We asked GRID contributors: What is the scariest thing that’s happened to you while out on assignment? The answers varied from unwanted sea urchins to unwanted visitors.
I was in Baguio doing a story for another magazine, and we were shooting in a white house (it was literally painted white inside and out). We arrived around 2:00PM in the afternoon and there was a caretaker family that lived nearby, with a really beautiful husky. The caretaker father, who was dressed as a security guard, didn’t go in the house with us. “Mauna kayo,” he said. I later found out that they purposely never went in there, and that the house, named Laperal, is one of the most haunted houses in Baguio.
Now the house was completely empty except for these old planks of wood, and we wanted to make some interior images. We already felt a bit uneasy (in broad daylight!) and when we went exploring through the bedrooms, the hairs on the back of our heads were standing.
I was taking pictures and because there were no furniture or anything, I needed something for scale. I asked the caretaker to stand in the middle, and he agreed very reluctantly. I went to the landing of the stairs to photograph him from there, and I got the idea that the husky would look really great in the photo. So, I’m waiting by the landing and the caretaker brings in the husky and this dog did not want to go in the house. He had his tail tucked in between his legs, he was walking backwards… but the security guard stands in the middle of the room, with the husky looking terrified. After I took a few frames, the husky, who was very skittish, looked right behind my head straight at the open staircase right behind me. He was just staring into the space above my head. The caretaker and I both saw it, we looked at each other, we took two more shots and then we left. The dog was so relieved. Actually, so were we.
I also later found out that the story is that there is a little girl that haunts the third step of the staircase.
— Paco Guerrero
Let me start off by saying that in the past, I'd stayed in an old orphanage on a leper colony by myself—without electricity—and found that experience to be very relaxing. I've also stayed on Corregidor overnight, where I had the best night's sleep I'd had in months. But I woke to find that my traveling companions were in the kitchen, having stayed up all night unable to sleep because of all the spookiness.
So when we were on Apo Island for GRID Expedition II, I naturally volunteered to take the one room that was up on a hill, away from the beachside rooms where the rest of the team was staying. The door wouldn't close, and the generator goes off after dinner—but that's okay! No problem.
That turned out to be one hell of a night. I can't explain why, but as soon as darkness fell, it felt like I was being watched. It was a very dark night: Out the window, all was pitch black—no moon, no stars, nothing. It seemed unnaturally quiet for a forest, too; it was like everything was holding its breath. I was certain that, if I looked out long enough, I could make out eyes looking back at me.
I spent the entire night wide awake, praying for dawn. I put on a movie on my phone, hoped the battery would last me all night, and willed myself not to look out into the room or (god forbid) out the window.
When morning finally came, and I walked down to breakfast to meet the crew, Paco said, "Hey, remember when I told you that story about spending a night near an old battleground site, and it felt like a thousand eyes were watching me? It felt like that too, here.
— Kristine Fonacier
I was “bewitched” in Siquijor while on assignment for a travel magazine, but didn't find out until I got back to Manila. My thumbs kept moving by themselves on the keyboard, sort of like very large muscle spasms, only going away two days after I had my friend pray over them.
I later realized that before I left on that trip, the same friend warned me to be wary of a mother and child on the island. I didn't listen to her because I thought I'd be in the resort the whole time, only to realize that I actually had left the resort one day, and hand-bought a bottle of water from a mother and son by the roadside. To this day, I don't know if that was just a coincidence, or if the mother and son really did take an interest in me.
— Yvette Tan
Okay, this technically wasn’t on assignment, but when I was in high school, I traveled to a monastery in Tagaytay for a retreat. We weren't allowed to bring snacks to our dorm rooms and the food was stocked in a room near the entrance. While sneaking out of our room late at night, we saw a silhouette of a veil moving left and right, hanging from the ceiling. We ran back, and we were so freaked out we didn't even get our snacks! We kept telling ourselves that it was probably just a hanging object, but the next morning, we checked and the hallway was clear.
— Ada Laud
Two years ago, I hopped on a bus en route to Banaue in the dead of the night, at the height of a storm. The thunder was monstrous on that 10 hour-long ride, and it didn't help seeing occasional landslides outside the window. When we got there, we went straight to work and trekked up the rice terraces. Caught in the rain, ankle-deep in mud, and running on little sleep, the moment was made even better when we reached a skinny path—just wider than my foot—flanked by three-storey drops on either side. Sudden death, or major injury, all before 8:00AM.
