Urban exploration is a dangerous (and sometimes illegal) hobby where people adventure around abandoned buildings. The results run the gamut from amazing to deadly to downright creepy. Want to experience an abandoned place from the comfort of your home? Look no further. Here are the scariest true tales of abandoned building explorations gone wrong.
1. Too Drunk for Fear
Drunk and lonely in Korea. Wandered into an abandoned construction site that I hadn’t seen anyone working on all winter. The night air is cold and frigid and there are echoes of cars passing by. Using the light of my phone I walk inside, look around. The place is empty and I’m too drunk to be scared. Stumble upstairs, wandering around.
I slip because I’m drunk and my butt hits the concrete. I drop the phone and I’m in total darkness. I reach over, pick up the phone, and see that right in front of me, where I was walking, the ground gave way to a ten-foot drop, at the bottom of which are a series of rebar bars jutting out of the concrete. I could have stumbled and impaled myself on them easily.
2. ‘Nuff Said
I found a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with a containment room built for a child.
3. Big Knife
When I was a teenager and some friends and I had nowhere to live, we found an abandoned house in a fairly dodgy suburb. One of the people I was with said it used to be a dealer’s place and he had left town indefinitely, so we figured we would be safe to squat there for a while. It had super high fences which we had to climb to break in through the back door, and the first thing we saw was utterly disturbing: an old dog chain that had been snapped and there was dried blood around it on the concrete.
Even so, we crashed there. One night we got awoken by a massive banging on the front door. Like really loud thumping that reverberated through the entire house. We just stayed as quiet as we could until it went away. The next morning when we left there was a huge knife shoved through the wood at the front. Embedded halfway down the blade. We left it there.
We went out a day or two later to get some food, and when we got back, we found that the windows had all been smashed in by rocks thrown through the windows. The remaining furniture had been trashed; beds flung onto their sides, couches pushed apart with their cushions ripped. Someone had clearly been looking for something. We booked it out of there.
4. At Least They’re Neat
In an abandoned hotel, which had giant holes in the third floor. In one room I came across a set of neatly folded jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of men’s underwear sitting in the middle of a filthy, wrecked room. Goodbye.
5. Come Hang
A friend of mine who is a cop told me a story about how they got a call about retail theft and got a tip that the suspect entered an abandoned house. The cops entered the house and saw the words “come hang out with me” written on a wall. They moved to the basement only to find the worst possible scenario: a person that had been hanging there for over a year, badly decomposed.
The scariest thing when you’re out in a giant, fenced-off, abandoned warehouse complex is the distinct sound of human footsteps making their way across the floor above you. Never ran so fast in my life.
Some friends and I went exploring in an old abandoned “slave church” in the deep south Georgia woods. There were graves dug up in the cemetery and the church itself was all falling apart. There was one hallway with a room in the back that had the door cracked. I was the first one in the hallway and as I got to the door to the room in the back, I heard someone in the room go “shh”.
I went to turn and run out of there but my girlfriend at the time was leaned against the wall in a daze looking at the ground. I had to grab her hand and pull her to get her going. It was weird.
8. Tunnel Crawler
My partner and I do urban exploration as a hobby. We once found a vent shaft in an abandoned publishing center that we, of course, ended up crawling through. It was extremely claustrophobic, and I started to get panicky. I felt like somebody was crawling through behind me. As I turned around, I felt paralyzed by fear. There was someone there. I nearly lost it until I realized it was a cop. Never again.
9. The Silent Killer
I was exploring this really awesome abandoned Victorian-era mansion-turned-mental-asylum. It had everything; a stone ballroom, an indoor fountain, a huge staircase at the entrance that looked straight out of Resident Evil, a tower, patient rooms, the works. What made it even cooler was that I had stumbled into the place totally by accident. I had been exploring a nearby building on a whim and as it turned out it connected to the mansion.
I had been in there for at least an hour, maybe more, and I only had a few rooms left to explore. I walk into a big one on the top floor of the place and the first thing I see is a sign that says something along the lines of, “WARNING: Extremely high levels of asbestos in this area. Respirators must be worn. If you have been exposed go to [nearby hospital’s ER] immediately.”
I immediately sprinted the heck out of there, threw my clothes in the wash first thing when I got home, and took a really long shower. I also never went exploring again without having a P100 respirator on first.
