January 16, 2020 | Andie Wood

People Share When Their Gut Instinct Saved Their Lives


When caught in a stressful or dangerous situation, humans will tap into their "fight or flight" response—an instinctive physiological reaction that readies one to resist or run away. Such a response can take effect in a matter of seconds, and that short window of time is sometimes all that separates life from death. That's how powerful our gut instinct is—in many cases, following our impulses can get us out of trouble:

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#1 In The Nick Of Time

My wife called me while I was at work just to say she was home from her night shift and planning to go to bed. She had worked the night shift for years and never called me just to say she was home and going to bed before. She also sounded weirdly detached on the call. I asked her if she was okay and she said yes... just really sleepy. I got a weird feeling and told her I was going to leave work and come home. She told me I didn’t need to. I said okay... and then I left work and rushed home anyway. That's when I found a farewell note taped to the door. I got to her in time, rushed her to the ER, and got her the help she needed. A week of inpatient psych, followed by changes to medications and doctors. This was about five months ago, and she is so much better now.

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#2 Daycare Danger

My mom dropped my three-year-old brother off at daycare before she had to work in the morning. When she got to work, she had this terrible feeling something was wrong with him. She ended up leaving work and drove to the daycare. She found the daycare lady inside sleeping while the daycare kids (including my brother) were running around the pool. My brother never went back to that daycare again.

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#3 A Major Life Change

I went to the hospital with shortness of breath and my heart racing. They did a chest X-ray, a blood test for blood clots, ECG, and a few other tests, but all came back normal. After observing me overnight, everything still looked good—oxygen saturation was perfect, my heart rate was still a bit elevated but nothing too crazy, and it seemed that it was likely leftover symptoms from a bad virus that I'd had a week or so earlier.

The ER doctor asked me how I would feel if they sent me home and I just had a bad feeling about it all. I told him as such and that I had no real basis for it except that I just felt off about it. He said he'd run one more test and if that came back negative, then they'd send me to General Medicine and see if they can track something down.

That test was a VQ scan that found despite all other tests showing no results for blood clots, I actually had a whole bunch of them in both lungs. I ended up with a diagnosis of unprovoked bilateral pulmonary embolisms and am on blood thinners for life.

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#4 Sense Of Impending Doom

There is a legit nursing diagnosis called "Sense of Impending Doom" that is in reference to this feeling. Someone can't explain what is wrong and there's nothing obvious, but we need to take it seriously. The body somehow feels something wrong when the brain can't find the words. I've found this to be very common with pulmonary emboli, heart attacks, and strokes. The body is so weird...

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#5 Fire Foresight

I smelled burning plastic early in the morning at my family cottage and almost went back to sleep, but I got up to investigate instead. A socket on the outside of the building had caught fire and flames were shooting up the wall. The rest of my family was still sleeping and there wasn’t enough smoke for the alarms to go off. I got the fire extinguisher, got my dad up, put it in his hands and pointed him towards the fire. He stopped it and called the fire department.

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#6 The Flamethrower Incident

About six years ago, I was up having coffee very early one summer. My husband and I heard an explosion and my neighbor screamed. He ran out back to see what was up. The guy was using M80s and a blow torch to get the blackberries out of his back yard. He thought it was AWESOME. I'm happy he didn't burn my house down. We live in a downtown area where houses are detached but very close to each other.

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#7 On Second Thought

My aunt told me a story about my dad, who greatly dislikes his sister and is an all-around jerk 98% of the time. He called her out of the blue one night while she was in college. She answered and he said he didn't know why but he had this urge to call her; to make sure she was okay. She told him she was fine and thanked him for calling to check on her. She never told anyone else except me, and hopefully a therapist or two, but she was planning to end it all right when he called her. Twenty-some years later and she's very happy with her decision to live.

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#8 Just Keep Driving

I was going to meet up with someone from the marketplace to buy a phone. The feeling hit me, so I called the woman and a man answered trying to play off the fact he's a man. I passed by where we were meeting and it was dark. I heard voices in the background on the phone call as well. I never stopped the car and kept going. I'm pretty sure I saved myself from at the very least a mugging but learned a good lesson, always meet in a public place.

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#9 Trip Switch

In 2004, on Boxing Day, I was about to go on a family trip that included all of my cousins and extended family on my dad's side. We were going to visit the coastal South of Sri Lanka on vacation, as a group of about 20 people in all. It was a well-planned trip, but at the last moment, my mother didn't want to go. No reason at all. None of us could get her to explain why but she refused to go. So we went inland on a different trip to see some other relatives.

