For the most part, strangers pass in and out of our lives without much notice. These strangers are not like that; Redditors got together and shared the most impactful strangers who crossed their paths on this wacky road called life. From Good Samaritans to dangerous shadows and simply odd eggs, strangers prove that humanity is truly a mixed back of weird. Get acquainted with these unforgettable stories of the most memorable encounters with strangers.
1. In the Hot Seat
The lady on my plane (I’m a flight attendant) who got really mad I gave her too much coffee and then poured it into the seat's back pocket. I realized that day that some people will get mad at whatever they can. And there’s nothing I can do about that.
2. The Substitute Mother
When I was probably three or four, I went to the bank with my mom and she passed out flat on the floor while talking to the teller. An ambulance came to take her away and I remember well a woman who held me and comforted me as I watched firemen put my mom on a stretcher and in the ambulance. My mom was ok, just had low blood sugar.
I still remember her voice and her face.
3. We All Should Arrive Alive
When I was about 13 or 14, my phone ran out when I was waiting for a bus, but I realized my bus wasn’t arriving for two hours as it was a Sunday night. I don’t live in a big city, so bus times are varied. I knew I had to call my parents, but I was very shy and too nervous to ask anybody. But a really lovely mother noticed I was looking very anxious and came and asked if I was okay.
She let me use her phone, but then she also stayed with me until my bus came because it was late at night, and she didn’t want me there alone. I think about her a lot. She was so caring and loving.
4. Having a Gas with a Good Samaritan
When I was about 18, I stopped in LA for gas to make it two hours north back home, and my card was declined—I had no way of putting anything in my tank. This was before Venmo and all that. So, I sat in my car and cried for 15 minutes until a guy tapped in my window and told me to pull up to the pump. He put gas in my car and gave me an extra $20 for the road.
I still think of him and hope it’s come around back to him.
5. Better Than Uber
20 years ago, I was in high school and my truck broke down on the side of the road. Busy offramp from a busy highway and a guy stopped behind me, drove me to the nearest store to buy more oil, and took me back to my truck, and didn't ask for or expect a thing. I'm iffy on the memory but he might have even bought the oil for me.
6. A Bleeding Heart
Got stabbed during a mugging and legged it away from the scene (to clarify, I was the one being mugged). Was full of adrenalin but then got to a bus stop and started to go into (mild) shock. A woman, probably no older than 21, came and called an ambulance and sat with me and was very reassuring. It turned out I wasn't too badly hurt, but to be honest, in that circumstance and confusion, you just tend to think "WOW! I'm dying here!"
Her sitting with me was so appreciated; she was so tender and supportive but also relatively calm and collected given the scenario (I didn't look too clever at the time and was covered in blood). That was around 15 years ago and I still think of her.
7. More Than Roadkill
10 months ago, I got into a horrific motorcycle accident and found myself laying on the street dying. The ground was scorching as I live in Arizona, where we often have temperatures pushing 120° F. I was being cooked alive by the pavement until a passerby jumped out of his work truck, picked me up and put me on a moving blanket.
I don’t remember his face, but I remember his actions. He called an ambulance and waited with me until they came. Whoever you are, thank you. You deserve more than a comment on the internet.
8. Poop Just Got Real
Several years ago, I was hobbling down the street in an air boot, having screwed up my ankle in some way or other. I walked past an electrician's van; the owner was sitting there in the open rear door also sporting an air boot. We chuckled at the coincidence, and then he said in a thick, Eastern European accent, "Life is like a baby's poop: short and poop."
Never gonna forget that guy.
9. An Open Wallet From Strange Places
When I was a little kid, small enough to be in a shopping cart still, I remember being at Walmart with my mom and two sisters. This random black lady comes up to mom and says, "God told me to give this to you." She smiled at her and clasped some money into my mother's hand. My mom was thanking her, and me being a kid I kinda realized what was going on but kinda didn't.
At the time, my father had just left, and my mother was on her own raising three little kids by herself. A few years later, my mom would bring up the lady every now and then. I remember she told my grandma about it, but after that, she hasn't said anything at all about her. That was probably around 15 years ago. I'm 21 now.
Looking back, I wonder if that's one of my mom's reasons for helping me out with money at times...but I don't know. It does make me look back and think wow, how kind people can be. And how weird that situation was too, in a way. A woman saying she heard God talk to her and helped another person in need. My mother is super successful now, and she did most of it on her own, but she is super humble.
I have many more weird and heartfelt stories about strangers, but this one came to my head first.
10. Drowning in Gratitude
I was tubing with my family in a very popular river spot. The river split into two sections briefly before connecting once again; one being rapid, the other calm. I fell off my tube BACKWARDS into the rapids. Tons of people were going down as well, so I was pretty much trapped under the water with other people’s bodies and tubes on top of me while my knees were being scraped.
I stuck my hand above the surface because I couldn’t stand, and someone grabbed it. He lifted me out and began to ask if I was okay and if I needed medical assistance because my knees were bleeding badly. Me, being only eight, was shy and crying and didn’t know how to respond. He cleaned my knee and his wife bandaged it, all while staying with me until my father came down the other side of the river to get me.
I wonder where he is now. I hope he and his family are doing alright.
11. One Last Tip Before I Go
When I first started working in the TV department at Best Buy, a probably 50-something-year-old women came in about 15 minutes before we closed. She said she wanted the best television we had and, being the excited new guy, I happily brought her back to the LG OLED which, at the time, was the highest quality TV that we had.
I rattled off all the specs to her and yadda yadda. Eventually, she said she'll take one. I was ecstatic, at this point in time OLED technology was very new, and the store had only sold a couple of them before. I start ringing her out, ask for her number so I can look up her rewards account. I notice her address is in Florida and trying to make conversation I ask, "What brings you to (Rochester MN)?" She replies, "Oh I'm here for the Mayo Clinic, I have stage 4 cancer.” Needless to say, that killed my happy mood right there.
I said I was sorry about that, but that she was in the best possible hands at Mayo. She agreed, but told me she already knew she was going to die in a couple months. That's why she came in to buy such a nice TV, to view pictures and videos and experience the world as close to real-life as her ailing body would let her.
