As a child of the '90s, I grew up watching 20/20 with my parents every Friday night. Barbara Walters and Hugh Downes would share terrifying stories of people who were struck by lightning, or attacked in a movie theater, or survived home invasions. The show taught me at the ripe age of 6 or 7 to always triple-check that every single door was bolted if I was home alone.
It also taught me not to lock the door as soon as I arrive to my house alone — as one can never be too sure that the house is empty. Rather, I've grown used to slamming the front door shut, checking all my "hiding spots" (under the bed, inside the closet) and then finally returning to lock the front door.
And if you're thinking I'm just being extra about my safety, a) I'm super self-aware, thank you and b) I've never (knock on wood) had to deal with an unwanted visitor, thank you again.
But that doesn't mean I'm not absolutely enthralled with scary home invader stories (any SVU fans out there?), especially the ones with happy endings. People on reddit came together to share the times they defended their homes against intruders, and the accounts are simultaneously inspiring and terrifying.
Save these 17 stories for a time when you're not home alone in bed freaking yourself out at weird sounds. The key takeaway, in my opinion? If you don't live with your dad, adopt yourself a guard dog. Stat.
1. "I knew I would die before I would let him through that door"
September 1998. I am a 22-year-old mom, at home on the computer in the front room while my kid napped in the adjoining room.
Front door swings open and a Hispanic guy, around 5'6" and 180 walks in. I wasn't initially alarmed as we had a Hispanic family move in a few doors up the street recently and I figured he was in the wrong place.
I tell him calmly he is looking for the other house, he gives no inclination of understanding. I more forcefully tell him and again nothing.
At this point, I am getting alarmed. I am tiny (5'3", 90 pounds at the time) and the room is a simple office, not a lot of weapons.
The third time I yell for him to get out. My biggest fear is waking the kid who hasn't been sleeping long. For some reason I looked at the kid's closed door when I yelled and the intruder followed my gaze.
Then he took a step towards my kid's room. In that moment I knew I would die before I would let him through that door. A quick survey of my surroundings reminded me I had scissors in my pencil cup on the desk.
I buried those scissors so far into his abdomen I cut my own hand on the handle. Then I jerked them towards me as hard as I could. Blood went everywhere. His eyes got huge and then he ran back out the door.
The police followed the blood trail for several blocks but assume he was picked up when the trail stopped. They sent an officer to every hospital in the area but he never went for treatment. I had to have HIV tests for two years after since our blood mingled. No idea what happened to him but he lost a lot of blood.
To this day I lock my door even if I am just going to the car. My kid still rolls his eyes when I tell him I would hurt someone intending to do him harm.
2. "Woke up in a dead panic ... to the sound of glass breaking"
Four years ago, I got in an argument at a party that escalated into a minor fight. The other guy was an old friend who had recently moved back to town after living elsewhere for a decade.
After the scuffle, we made up, hung out for another hour or so, and I walked him most of the way to his house. Mine was only three blocks away from his.
Woke up in a dead panic a couple hours later to the sound of glass breaking. Someone was battering my garage door trying to get through, and not being quiet about it.
I called 911, explained my situation, and posted up next to my living room door with a baseball bat. I left the phone on the ground still on the line with emergency. The intruder made it through the last door and I attacked with the bat. Connected about five or six solid hits to the head and one to the ribs before the intruder collapsed.
Turned on the light and I recognize this person. It's the wife of the guy I fought with the evening before. She had a weapon on her, too. Police came, ambulance took her away, and everyone left after a few hours.
It was awful. She admitted to trying to attack me in my sleep to the police. I declined to press charges after speaking with her husband, so long as she got adequate psychological help. She spent 2 months in ICU but ultimately pulled through. She's been nothing but a nightmare to everyone I know since then.
3. "Headbutts HURT."
I was 16. Parents were away that weekend so I was home alone. Guy charged in through the screen door from our deck when I was laying on the couch watching TV. He just rushed straight at me.
I leaped off the couch and just did the first thing that came to mind: full force headbutt. Shattered his nose and felt like I got a few more bones in there as well. He fell on his ass onto the floor. I did the same. Headbutts HURT.
My dog, being the absolute unit he was (105lb golden), came hurtling into the living room and shoulder checked the dude into the glass of the TV cabinet/entertainment center thing. Didn't even bother biting just ran into the guy.
Dude struggles up and sprints back out. Called the cops. Never found out who he was or what his plan was.
4. This dad sounds like a jerk!
I was 14 and home alone. We were living in a [crappy] part of nowhere in Knoxville, Tennessee at the time. Someone drove up and knocked on our sliding glass door. I was nervous, but I stayed silent. Then they tried to force the door open, but it was held shut with a pole, so they gave up and drove away. I figured that was the end of it.
