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10 Perplexing Stories Featuring Imaginary Friends

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Most of the time, an imaginary friend is just that: imaginary. Children all over the world have them. They play outside with them, leave a space for them at the dinner table, have squabbles with them over sweets, and so on.

But sometimes, the idea of an imaginary friend masks something entirely different. This twisted concept of an imaginary friend has served as an inspiration for horror novels and movies, terrifying people worldwide. And then imaginary friends have played roles in the strangest and most unexplained situations. The following are just a few examples of this.

10 The Murder Of Ricky Cole

Ricky Cole hurt and allegedly murdered a lot of people right up until he himself was brutally beaten to death with a pipe by a young man named Jason Cote (pictured above) in 2013.

In court, one of Cote’s lawyers stated that Ricky Cole had an imaginary friend who lived in a black box and went by the name of Vern. It was apparently this Vern who told Cole to maim and murder others. Jason Cote had overheard conversations between Cole and Vern and was terrified for his own life, leading him to kill Cole.[1]

Defense lawyers were building up their case on the premise of self-defense to get Jason Cote off the hook, pointing out that drugs found in Ricky Cole’s system could have made him psychotic and could also have led to the invention of Vern. However, the prosecution believed that Jason Cote simply murdered Cole in cold blood after the latter wouldn’t supply the former with the drugs he wanted.

Jason Cote was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2016.

9 The Boy In The Closet

When three-year-old Rebecca started talking about her new friend called Jonathon, her parents didn’t take much notice. Even when she became obsessed with her closet and told her parents that Jonathon was in there, they didn’t think anything of it. After all, many toddlers have imaginary friends, and Rebecca would soon grow out of the notion of it.[2]

Then, Rebecca’s mom fell pregnant again, and the family opted to move to a bigger place that would accommodate their new baby. Rebecca moved on from her imaginary friend, and her parents soon forgot about it completely. Four months later, the new owners of the family’s old home contacted Rebecca’s father. They had found a trapdoor in the back of Rebecca’s closet, and below the trapdoor, there was a hole with a box in it.

The box contained baby pictures and baby clothes. On the box was written: “Jonathon’s.”

8 Karl-Anthony Towns’s Alter Ego

Photo credit: Dennis Adair

At 21 years old, basketball player Karl-Anthony Towns became the third youngest player in 30 years to have a minimum of 45 points and 15 rebounds in a game. In 2015, Sporting News wrote an article about Towns because fans were mystified over who the young man was talking to while playing.[3]

According to the article, Towns admitted to having an imaginary friend that, over time, had turned into his alter ego, who he named Karlito. He also stated that Karlito is the “little voice” that sits on his shoulder during games. Towns’s teammate, Tyler Ulis, added his voice to the article as well, explaining that when Towns seems to be looking down and talking to the ground, he is actually talking to Karlito. It seems that Karlito is instrumental in helping Towns to keep from talking back to his coach when he is criticized by him during games. The coach is apparently also not much bothered by the presence of Karlito, as long as it influences Towns’s game in a positive way.

7 January Schofield’s Imaginary Friends

By the time January Schofield turned four, she had so many imaginary friends that her parents couldn’t keep up. Some of these “friends” ordered January to hurt the family dog and even her baby brother. Whenever she would try to hit her newborn brother, her father would have to hold her down. January would then attack the only way she could, by biting down wherever she found a spot on her father’s body. At school, she would hurl herself at windows and doors.[4]

These fits of rage would last seconds or minutes, and then January would be the angelic daughter her parents knew her to be. January is also an extremely smart girl; she was able to speak grammatically correct before she was two years old. At four, she had the mental age of an 11-year-old. However, she preferred the company of her imaginary friends, which included little girls and animals such as dogs and even rats. She also refused to be called by her name. At the age of six, January tried to kill herself by attempting to throw herself from her bedroom window. She also tried to choke herself with her own shirtsleeves.

After several doctor’s visits and trips to a psychologist and then a psychiatrist, a devastating diagnosis was made. January had child-onset schizophrenia. She was one of the youngest people in the US to be diagnosed with this terrible disorder. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, her brother Bodhi was diagnosed with autism at the age of five, and there is a very real possibility that he, too, might suffer from schizophrenia.

6 Jess

In her book Psychic Kids, Lynne Gallagher attempts to explain the unexplained incidents that sometimes occur around or with children. She also explores the concept of imaginary friends, relating a tale of a couple and their daughter who had a terrifying experience in their family home:

Lorenda and Ben, together with their six-year-old daughter Anna, moved into a Victorian-era house where they could entertain guests and even offer them a spare room to sleep in when they came to visit. After a while, Anna started talking about a little girl named Jess and a dollhouse that Jess didn’t want her to play with. Anna also started to refuse to let the family dog into her room because Jess was terrified of her. Lorenda spoke to Ben about this, but Ben wasn’t concerned, saying that imaginary friends were part of growing up. Lorenda accepted this, and as Anna’s complaints about Jess grew more and more, Lorenda simply brushed them off.[5]

One night, the lights went out in the house, and Lorenda immediately went to the living room, where Anna was sleeping on the couch, to light some candles. It was then that Lorenda saw a strange girl sitting on the floor next to Anna, stroking her hair and singing a lullaby. Lorenda screamed, but the girl did not acknowledge her. Only when the dog, Lulu, started barking at her, did the girl jump up in alarm. The girl ran to the door, froze, and then let out a bloodcurdling scream. She then vanished, leaving behind a pool of blood.