Eventually, we got to the point where the register prompted me to offer her an extended warranty plan. Out of instinct I did and immediately regretted it. What would someone who only has a couple months left want an extended warranty for? Luckily, she took it well and just laughed saying that was a pretty good deal for a "lifetime warranty.” What she asked me next is what really stuck with me though.
She said, "I obviously don't need a warranty, but if I buy it does it help you at all?" I told her technically yes because the company does track that stuff and it comes up during annual reviews, but she didn't need to buy one just for me it doesn't matter that much. But she insisted and said whatever little thing she could do to help me out she would do.
After going back and forth for a bit I finally relented and added it to the transaction. This is a good point to mention: the TV was not her only purchase, she bought tons of other things as well (soundbar, Bluetooth speakers, small appliances, router, etc.) her grand total ended up being over $8,000. Needless to say, this was my biggest sale up until that point.
On top of that, she wanted to give me a $100 bill as a tip! I refused, saying she had already given enough and should spend it on herself. Besides, Best Buy policy doesn't allow us to collect tips. With my manager standing right there she said OK and we headed out to her car to load all the product up. After I had helped her load her stuff up, we went to shake hands and I thanked her for being so generous and wished her luck on her chemo treatment.
As she pulled away, I look down and saw the sneaky woman had dropped the $100 bill on the ground right in front of me. I yelled out multiple times as she was getting in the car. I tried to run up to her window bill in hand when she saw me in the mirror smiled and just told her caregiver to floor it. So there I was. $100 richer and 1,000 times humbler.
As a 17-year-old, she had such a profound impact on my outlook on life in such a short time frame. It’s hard to put in words what that feels like. RIP Mary, I'll never forget you.
12. Ice Cream, Nice Cream
A truck driver who was unloading a semi full of ice cream at a grocery store. He noticed us watching in the sweltering heat and gave us a case of pints. I was about ten.
13. Someone Out There Loves You
I was 19 or 20, working at a car dealership going nowhere and in a really bad relationship. This LOVELY man with a full head of white hair looks at me and in the most non-passive, non-patronizing, completely fatherly way says, “You are surrounded by this beautiful glowing light, but have this cloud over you. I hope you are loved and treated well because you deserve nothing less."
This guy had NO clue who I was, and I never saw him again but will NEVER forget that. I had never felt more worthy of love.
14. Off Into the Sunset…Without You
When I was in college, I had to ride Greyhound buses home for vacation. One trip, I sat next to a guy my age who was really cute and very into books (as am I). I have never had such instant chemistry with anyone as I had with him. We talked and held hands the whole trip, and when we got close to my stop, he asked me to come with him to his summer job in Montana.
I said I couldn't, and he gave me the necklace he was wearing to remember him by. Sometimes I wonder if I had gone with him, would I be happily married on a horse ranch out west right now or just dead in a ditch somewhere?
15. Hospitality is the Universal Language
I studied abroad in Tokyo in my junior year of college when I was 20. I had never been out of the country before, was flying alone, and didn't speak the language, so I was pretty nervous. I was seated next to a woman named Ona, who must have seen I was anxious, so she talked to me over the course of the flight and gave me tips and pointers for my time in Japan.
At the end of the flight, she had finished the book she was reading, and she wrote a kind note in it, signed it, and gave it to me. It's been 11 years and I still have that book. What must have seemed like such a small gesture to her meant the world to me.
16. A Hopeful Delivery
I was in college and 34 weeks pregnant. My baby hadn’t moved for about six hours. I was on my way to the emergency room after my class had ended because I was terrified. A faculty member stopped me and asked if I was okay. I responded honestly and said, “No, my baby isn’t moving.” He held my hand and said what I assume was a prayer in another language.
He squeezed my hand when he was done and made some pretty powerful eye contact with me. I thanked him and hurried off. I think about him every now and then. Not many people care enough to stop upset strangers, but he did.
17. What Else is a Sister For?
I was once on a seven-hour nighttime train trip, pretty much on the verge of fainting from sleeplessness. I attended a Catholic school from age 5 to 12, and this might have played a role in what happened next. Sitting next to me was this 80-something-year-old nun, or sister, as we call them in Portugal, (some reason the word for nun is almost insultingly formal), and I just straight up asked her if I could rest my head on her lap.
She said, "Of course, my son" to my 17-year-old self, and caressed my hair as I fell asleep. I drooled all over her habit and she found it hilarious and mocked me relentlessly as I woke up at about 5 AM. “Let's stop this train and ask for water!” she laughed. Her eyes screamed peace and freedom. She was the coolest woman I've ever met.
18. Slow Down, Twinkle Toes
I had just bought some new sneakers the day prior. I was leaving work and waiting for the crosstown bus. While I was waiting, this “executive” looking guy was walking down the street. Nice suit, nice shoes, overall really well put together. So, he’s on the phone and he’s arguing with someone. Sounds like someone he works with, and I hear him coming from half a block away.
So, he’s walking toward my direction as I’m on the sidewalk waiting. There he is, arguing with this person, he gets close to me, doesn’t even miss a beat, points at me and says, “Those are really cool sneakers.” And then just continues on his way in his argument. This was eight years ago.
19. In the Sweet Arms of Food Service
Years ago, I was a waiter at a restaurant, and I had this one table. It was about six or seven women who were getting together for some kind of reunion. They were delightful people, but such a pain as customers because it was impossible to get everyone to focus on ordering. They either couldn't agree on what they wanted to do, or they were so focused on catching up with one another it was like talking to a wall.
This was in the middle of a lunch rush, so it amounted to a really stressful situation. There was one woman who was a sort of "leader" of the group who really helped rein them in. After I finished serving them and dropped off their credit cards, I went to the breakroom to exhale from the stress. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by this emotion and a voice in my head said, "You need to go back and give that woman a hug before she leaves."
I walk back to the dining room, and the woman is standing there alone waiting for me, she points to me and says "You! Come over here, I need to give you a hug," and she gives me the biggest hug. It was so surreal. I'm not a religious person, but it was the closest thing I've ever experienced to believing that there is some kind of power out there that's bigger than all of us.