Around midday, the entire extended family now on both sides were sitting shocked in front of the television watching the very same hotel we booked being washed away live by the tsunami.

To date, she still can't explain what she felt.

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#10 Finding The Right One

We have a nine-month-old in daycare. We visited a number of facilities. I was far from impressed with any place except where we’re at. Most teachers (I guess we’ll call them that) were just kind of existing in the rooms with the babies. There was very little interaction going on. They were there, but no one looked happy in the room. We pay a whole lot of money for our daycare now, but the staff is wonderful. They all love their jobs. When we drop her off, she gets really excited to see the place and her teachers. We get to be worried about whether she likes daycare more than home.

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#11 Saving My Grandfather

Not me, but my mother, saved my grandfather's life when he had a stroke in his chair in their living room. We had all started to walk around the development, when my mother, after about 50-75 meters from the house said, "I am going to go back and check on Dad." I went with her, and I nearly witnessed my grandfather lose his life. He was on the chair, conscious, but unable to move or talk... Just looking at my mother with bulging eyes. She called 911 once, then twice when she felt that they were running late. The ambulance came, got him on the stretcher, but it was too wide to fit out the door. We ended up tearing the door frame off to get him out.

Because he was conscious, he actually remembers the ride to the hospital. He told us later that he heard the driver or someone say, there is not a chance that this guy lives. That was when I was around five years old. He is still alive to this day, more than a decade later. At my mother's funeral, part of his speech was about how, without my mother's actions, he would not have been able to spend time with her during her final years of life. And for that, he is eternally grateful.

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#12 Close Call

I was 15 years old and my mom dropped me off at McDonald’s to get breakfast while she went across the street to get Starbucks. It was a shopping mall in suburbia and we were on the way to pick up a new kitten a few hours away. Instead of walking the 100 yards to my mom, I sat outside waiting for her to pick me up. Teenagers I guess.

As I was standing there, a guy in an old station wagon with two kids in the back started talking to me. He asked me if I wanted to get a ride. I told him no since my mom was across the street but he still came closer to me. My gut was saying something is off, so I said a random who was walking out of Starbucks was my mom. He freaked out and left really quick. I still remember those two kids in the backseat. They looked so off. I wonder to this day if they are okay.

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#13 A Blessing In Disguise

My former boss had a board kick out and hit him in the chest or stomach in his late 60s. They did an MRI (or CAT scan, I never remember the correct terminology) to check for internal bleeding. No injury was found, but they did uncover 11 aneurysms in his chest, stomach, and legs. He had surgery quickly after to repair the worst and then multiple surgeries to repair the rest over the 8 years we worked together. An accident literally saved his life.

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#14 Flying Shrapnel

I had a teacher who was teaching in a class next to a woodwork class. The wall between the classes was very thin. When he was teaching, he had a feeling somethings not right, so he moved away from where he was standing. Not a second later, some shrapnels cut through the wall and flew pass where his head was in the original spot. Turns out, it was some kid using the circular saw and the tip of it flew off. If he hadn't moved he wouldn't be teaching today.

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#15 It Could've Been Me

My dad had to go to court to settle a way overdue payment for the place he worked at. He was going to take me with him so I can be more exposed to the adult world, so to speak. However, that meant he would have to leave the office back door unlocked so the rest of the staff could clock in. He suddenly didn't feel right about it and decided to have me look after the office instead. He got T-boned outside the courthouse on the passenger side of the car that day. The car was totaled and I would have gotten severely hurt if I was there.

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#16 A Watchful Eye

I was president of a club and a guy who'd recently joined just set off my alarm bells, but he never did anything wrong. I still couldn't shake the feeling he was off. I asked my best friend, a pretty burly guy, to just keep an eye on him during a conference we went to.

Most of the club (minus me) went to a party at the conference. My best friend kept an eye on the weird guy for most of the night and ended up stopping him from taking home a passed out tipsy girl. I pretty much always trust my gut feelings now.