Shortly thereafter, they came back. I heard the sound of someone pressing against the exterior wall; it was them cutting the phone lines to our security system and the alarm speaker. By then I was on the phone with 911 informing them what was happening. Heavy thudding started to come from the front door as someone bashed it in, breaking the deadbolt. I was terrified and pleaded with 911 to please get someone out here right away.
Whoever it was must have heard me talking on the phone, because they immediately left, although the front door was broken and wide open. It took the cops another 20 minutes to arrive. The person who broke in the door must have cut himself doing it because our porch had droplets of blood on it. My dad screamed at me for not getting a license plate number while I cried. The people who broke in were never caught, and I've never felt safe anywhere since. I had nightmares for a long time.
5. "This is a picture I took for the landlord."
A couple of years ago, I lived in a duplex on a busy road, pretty much right on the divide between state university territory and a not-so-great part of town. We got a decent amount of foot traffic, in part because of the university. My duplex was on the corner, facing the side street. I was in the half further away from the busy road and my front door was inside the fenced backyard. I lived alone with my dog and my cats. On the other side of the duplex, I only ever met Jake and his brother but I think their parents lived there as well.
Anyway, one day I get home from work at the usual time, 4:30pm or so, and as soon as I get in the door there's a knock. I look out the peephole and it's Jake, so I'm feeling apprehensive because we've spoken like twice ever and I can't imagine what he's about to say to me.
Well, I open the door and HE looks apprehensive too. He asks me if I've looked in my kitchen closet. I say no, because all that's in there is a water heater and a shelf I keep my holiday decorations on. But I do go and open it, and there's a big hole in the wall of the closet, drywall and stuff all over the floor, and I can see Jake's family's living room through it.
So Jake tells me that RIGHT before I got home, they got home as well, and they surprised a burglar who had broken in on their side. The burglar freaked out and grabbed a knife, and then proceeded to try to smash through their living room wall to escape through my apartment, but as soon as my dog heard the commotion, she started barking like crazy. She sounded so scary (he couldn't see her because the closet door was shut) that he changed his mind and just ran past the neighbors and out their door. He didn't even have time to steal anything. I basically just missed all this, too. I was so proud of my girl.
Another time shortly after that, I came home again around 4:30pm and surprised someone who was inside the backyard trying to break the window to get inside the house. My half of the house didn't have any windows in the backyard, so if he had succeeded he would have ended up in Jake's bedroom. The guy ran out the gate, right past me, carrying a backpack and took off down the road. I have always wondered if it was the same guy, but it seems just as likely that it wasn't.
6. "'Jared? Is that you?'"
When I was about 16 or so, my dad, brother and I were on the way home from church and saw that a truck we didn’t recognize was parked in front of our house. We had a long driveway, so by the time we pulled up and parked, my dad had told my brother and I to stay in the car as he figured out what whoever it was wanted.
When we got close enough, we noticed that the guy — a big dude in his forties, easily 6’6” with a giant beer belly — was hunched over by the front door. My dad is a teacher in a tiny town, so it wasn’t a surprise that he recognized the guy. He called out, “Jared? Is that you?”
Jared turned, didn’t acknowledge my dad at all, and hustled back to the passenger side of the mysterious truck, grasping his ten gallon hat to his head the whole time. He threw himself in head first and, his legs still dangling out the passenger door, yelled for the driver to go. They peeled out and we were left staring after them, wildly confused.
We noticed later that he’d been trying to unlock the door with a screwdriver, but only succeeded in scraping up the doorframe before we caught him. The best part? The door was unlocked be entire time.
7. "My dad instantly scooped all of us into his room"
We lived in the hood and the upstairs in our house was 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. Me and both my siblings were in our bedroom and my parents were in theirs. The alarm started going off and my dad instantly scooped all of us into his room and pushed his massive bed in front of the door.
We had a bunch of [weapons] too, but my dad said it just wasn’t worth killing them over the minor valuables we had downstairs. They stole a box TV, a microwave, a video camera, and a few stupid minor things. It was maybe like $300 worth of stuff at the time and my dad said he wasn’t going to shoot them unless they threatened our lives and they didn’t even come upstairs.
8. "We wrestled him, de-armed him and BOTH pinned him down"
Short version: Neighbors had a noisy party, someone called the cops to shut them up. They thought it was my house, one of them broke in at 1:30am and attacked me and my housemate, threatened to kill us and our families, burn our house down, and that he had a gun (illegal to carry in AUS) and was going to blow my brains out. We wrestled him, de-armed him and BOTH pinned him down until the cops came and arrested him. All of this whole my 3 year old daughter was asleep in the next room.