20. Pals in Sodium
One time I was walking on the beach in California while wearing a shirt that said “Salty” on it (clever, I know). This one middle eastern man in his late 40s walks up to me and says, “SALTY HAHA, LIKE THE BEACH AND THE WATER HAHAHA” and proceeded to give me a high five. Thank you, sir. You both confused and frightened me but somehow, I love you and will never forget you.
21. Rapunzel is in Another Castle
When I was about 19-20, I had long hair (I'm a guy). Hair literally down most of my back. I got on a train and it was really crowded, but I was able to find an empty spot near the door in between carriages. Nobody else was coming that way so I sat on the floor. The train isn't departing for another 10 minutes so this old man heads out the door to have a cigarette.
He looks at me and says that I should sit with him and his friends—that we'll have a great time. I said "Uh... I'm fine here. But thanks..." But he insisted: "I'm serious, you'll have a great time!" Again, I tell him "No I'm really okay here.” He finishes his cigarette, gets back on the train, walks over to me and grabs me by the arm and stops—notices my five o' clock shadow and immediately lets go saying "Oh, you're a man..." and walks away in disgust.
Left me thinking: what an absolute freaking creep.
22. Snooze Cruise
Was driving to work on in peak hour traffic on a freeway around 5 AM. I’d been at the office until around nine the night before and was working six to seven day weeks. I had never experienced a microsleep while driving until that morning. Young guy in a car next to me beeped while we were almost stationary in the traffic. He just smiled and motioned for me to stay awake and looking forward.
Totally woke me up when I hadn’t even realized my eyes were closed, and I never drove that tired again. If he hadn’t beeped, I can’t imagine what might have happened. I think of it often.
23. No Place Like Home
When I was around seven or eight, I was at my cousin’s house with my siblings. My family is abusive, and at one point one of my aunts came to this house to tell us she wanted us to be at her house instead. She liked to lock us outside and not let us use the bathroom, so obviously, we said no. She called my dad and told him, and he got on the phone and told us he was going to come over there and beat the snot out of us and kill us.
My other aunt had a friend over at her house, along with his wife. His wife held me as I sobbed and promised she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Obviously, the second she was gone something did happen to me, but for that time being it was the safest I felt in a long time. I never saw her again after that, but her kindness always stuck with me.
24. Never Judge a Book By Its Cover
I was walking into a Dunkin’ Donuts while my clothes were in the dryer at the laundromat. I saw a group of “thuggish” looking guys walking right behind me, so I held the door for them and patted the last one on the back and said, “After you, my man” as they walked in. When we got in, I was about five people behind the last guy I held the door for.
I saw him turn around and start gesturing my way. He asked, “How do you like your coffee?” I told him black and he proceeded to order me a medium black coffee. His “thuggish” looking friends looked at him funny, and I couldn’t stop thanking him. I definitely got a little teary-eyed. Really changed my views on how I outwardly perceive people. Didn’t expect at all for this “thuggish” looking guy to buy me coffee in front of his friends.
I’ll never forget that guy.
25. We All Toot It
When I was 12 years old, I walked into the bathroom of a fast-food restaurant. An older guy (mid 30s) was using the bathroom at the urinal. I walked up to the only open space next to him. Just as I started to pee, he rips the loudest fart I've ever heard. He looks over at me (my eyes are open wide in shock) and says, "You Poot?"
I just finished and walked out.
26. Who Doesn’t Like a Film Reference?
A few years back, my wife and I visited Italica, a Roman ruined city a few miles from Seville. The ruins are glorious, and we had them to ourselves, so when as we emerged from the gladiator gate in the amphitheater I stalked out into the sunlight, threw out my arms and roared "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" It rang off the old seats in a satisfying manner.
Turns out we weren't alone. I spun to find a Japanese tourist staring at me in wonder, who then grinned nervously, snapped a picture, and gave me a thumbs up. My wife: "You're an idiot."
27. Six Horsepowers of Separation
When I was 11 (2002), I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a very rare form of the disease that's extremely hard to treat. Went through the treatments and bone marrow transplant really well though and got better etc. When I was 14, I was picked to go to a ranch in Colorado for kids that had health issues like myself.
Anyways, on one of the connecting flights, I sat next to an older woman, and she noticed a car magazine that I had with me. We started talking and I told her I liked Mustangs and turns out she had two 1982 GTs, had won awards with them etcetera. It was really cool to talk to her and when we landed, we went our separate ways.
Fast forward two or three years (can't remember exactly), and my dad and I drove to Arkansas to pick up a mint '82 GT. We get there and start talking to her and she starts saying the other cars she has, and it finally clicked in my head, she was the lady on the plane! When I mentioned that to her, she remembered me and it was just pretty amazing that in a population of over 300 million we found each other again!
28. The Words Will Grow on You
I was a horticulture student on a botanical tour of Europe in 1979. I am at a flower market in Munich and see a plant I don't recognize. The lady working it doesn't speak English; I don't know any German. I see a plant I do know; touch the leaf and say the Latin name for it. She nods and smiles. I name another plant I know. Her smile gets bigger.
I point at the unknown plant and look at her with an expression that I hope says, "Your turn." She tells me the Latin name. We don't speak each other’s language, but we can communicate in a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. Cool.
29. The Wind Beneath My Wings
Years ago, I was at the bus stop super early one morning. It was really cold as well. Anyway, there was a guy who I used to see every time I would get the 7 AM bus—looked like a builder, he always got off near one of the large building sites by the university. We were on "nodding terms.” One morning, there was a fireball/disintegrating meteor in the sky.
We both saw it, he turned to me and said with a super serious face, “You know our souls are forever linked now.” We went back to nodding terms, and I never saw him after I quit early morning classes. I guess because I remember it, he was kinda right, and dude is still trolling me.
30. Puppy Luck
My son was in a pretty serious accident. I was a wreck in the ICU waiting room. A little girl maybe about nine or 10 years old was with her family, saying goodbye to her great grandmother. She waltzed right up to me and said, “Sir, why are you crying? " I explained my son was very sick. She handed me a miniature puppy doll and told me it was lucky, and my son would get better.
She was right, he did, and I still keep that little puppy on my dresser and think of that sweet child.
