Children are naturally more innocent and naïve than adults, and they often see the world through a lens of wonder and good intentions. But there are some childhood memories that may stand out as being pretty suspicious from the perspective of a wiser adult who's experienced more of the world.
We went to Reddit and found grown-ups describing a situation from their childhood that they later realized was completely messed up and inappropriate. Some of these are quite freaky to realize what was really going on.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Never Go With Strangers
“When I was about 4 years old, I was grocery shopping with my grandpa. I somehow got separated from him and was wandering around lost, asking people if they saw my grandpa. Some guy came up to me and said, ‘Your grandpa is outside, I’ll take you to him.’ So I follow him outside, and he tells me my grandpa is in his truck. He opens the truck door for me to get in. Next thing I know, the guy gets thrown up against his truck. I look over and there is my grandpa strangling the guy. He called him a sick lunatic and said if he ever sees him around town again he will kill him. The guy was crying and saying he was sorry. I was standing there confused. He let the guy go, grabbed my hand, we hopped in my grandpa’s truck and drove off.”
Our Zombie Bus Driver
“In the fifth grade, our bus driver was acting like a zombie, talking all slow and slurred. She said she was tired. As she was going along the route in a subdivision, our bus suddenly jumped the curb and plowed down a mailbox. We all screamed, but more in a ‘Wow! This is exciting!’ way because none of us were hurt and we didn’t realize we’d been in any danger. She laughed it off, going, ‘Whoops, I fell asleep! My bad.’
Twenty years later and, uh, was she wasted? Extremely sleep-deprived? She could’ve gotten us all killed if she fell asleep on the main road and veered into a car or tree.”
“My Stepdad Was Trying To Kill My Mom”
“When I was young, I walked in on my stepdad strangling my mom. I came out of my room, saw him on top of her with his hands around her throat, and saw that she was turning purple and making noises. I told her to keep it down because her screaming had woken me up, and then I went back to bed. I didn’t think about it much after that.
It didn’t hit me until my early 20s that my stepdad was in the process of actually trying to murder my mom, and I had told her to die quieter.
I was 8. He snapped out of it after that, and the next day my mom had us in a shelter. My mom is doing great now, she and I are pretty open about the things that went down while she was married to him. Her only real regret is that she didn’t get us kids away before it affected us.”
The Party That Showed Her Everything
“When I was 11 my friend from class invited me to a sleepover party w/ a few other girls. We started the night at a bowling alley and then went back to her place. She had an older brother (he was like 15/16?) and he had friends over one of which I remember being over 20. They were in the living room smoking and eating something that looked really gross.
I was like ‘Ew! Are you eating dog poop?’ Her brother responds ‘No these are mushrooms, want one!?’ Obviously, I don’t eat one. The night goes on and the girls and I start playing hide and seek and I’m the one who has to go seek. So I’m looking for them and I open up the door to the hallway closet and the brother & his friends are in there. The oldest one has a needle in his harm.
I say with a sassy 11-year-old girl attitude ‘What are you doing??’ They scream at me to close the door. The night continues. We’re mostly spending our time in the girl’s room. But we go out to get snacks from the kitchen. The older of the boys is on the floor kind of twitching and shouting out random things while the other two laugh and tell him to be quiet. Out of all the stuff I saw them doing, that was the one thing that weirded me out.
Like 7 years later I’m thinking about that sleepover and I’m like, okay so I was exposed to at least weed, mushrooms, and I’m pretty sure smack for the first time all at that party. I cannot for the life of me recall the parents being around or giving a care at all except for at the bowling alley. Like, what??
And also now that I’m 22 and I’ve tried a few things, I’m freaking amazed that a 16-year-old was doing all of those at once.”
A Creeper In A Car Almost Got Them
“An older guy drove up to the playground of my elementary school when I was in first grade (mid-nineties) and motioned for some of us to go over to his car. Two of my friends and I wandered over thinking it was a parent of a kindergartener trying to pick them up from a half day or something. He leaned over the passenger seat with the window down and asked us if we could help him find his puppy with a big smile that creeped me out. I ran back to the playground to find a teacher (my friends following behind me but confused) but he had driven away. I told my teacher and parents but nothing came of it.
I found out years later a man was arrested for driving around our school playground in the buff from the waist down trying to get kids in his car. It scares me to think how easily we could have ended up with a predator. It was an extremely nice area in an affluent and famously safe part of Connecticut, so it hit home realizing monsters exist everywhere.”
“The Time We Left My Mother Behind On A Trip”
“My parents separated when I was 6 years old. I remember being excited because we were going on a trip. Dad arrived, and my 4-year-old brother and I got in the car. I remember my mother standing at the door, looking distressed, holding a packed bag, as we drove away. At the top of the street, we stopped and another woman got into the car. This was my dad’s girlfriend. My dad drove us to Ontario. It was a 14-hour drive. I puked a lot along the way, and I remember having wicked anxiety in general. We stayed a week, met my dad’s girlfriend’s parents, stayed at their house, and visited ‘Canada’s Wonderland,’ then came back home.