He got a 2 year suspended sentence and no jail time.
We both got PTSD, had to leave home that night and not come back, couch surfed for a month until we found somewhere else to live. Four years later I still turn into a mess when I hear anyone yelling.
9. "I excitedly opened the door [and saw a man] I've never seen before."
Last year I was staying in a duplex in the [crappiest] part of town, I was home alone and someone knocked on the front door. I thought it was my husband coming home from work early so I excitedly opened the door only to see it was a man who I've never seen before.
I closed the door half way and asked if I could help him, he didn't say anything and barged in my living room I ran to my bedroom and tried to lock the door but I wasn't fast or strong enough. He cornered me and pulled out a knife and told me not to move. He saw some money I had on my computer desk and grabbed that. I told him he could take whatever but just hurry and leave. He just kept telling me to shut up.
Finally he held the knife to my neck and told me he was going to have sex with me and to get on my bed. I knew I wasn't strong enough to fight him off so I tried to lighten the situation by laughing and saying he didn't need the knife and I'd just do whatever he wanted. He kept saying get on the bed over and over. I got on the bed and he started to unbutton my pants, I was holding my hands up to show I wasn't going to do anything.
Then as he looked down I reached for my doorbell that was on my bedside table (I had just replaced the battery and hadn't put it back outside yet) and pressed the button making the chime go off. He freaked out and ran outside, I immediately ran up and locked my front door and called 911 and my husband.
I never got a good look at him as he was wearing a zipped up hoodie and it was dark, everything just happened so fast. There were no witnesses, and he was never caught. I still have trouble being home alone without having a panic attack and I always lock my door and have weapons hidden all over the house. I've moved since then to a much better area so that's helped a bit.
10. "My dad came home at 10:45 ... to find our back door had been kicked in"
When I was in grade 10, my school was close to my house so I would walk home at lunch time. Normally for this hour I would be home alone just eating and hanging, whatever. Rarely like maybe once a month, my Dad would come home while he was out and about for work throughout the day.
Lunch started at 11am, that day my dad came home at 1045 to find our back door (raised ranch home, back door is clearly visible from the front door) had been kicked in and our dog was locked in the garage. He imminently called the police when a man came running down the stairs and out the back door. My dad was in shock and on the phone for a second and then ran out the front door and chased the man down the street. he jumped into a car about 12 houses away that was already running and left.
I had just turned the corner and watched unknowingly as the car drove past me thinking why is my dad walking up the street.
It was very chance that my Dad showed up before I did or else I (age 14 at the time) would have walked into my house at 11am on a Monday to find an intruder. I cant think of what might of happened in that situation.
We live in a nice neighborhood, 5 bedroom house. It's nice, but far from the nicest house in the area. There was snow on the ground, we looked at the foot prints. The man had parked and walked directly to my backdoor, the break-in was planned, he had been there before. Why wouldn't he know that I came home for lunch every day if he was planning a break-in at my house for that time of day?
Unless he wanted to get me alone.
11. "Here's Baxter, the hero"
I was home alone on a Saturday night and my roommate had left for the weekend. We often left the side door unlocked for friends who would go downstairs and crash on the couch. I would frequently hear "IT'S _____" As they would come in.
So I'm laying in bed in my birthday suit reading a book at 2am and I hear the screen door open. My dog perks up at the noise. He's a 110 pound shepherd Newfie mix that looks like a wolf. He lets out a little "boof."
Leaning forward in bed I can see the doorway. I look and see the doorknob turning.
"Hello!" I shout. Thinking it was a friend.
It was not a friend. A strange man's head poked through the door. We make eye contact. He has this weird look on his face as he proceeds into the landing.
"UH WRONG HOUSE." I screamed, thinking he was just in the wrong home.
When I screamed, my dog got up and went to my bedroom doorway. The guy stopped in his tracks. My dogs hackles raised and he started snarling. I was even scared by him a bit.
The guy stopped when he saw my dog, and started backing up.
"GET THE ^#$@ OUT OF MY HOUSE!" I Screamed. My dog jumped.
The guy fell backwards into the door and my dog grabbed him by the leg and shook him like a rag doll. I stopped caring about being naked at this point. I jumped out of bed and threw on my housecoat while this guy was screaming bloody murder. Blood all over the floor.
I grabbed my dogs back leg and sat down on the floor trying to hold onto him. The guy stumbled to his feet and grabbed the doorknob before looking back. He took a glance at me with my robe hanging open and my dog still snarling at him.