31. In Today’s Class, No Answers Are Needed
The day I found out my grandmother had a stroke and would never walk or talk again, I was away at college. I finally broke down in a bathroom. A girl came in and asked if I needed a hug. I was crying so hard that I really didn't get a look at her face. I cried on her shoulder for about 10 minutes and then had to pull myself together and leave for class.
I never explained myself and she never asked. I never recognized or spoke to her again. I wonder if she sometimes saw me on campus and wondered what was up and if I was okay.
32. One (Bill) Too Many
I was bartending at a place with outside tables. Taking a half break smoking a cig with some regulars when they pointed out “this wastoid.” He’s stumbling, hacking, dry heaving, and spitting down the block. He leans on a couple of poles for a couple of different moments. He gets to his truck which is parked right in front of us and is struggling to get into it.
I go over to talk him out of driving and he explains he’s not drunk, in the same fashion that all drunks do. As a responsible bartender, I urge him again not to drive and he says, “Something’s not right man, I really don’t feel well.” So, I say, “I believe you, but maybe you should go to the hospital.” He tells me he is, but he can’t afford the ambulance.
I convince him he can’t afford a car accident than either and it will only take a moment for me to hail him a cab (this is before Uber). He concedes and in under a minute, I grab him a cab and tell the cabbie to take him to Mercy hospital (the closest in the area). At this point, he’s doing much worse. So, I hand the cabbie $20 and tell him to rush.
The next day the guy comes back for his car and to thank me. He was having some sort of respiratory attack and would have surely died without medical treatment. He tried to pay me the twenty back. At that point, his tears have me really choking up, and I refused his money, telling him to "pay it to the hospital $5 at a time, that will keep them off your back for at least four months.” After a million “thank yous” and “I owe you my lifes,” he drives away, never to be seen again.
Don’t assume anything about anyone and be nice to each other. It might save a life.
33. Connections in the Pit
I was in DC last May for the Gaslight Anthem's 59 Sound reunion tour. In the back of the mosh pit, there were a few of us who would bob in and out depending on the songs. There was a guy in a blue raglan shirt who I was standing close to for almost the whole show, and I sort of felt like he might have been keeping an eye on a few of us back there.
During the song “The Backseat,” we both jumped into the pit and, at the crescendo of the music, we grabbed hands and jumped around together for a little bit. Don't know his name or story, but we had that pure connection over the music, and it was great!
34. The Broken Heart Angel
I had just found out my husband of 10 years had cheated on me. I was driving and crying so hard that I quickly pulled over at the nearest parking lot. I parked my car and walked over to the beach and, while watching the waves, fell to my knees and just sobbed. Gut-wrenching sobbing. About 10 minutes later, a stranger walked over to me, held her hand out and helped me get up.
She then led me to a bench and sat me down. She hugged me and rubbed my back. She let me cry and would say to me, “This too shall pass.” After about 15 minutes, I composed myself (as much as possible) and she smiled, got up and continued on her walk. I truly believe she was my guardian angel. I think about that moment all the time.
35. I Live on Memory Lane
When an older gentleman knocked on my door one day and asked if he could possibly come inside and revisit the home in which he had lived over 55 years ago. It was a pleasure to show him around and to hear his recollection of things that had happened within those same walls many years ago—some of which were big eye-openers.
I never saw him again because he was visiting from the other coast, where he now lives. Still, he told me tales of the house and neighborhood I won't forget.
36. No One Should Ride on an Empty Stomach
I was on a long late-night bus ride. It was express so it made very few stops. The bus had maybe 10 people on it in total. Halfway through the trip, it made a stop at a small-town station so people could grab a snack or use a public restroom and maybe stretch their legs. I went up to the counter to buy what at that point was my dinner, even though it was after 10 PM. When the cashier rang it up, I passed a $50 bill to her and she told me that she couldn't make change.
Defeated, I went back to my seat on the bus. As everyone piled on and the bus drove away I lovely middle-aged lady walked up from her seat near the back and politely asked if I minded if she sat with me. I told her she was more than welcome. She sits and proceeds to unpack a small lunch bag. She then split the entirety of her meal with me.
She said she had been waiting for the washroom to clear out and had overheard what happened. She said: "I've gone hungry in my life and it sucks. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, so you can share with me." When we were done, I jokingly asked if she could break a $50 and we had a good laugh. She stuck with me for the remainder of the trip and was a very interesting lady besides being incredibly generous.
I hope she is well.
37. My Stone-Cold Hero
When I was fourteen, I was trapped in the rubble of an earthquake. I spent six hours crawling towards a man whose face I never had the opportunity to see...he was a citizen who didn't leave his name with anyone and never came forward after the fact. It has always bothered me that I will likely never find out who he was or tell him how much comfort his voice gave me during those horrible hours.
When I saw pictures of the space I ended up in, much later, I couldn't (and can't) understand how he was able to stand where he stood for six hours without injuring himself or suffering some sort of emotional trauma himself. He's my hero.
38. The Chambermaid
When I was a little kid, this guy named Mr. Chambers would magically appear whenever my mom had a problem. This was in the 1980s before most people had cell phones or other ways to contact help when in a rural area. I guess most problems were vehicle-related. Mom got a flat tire? Mr. Chambers would show up. Ran out of gas? Here comes Mr. Chambers with a gas can.
One time, a hurricane knocked down a tree that blocked access to the dirt road leading to our house, and who showed up with a chainsaw? Mr. Chambers did. He was very tall and had dark, curly hair and a VERY deep voice which frightened me. I was the kind of child who LOVED strangers, but something about Mr. Chambers made me nervous every time even though I should've had a positive association with him for always rescuing us.
I'm not sure what it was about him, but as an adult, I've started to doubt that he was even a real guy. When I asked my mom, she said she's not sure who I'm talking about. Creepy man always showed up to help my mom when she was randomly in trouble, and now I'm not even sure if he was real.
39. It’s the Pennies That Count
This sweet old lady at my Grandmother’s store where she works asked me to help her load some drinks into her cart. After I did, she gave me a dollar for my work. It wasn’t much, but it was really touching for me (I was about 10 at the time, as well).