1o. The Scariest Thing: Cops
I went to an abandoned water park with some photography buddies, crawled through the hole in the fence, opened the front door and a cop was just sitting at the desk like he was there to give us pool passes… Yes, he was a real cop. He called for another unit to come to us and then they just asked us what and why we were there, then let us go on our day (not in the water park sadly).
11. Crunching Snow
Long shot here but I’m hoping someone from Edmonton will remember this place. There was an abandoned “crematorium” on 184 St. (I think) about 25 years ago. Supposedly, graffiti of pentacles and “blood spatters” were all over the walls. We would go there at night and explore. It was beyond creepy. I don’t think it was ever a crematorium but urban legends said otherwise.
One night my buddy and I were exploring. It was winter. As we were nearing the building, we heard footsteps walking towards us, crunching the snow. We stopped, the sounds would stop. It wasn’t an echo. We started walking, they would start walking towards us again. We both booked it back to our car. You’d always see a police car slowly patrolling the main street as it was a pretty popular place.
12. Fly Like a Bird Out of There
Found a room full of bird skeletons, I’m talking a couple hundred, in an abandoned unfinished hotel/condo building. This was in British Columbia so we assumed it was probably the home of a cougar. Got out of there so fast. Creepy as heck.
13. Tub Ghost
My friends and I broke into an abandoned military base. We found a big empty concrete room that used to be a barracks. Nothing in it. Except that right in the center, an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub. I really felt like nope-ing out then. I didn’t. We stayed overnight. Totally illegal and I don’t know why I let myself be talked into it.
I kept trying to tell the other two people, “An old-fashioned bath-tub in the middle of a creepy concrete room! We just walked into a freaking horror movie!”
14. Keep Out
On Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, there’s an abandoned WWII military base including an old hospital. You can explore the buildings, but the lower floor staircases have been removed so you can’t go up onto the upper floors and potentially get hurt. Well, being reckless 15-year-olds, my friends and I decided to boost the most nimble guy up to the second floor so he could see what it was like up there.
Apparently it was mostly like the rest of the hospital, except there was a room on the third floor that was padlocked shut and had “keep out” painted on the door. Yes there was photographic evidence so he wasn’t just messing with us. I have no idea what they’d need to keep locked up on the theoretically inaccessible third floor of an abandoned hospital, and I’m not sure I want to know.
15. Don’t Fall
There’s an old abandoned mental asylum near where I live which is pretty creepy. It’s got a pretty depressing history (history meaning the stories other kids told me). Anyway, the asylum is huge and because it’s pitch black, it’s so easy to get lost, it’s like a labyrinth inside, making it very confusing and disorientating. It smells weird, and is filled with relics from the past, like hospital beds, machines, etc.
But the scariest thing that happened to me was the last time I went. Me and my friends walked into a dark room, and the entire floor was missing, apart from a small patch directly in front of the door. As I was walking in, I almost fell completely down the hole, which was like a two-story drop. I was literally half an inch from death.
16. Retiring Early
As kids, my cousin and I went exploring in an abandoned old church. He, being the more adventurous of the two, had decided to go climbing and seeing if he could get on top of the roof. Well…It wasn’t exactly stable and luckily he didn’t get all the way to the top when he fell. He copped a nasty gash on his leg in the process though. And it was a long walk back to our grandmother’s house to get it tended to, purely because we kept stopping.
Needless to say, we’ve been banned from exploring since then.
My significant other and I went through an old farmhouse. Nothing too creepy…until we got to the shed. When we got to the barn, we found enough guns & ammo to start WW3. But that’s not even the creepiest part. We were in Australia, where guns are a big no-no. It’s not normal to have one, never mind 100. We got the heck outta there.
18. Good Call
I was around 10 years old, I went into this not that old abandoned building with two of my friends, they were boys, we explored the building and got down to the basement and we met some boys from ninth grade and we went with them. We got pretty deep into the basement and then all of a sudden a woman starts to scream.
We couldn’t see anybody since it was very dark, we had flashlights and flashed around the room, keep in mind I was the only girl with the group of boys and my friends. We just ran out after that as the screaming continued, we all agreed to never enter again.