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#17 A Lucky Pass

We were looking at houses a while back and found one that was a great location. It would have been the perfect size for us and it didn't appear to need any work other than a new carpet. I just had a nagging feeling about it, and my husband agreed. As much as we loved it, something was off with it (I actually thought there was a ghost or something silly like that). We ended up passing on it. I was still kicking myself about it until a few months later when it had a major electrical fire. The whole house and everything in it was a total loss, and the family that lived there barely got out alive.

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#18 Safety First

I used to never wear my seatbelt. This was before they were annoying if you didn’t put it on. One time, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car and had a gut feeling to put it on. Not even a minute later, we were hit by someone doing about 60 mph. The cop said if I didn’t have on my seatbelt, I would have gone through the windshield. I always wear my seatbelt now.

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#19 Snow Daze

I was driving and it started to snow. I noticed that I was going a bit fast and strongly sensed I should slow down. I did and a couple of seconds later, I came up around a bend with the road suddenly being covered in ice. I started to fishtail while sliding directly towards two people standing outside their car.

They had wrecked in the same manner that I was about to do and were standing outside their car, with me heading straight for them. I quickly thought of my options and ended up doing a hard right straight into the highway barrier. I slid nearly 100+ feet dragging the front of my car to slow it down.

Because I had decided to slow down, I was able to give the two guys enough time to get out of the way before I slammed into their cars. Even though I totaled my car, which was sad, I did not end up ending two people that night. The police did not end up ticketing anyone thankfully and they finally sanded the road AFTER we had all wrecked. Snow while driving still scares me to this day.

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#20 A Sickening Feeling

I was learning violin when I was about 10 from an instructor at my local music shop. I got the weirdest feeling from him even though he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I wanted to vomit every time I looked at him, especially his hands. After four lessons I told my parents that I had a terrible feeling about him and I never wanted to go back. Luckily, they listened and didn’t make me ever go to him again. A few years later he was arrested for improper conduct. I have no idea how I knew something was off. He never did or said anything but I just felt it.

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#21 Avoiding Danger

A few years back,  I went to university in Brussels. I would always take the train to get there. One morning, I just woke up and didn't feel great at all. Keep in mind I have had a horrible flare-up of Crohn's for the last weeks. But this felt different. Guess it was my gut. So instead of pushing through it as I did with ly Crohn's, I decided to stay home for once. This was the only day out of 2 that I ever stayed home from university. That day, the attack happened on the train that I usually ride to get to university.

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#22 Saved By A Dream

I had an important meeting in another city. I fly a lot but I had a nagging feeling about the three-hour flight I needed to take to get to the meeting. Two nights in a row before the flight, I dreamt that the right engine would flame out, causing the plane to crash. In the morning, I dawdled enough that I missed flight CP414. The plane made it just fine and I got fired. I got a better job two weeks later, so my gut feeling saved me.

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#23 Poor Dog

I woke up from a deep sleep at like 2 a.m. during a winter storm. Something wasn't right... I immediately went looking for my senior dog and couldn't find her anywhere in the house. My roommates had a tendency to let her out for a walk and forget about her, closing the door. I ran to the front of the house and found her laying on the welcome mat. She was hardly breathing and covered in snow... She had been outside alone for at the very least five hours. I moved out shortly after.

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#24 Barbershop Scare

I was walking to the barbershop, and for some reason, everything just felt off. I ignored the feeling but every step I took just made me feel like something wasn't right, so I decided to just go grab some food and come back. While I was eating, I saw police cars and ambulances driving to around where I was before, it turns out there was a homicide. Now I always listen to my gut feeling.

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#25 Pulled To Safety

My high school was downtown so I walked around down there a fair amount. I was standing on the very edge of the curb waiting to cross when a guy behind me grabbed my shirt and pulled me back from the edge of the road. We exchanged mutual "Are you crazy?" looks. When I turned back to the road, one of the city buses flew past. They have these huge side mirrors that stick out pretty far. It probably wouldn't have ACTUALLY hit me, but it would have been close. I turned back to thank the guy, but he was gone.

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#26 The Right Decision

I was offered a dream job at almost double my salary in a different city. It was only two hours away, but something told me not to take the job. I had a number of people tell me I would never have another opportunity like this, and my fear of leaving my hometown was holding me back.

Two months after I turned it down, that division of the company was sold, and everyone in that department lost their job. I’d have been stuck in a new city with no friends or family nearby, and no job prospects.