40. Sweet as a Peach
When I was four and on a family vacation, I wandered off onto this bridge of ongoing pedestrians and found myself walking next to this friendly teenage girl. She offered me her peach rings and I declined, turned around, and wandered back to find my family, none of them noticing that I was missing for five to eight minutes.
Looking back, if it wasn’t such a nice young girl, there could’ve been many different outcomes.
41. Taking Compliments for Two
Was pregnant and shopping for toothbrushes, and this gentleman who was certainly out of my league flirted with me for a minute. Made me feel a bit better about my fat self. That was about 10 years ago.
42. From Playdate to Child Abduction
It was a very long time ago—back in 1973. I know that it was summer, I was six, and we were living on Monica Lane in Madison, Wisconsin. Thing is, I sort of recalled it but never put two-and-two together until a few months ago when I was talking to my mom who went into great detail. I was a very gregarious child; outgoing, extroverted, friends with anyone.
It was at the time a middle-class neighborhood, and three houses down from ours, on the same side of the street, was a huge park. My mom was a nurse and my dad was a salesman, but mom worked 2nd shift at Merriter, while my dad worked days. I rarely had a babysitter, only if they went out for dinner or a movie. But they did go out often and there were always older kids in the neighborhood to babysit.
One sitter who I really liked lived a few blocks or so away, and down the street a little bit. Vicky had babysat a few times before that and it was pretty uneventful. She'd play games with me, and do my hair, play dress-up, pretty basic stuff. So anyhow, one day I had gone with friends down to the park. I remember there was a ball field at the time, and a sandlot next to the field.
My friends wanted to play on the monkey bars, but I wanted to play in the sand. I looked at the sandbox and my babysitter Vicky was standing there. I told my friends I was going down to the sandbox and ran off. We played in the sand, building a castle, and then she asked me if I wanted to go get something cold to drink.
It was stifling hot, and I, of course, said yes. So she takes my hand and we start walking to her place. She starts telling me about her puppies and asking if I want to play with them. Of course, I get giddy and now can't wait to get to her house. This was where my memory had stopped and after my mom told me what happened, the rest of it flooded back.
My mother just happened to be talking to my sister and I about some of the places we lived, and we got to Monica Lane. I told her I remembered the park and how big it seemed, and she asks me if I remember being kidnapped. I immediately thought she was kidding and then the chilling look on her face told me otherwise.
She said it was around five in the afternoon and one of my friends had come to the door to ask me to come back outside, sure that I had gotten bored and walked back home. When my mom checked the house, she realized I wasn't there and (seven months pregnant with my sister) sprints to the park, screaming my name.
After asking several kids if they'd seen me with no clue, she went to the ball field and asked the older boys if they'd seen me. One of the boys (she guessed around 14) said that he'd seen a younger woman playing with a girl that fit my description in the sand and walk off in a general direction and that was all he knew.
My mom ran across the street to one of the houses and asked to use their phone and called the police. By the time the police got there, my dad had come home and some of the neighbors were trying to help my mom. So there's this search party out looking for me, screaming my name and knocking on doors. The police had gone back to the park to ask the boys if they knew who had been with me and if they knew who she was.
Between the boys and the neighbors, they had deduced who it was that had led me off, but I have no idea how, honestly. The police and the entourage go to her home (she lived with her parents but they weren't home) and knock on the door. She came to the door and told them she hadn't seen me, and that she'd been home all day.
The police asked to come in and for some reason, she said okay. They went through the house and went to the basement and found me. That's what my mom knew and then I remembered. It was literally like a flood gate had opened and I started crying. At six, you sort of trust everyone, and she'd been into our home.
I never got a bad feeling from her and my parents didn't, either. But when we walked into her house I remember that cold, holy feeling washing over me and getting very worried. I remember starting to cry and saying I wanted to go home, over and over. She takes me into her kitchen and gets me a glass of water and a tissue.
I hear dogs barking, and next to the kitchen is an open stairway that goes down and where the barking was coming from. She starts trying to cajole me into going downstairs—telling me there's all sorts of toys and games. I reluctantly agree, and she grabs my hand to head down the stairs. The dogs are going nuttier and I start screaming.
At this point, Vicky is getting bizarre. She's screaming at me to "SHUT UP!! IF YOU DONT SHUT UP I WILL THROW YOU IN THE CAGE WITH THE DOGS AND THEY WILL EAT YOU!! SHUT UP!!" Dragging me down the stairs and still screaming. I was scared out of my mind. I remember crying so hard I was hyperventilating, and I am screaming so hard I'm not making sounds.
Vicky then flips a switch and starts being syrupy sweet, trying to calm me down. She tells me that she was just playing a game and tells me she wants to play hide and seek. She must have been relatively skilled at calming me down because the next thing I know, I hear knocking on the door upstairs and I wasn't crying.
The houses were all the same sort of tract houses that Sears used to sell, not huge but not small, but you could hear everything at any spot in the house. I keep hearing the knocking and she tells me that it's her friends. They're coming to play hide and seek!!! She convinced me to let her put a piece of masking tape over my mouth, so I wouldn't make a sound, and lifted me into this big wooden box next to the kennel.
She put a big pile of blankets over me and told me to be really quiet, so they didn't find me. The whole time the dogs were going crazy but when she calmed me down, they calmed down, too. They still looked incredibly mean, but they were no longer frothing at the mouth, and only slightly growling. Until the knocking started.
I remember scrunching in there, confused. Still scared and convinced that the dogs were going to get out and eat me. I was crying again and hyperventilating. I remember taking the tape off my mouth because I couldn't breathe, but remembered I needed to be quiet because I was afraid of what she'd do if I screamed.
I laid in that smelly box next to a big bag of dog food, sweating to hell, tears rolling down my face. I sort of pushed the blankets to the side but only enough so that I could pull them back over me when someone came. I recall thinking about my dad and wondering if he'd come find me. All of a sudden, I hear what sounds like adults yelling my name.
They come down the stairs and the dogs are going crazy again. Over and over men are yelling my name and then I hear a man say, "If you don't shut those dogs up I will!!" I was in a large storage box (like a carpenter’s toolbox type of thing) with tape hanging off my mouth when they opened the lid. I remember a very nice man asking me my name and if I was okay.