19. Was Pennywise There?
While exploring an abandoned warehouse that we always used to go to as kids, we found a film crew one night. As we were passing the campers where the actors stay, the cops pulled up and chased us into the bush. Turns out they were filming a scene for It Chapter 2. Now when we go to the warehouse all we can think about is that darn clown.
20. Just to Be Safe
My friends and I while looking for street spots to skateboard at, found an abandoned toy store. The back door was open so we started to go in, thinking, “Hey, this might be a good spot to skateboard.” Well, we get in and on the wall there is a big graffiti that said “Bloods Territory (Gang), # of people beaten here: six”. We got out of there so fast and never came back.
It could have been just a scare tactic, but we had no intention of finding out.
21. Sound the Alarm
Explored an abandoned school. The place was boarded up so we technically had to break in but the roof was caving in and the power was cut. We got into the gym and triggered an alarm that was apparently on some kind of backup power and we all had to squeeze through a small opening to rush back out.
22. Blast Off
A plaque honoring those that died in an accident at an abandoned rocket test facility deep in the woods. The facility was abandoned in the 60s after the accident. A massive rocket engine test pit surrounded by tunnel catacombs. The adrenaline rush of actually finding this place was amazing!
23. Airsoft Hooligans See the Light
We used to play airsoft king of the hill games in an old early 1900s mansion that had been abandoned since the 80s in the Illinois cornfields. We never went deep into the basement because it was partially flooded and at the same time gave everyone a very weird feeling when we would get to the bottom of the steps. Well one day we decided to play a night game and the whole vibe of the house was off.
It felt like there was someone standing right behind you the entire time. We kept hearing noises and sloshing water coming from the basement. We booked it out of there and as we were leaving we all swear we saw a light come on really quick up in the attic and then go dark.
24. Lessons in Urban Exploration
Been exploring all kinds of things for years, on and off. With tunnels and stuff, “bad air” is the scariest thing ever. CO2 concentrates in deep spots with crap ventilation, so it’s fairly easy to blunder into a place where you find yourself “out of breath” a lot but still “breathing”. If that happens, double back as fast as freaking possible. High concentrations of CO2 also tend to elicit a “fear” response, so if doing tunnel/underground exploring and you find you are suddenly feeling extra jumpy and short of breath, back the heck out.
Only had one experience with “abandoned” farmland but stumbling across animal bones while already a bit spooked is sure to get the heart pumping for a bit!
Took two steps into the doorway and a gigantic banana spider crawled right onto my face. I knocked myself backward out of the place, just hitting myself in the face to get it off. After that, I decided that was enough of that noise.
26. Ghost Has Joined the Chat
Not an “urban explorer,” but I’ve worked in property management for a while and one of the properties I managed was an old abandoned bank/office building. It had two elevators, but only one of them worked. Once, while doing a routine safety inspection, I got on the elevator in the basement and pressed floor 12 (the top floor).
The next three minutes made my blood run cold. The elevator stopped on floor three. The doors opened. A cool breeze blew in. The doors closed. The elevator continued to floor 12. I swear a freaking ghost joined me in the elevator.
27. Internet, Meet Bomb Shelter
My friends and I went into an old WWII bomb shelter in some woods when we were about 10 years old. In them we found very explicit drawings in pencil of cartoon characters naked doing intimate acts. Like Kim Possible, every Simpsons character, and some Family Guy ones, too. Super creepy. Did not go back.
So this happened one year ago. I was with my best friend at a pretty known abandoned house in my city. Almost every weekend we would go there, have fun and drink. Nobody was interrupting us, but one night as we entered, we noticed some homeless people walking around and yelling. At that point, we knew that we should get out of there.
The problem was that those guys had already seen us and started chasing us, not running, but still. He and I decided to run and hide in a bus station nearby. After 10 minutes the homeless guys were around the corner of the street and holding some kind of knife (there were four guys). It was 11:00 at night so we got really scared and went to one of my friend’s houses 500 meters from there.
We called the police and it turns out that those dudes have been sleeping in buses and doing this kind of stuff all over the city. I was pretty scared about that situation.
I used to go to Army Cadets in like 2011-2012, and on the way back there was an abandoned building. I started in winter so it was always dark on the way back (around 9:00 pm) so I didn’t notice the most chilling part of the building until it was too late. I went there in July when the sun went down much later in the night. As I looked around, I felt a chill run down my spine.
