Wars are always ripe for ghost stories. With all of the tragedies that occur, it’s not uncommon for people to have encounters with some restless spirits. World War II was particularly brutal, and with all of the soldiers, prisoners, and bystanders who lost their lives, who can blame a few for sticking around? These creepy stories from WWII will definitely put you on edge.
There are plenty of WWII ghost stories and WWII legends. Many have been passed down through generations of families. Some soldiers experienced unexplained phenomena during their time in the war, but some people have seen ghosts of those who fought long after—ghosts still in their uniforms, sometimes still fighting. This list includes everything from missing blimps to a mystery in the Swiss Alps. And, of course, the occult.
This story comes from Reddit user Igloo444. Their grandfather was a member of the British Army and was stationed in a remote village in the Swiss Alps during the winter of 1943. The village quickly got snowed in, and all the telephone lines were out. The roads were blocked, and the whole battalion was just stuck in the Swiss Alps for the entire winter.
Most of the villagers only spoke German, and most of the troops only spoke English. So when the troops were out at a local bar one night and a man began yelling ““Where… take you… the children?” at them, they were pretty confused. They rounded up a translator and took the man back to the base, where he told them that, since their arrival, several small objects had gone missing. A tarp. Some wood. An axe-like weapon called a halberd. And then the children started disappearing. If it had just been one child, they probably would have written it off as a weird or tragic accident. They were, after all, stuck in the mountains, surrounded by snow and wild animals. But three kids? That was weird.
Igloo444 writes, “The Captain told the villagers that he would continue to look into the matter, and that he would begin sending some of his men to patrol the streets each night looking for whoever (or whatever) was the culprit behind all the strange thefts and abductions.
“Later that night, Private Reginald disappeared from the barracks.
“Disappearing children was one thing, but a grown man? It seemed unlikely that an animal (even a wolf) could have taken down a healthy full-grown man on its own. Naturally, rumors began to surface that there was some sort of monster living in the mountains that came down at night to feast on the occupants of the village.”
So they keep doing nightly patrols. One night, the grandfather and a few other soldiers see a person standing outside the windows of a darkened house, peering into it. They shout for the figure to stay put. Instead, it takes off running. They gave chase. Eventually, it jumped into a hidden cave and began shooting at them. They returned fire, and when the shooting stopped, they investigated. They found Reginald in the cave, dead, surrounded by seven half-eaten children.
Ghosts of Normandy
One father took a trip through France with his family. He wanted to visit Normandy and see a few sites from WWII. His daughter was seven years old at the time, and he says that she had, at that point, never been exposed to any history about WWII and didn’t know what either side’s uniforms looked like. After they returned home, things got a little odd. He writes:
“Over the past year, my daughter has often spoke of ‘things’ or ‘men’ that she saw looking at her, pointing guns at her, and following her while we were in the bunkers and around the Normandy area. She often described them as crouching down, hiding behind corners, holding guns and looking as if they were very mad.” He started asking her questions about what she saw. Here’s one conversation he had:
“Were you scared?”
“Yes, but I knew they weren’t trying to hurt me. So I didn’t think anything of it, but there were a lot of them. Everywhere I looked. They were moving around, like army men do. Kind of crawling, but bent over. When we would walk out of a bunker, I would see one in the grass, or behind a tree. Then when I was in the car, I could see them looking at me from behind a fence in a field. Sometimes a lot of them, sometimes only one or two.”
She also described their uniforms perfectly, camouflage and everything.
Man in the Attic
In Colmar, France, a young woman experienced something strange in the summer of 1991. Her family had just moved into a new house, and she found a hole in the wall of the attic. Through the hole, she could see another room, but as far as she could tell, it had no door. She felt something strange coming from the hole but didn’t investigate. Later, she went back with a flashlight and saw something.
“There was a young man sitting on the floor, his knees against his chest. His arms were crossed on his knees, like he was hugging himself. He turned his head toward us and smiled. We bolted out of the room and went to the storage room. My heart was pounding, I was out of breath. I first thought that it was a real person, but he had no color. It was like a 3D dark shadow. And we never heard any footstep. My friend refused to admit that we saw a ghost and we never talked about it…
“My grandmother learnt later that our house was a clandestine printing office during World War II. The owners printed slogans against the Germans. But I think that there was something else in that house. I believe that the secret room was used to hide people.”
After World War II ended, many people saw “ghost planes.” These fighter jets would appear in the sky, then disappear without a trace. One scary story takes place a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States Army picked up an incoming plane on their radar. They sent a few pilots out to investigate, and when they came back, the pilots said that they had seen an American warplane—a P-40, to be exact—that looked like it had been through hell. It was covered with bullet holes, the landing gear was missing, and the pilot was bloody. Then, the plane just…crashed. Dropped right out of the sky. When they went to investigate the crash site, they found the plane—but no pilot.
The SS Alkimos was built as an American ship for use in World War II. It was sold to Norway, which used it for weapons transport during the war. In 1944, a radio operator who worked on the ship, Maude E. Steane, was killed by one of the crew, who then shot himself. Norway covered up the incident and claimed that she was killed by enemy fire. After the war, the ship was sold to a Greek shipping company.