I don't remember answering him in anything other than screams and tears and grabbing his neck so hard my dad had to practically pry me off of him. I remember my parents taking me to the hospital to be checked out and that's all I really remember. Mom said that Vicky was found guilty of attempted kidnapping, as she should've been.
Last she knew, she was in prison but she couldn't remember when the last time was she had heard anything. We moved from the area shortly thereafter, and I haven't been back since. I do know that mom said that her parents were odd but that they didn't know them. She had met Vicky from neighbors that had used her as a babysitter and had never heard of anything bad and that I always seemed happy with her.
She lived in the general neighborhood, but it would have been two blocks over and one block down. Mom said they never picked her up, she always walked over. When they'd get home, they'd drive her home but never noticed anything out of the ordinary. Mom and dad had only met her parents when they came to the door to ask for forgiveness; that Vicky hadn't meant to do anything bad, and was a good girl.
Mom said my dad picked up her dad by the shirt and told him that if they ever came on our property again, he'd kill them. I remember her name and sort of what she looked like, but would have no idea if she walked up to me who she is.
43. There’s a New Sheriff in Town
In 1990, I was 19 years old. I was driving across the country by myself and all I had was $63 and a Texaco card. One night, I notice that my gas tank is close to empty somewhere in the middle of Iowa, so I pull up to a Texaco station—about five minutes after they had closed. I was trying to only use my Texaco card and to conserve what little cash I had.
The person working at the station wouldn't open to give me gas, so I decide that I'll just put ALL my clothes on and sleep in my car until they opened again in the AM. It was the middle of December and only about 11 degrees. At about 2 in the morning, I hear a tap on the window and a voice saying "I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the car!"
It was the sheriff. Uh oh! I explained what was going on to him. He ran my ID to make sure I didn't have warrants or anything and then ominously stated, "That's not how we do things around here." Oh no, I was terrified! How do you do things around here? What's going to happen to me?!? Turns out, he was PISSED that the guy at the gas station had left me there and refused to help.
So, he called the owner of the gas station up and made him come down in the middle of the night to fill up my gas tank—for free. Then the sheriff calls his wife and lets her know what's going on. She tells him to offer to bring me over to their place for the night. Mrs. Sheriff proceeds to feed me, let me take a shower, and give me a place to sleep until the next morning.
Then she feeds me again, packs me a lunch for the road, gives me $20 in cash, and sends me on my way. It was seriously one of the most wholesome things that has ever happened to me.
44. Prince Charmless
The following account occurred roughly three years ago during the summer of 2012. It has always been difficult for me to talk about, but I have found writing about it to be therapeutic. I was 17 at the time, and I had just gotten my first job. I lived in rural western Virginia, in a small and very remote mountain community.
My mom’s friend owned a camping resort not far from my house that had a general store, and she said she’d pay me to help out in the store during the busy months in the summer. It was a pretty easy job, and I met a lot of out-of-towners, which was nice because our community could get so isolated; most of us lived pretty far away from each other.
One day, a big burly mountain man type came into the store. He was in his late 40s/early 50s, probably 6’5”, and about 280 lbs. He looked dirty, like he worked outside a lot; his clothes were sort of tattered and he had a long beard. We had a few of the woodsy hermit types in the area, and he definitely looked like one of them.
He bought some basic items, one of which was one of our homemade bars of soap. When he came to the register, he looked me up and down carefully. He didn’t talk for a minute, just stared. His people skills clearly needed work. “Did you make this soap?” He asked gruffly. “Possibly,” I said. “I help out with that sometimes.”
“You make a lot of your own stuff?” “Toiletries and things like that, yeah.” “I like that,” He said, nodding to himself. I honestly did not know how to respond. I quickly rang up his items and he paid with crumpled money. Right before he left, he asked, “You cook, too?” “Sometimes,” I replied. “Bet the boys 'round here are itchin’ to marry you,” he said as he smiled to himself.
I said nothing. I was puzzled as to what I said that stood out as wife material. I told Krista (mom’s friend/boss) about the bizarre encounter and she laughed it off; so did my family and friends. But then, Mountain Man started turning up more often. We chatted a little bit here and there, and I found out he had a cabin in the woods that he claimed he built “with his bare hands.”
He said he hunted and lived off the land, other than the things he bought at the store. Over time our chatter escalated, with him making comments about how nice it would be to have a woman like me around who could make those things and cook his kills. One time, he even said I had the "birthin' hips that men lust after." Shudder.
He even started inviting me to fish with him, hunt with him, see his place, etc. and I always politely declined. But he got more and more insistent and I told Krista about how uncomfortable he was starting to make me. The intensity with which he said those things really scared me. She said that when he came in, go get her and she would ring him up.
Thanks to her, I started speaking to him less, and I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. But one night, I was closing up, and it was late, around 10 at night. Krista had left about an hour before, and I was leaving by myself. The only two cars in front of the store were an old blue pickup and mine; I was immediately alarmed because I knew Mountain Man drove a blue pickup.
But I didn’t see him in the lot, just his car, so I walked quickly to my car and checked the backseat before I started her up. But then when I first turned the key into the ignition, I got nothing but sputters. I tried several more times and got scared quickly. "Of all nights, why is this happening tonight?" I remember asking myself angrily.
Just as I was reaching for my phone to call for help, there was a loud pounding on the driver’s side window. I’m shocked that I didn’t piss myself. I didn’t even want to look, because I knew it was him. But I did, and my suspicions were confirmed. He smiled a big grin at me, showing me exactly which teeth were missing. “Need some help?” He said loudly through the window.
I shook my head furiously. “My dad is on his way.” I said, hoping to scare him off. I hadn’t spoken to my dad in years. Mountain Man laughed. “No he’s not.” He said. “Open the door.” The hairs on my neck stood up straight. How did he know I was bluffing? “No,” I said firmly. “Leave me alone.” Suddenly he looked angry.
He pulled the handle but I had locked all the doors when I first got in. He kept furiously pulling the handle and started pounding on the window. “Leave now or I’m calling the cops!” I screamed at him. He clearly wasn’t getting the message, so I pulled out my phone and called 911. I must have sounded hysterical to the dispatcher, and I knew she could hear him pounding.