5 Bleeder

Rylan was born suffering from the effects of his mother’s meth use and into a family with a history of bipolar disorder. He was adopted by Kim and Ryan, who wanted to give him a better life. Little did they know that by the time he was seven, he would be swearing like a sailor and have an unhealthy obsession with knives.[6]

His adoptive parents appeared on Dr. Phil, trying to get help for their son, convinced that he would turn into a mass murderer or serial killer when he got older. During their segment, the parents played a video they took of their son screaming and threatening to kill his mother and another woman while they were trying to calm him down during one of his outbursts. Another video showed the young boy mimicking how he would stab his parents if they dared to take his “big knives” away.

Rylan has had problems since birth, which escalated over the years. Before he was two, he would hold his breath until he passed out. He played with knives at the age of three, and when he was six years old, he cut off his fingertips with a razor blade because his imaginary friend told him to do so. This imaginary friend was a robot with the charming name of Bleeder. Bleeder would also tell him to murder his family. Dr. Phil gave his standard advice to the couple, but to date, no update has been given on the child’s behavior since the segment aired.

4 Eric

In January 2013, 19-year-old Logan Fischer tied up his girlfriend, stuck duct tape over her mouth, and tried to smother her with a pillow. He also tied her hands behind her back and attempted to choke her. Fortunately, his girlfriend was able to reason with him when he let go of her, and he released her.[7] She then called her uncle (who, in turn, called the police) and fled, meeting up with them in a parking lot.

Logan followed her there and was arrested on the spot. While being questioned, he told officers that while his girlfriend was at his house, he started hearing the voice of his childhood imaginary friend called Eric. He also told them that he was not the one who tied up the young woman but that Eric had done so, instead. Logan went on to say that Eric spoke to his girlfriend as well and told her to cut Logan with a knife, but she refused to do so. Naturally, the policemen did not fall for this story, and Logan was charged with battery and strangulation.

3 Laughing Jack

According to urban legend, Laughing Jack is a creepy clown that appears to children as an imaginary friend but then turns on them by cutting them open from top to bottom and ripping out their organs. He then fills up their empty bodies with candy.[8]

In 2015, a 12-year-old girl from Indiana set her home on fire and then proceeded to stab her stepmother to death. When questioned by authorities, the girl stated that she had been given an instruction by Laughing Jack to kill her stepmother. The girl was taken to a medical center, where it was established that she suffered from PTSD as well as dissociative identity disorder. No private institution would keep her, and she had to be moved to a state mental institution. She was found unfit to stand trial because of her mental disorder.

2 Meme Turned Myth Turned Imaginary Friend

Photo credit: Nick Tyrell

In a case very similar to the Laughing Jack one, two girls from Wisconsin lured their friend into the woods in May 2014 after having a slumber party. The two 12-year-olds then proceeded to stab her 19 times, very nearly severing an artery close to her heart. Amazingly, the girl survived.[9]

When they were arrested, they told police that Slender Man had instructed them to kill their friend. Otherwise, he would kill their families. Slender Man, a tall, slender creature that wears a black suit and has no facial features, originated as a meme and then morphed into a creepypasta and somehow emerged as a type of imaginary friend/foe to the two girls, who did not hesitate to stab their friend to appease this ghoulish apparition.

The girls also believed that Slender Man would welcome them into his mansion after the murder and that he watched over them, could materialize instantly, and could read their minds.

1 Casey Anthony’s Made-Up Life

In a decision that shocked the world, Casey Anthony was found not guilty in 2011 of murdering her beautiful two-year-old daughter Caylee despite many pieces of evidence pointing to her guilt. Instead, she was only convicted of four misdemeanor charges, including providing false information to police.[10]

False information was an understatement, however. Casey Anthony had a whole host of imaginary friends and created a fictitious world for these characters and even fictitious events. Anthony claimed first of all to have had a job at Universal Studios and even led police there before admitting that she lied.

She also told police that she had a babysitter who used to go out with her ex-boyfriend. The nanny’s name was Zenaida, Zanny for short. She claimed that Zanny kidnapped Caylee because she believed Anthony to be a bad mother. Anthony also claimed that a man by the name of Jeff Hopkins was her boyfriend and that he worked for Nickelodeon. She invented a mother for Hopkins and claimed that the woman suffered from cancer. Anthony even lied about her daughter’s father, saying that his name was Eric Baker, but no one in her family had ever laid eyes on this person. A while later, Anthony told her mother that Baker had been killed in an accident.

In spite of all the lies and the obvious flaws in her stories concerning her daughter’s disappearance and murder, Casey Anthony remains a free woman.

Estelle lives in Gauteng, SA.

fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.