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10 Soul-Destroying Visions Experienced By Real People
We’ve previously told you about people who witnessed utterly terrifying visions of hell. At the time, we thought these might have been the scariest visions in the whole of religious history. Boy, were we wrong. God isn’t content with just using the fires of hell to scare us. He’s got a whole toolbox of creepy and terrifying images to plague our nightmares.
10St. Teresa’s Demons
A 16th-century Spanish mystic and contemporary of St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila was an important figure in the Church’s history. She was also plagued by visions, the most terrifying of which has to be the time see saw demons claim a man’s soul.
After a local miser died, Teresa watched his body being wrapped for burial. Though she thought him a sinner, she felt he was likely to get to heaven nonetheless. She was wrong.
As the priest treated the body, Teresa became convinced she could see demons surrounding it. Armed with long hooks, they hacked away at the corpse, dragging it like a plaything around the room. But the worst came on the day of the burial. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, Teresa saw a host of hideous creatures swarming into the grave. The shrieking, writhing nightmares stretched their hands out to seize the dead man’s spirit.
By her own account, Teresa barely made it through the service without collapsing. Knowing that she saw demons on almost a daily basis makes her reaction to this one all the more terrifying.
9The Burning Hand Of Hell
On Christmas Day 1859, an anonymous priest passed a grim little tale on to Catholic writer Louis Gaston de Segur. Concerning a young widow and her lover living in London in the winter of 1847, it contained a glimpse of madness beyond your standard visionary experience.
According to the teller, the young woman had left her lover drinking one evening and went to bed. At about 1:00 AM, she suddenly noticed an unearthly light flickering in the corridor outside her room. As she watched, the light spread along the walls until her room was bright as day. At that point, her lover stepped into the room. Before she could say a word, he grabbed her arm and whispered in a hideous voice, “There is a hell!” She passed out.
The story goes that she woke up an hour later to a burning smell. The skin on her arm was charred black and exposed down to the bone. At the foot of her bed were footprints burned into the carpet, leading back to her lover’s corpse.
Although this tale is nothing more than your standard ghost story, Monsignor de Segur credited it with having a strong basis in fact.
8The Garabandal Apocalypse
In the early 1960s, the tiny village of San Sebastian de Garabandal in Northern Spain saw some seriously strange phenomena. Four schoolgirls received wild visions of the Virgin Mary, culminating in a glimpse of God’s final punishment for mankind.
According to the girls, the punishment comes in two distinct phases. First they saw a vision of mental suffering. At some unknown point in the future, God will freeze the entire world in time and then reveal to each of us our true inner character. In the second part of the vision, the girls saw every river on Earth flowing with blood as fire rains down from the sky.
And stalking through this nightmare was something else. Something so hideous that it was literally beyond description. Its identity will apparently be revealed “at a later date,” but we’re not entirely sure we want to find out.
7The Vision Of Pope Leo XIII
In 1884, Pope Leo XIII was finishing a private mass in the Vatican when he turned pale and collapsed. Accounts of what happened next differ wildly, but it’s generally accepted that he had some sort of vision. Allegedly, the Pope had still been at the altar when he saw Satan himself rise up from the congregation.
There, in the heart of Vatican City, the Lord of Lies shouted out to God that he could destroy the Church if only given 100 more years. Rather than send down a lightning bolt to smite him, God simply agreed.
According to one account, Leo XIII was then overwhelmed by a tidal wave of horrific images. He saw large-scale wars wiping out millions of people. He saw humans herding their fellow men into execution chambers. He saw genocide, death, bloodshed, and mayhem stretching out for 100 years. It’s said his vision prophesied the coming 20th century, and it was so terrifying that Leo XIII immediately penned the Prayer to St Michael to ward off evil.
6The Professor Who Went To Hell
In 1985, art professor Howard Storm collapsed during a visit to Europe. As he lay in the hospital, he found himself slipping away from his body and into another world. But this was no garden variety near-death experience. This was pure horror.
According to Storm’s account, he began his journey feeling wonderful. In the corridor, voices were calling to him, welcoming him. But when he stepped out, it was into a depressing world of murky gray. Figures surrounded him, dragging him along. The farther they went, the darker it got. Before long, Storm found himself in total darkness. And then the real horror kicked in.
Storm begged his captors to take him back. Instead, they mocked him. They pushed him and then scratched and bit at his flesh, shrieking with laughter. He was in hell—a hell of darkness, misery, and pain that trapped him and his captors “like a bunch of rats in a cage.” But the worst came when he tried to pray to God to save him. The other souls began screaming, “There is no God! Nobody can hear you!”
The tale ends with Storm realizing he was being lied to and making peace with God. But nothing can remove the memory of living in a world where no good can exist and only eternal torment awaits.