She said she would have officers out ASAP, but out here, that could be a while. “THE COPS ARE ON THEIR WAY! LEAVE NOW!” I screamed at MM, who didn’t seem to let it deter him. But after a few more minutes of pounding, he suddenly stopped and walked back to his truck. I watched him go, hopeful he would leave me alone.
But then he started walking back toward me, with a crowbar in hand. “NO!” I screamed at him. “GET AWAY FROM ME!” He started swinging at the driver’s side window with the crowbar. I ducked down into the passenger seat on the floor and covered the back of my neck like they teach you in tornado drills. I heard the sickening crack of the window, but not for long.
Suddenly, I heard male voices shouting, telling MM to get away from the car. I sat up and saw two men approaching, one with a shotgun pointed at MM. I recognized them as a couple of guests staying at the resort for a camping trip. I breathed a sigh of relief and got out of the car, telling them that the police were on the way.
I thanked them profusely as we waited for the police, and surprisingly MM didn’t make any moves to get away, but the cops came pretty quickly after that, so he didn’t have much of a chance. They took him away and I gave them my statement; I was pretty shaken up for a while afterward. A few weeks later I finally got the scoop on the man.
Apparently, he had a history of mental illness. He had been in and out of state institutions. He really had been living in an old cabin in the woods, where he wasn’t taking his meds and his issues were only getting worse. My cousin Luke is a cop, and later on he told me some more about the case that he had heard about through some other officers.
The police did a search of the cabin after the incident, to see if there was anything that might be of interest to them. They found a journal that MM kept. Apparently, in it he said he was lonely and wanted a wife. He mentioned me by name a lot (stupid name tag), and Luke said there were a lot of lewd things in there about me that he didn’t want to share.
He tried to put it simply by saying that MM had a detailed plan to abduct me, starting with sabotaging my car engine to get me into a vulnerable position. When Luke said that, I nearly burst into tears thinking about how horribly that night could have gone if those two men hadn’t come along. Thankfully, he has been put back into a state institution. With any luck, he’ll stay there for good.
45. A Doctor Should not Make Housecalls
A week or so before my 10th birthday, I walked to the corner store with a $5 bill and picked up a jar of Ragu for my mom. On my way home, a man I'd never seen before fell in step with me and began talking. "Hi!" he said, cheerfully. "My name is Dr. Ramsey. I'm a pediatrician. Do you know what a pediatrician is?" I walked along silently, not replying and fervently hoping he would take that as a sign he should leave me alone. Subtleties were not his strong suit, though, because he kept right on chattering.
"Are your parents looking for a pediatrician for you? Of course, you're almost a big girl now, you'll be needing another kind of doctor soon, won't you? That's okay though. They can still bring you to me until then. What's your name? You have beautiful hair. I was just on my way to get some suckers for the candy jar in my office. Do you like suckers?"
Thankfully, we were nearing my house, so I ran forward, up the back steps and into through the kitchen door. I didn't know it then, but that was the beginning of a very long, very scary ordeal. It didn't take long after that for "Dr. Ramsey" to begin showing up. At first, it seemed benign enough...at least to a kid. He would drive by nearly every day, smiling and waving. I told my mom, who said maybe it was on his way home from work. But then, the phone calls began.
My dad called me into the living room, and sat me down. He asked about the day Dr. Ramsey followed me home, and if I talked to him. He said I wasn't in trouble, but that I needed to tell him the truth. I told him no, and he asked if I was sure...could I be forgetting something? I told him no again, and he frowned, then asked: "Then how does he know your name?" I didn't know.
It turns out, that was not all he knew. He knew my sister's name as well. Pretty soon, neither my sister or I were allowed to answer the phone. He called several times a day; at first, neither of us knew what he was saying. Then, one night, one of my brothers told us that he was telling my parents that he was going to hurt me (and later, my sister).
Things got complicated after that. My dad had called the police, but as this was before there were any stalking laws, there was not a lot they could do. They told my parents to call back if he "tried anything." When access to me was completely denied, things escalated. It was around this time he began threatening my sister as well.
Then one afternoon my sister, two of my brothers, my mom and I were in the kitchen. One of my brothers saw a glimpse of someone in the garage; they'd seen him too. Dr. Ramsey came bolting out of the garage, my brothers chasing after him. They ran all the way to Cherokee Park, where he lost them in the trees. My parents called the police again, but nothing came of it. The only information they had was a description and a name that was almost certainly fake.
His phone calls became more informative in the meantime. He would talk about who was home, and who wasn't. If my brother would say my dad was home, he would tell him who was really in the house. He also would talk about the house itself...about the window in the kitchen he could easily open with a knife from the outside even when it was locked, and about the French doors that connected the living room to the side porch and how the lock could be finagled from the outside if you jiggled it just right. That night, my dad put in some carpenter nails at the bottom of the French doors until he could get a new lock ordered.
My parents had to go to a company event for my dad's work. My older brothers were at Saints West roller-skating rink. My sister was on the phone with her best friend. My little brother was on the floor asleep. I was watching Devo on the Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. It was late. Suddenly, the top of the French doors swung inward, and in the few milliseconds before the nails in the bottom caused them to snap back, I could see his silhouette.
My sister whipped the phone at the television, and we ran up the stairs. About halfway up, we realized our little brother was still asleep on the living room floor. As quietly as we could, we slipped back down the stairs to get him. We all went into our bedroom and didn't turn on the light; this way we could see outside. We watched out the window for a while, and when we didn't find him, we crept down the hall to our brothers' room to look.
We looked down and could see someone standing at the backdoor. He knocked, loudly. "What do you want?" my sister asked out the window. He stepped back and said "Is this the Mercy residence? I have a pizza for delivery. Can you come to the door?" She scoffed at him, declaring she was not stupid, she could see he didn't have a pizza, and she was calling the cops. He left.
We were at the table playing crazy eights, and my brother was restless. My sister asked him what's wrong, and he said he always felt like any minute now there would be a 'boom boom boom!' on a door or window. Almost immediately after he finished his sentence, "BOOM BOOM BOOM!" on the window right behind him. In the chaos, the two eldest ran out, but he was already gone.