Strange, unexplained accidents kept happening with the ship: in 1963, it crashed into a reef off the coast of Australia. It was towed to Fremantle for repairs, but while it was there, the Alkimos caught fire and had to be towed to Hong Kong for more work. It had barely left Fremantle when the tow line snapped and it ran aground. The tow company couldn’t get it unstuck, so they left a caretaker on board until something could be done. The caretaker experienced many strange things onboard, including feelings of anger, knocking, footsteps, and voices. Over the years, a few companies tried to salvage the ship, but each time someone tried, bad things would happen to their crew. Eventually, it was abandoned and began slowly sinking into the water, where it can still be seen today.
Nazis and the Occult
One former Navy serviceman recounted his chilling experience while he was living aboard a barge in Norfolk, VA, in 1999. He and another crew member shared a fondness for WWII history, so his friend gave him a strange book: it was about the Nazis trying to find and use occult artifacts to help them win the war. He writes:
“For those not overly-religious, the ‘Spear of Destiny,’ was the spear used by the Roman soldier Longinus to pierce the side of Christ during the crucifixion. The myth went that anyone that possessed Longinus’ spear would hold God-like powers. The Nazis were crazy enough to believe in that stuff.”
One night, he was reading the book before going to bed. It was a chapter about Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, who led an archaeology team for the SS during the war. After that, he put the book under his pillow and falls asleep. Later that night, he awoke to the sound of slow, heavy footsteps walking through the bunks in the dark. Once the footsteps passed him, “…all of the sudden, the curtains to my rack began to blow in towards me, and I can’t even describe the cold that accompanied it. It was as if a freezing wind was howling in upon me, and I could feel my jaw lock tight, my teeth instantly becoming a solid block of ice that froze and fused together. I grew up in Michigan and had never known such a cold in all my life. I tried to cry out as the cold pierced me deeply to the core, like ten million frozen needles stabbing me all at once. It was truly indescribable.”
He heard the footsteps pass by him again, and the door to the sleeping compartment open and close. Everything returned to normal. He gave the book back to his friend the next day and told him what happened. The friend laughed it off, but a few weeks later, he experienced the exact same thing.
So what does this service member think was responsible for his eerie encounter? He writes, “Had it been the conniving former chicken farmer Heinrich Himmler, head of the dreaded SS, or could it have been someone even more foul and loathsome; the evil spirit of Adolf Hitler himself, exacting a little payback scare on two active duty US servicemen, the grandsons of men that had helped defeat his military machine?” We can only guess.
Sandakan Death March Ghosts
In 1945, Allied troops forced the Japanese Army out of Borneo. Rather than give up their prisoners, the Japanese Army forced thousands of Allied soldiers to march more than 160 miles over the course of a month. Only three captors survived. In 2010, Major John Tulloch retraced part of their route, driving along the path the soldiers marched. He took dozens of photos, including the one above, which is eerily reminiscent of hunched-over soldiers marching down the road.
Maj. Tulloch says the illusion was created by a towel on the dashboard of the car reflecting on the glass of the windshield, but even though there’s an explanation for the picture, he doesn’t think it was a coincidence. “’It took me a few moments to work out how it had occurred but it was too weird for words. I showed it to several people and they said it is quite extraordinary, some even refused to look at it because it was so haunting,” he told the Daily Mail.
The Mystery of the L-8 Blimp
In 1942, a blimp took off from Treasure Island in the Bay Area on a submarine-spotting mission with a two-man crew. A few hours later, it came back to land and crashed into a house in Daly City. Everything on board was in its proper place; no emergency gear had been used. But the crew? The crew was gone. They were never found.
The Diplomat Hotel
The Diplomat Hotel in Baguio City, Philippines, was once a monastery in the early 1900s. During WWII, Japanese soldiers invaded the monastery and beheaded all the clergy and nuns. They turned the building into a sanatorium, and after the war, it was converted into a hotel. Guests often reported seeing black figures and a woman in white. They also heard screaming and banging in the middle of the night. The hotel is now abandoned, and a prime spot for ghost hunters.
Towards the end of the war, Japanese soldiers in Singapore and New Guinea began eating captured prisoners of war. And it’s not that they were starving—they were doing it because they could. Sometimes the prisoners were dead when the Japanese began to hack off their flesh, but sometimes, they were still alive.
During World War II, the US wrested control of Saipan, an island near Japan, from the Japanese army. The Japanese army had built an airport there, and inside the airport were bomb shelters. One woman saw the ghosts of Japanese soldiers inside one of the shelters during a visit to the island.
She writes, “As I was standing there right inside the doorway, quietly looking around, the light suddenly started to get really dim inside the bomb shelter, and I heard a rushing sound in my ears. The rushing sound was like if you put coffee cups over your ears, but much louder. Then a shadow rushed right by me and sat down on the bench seat that was now mounted on the formerly rusted metal sticking out from the wall. Several more shadows rushed by me and sat on the bench seats.
“One shadow would rush to the left room and the next would rush to the right room. The shadows were rushing by about every second and if they had both gone the same direction they would have collided. It looked like they had practiced drills of rushing into the bomb shelter quite a bit before. I could see the shadows. They looked like they were made out of grey cigarette smoke. I could see their heads and bodies, but not their hands or feet. I saw that they were thin Japanese soldiers.”
The Headless Gringa
During WWII, the US Army set up a base in the Galapagos Islands. According to legend, a soldier and his wife were living at the base. The soldier found out that his wife was cheating on him, so he pushed her off a cliff, killing her. But despite how gruesome that is, it gets worse: as she fell, her head got caught between some rocks and she was decapitated. The soldier covered up the crime, but the woman still haunts the island, appearing as a vengeful spirit to men who are alone at night.