5The Vision Of The Fatima Children
In 1917, three Portuguese shepherd children saw something that would change the Catholic world. Known as the Fatima Apparitions, they were a series of visitations by the Virgin Mary that culminated in the famous “Miracle of the Sun” before a crowd of 70,000 people. But there was a darker aspect to these visions. The three children glimpsed hell.
According to their account, on July 13, 1917, the children saw a beam of light hit the ground before them. Instantly, the ground turned translucent, revealing to them the underworld.
Below their feet coursed an eternal sea of fire. People gloated there, their skin seared black and blistered, howling noiselessly to the heavens. Alongside them bobbed hideous demons like disfigured animals, torturing and tormenting them. Every now and then, a huge plume of fire would spit out from the bowels of the planet, throwing the dead and their captors high into the air to cascade back down like sparks.
The vision lasted only a fraction of a second, but it was enough to scar the three children for life. One of them—Lucia Santos—could still recall it right before her death in 2005.
4St. Gemma And The Devil
St. Gemma Galgani was a 19th-century mystic known to exhibit signs of stigmata and to communicate with the Virgin Mary. She also had a frequent visitor throughout her life: Satan himself.
Gemma was convinced that the devil visited her in the night and routinely tried to murder her. After dark, she reported hearing his laughter echoing from the shadows and voices whispering hideous secrets to her. Other times, they belittled her faith or mocked her with eerie precision, telling her that she was destined to die alone and miserable.
But this was just the beginning. In the last years of her life, St. Gemma actually saw her tormentor—and the sight wasn’t pretty. Sometimes, a hideous, ferocious dog would leap on her bed and tear at her with its teeth. On other nights, a gigantic man would enter her room and beat her with a knotted rope. Multiple times, she claimed her demonic visitor grabbed her hair and dragged her away across the convent, intending to pull her down into hell itself.
After years of these hideous nightmares, St. Gemma finally died in 1903, aged just 25. At the very least, her death spared her a lifetime of further horrifying visions.
3The Soldier Who Went To Hell
In 1943, George Ritchie died in an army hospital. He was 20.
There his story should have ended, had he not miraculously recovered nine minutes later, convinced he’d spent the interim in hell. According to the story he brought back, the afterlife is a vast and infinite plane located near the world of the living. Every inch of it is crawling with the souls of the damned, repulsive creatures who claw at and bite one another’s flesh.
In his book on the subject, Ritchie claimed the hell he saw had no private spaces—not even in the inhabitants’ heads. Souls sent there were doomed to live out their blackest desires, resulting in what he called a sexual “pantomime.” Corpses tried to copulate with one another. Meanwhile, every single thought they had was broadcast to everyone else, creating a cacophony of self-pitying, disgusting shrieks.
Perhaps even worse, though, was his realization that no one was keeping them there. Instead, the souls sent to Ritchie’s hell were trapped only by their own misery and lack of belief that God could love them.
2The Third Secret Of Fatima
Remember the Fatima children? They didn’t just receive a vision of hell and a quick miracle. They were also entrusted with a strange vision of the future known as the Third Secret of Fatima.
First committed to paper in the 1950s, the Secret remained under lock and key until the Vatican finally revealed it to the world in 2000. People were disappointed—they perhaps had hoped it would be even more horrifying—but it was strange and unsettling.
Hastily scrawled on four sheets of paper, the Third Secret tells of a future where some nameless city lies in ruins. Corpses litter the street, and the buildings are burned-out husks. Through this dead wasteland, the Pope wanders in a daze toward a hill where thousands of people have gathered. There, at the foot of an enormous cross, he kneels to pray, only to be executed by a gang of soldiers. It’s a short, weird, and terrifying vision of a future where civilization is dead.
The Catholic Church claims the events foretold have already come to pass. They link the Third Secret to the failed assassination of John Paul II in 1981.
1St. Teresa’s Personal Hell
When she wasn’t suffering visions of demons, St. Teresa spent her time seeing some other pretty nasty stuff.
She was led one night along a putrid alleyway, narrow and low, the floor covered in foul water crawling with vermin. At the very end of this tunnel sat a tiny cupboard. Prepared by demons especially for the saint, it was to be Teresa’s personal hell for all eternity.
Inside the box, there was no room to sit or stand. The physical agony of squatting in this confined space was so great that it eclipsed anything she’d ever experienced—and this was a woman who’d had several encounters with the Spanish Inquisition.
But worst of all was the sense of hideous, suffocating oppression. The walls felt like they were closing in. The air smelled so foul that it was impossible to breathe. She felt herself torn to pieces, her every atom exploding in fire. With the feeling came the knowledge that this would be all she would feel for the rest of eternity.
The vision scarred St. Teresa so much that when she wrote it down six years later, the memory still gave her physical agony.