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#27 Skip The Coffee

Not me, but my dad was driving to a client's office to do some IT work for them. He left the house without his coffee mug so he thought about stopping to get coffee. Then, he just got a weird feeling and decided not to. He got to the office and went inside, and two minutes later, there was a massive crash outside. Some guy was driving down the street and had a seizure, causing him to veer into the parking lot at near highway speeds. Had he stopped for coffee, he likely would've just been getting out of the car at that moment.

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#28 The Kidnapper

A guy was trying to hit on me at a bar and while I was a bit tipsy, I was still able to think straight. I talked to him because he was kind of cute. After a while, he tried to convince me to go home with him, but my gut told me not to. Later on the news, it said some guy was kidnapping girls. The description matched the guy exactly. Never before have I felt so relieved in my life.

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#29 Rude Awakening

When I was 14, I was traveling in the car with some relatives on the highway. We were on the way back home from an early morning wedding ceremony. I was in the front passenger seat, and I turned back to see my aunt, uncle, and cousin fast asleep. Suddenly, I felt a strong disturbance in the force. I turned my head to see my other cousin (the driver) fast asleep too, and the barrier alongside the shoulder getting closer. I quickly grabbed the steering wheel and jerked the car back into the lane. I gave them quite the rude awakening and cussed out my cousin for falling asleep.

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#30 Happy Chaos

When my husband and I visited what would become our daughters’ daycare, my main impression was “happy chaos.” The place was full of laughing children playing together, with caregivers saying “Okay, it’s time for snacks, kids!” or, “Five more minutes, then we’re all going outside to the playground!” I remember thinking, “Yes, it’s expensive, but this is the right place.”

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#31 Keeping Distance

Well... when I was 13, a group of adult guys in a car pulled up next to me and asked me for directions. I kept my distance but answered their questions. They asked me to come closer, and a couple of them shouted that I should get in. I said no and walked away quickly into a bank. They drove off. I mean, maybe they were nice guys... but I always felt like I avoided some horrible fate that day.

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#32 Dad To The Rescue

My mom and her entire family were saved from carbon monoxide poisoning by her dad. He left for work, but he got a weird feeling and drove back home. Everyone in the house was unconscious, and he had to drag or carry them all outside one by one. They all survived. When it comes to situations like that, it's always best to check your gut instinct... you'll never know what you'll find.

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#33 A Close Call

I was sitting on one of those metal cylindrical electricity boxes outside my house when there was a blackout. Electricity was slightly flickering in my house, and no other houses had a blackout. I looked down at what I was sitting on and I was like: "Uhh, maybe this is the source of the problem."

I stood up and stepped away from it. Two seconds later, it freaking BLEW UP. Like a pillar of flame shot out above it for almost a full minute. It was basically a gigantic Bunsen burner and I was a few seconds short of physically getting fried.

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#34 The Creepy Cougar

I was building a fort in the woods near my house as a kid. I got this eerie feeling that something was wrong so I packed my stuff and made my way home. The next day, on my way to school on the bus, my friend mentioned a cougar his family saw running across the road that was within a couple of hundred feet of where I was. It just so happened to be at the same time I was out there.

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#35 Always Be Prepared

I had a man follow me when I was in Istanbul. I noticed he was watching me and I went back and circled the block, he still attempted to attack me, but I was prepared and was able to get into an elevator quickly. It’s VERY important to watch while you are walking, especially in a foreign country. You never know what characters you'll run into.

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#36 The Spared Laptop

When my husband and I were in college, we came home late one night after a long day and had to get up early the next day. We were both so tired that he wanted to leave his backpack and computer in the car because we were going to be getting up and back into the car in a few hours. My gut feeling said absolutely not and I made him take his bag and computer. When we came back down the next morning, his car had been broken into.

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#37 A Perfectly Timed Dive

My family was out visiting relatives in California when I was about 12 years old. My brother and I were at a beach attempting to Bodyboard, with my dad keeping a close eye on us from the shore. At one point, every nerve in my body just screamed "dive," so I ducked under the water. When I resurfaced, there was a surfboard floating away in front of me, some guy frantically swimming after it, and my dad waving us to come to shore. Apparently the second after I dove underwater, the surfboard went over my head. Probably would have cracked my skull open if I had been there.

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#38 The Two Deer

I was speeding down a very rural highway when something told me to slow down. I dropped my speed about 20 mph, and in the distance, I see two deer jump like fleas onto the highway and then slowly run across. I probably would've hit at least one.