I learned later in life that my mother thought she was coming, didn’t know about the girlfriend, and spent that week in horrible distress. My father told her he was taking us on a trip for a week, but in her optimism, she thought she had been invited to come along too. No laws were broken – it was a misunderstanding, but it was an awful time for her, and I remember how upset she was standing at the door as we drove away.”
The Girl Who Was Trying To Escape
“My mom had taken my sister and me to the beach. We were around 5 and 6 years old.
The parking lot was overlooked by rows and rows of apartments and townhome-style buildings. We parked facing the backyard of a two-story residence.
We were leaving the beach, packing up the car, when we heard a woman scream and come running down the stairs from the second story. She was wearing a short dress and I recall her laughing and screaming like when you’re playing and running around having fun. In my recollection, she was also probably tipsy. As the woman nears the bottom of the stairs, a man runs down after her, picks her up and carries her over his shoulder back up into the residence. As he did this, another man came out and waited at the top of the stairs.
My mom nervously shoved us into the car and we left. She started to cry, but wouldn’t tell us why.
Come to find out when I asked about this memory as an adult, that my mom harbors deep regret and guilt and shame about this incident.
She told me that it was a young girl in just a top, no panties, and she was hysterically crying and trying to run away. Apparently, the man at the top of the stairs had a weapon. The man who grabbed her and hauled her up the stairs pointed at us to the man with the weapon, and that’s when my mom hauled us out of there.
This was in the late-70s.
My mom never told anyone. She panicked and got her girls out of there. She insists that this different version is what she saw every time I tell her that my recollection was a woman wearing a dress, having fun, being kind of tipsy, laughing, and screaming with glee as she was being dragged back in by some friends.”
The Camera That Disappeared And Reappeared
“When I was young and in elementary school, my sister and I got our own cameras. Mine was Looney Tunes themed and said things like. ‘What’s up, doc?’ When you pushed the button to take a picture, and my sister had a Barbie one that said things like, ‘Let’s go shopping!’
We’d had them for a full year before the Barbie camera went missing. My sister didn’t know where it was for at least a summer. We found it again one day in her closet. It was spring, which I remember because my walks from the bus stop to the house were pleasant and it was the first year I was allowed to walk by myself.
The film for the Barbie camera was processed, and a week later my parents sat me and my sister down for a serious talk. The camera had developed and some of the pictures on it were being called into question. They explained that the police were going to be at our house the following day to talk to us about the photos that had been on the cameras. I was so scared, I remember crying on the bus on the way home.
They found various pictures of two little girls, from the shoulders down, wearing nothing but underwear. I still have no idea how these pictures were taken. My sister claims she has no idea either, but we ended up telling the police that we had taken them ourselves after they pressured us about it. I wasn’t even old enough to wear bras yet and didn’t recognize the ones worn in the photos.
I was never abused as a child, and as far as I know, neither was my sister. Sometimes I still think about it and to this day I can’t figure out what happened. Where was the camera the whole time it’d been missing? Who were the girls in the pictures? Who took the pictures? Did I black something out of my memories (I doubt this) or is there something my sister isn’t telling me? I’m 25 now, but I don’t think I’m ever going to get any answers.”
“My Friend’s Father Used Me For Protection”
“When I was 6 years old, my friend’s dad was badly burned in a fire, but lived. My friend was sent away to live with her mom. When I was 7, he had healed enough to drive and have an apartment and such, but I was terrified of him. He was Freddy Kruger to me. I did whatever he asked. He made some phone calls to random people from my family’s house, then told me I was going on a car ride with him and at the end, he’d buy me a happy meal. My mom was cool with this, so I went along. My mom stayed home. It was dark out, but I knew we’d driven to a bad part of the city near the train. He told me to sit in the front seat, and not to say anything to anyone. He stopped the car in the middle of a block, exchanged casual words and small items with a few men through the car windows, then we went to get my happy meal. He told me I was not to tell my mother we went to the bad area or tell her about anything I saw while we were there.
I realized in my teens, he took me along to purchase illegal substances as insurance, in case someone wanted to hurt him. He figured they wouldn’t do anything with a kid sitting there in the car.”
“We Didn’t Know Not To Answer The Door For Strangers”
“When I was a kid (middle-school aged), my friend and I were hanging out at my house. My parents were working, so we were there alone. We heard a knock at the door, and it was some man (probably in his late-20s) with a clipboard and some papers. He asked me if my parents were home, and I told him no. He wanted to know when they’d be returning so that he could come back for whatever reason. He told me that he was a part of ‘Homeland Security,’ which at the time, I figured was a company that tried to sell security systems for homes.
Anyway, he eventually started asking us weird questions. He said something like, ‘I notice you guys have a basketball hoop – do you play?’ This led to him eventually asking us if we wanted to shoot some hoops with him.
At this point, my friend and I were aware enough to know that this was bizarre, but not quite aware enough to know just how potentially dangerous it could be. Our attitude was basically: ‘Whoa, this guy is weird, and he wants to play basketball with us. Eh, let’s do it, just for the laughs.’