We made it out alive and retired to our inn where many before us have apparently had ghostly encounters (I learn this post-assignment, while browsing the net). This assignment wasn't so much scary as it was my baptism by fire into the world of GRID.
— Michelle V. Ayuyao
It was January 14, 2020, and I was on my first assignment for The Washington Post: coverage of the Taal eruption. I drove and came prepared, with my cameras, lenses, masks, water, food, clothes, sleeping bag, and a drone. As the sun rose, reality hit me. I had forgotten all my memory cards.
— Martin San Diego
On a trip to Kalinga for a story on Whang-Od, Fruhlein and I were talking about how we always found ourselves in near-death experiences on assignment. That same night, as we were sleeping in a wooden shack in the middle of the mountains, I woke up with welts all over my body, and my lips and face were swollen (Google has convinced me it was an anaphylactic allergy). I woke Fruhlein up with a hushed "Fro, I can't breathe." We went down and turned a boiling kettle into a makeshift nebulizer, and before going back to sleep I half-joked, “Hope you don't wake up next to my dead body.” Fortunately, she did not.
— Nina Unlay
I was asleep on the floor of a stranger's empty house in Romblon when a demonic growl whispered in my ear. All the lights were off, I couldn't see a thing, and I was too scared to turn my flashlight or phone on for fear of it triggering an attack from whatever it was. The growling continued to grow louder and louder until I realized it was two dogs fighting literally inches away from me. I held my breath until dawn.
— Fruhlein Econar
I was alone in my tent on a beach far away from everything; it's dark as hell. The afternoon before, the locals were preparing for the next day's big wedding ("preparing" meant drinking and nonstop karaoke), but all had been quiet since I fell asleep. Before I was startled awake by two loud gunshots. In my half-asleep trance, I thought someone shot somebody over the karaoke machine. Turns out they were just celebratory firecrackers. At 2:00AM.
— Claud Lanzona
We were somewhere in Batangas. It was getting late and the tide had gone out, but we wanted a shot of our model lying in the water, so we walked further out to sea. One of us stepped on a sea urchin, and after a bit of screaming, we did the "pee on your shaking friend while looking away" trick in pitch darkness. Safely at shore, we realized it was an old wives tale. But we did become very close after.
— Joseph Pascual
Many years ago, a food magazine sent me on a junket with their new editor. On someone else's dime, we were flown to a Zamboanga del Norte resort that was infamous in the 90s. To me and the new editor's chagrin, while we had just met on the flight to this assignment, we now had to share a cottage.
It was hard enough to tiptoe around each other's personal space inside our small, albeit comfortable cottage, I decided not to mention to Pam, the editor, that, for a split second, I mistook the old lamp on her side of the bed for an old lady in a wide straw hat. It was late, after a long day of travel, and my eyes were just playing tricks on my brain. Also, I'm not really a believer in the supernatural.
The rest of our junket went smoothly, but on the flight home from Zamboanga, Pam, who became a fast friend, casually asked if I had a third eye. I said no. And she said, "Well, I do. And now that we're flying home, I just wanted to say that there was a little, harmless child in our room. He would run around but seemed to avoid the old lady sitting in the corner on my side of the room."
— Miguel Nacianceno
During the first GRID Expedition, three or four days on the road en route to Sagada, we spent a night in an old pension house in Bontoc. The first time we entered, I already felt something a little off about the place, but we were weary from driving and just happy to sleep with a roof over our heads.
I was with our videographer, Carmen. Our room was pretty big, with a bathroom and two single beds. There were four pillars too. I woke up around 2:00 or 3:00AM, and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising. I instinctively curled up and tucked my feet under the blanket. I cracked an eye open, and there it was: a dark figure by one of the pillars.
There was definitely nothing there before—no furniture or hung-up coats. I stared at it for a while, and it didn’t seem like it would move. I was still really tired, so I stayed under the covers and hoped it wouldn’t be there in a few hours. No use waking Carmen up.
The next morning, over breakfast, Paco asked us how we slept, and said there were voices in his room calling his name. I guess we were lucky our room spirit just wanted to hang out.
— Nayna Katigbak
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