingly invincible, in the video, the Spartan was seen wrecking the players’ party, totally anonymously, in instants.


SaskFPS had always thought the video was fake. Fearlessly, he and his buddy tried to take down the new player’s shields, meleeing and shooting in a fatal, quick combination known as BXRing. Then, his friend quad shotted it, “because he just wanted to practice,” SaskFPS told me. Halo 2’s blue loading screen appeared; time for the hosts to migrate. When the game began anew, there was a second unidentified player. The original one came at SaskFPS with a rifle, he remembered, repeating his fatal attack back on him and then echoing his friend’s quad-shot back at him. SaskFPS now believes in the Ghost of Lockout.

Jake O’Connell and his friend David took a trip to a farm in the UK county of Cornwall to celebrate another friend’s birthday. At the celebration, Jake and David drank enough to feel buzzed, and, of course, susceptible to bad ideas. He and David noticed an old, rotten caravan in one of the farm’s far-flung fields earlier that night and thought it might be fun to stay in it. Making their way over and opening its door, Jake and David found the van full of cobwebs, with a brutal stench rising from its rotting interior. It seemed too creepy to stay in—but then they noticed an SNES console loaded up with Mario Kart, an old CRT TV and a small stereo.


Pumped, they fired up the console, which miraculously still worked. They were thrilled to race in Mario Kart in a decrepit old van. But when they flicked on the CRT TV, creepy synth music began to play—not from the television, but from whatever CD was in the car stereo, totally unconnected and up front, he said. In the rear of the van, the television began sparking and banging and smoking. Frantically, they tried to turn the TV off, but it wouldn’t respond. Smoke continued to rise. The TV crackled. It remained on until it was unplugged.

Duke, an avid Battlefield 1 player, logged on to the World War 1 first-person shooter around midnight to mow down some enemies alongside his friends. It was dark outside, and Duke played in his living room with the lights off. Dead after one round, he was waiting to respawn when, out of nowhere, he heard a scream resounding from inside the game. It was a pinging, blood-curdling digital scream that resounded twice, one that, when you hear it, sends a bracing vibration through your head. He’d played more hours of Battlefield 1 than he’s willing to admit, and he had never heard this sound before. “What the fuck was that?” David asked his friends. None of his friends had heard the scream. He’s not sure to this day whether it was a bad patch of code or a screaming woman whose voice was muffled over the server. Listen for yourself:

In the Fall of 2016, a gamer named Martin picked up The Forest. In it, the player has survived a plane crash and must shelter, feed and protect himself from the elements on a remote island. Martin enjoyed the game, gathering items and materials to sustain himself, and after some time playing, turned off his console, satisfied. It was November 28th, 2016. The next day, Martin’s feeds were saturated with news of the LaMia charter flight that crashed in Colombia. It was in the background of his day, and without thinking much more about it, Martin later decided to load up The Forest again. He was eager to explore more of the island where his character was marooned. Searching the wreckage of the plane crash, Martin found a passenger manifest. It included his name: Martin H. He was seated in 11C.


Look forward to tales of ghosts and glitches all week during Kotaku’s Spooky Week.

Senior reporter at Kotaku.



Here’s a fun, frightening trip down Red Dead Redemption memory lane (and also a throwback to my very first post on Kotaku!):

So I haven’t been in the West Elizabeth area for terribly long. Prior to tonight, my only encounter with bears in-game was when one got shot and killed along side me by some random guy as I was walking along the road. My fear of these bears started when I first discovered the log cabin by Aurora Basin. I went inside the cabin, and the second I turned back around I saw through the foggy, dirty windows, two dark shapes sniffing about outside. Luckily I was safe, and I killed my first bear from inside that cabin. At the time I did not know where the other one went.

Tonight I decided to eradicate this irrational fear of pixelated bears. I purchased my Buffalo Rifle, the single most powerful rifle in the game, and headed out towards the Tall Trees with the sole intent of hunting me some bears. I was wearing a tuxedo.

I make it to the edge of the Tall Trees, ready to enter the forest in the dead of night when out of nowhere I hear the distinct sound of a bears footsteps. I manage to turn around before not one, but two bears ambush me from the shadows. I nearly have a heart attack and only get one shot off before the end. Remember when I said I didn’t know where the other bear went at Aurora Basin? I now know that the surviving bear went to the dark wretched corners of the forest to let all of bear-kind know my misdeed. Those two bears were waiting for me at the edge of that forest. They knew I was coming to kill them. I woke up back at Blackwater, slowly recovering from the attack. Fuck the Buffalo Rifle. I take out my Evans Repeater. While substantially less powerful than the buffalo rifle, the Evans can hold up to 22 bullets in a single round, whereas the Buffalo can only hold one. Stocked up with chewing tobacco and moonshine, I head back towards the Tall Trees. This time I make camp just outside the forest and save my game.

Eventually I find a nice, large clearing just southwest of Nekoti Rock. I dismount my horse, throw some bait around, and hide in some nearby bushes. After about a minute, I hear the distant sound of coyotes howling. Nothing to worry about. After a while, nothing continues to happen. I carefully meander towards the bait, and after being disappointed, mount my horse and proceed to get attacked by a fucking bear. He kills my horse and I unload twenty-two bullets in between his eyes. Thankfully I have a deed to my horse so getting another one is easy. Two more bears come out to attack. I dispatch them easily. I get momentarily distracted by some guy complaining that his wife is about to be hung for the fiftieth time, so I have to go save her. I manage to snag another bear on my way back. I go back to where my first horse had died, and am attacked by three more bears. I kill them, but barely (bearly) survive. I spend the next fifteen or so minutes killing and skinning bears. Final count: 20. Night has fallen. I am running low on ammo and moonshine, so I save the game and head towards Manzanita Post. The bears have other plans. I get ambushed again by three more, one of whom kills my horse. As I’m waiting for my new horse to find me, I hear those haunting footsteps. I look around me. Nothing. They’re toying with me now. I can hear him roaring loudly behind me but no matter where I look there is nothing but trees and snow and shadows. The bear is taunting me. My horse arrives, and I hoof it towards Manzanita. I’m almost there when I see a bear running alongside the road, being chased and shot at by a sheriff. Hesitant to help him out, I watch. The sheriff is closing in on the bear, firing away with his pistol when suddenly he is flanked by another bear, which proceeds to maul both the sheriff and his horse. The bears. Just set. A motherfucking. Trap. These are no bears. They’re velociraptors. The two bears slowly turn around and eye me. I turn around to a third bear lunging at me. I’m startled enough for my finger to twitch rapidly and unload my rifle into his skull. My horse is not so lucky. I recover from my fall just in time to kill off the other two bears. I don’t even want to wait for another horse. I sprint down the road, only to run right into one, final bear. I did not make it to Manzanita.

Fuck bears.