"I WILL LET HIM GO." I screamed again. My dog jumped and I did my best to hold on, but one leg got out of my grasp and he lunged at at the guy.
The guy finally turned and fell out of the door. I immediately got up and locked it. There's blood all over my floor. My dogs fur is still raised as he stands at at the door growling.
I called the police, they came, took a statement and left. I never found out what happened to the guy. I took my dog to the vet and he was fine.
I never left the side door unlocked again. I've never been so thankful for my dog.
12. "All of a sudden this guy comes running"
Years ago my dad had just gotten up for work and was about to get into the shower when he heard our homes alarm system going off. He goes downstairs, checks the front, back and basement doors and doesn’t see anything. Goes out to the garage (in his boxers) and the door is open, so he slowly goes in and grabs the first “weapon” he sees...a weed wacker.
All of a sudden this guy comes running from in between my parents cars toward my dad and the two of them go hand to hand...well...hand to weed wacker. My dad BEAT THE ABSOLUTE [CRAP] out of him. He got away, but how embarrassing to have your ass beat with a weed wacker by a dude in his boxers?
Lesson learned: don’t [mess] with a Vietnam vets home when he has a wife and two young daughters at home...or you might just find yourself on the business end of a weed wacker!!
13. "He was so scared he was begging her not to hurt him."
My mom was outside mowing in the middle of the day and I heard the phone ring. I ran downstairs to try to answer it, missed it, but then saw a tall man stand up in the backroom out of the corner of my eye. I was a little kid so don't ask me what I was thinking, but I went to guide him to that front door to get out of our house. My mom walks in from that back door, the guy runs up the stairs, and she immediately can tell from the look on my face that someone is inside. She grabbed a butcher knife and began chasing him around the house. He was so scared he was begging her not to hurt him. He ended up getting away but not before my mom cut him because she was trying to hold onto him until the police arrived.
14. "All I'm armed with are quarter-pound fuzzballs."
I was living in a house with my girlfriend about 8 years ago. We were fostering some kittens, and in order to keep our cats and the kittens safe, we kept the kittens in the top level of the house. It wasn't a regular upstairs, more like a finished attic with a door at the bottom of the stairs. I was up there playing with them when someone knocked on the door. For some reason, the knocking immediately set off an internal alarm. I pulled out my phone and texted my girlfriend, who was at work, asking her if she was at the door. She said no and I immediately told her to call the police because someone was trying to break in. The knocking quickly stopped, and I started to feel stupid.
But a minute or so later, I heard dishes rattling around downstairs. This could have been one of the adult cats playing in the sink, but that feeling of something being off got a million times worse. I kept texting her, saying please call 911, I don't want this guy to hear me talking on the phone and realize someone is in the house. I'm freaking out. I have no idea what to do. The windows are too tiny for me to jump out of and all I'm armed with are quarter-pound fuzzballs. What am I going to do, throw a kitten at him? So I'm just sitting there praying the guy doesn't hear me and doesn't open the door.
Unfortunately, a few minutes later, he does just that and I hear feet pounding up the stairs. The guy sees me and I could see him calculating what to do. I burst out with, "Hi!" The guy looks confused and says, "Hi?" back. Then I asked, "Are you here about the ad for the kittens?" Guy looks at me blankly and turns around and runs out of there. At this point, he obviously knew I was there so I called 911.
They didn't catch him, unfortunately, due to bad luck. My gf had called 911 but she worked in a different town and was connected to their emergency dispatch system. We only lived a block or so away from the police station, so they got there almost immediately. He'd gotten away but had broken into two other houses in the street. The other piece of bad luck was he entered the house through the kitchen window, which was right over the sink. I had gloves sitting right there that he put on, so no fingerprints. But he didn't take anything and didn't hurt me so it worked out okay.
15. "Under no circumstances was I to open the door to anyone"
I was about 14 years old and my dad had to leave the house to me when my mom called with car trouble. She was coming from the airport on a business trip and hit an ice patch and ended up in a ditch in the middle of no where. There was no way he was going to take me with him in the middle of a Michigan winter night. He did something he rarely does - he gave me a strict and direct order. Under no circumstances was I to open the door to anyone, and if there was trouble to call the police first and ask questions later. That kind of spooked me so I was already on edge.
I played Nintendo for about 2 hours when I heard a loud thud and swearing outside. The lights were already out because it was cool to play in the dark. So I skulked over to the side window to peek out. I saw a tall form standing slowly by the front stairs. We always had a problem with the gutter overflowing and freezing into a puddle near the porch so I figured this person had slipped on the ice.