The word “HELP” was carved into the window. If it was the bottom floor I could brush it off as a prank or something, but it was the top window of a four-story building. The place got knocked down thankfully.
30. Wild Animals
High school me and a few friends (including a girl that my best friend really liked) had seen this abandoned, old house in the middle of the woods near a cow field, and we thought it would be a good idea to check it out in the middle of the night. We only had one flashlight, so mostly it was just the moon guiding us while the girls freaked out the entire time.
We got into the house by climbing on a fallen log that fell right through the roof and noticed certain things… an old plastic Christmas tree, moldy books, and a broken bowling ball. We wandered into a dark room away from the fallen tree and tried to let our eyes adjust—and then the worst, putrid smell hit our noses, like rotting meat.
We started talking, and then heard something scurry in the room (which wasn’t a big room by any means). The girls started screaming (with the one girl my friend liked clutching onto him which he loved), and we heard whooshes of air like something moved past our faces. I had no idea what was happening, just that something real was in that room and we couldn’t see it.
Eventually, the friend with the flashlight made it in, and we held our breath as he turned it on. In the middle of the room were two vultures with a disgusting piece of carrion just looking at us like we were crazy. Not as scary as it could’ve been, but it’s crazy we were walking right into wild animals as they ate and had no idea.
31. Heavy Metal Discovery
I’m no urban explorer, but when I was a kid my dad and I were walking around an abandoned school that his company was going to demolish. In the trophy case there was a pentagram with a headless crow in the middle surrounded by unlit candles. It looked pretty fresh too.
32. Mystery Chopper
Friend of mine got a tip about an abandoned military munitions storage. Wide-open gate. No locks. Drove right in. Found these grass-covered bunkers. Empty inside, but very cool and creepy. Took some great pictures. All of a sudden, we see something that makes our jaws drop. A helicopter flies by, and it’s flying low. My friend gets really spooked. Looked like a police chopper. He insists we pull the truck INTO the bunker to hide in case it comes back.
I pull the truck in, and sure enough, it comes back. We all duck into the bunker. And this thing drops into a low hover. Right above us. Spotlight shining on the bunker door. We are completely screwed. After a few minutes we all agree this is it. Squad cars must be coming. Life is over. We just trespassed into some federal facility we only thought was abandoned. We are getting arrested. We all agree we might as well just come out.
So we all walk out, into the spotlight. Show ourselves, set our camera and tripod down. Chopper hovers there. Nothing on the loudspeaker. They’re just looking at us. And then it turns and flies away. Uh… what does this mean? I don’t know just get in the freaking truck!!! So we haul it out of there, as fast as we can drive, and never saw a sign of the police again.
33. Enemies Made
It was in the forest behind the neighborhood I lived in as a child. It was called the abandoned grease factory…a pretty spooky place for kids in the neighborhood to visit. Me and a buddy get asked by two kids who are about three or four years older than us to go check it out. We agree because we thought it would be cool.
The two older guys after arriving begin making a crap ton of noise, like banging on walls, shouting, climbing to the top of the building and throwing crap off. Me and my buddy think nothing of it. Well, out of nowhere the two disappear. Me and my buddy begin swearing trying to figure out where to go. Lo and behold three cops walk out from around the corner and grab us…
I guess the two older kids knew that cops come to check the place often and they were causing a scene to attract the cops and get us in trouble… We were in fifth grade I believe, my parents were not happy to see us arrive at the house in the back of the cop car.
34. Strike, Scream, Run
There was a man living in the last abandoned place I explored. It was something ripped straight out of a horror movie. He just saw us, rose to his feet and bolted at us, screaming his head off.
35. Dreamless Sleep
I was 16 and a couple friend of mine wanted to check out this abandoned train station. When we got there everything seemed to be normal for an abandoned site (graffiti, trash etc.) but there was this one little building there that looked weirdly clean and well preserved. So we decided to go in through the window since the door was locked.
Inside we found this big piece of metal. When we looked closer, we saw that an utterly chilling sentence was carved in it: “Our dream is wakefulness, our enemy is dreamless sleep.” There were a bunch of Barbie doll heads hanging from the ceiling. Then we heard a noise (when I look back it was probably a rat) and ran away as quick as we could.
I think I still have a photo of that metal piece. Still creeps me out.