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#39 Suspicious Coworker

Not necessarily saved me, but I had started a new job and would cross paths with another coworker who was leaving his shift as I was clocking in. He usually said hello or how are you. Something about him gave me that "something is weird about him" feeling in my gut, so I would respond with a quick hi and keep walking. About a month later, we had a meeting at work that we may see one of our now former coworkers on the news. It was that guy.

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#40 Last-Minute Save

I had a gut feeling I should pull my wallet and phone out of my purse. Not even 20 seconds later, I get robbed. The man stole my purse BUT all he ended up getting was a juice box and my birth control. The exact same thing happened to my friend, minus the juice and birth control. An hour later, she got a call from a lady a few blocks away because she found her purse and random items scattered across her lawn.

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#41 Stranger Danger

When I was a teenager my sister and I stopped at a tiny gas station after dark one night. This dude approached us and asked us to help him jump his truck. We got in ours and locked the doors because we thought it was weird he would ask teen girls for help and because his truck was a newer model. It just seemed strange. A few days later his mugshot was in the paper as the criminal who had been terrorizing our small town and others nearby.

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#42 Don't Move

I was waiting at a traffic light crossing for the signal to say it's safe to go. When it did switch to green, I had a feeling not to move, so I didn't. After about six seconds of staring at the green pedestrian crossing light wondering why I wasn't moving, a car ran the light.

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#43 History In The Making

An old story from an old friend of mine. It was the last week of July 1945. Her grandfather woke up from a terrible nightmare. He turned to his family and told them all to pack their things; they were all moving back to Okinawa, his home, and they left Hiroshima that day. Y'all already know what happened the next week.

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#44 A Fishy Feeling

There was a new guy at work. He seemed nice enough, but I couldn't shake the bad feeling I had about him. He got arrested a couple of weeks later for violating his probation. He was trying to get close to a minor that also works there, but luckily nothing happened. It didn't really save me because I am 23 and female, but I knew something was up and was relieved when he was arrested.

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#45 A Scary Encounter

I was celebrating the opening of a club in New Orleans I had worked for months as a consultant for and went to the restroom. Another guy shuffled in a few seconds later and literally all the hairs on the back of my neck started raising at once. The men’s room in this place was one of the long bathtubs filled with ice and the guy pulled sharp object on me while I was facing the tub. I was able to react quickly, managing to disarm and subdue the attacker with only minor injuries.

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#46 The Insurance Scammer

A car in front of me was stopped at a four-way stop and hesitated for a bit longer than necessary when their turn to go came around. They suddenly shifted into reverse and floored on the accelerator. I was watching their brake lights and got out of the way just in time. I’m assuming they were trying to run an insurance scam or something.

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#47 Lucky Money

On my bike once, I just had a feeling I should take a different route home. Crossing a bridge, I glanced down and saw $1 on the ground. I was pretty short on funds at the moment, but not really so much that $1 would make a real difference. I decided to go back and grab it anyway. It turned out to be $72 rolled up with a one on the outside.

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#48 Always Wear Helmets

Growing up, we always had horses. My parents often broke and sold them—they were in rodeos and it was just part of our life. We never wore helmets when we went trail riding... stupid, I know. But everyone was just so relaxed about it. We were supposed go on a ride that day but my mom insisted on going to the store and buying us helmets. That day, I was thrown off my horse and the entire back of the helmet was completely destroyed. I had a severe concussion and ended up in the hospital. The doctor told me without the helmet I would more than likely have suffered a severe brain injury leading to mental deficits. I will always ride with a helmet because of this day.

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#49 Running Into BTK

Mom was a realtor. We met up one day with a home inspector about a house. Both of us had this gut feeling that something seemed off about the guy. I would usually hang out inside or around the homes while my mom did her stuff. This time, she had me stay in the car with the doors unlocked and her cellphone on. We found out a few weeks later that the home inspector was BTK.

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#50 Better Safe Than Sorry

My wife and I were in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in rural Kentucky on a road trip. For some reason, we needed to adjust some of our luggage. I pulled into a gas station that looked empty so we could fix whatever the problem was, and parked in the middle of the gas station's unusually large parking lot. As I was walking around the car, I noticed that there were silhouettes of people surrounding the parking lot. It freaked me out. I jumped back into the car, locked the doors, and got ready to peel out of the place. I turned on my headlights as I was turning around, and they were just statues.

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