We did end up playing basketball with him. It lasted for probably 10-15 minutes or so until we eventually decided – without having talked about it – that this was all just too strange, and it was better to go back inside.
Later that evening, when my mom got home, I told her about it (not in a ‘concerned’ sort of way, but in more of a ‘this is a thing that happened today; also, you might get a knock on the door someday from someone from Homeland Security trying to sell you something’).
After questioning me for a minute or two, my mom called the police. An officer came out, and I had to describe the man, the event, etc., in as much detail as possible. After the officer left, my mom was overcome with guilt and embarrassment. I guess we had never had a discussion about answering the door.”
Be Careful On The Train Tracks
“My parents lived in an apartment that faced a wide road intersected by a train track. The track made a turn before the crossing, and from the eastbound angle, it was a fairly blind curve. A couple kids and I were out goofing around in the parking lot and there was an older boy on his bike trying to do tricks at the train crossing. We could hear the train approaching, and started running towards the street, but stopped short at the sidewalk because none of us were allowed to leave the parking lot and didn’t have the sense to make the judgment call. We were screaming at the kid that a train was coming, but he was still just trying to pop a wheelie or whatever. So the train plowed into him and tore him to pieces in front of all of us.
It’s weird because of the sheer lack of impact it had on us. None of my friends started screaming or crying, no adults came running out of their apartments when the train hit the kid. It even took a few miles for the train to fully stop. We eventually all went and told our parents (the ones who were home), and the cops were called. Emergency services and the transit authority came out over the next few days. Some guy in a uniform asked me and all the other kids who were witnesses a few generic questions.
Eventually, someone came to speak at our elementary school about it, complete with a PSA about train safety. The boy was from a group home, he was autistic and was wearing headphones. Even if any of us had broken the sidewalk taboo, the only thing that would have gotten through to the kid was if someone had pushed him off the tracks and out of the way.”
“My Mom’s Weird, Secret Phone Call”
“I remember my mother calling our landlord to inform him of my brutal and untimely death.
I was about 6 years old at the time, happily coloring at the kitchen table, alive (obviously), listening to her sob and relay the details of my horrific death to this man (kidnapped, violated, and beheaded, for the curious).
She wanted to borrow money from him for ‘funeral expenses.’
After she hung up, she turned to me and said, ‘Don’t tell Daddy about my phone call, okay?’
I nodded and went back to coloring.
This was one episode in a long history of messed up behavior coming from her, but it’s probably the first one I remember. I was about 15 or so before I looked back and was struck with a sense of ‘Well, that’s definitely not normal.'”
He Was Dangling A Furby In Front Of Me
“I was young – I don’t remember the age – but I was leaving a Dollar General store while my dad sat in his truck in the parking lot. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but they didn’t have it at that location. Anyway, as I was walking to my dad’s truck, some extremely filthy man was sitting in the driver’s seat of some beat-up, rusted car with a similar-looking, filthy woman in the passenger seat. He got my attention with this toothless, creepy grin as I was walking by, and he started pulling a Furby out from the corner of his windshield and dashboard.
He never said anything to me, just sort of motioned to come towards him while holding the Furby out the window. Thankfully, I had been told over and over again to never talk to or take things from strangers, so I ignored him and kept walking. The saddest and most messed up part is that in the car’s back seat, I could see two (or possibly three) very dirty-looking children. I didn’t pay much attention to their facial expressions or anything else about them since I was already grossed out by the driver. I didn’t say anything to my dad about it once I got back into his truck. I just got in and we left.
Hopefully, they weren’t kids that had been kidnapped, but that doesn’t make the situation a whole lot better. Even if they were the man’s own children, they had to have been in a poor situation.”
“My Pet Chickens Kept Going Missing”
“I had backyard chickens and ducks up until I was 12 years old, and my favorite food was a whole boiled chicken with some ketchup.
When I was around 10 or 11 years old, I came home from a vacation to find that my chicken Mama was missing. I was so upset and thought it was my fault she escaped. My grandma told me she probably found a farm and it’s better than our cramped, little city backyard. I agreed, and had some boiled chicken for dinner.”
An Adult Inviting A Kid To Shower
“When I was 8 years old, I was in Cub Scouts for a short while. On a camping trip in the middle of the night, one of the adult leaders pulled another boy and me out of our tents to go to the campground showers. I remember being confused since I didn’t think I had gotten that dirty that day, and it was a weird time and place to be taking a shower. Especially because showering was something I only ever did at home.
At the showers, I went down to my underwear but was too shy to take everything off. I think the other boy did the same but I honestly don’t remember what the adult did (maybe I didn’t want to look). As far as I remember, I got back to the tent without much else happening, but I don’t know about the other boy.”
“My Mother Wouldn’t Let Me Keep My Dead Pigeon”
“At about 4 years old, I found a dead pigeon in the back garden (it had flown into the window). I sat playing with it for a few minutes, convinced it was alive because its eyes were still open. My mother found me and we fought over this dead pigeon for a solid minute, tugging it back and forth until one of its legs snapped. I was upset, but more because I’d lost my plaything than because of the dead bird. That was the day I learned you could die with your eyes open.”