They steadied themselves and started to climb the stairs. I panicked and ran to the front door and slammed the deadbolt into place. Then I ran to the back door and did the same. I grabbed the cordless phone and ran upstairs and hid in my closet. I called the police emergency line and told them someone was breaking into my house and that I was an alone 14 year old kid. That must have lit a fire under their ass because the whole street was crawling with cop cars in less then 5 minutes. As scared as I was, I could not help how amazingly cool it was to have brought the hammer down on a law breaker so quickly.
I went downstairs and saw the police and my parents on the porch. I let them in and practically cried. As it turned out, it was actually my dad that had fallen and was trying to get into the house. It took about 15 minutes for the cops to realize what had happened and they chuckled together with mom and dad and left the scene of the 'crime'.
Even though he told me to call the police at the first sign of trouble, be beat the living [crap] out of me with a set of jumper cables for embarrassing him. After that, we had a family discussion on how to assess a situation that seems like it might be an emergency.
16. "I hear the doorbell ring and then I hear shouting."
When I was 11 or 12, I came home from school sick with a sinus infection. It was me and my dad at home. He works from home so it was easy for him to come get me from school. Mom was out golfing and brother was still at school.
I go to my room and work on some homework then get in bed to rest. I hear the doorbell ring and then I hear shouting. I wondered why my dad was yelling at the mailman/UPS guy but otherwise didn’t worry too much (my dad doesn’t yell a lot but I assumed it was adult stuff and brushed it off).
Eventually I start to wonder why there is still shouting. So I leave my bedroom. I walk into th foyer and my dad is on the ground. A huge buff guy (think like The Rock in size) is punching my dad. He’s on top of him just beating the [crap] out of him. Across the hall, I see two other men running down the hallway to my parents room.
I finally register that my dad is shouting “Call 911”. By this time the guy beating up my dad sees me and he starts chasing me. I run to my room as fast as I can and slam the door and lock it (thank god for pre-teen angst, I was well versed in slamming and locking my door).
I grabbed my cell phone and my home phone and go into my bathroom and lock that door too. I try calling 911 on the landline but my ears were ringing so badly from adrenaline that I couldn’t hear anything or tell if the call had gone through. I hung up and tried again but my brain was working a million miles an hour. I tried on my phone but couldn’t unlock it fast enough. It kept giving me a screen saying “phone locked. Emergency calls only”. I’m still rolling my eyes to this day. I couldn’t figure out how to dial 911 while it was locked. During this time, the huge guy was banging on my door trying to break it down.
I was trying to figure out an escape route. There was a window above my tub - maybe I could jump out of it if I could reach it. There was a golf club in my bedroom. I could probably use it to beat the guy if I needed to.
Time passed. I couldn’t tell you how long it was. The banging had stopped. I needed to check on my dad.
I left my room, golf club in hand. Shaking. I kept the landline hoping that 911 would call back. They must’ve because when I left my room, the “bad guys” were gone. My dad had answered the phone that I didn’t hear ring. He was handcuffed and bleeding but he was alive.
I started crying. Sobbing. I didn’t understand what had happened.
The cops came and took my affidavit. They asked me for photo ID but all i had was a yearbook photo. The cop was nice and let me show her other parts of my yearbook too. I still remember that.
My mom came home. We were ok. Dad had cut his head on the tile. I don’t remember if I slept that night.
My bedroom door was stained from fingerprint dust for ages. We moved out about a year later.
The cops told us they caught the guys about 30 minutes after I had called. They were gypsies from Poland. When my dad opened the door, they knocked him down and cased the house. They weren’t anticipating anyone else being home, let alone an 11 year old girl. They had handcuffs and duct tape. I dread to think what would’ve happened to me if the huge guy had caught me.
But we’re ok. They got put in a local prison for 3 years then deported to Poland.
My dad and I are very close. He’s my best friend and as much as I hate that this happened, it brought us closer together. We share a bond that no one else in my family will understand.
We both went to therapy for a while. My parents were especially worried about me, but I think I turned out ok!
17. Don't mess with foreign grandmas.
My girlfriend's 80-year-old Portuguese grandmother was intruded upon. She lives alone in a big house because she loves her independence. They must have targeted her because she's old and alone.
They broke in the middle of the day assuming she wasn't there. She had just woken up from a nap when she peered out the bedroom seeing them. Most people would hide and call the cops, but no, Vavo fights! She screamed "Wya you heeer!!!!" And chased them with a slipper.
I think they were so shocked she was home they bolt out the front door.
An 80-year-old frail Portuguese woman chased two guys out of her house with a slipper.