36. Paper Man
So in my town there is an abandoned paper mill. As dumb teenagers do my friends and I decided to explore it. We knew of some other kids in our high school who go there regularly so we thought nothing of it. So we had been there for maybe 20 minutes or so and we just see a dark figure and hear a loud, “Hey.” Knowing that we were busted we started to run into a dead end.
Turns out it was the owner of the mill. He was a really nice guy and he gave us a tour. His vision was to turn that place into a five-star restaurant but until then he would rent out the space for film crews; a few horror movies had been filmed there. He was there just checking up on the place and sectioning off the places the floor was weakening.
He honestly probably saved one of us a trip to the ER because the floors looked fine till you put any pressure on them. We felt bad so we showed him where the hole in the fence was so he could seal it later.
37. Duck Season
A guy with a shotgun camped out by my car, and when I came back he told me he had called the law on me for trespassing. He let me go, though. He just told me not to come back during hunting season because he almost shot me.
38. Homeless Home
Explored an abandoned cheese factory with a friend in eighth grade, found a slew of homeless people huddled in one of the old offices around a space heater which we later realized was running off an extension cord from outside the building. It was run under the snow (I’m assuming to go undetected) and was plugged into an outlet at a park pavilion nearby.
We got the weirdest looks from them, and got the heck out. No time for exchanges. Come to think of it, I wish I would have brought back some food, blankets, etc. I was naive and immature.
39. The Other End of Urban Exploration
Everyone here seems to have found cool stuff. I literally just saw a lot of trash and poo. Where are you guys exploring at?
40. You’ll Float Too!
One summer when I was a kid it somehow got popular to explore the storm drainage system underneath our neighborhood. Yes, like the ones in It, but just boring concrete. These were the round tunnels made from pre-made pieces. Getting into the pipes required crawling through a tight fit for 15 feet, but after that you could stand.
As you explored the system you’d find areas that were big enough to drive a golf cart through. Occasionally there would be odd structures, like grates that looked like prison bars. And it was pitch-black. We could only see if we shone our flashlights. Every single sound was nerve-wracking because technically there shouldn’t have been any sounds other than running water.
Well, one day my brother and some friends decided to explore a tunnel none of us had ever ventured to. I admit it, I was too scared, so I stayed on the street level. After my brother and his pals were gone for 10 minutes we heard terrified shouting. I kept hearing one word, again and again: they were absolutely screaming “Go!”
When my brother got out of the manhole, he was white as a sheet. He insisted that we all go home. That night, he revealed the awful truth. There was a pile of trash and debris built up around one of those half-pipe prison bar grates. And laying within that pile of trash, they saw a man, who upon hearing them, raised his head, reached out towards them, and started crawling out of the trash in their direction. So they ran.
My mother called the police. They asked my brother to guide them to the location in the pipes where this happened. They found exactly what he described, but the man was gone. Within minutes there were at least a dozen police cars around our neighborhood with people and dogs searching that drainage system. They wouldn’t tell us any details, but we do know that they never found the man.
None of us ever went into the storm drains again.
I work as an asbestos surveyor. I regularly have to go through entire derelict buildings. One time I had to do a survey of an old nunnery, the foundations dated back over 300 years I think. I was down in the basement and I found a well with a ladder going all the way down, probably about 20ft. Descended all the way down and there was this tiny door at the bottom.
I realized that things were far more sinister than we thought. This obviously wasn’t a well hole. The door lead to a tiny room with no lighting. Inside the room there was a large cross, similar to a crucifix with restraints on it, I can only guess as it was used for some kind of religious exorcism stuff. There were scratches on the walls. The building owner had no idea it was there.
42. An Organ and Nostalgia
Broke into an abandoned insane asylum years ago. We walked into a random room and shined our flashlights around. On the floor in the middle of the room was a white and red box with a medical cross on it sitting on top of a broken record. Part of the box was busted out and there was some sort of organ inside. Red ooze had leaked out and was just starting to congeal around the edges.
The last room of our excursion was a file room. Thousands of patient files had been left inside. Needless to say, we took some. We also took a page from a photo album. They were the only pictures we found in there. We had no idea what we had stumbled upon. Later on we were at a diner pouring over the crazy stuff we found and my friend takes a look at the pictures only to find that her mom was in three out of the six.
Apparently she worked there a few decades prior. She said it was the worst job she ever had and refused to tell us anything else about it.