A couple of weeks later, I was at school and we were outside on the playground during recess. I was swinging upside down when I saw that now-familiar blue Ford Galaxy cruising by, moving slowly. There he was, smiling and waving. He called my name, and I ran to the teacher and told her. The school had been told all about him, and she took me inside right away and called my mom. That same day my mom had gotten a call from the school office asking her to verify that my dad was picking me up, as he'd called to say he was on his way. He wasn't.
Not long after that, I woke up one night, thirsty. I went down to the kitchen for a drink and there, sitting alone in the dark, was my dad. On the table, a gun. He was tired of the police waiting until Dr. Ramsey "tried something," he was tired of his children being terrorized, he was tired of being afraid every time he left for work that something would happen to us while he was gone. I sat with him for a time, watching, before he sent me back to bed.
These events, and many more, took place over a period of around 18 months. Then, as suddenly as it began, it was over. He had vanished from our lives; the phone calls, the drive-by with the creepy waves, everything. For a long time, during and after the Dr. Ramsey days, I would have a recurring nightmare in which I would wake up to find him standing over me as I slept. It took a long time before I felt like a kid again.
I found out years later that when he was calling, Dr. Ramsey would tell my parents that he was going to rape and kill me, and later my sister...and that there was nothing they could do about it. I don't know what happened to him when he disappeared. I don't know if he was in a car wreck, locked in prison, in a coma...but sometimes I wonder if the wait ended for my dad when he was sitting in the darkened kitchen one night. I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to.
46. Unwelcome Visitors
One night after having a few drinks, I came home to my small house where I lived with two other girls, probably around 2:30am. We were all serious students (I was probably the least serious, actually), and when we partied it was not your typical UCSB mega-rager. More like a small get together with friends. We would often have a few people spend the night, sleep on our furniture our in our beds as the case may be.
That night my roommates had had a few people over whom I didn't know, and I saw when I returned home that one of them had opted to sleep on the couch from the shadow that I saw there (I didn't turn the light, so I wouldn't wake anyone up). But as I was passing the couch to enter my bedroom, I noticed that the figure was lying very stiff.
He just had this weird energy to him. He was lying down, but it was like he was putting all of his energy into lying as still and rigid as possible. I paused, and the guy quickly jerked his head to face me, without moving his limbs, so quickly that it startled me. I could see his wide-open eyes glinting in the dark.
Figuring that I'd startled him or that he was drunk or maybe on some kind of stimulant and unable to sleep, I just hurried past into my bedroom and locked the door. The dude made me nervous and I wasn't taking any chances. I fell asleep. At 4:30 am I woke up. There was a strange sound at the door almost like somebody was drumming their fingers against the wood very quietly.
I lay still and listened. There were more quiet sounds like someone scratching the door with their fingers, which got louder and louder until it was clear that he was using both hands and scratching as fast and as hard as possible. It created an extremely loud and intimidating sound that filled me with absolutely fear.
I got my cell phone and texted my roommate because I was afraid to make a sound. "Your friend is freaking me out, is he coked out? Can you talk to him? He's banging and scratching on my door." She didn't text me back, probably because she was asleep. I texted my other roommate to the same effect, covering all my bases.
Keep in mind that the scratching has been going on at this point for a couple of minutes. I have no idea how he could have sustained it, scratching a wooden door with your fingernails can't feel good. He also grabbed at the knob and jiggled it super forcefully. Because neither of them answered, I decided to call and really wake them up, though I was scared to make a sound.
I know it sounds stupid but there was something seriously horrifying about being teased like this through the door. I knew that he was trying to terrify me. I felt like a little kid but I could tell this guy was up or something and maybe the police needed to be called, and I wanted to loop my roommates in since it was one of their friends.
The scratching stopped abruptly, and I called my roommate, who answered sleepily. "Yo, your friend is messed up, can you please deal with it? Do we need to call the cops? He's seriously scaring me and he was scratching at my bedroom door, really weird." She didn't say anything for several seconds and when she did speak, her voice had no sleepiness in it at all. "What friend?" She said.
"That guy that was sleeping on the couch!" I said. She was quiet again. "We didn't have any guys over," she said. "Call the police." My adrenaline surged, and I told her to please lock the bedroom door as quickly as possible. I realized that I hadn't heard scratching in a while and I had no clue where the dude had gone.
Suddenly I heard a loud banging in the other end of the house, where my roommates, Lauren and Monica, shared a bedroom. The bangs were followed by the sound of them screaming in fear. I quickly dialed the police as this maniac proceeded to bang against the (luckily) locked bedroom door of my two roommates as they screamed.
The heaviness of the blows left no doubt that he was trying to break the door down. I'd told the 911 operator the situation and she'd dispatched two squad cars. At one point the banging stopped and everything was quiet for a while. I talked with the dispatcher and suddenly looked down to see that this guy had slipped his fingers through the 1-inch gap between my door and the floor and was just kind of waggling them around, making this weird growling sound.
I screamed and backed away, which is my biggest regret about this situation, since when I look back it would have been so awesome to just stomp the heck out of those fingers and hear the guy howl in pain. When the cops rolled up, I heard running and the sound of our sliding glass door opening and closing, and then he was gone.
The cops never caught him. He had broken in through our side door by jimmying the lock somehow. My door was covered in what turned out to be huge gauges he'd made using a pair of scissors, which he discarded on the ground before he left. What terrifies me most about this was that I walked right past him. I looked him right in the face.
I realize now that he was not trying to sleep or on drugs but was lying so stiff like that because he was hiding. He was just trying to escape my notice so he could carry out his plan. He probably heard me open the door and freaked out because he hadn't realized there was another girl living there and tried to blend into the couch in the darkness.
47. A Shoulder From Outside the House to Cry On
A woman who came to talk to me and my sister once when my mother threw a public fit in the lobby of a movie theater and my father dragged her aside to yell at her. She just came over and made small talk with us about the city. I knew exactly why she was doing it, but she did it in a way that was not patronizing at all.
And it was so unexpectedly kind to take the time to do that when most people would have just stared or awkwardly averted their gaze.