These IRL Monster Stories Are Even Scarier Than Fiction

Aaron Mahnke delves into the histories behind the terrifying creatures that have haunted communities for centuries in The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures. Here are some of the creepiest.

Robert the Doll

In 1898, Thomas and Minnie Otto built a new home in Key West, Florida, and welcomed their son Gene into the family two years later. After being given a large doll, Gene named it Robert, and the pair quickly became inseparable.

Gene’s parents would often hear strange voices coming from Gene’s room. Furniture was overturned. Toys were found mutilated. Dishes were found thrown around the dining room, and people were repeatedly locked out of rooms and the house.

No matter what the chaos or disturbance, the one constant was Robert, the strange doll in the white sailor suit. Worse still, some reports say that he did more than create a mess: he may have killed.


When children and young women began to go missing from the German town of Bedburg in 1589, the men of the town ventured into the forest to hunt the beast. According to a pamphlet from 1589, those men claimed to have spotted a wolf that had the unnatural ability to transform into a man right before their eyes.

That man, it turns out, was a wealthy local farmer named Peter Stubbe who confessed to forming a pact with the Devil as a youth. After his arrest, the townspeople strapped Peter Stubbe to a large wooden wheel, pulled off his skin with red-hot pincers, broke his arms and legs, and chopped off his head. All that before finally burning his body at the stake in front of the entire town.

The Dover Demon

In the spring of 1977, multiple sightings were reported of something odd in the woods of Dover, Massachusetts. The creature was described as the size of a child, with large eyes, long, thin limbs, elongated fingers, and an oversized head. Explanations have ranged from an alien to a baby moose.

Near the location of these sightings is a large stone outcropping locally known as the Polka Stone, although some think it may have originally been called the Pooka Stone by early Irish settlers. The name “pooka,” by the way, refers to a creature from Irish folklore that eerily matches the descriptions of the Dover Demon.


Norse mythology tells tales of creatures known as draugr, “again-walkers,” who would return from the grave to wreak havoc on the living. These creatures possessed superhuman strength, smelled of decay, and were pretty ugly in appearance.

More horrifying, they could even enter the dreams of the living, and were said to leave a tangible object near the sleeping person so that, upon waking, their victims would know their dreams were more real than they feared.


On the night of April 30, 1962, a man named Clairvius Narcisse walked into a hospital in Haiti complaining of body aches, a fever, and coughing fits that brought up blood from his lungs. Despite the hospital’s best efforts, he died the next day and his family buried him.

Eighteen years later, his sister saw him strolling the streets of Haiti. He claimed to have been unable to see or move when he was pronounced dead in the hospital, but he could hear and was fully aware… even throughout his funeral and burial. Allegedly, he had been poisoned because of a property dispute, and was later unburied by a group of men who chained and drugged him, then forced him to work at a sugar plantation until he escaped.

The Jersey Devil

The Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey is the largest area of undeveloped land on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. Within them, some say, lurks the Jersey Devil, which has been terrorizing locals for nearly 300 years. The creature is described as having a head like a horse, wings like a bat, clawed hands, long serpent tail, and legs like a deer. In some accounts, the creature is almost dragon-like.

Coincidentally, the local Lenape tribe of Native Americans refer to the Pines as Popuessing, a word that means “the place of the dragon.” Dutch explorers named the area Drakekill, kill being the Dutch word for “river,” and drake meaning “dragon.”

The Wendigo

In Cree mythology, a wendigo is a person who has become possessed by an evil spirit as a result of tasting human flesh. Once possessed, the spirit turns its hunger and hatred toward the people around it.

Descriptions of the wendigo vary, but most include frightening features, such as a tall, boney frame, gaunt limbs, and a tangle of antlers that sit atop a flesh-bare head. ●

Aaron Mahnke is the creator, producer, and host of the hit podcast Lore (Best of iTunes 2015 & 2016), Executive Producer of the Lore television show on Amazon (from the producers of The Walking Dead), and author of The World of Lore book series (Penguin Random House / Del Rey). Born and raised in Illinois, Aaron now lives with his wife and children on the historic North Shore of Boston, where he writes and records full-time.

For more information about The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, click here.

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