Tales From the Grid Square: A Collection of the Internet’s Best Military Ghost Stories

August 23, 2023Jenna Biter
Tales From the Grid Square

Soldiers gathered around a campfire in Oregon on Sept. 21, 2017. US Army photo by Pvt. Adeline Witherspoon.

Reported sightings of skinwalkers, UFOs, Bigfoot, a “box witch,” and plenty of other strange creatures populate Tales From the Grid Square’s Instagram feed. Nick Orton, the Army logistician who runs the account under a pseudonym because he’s on active duty, told Coffee or Die that the stories he shares aren’t his own inventions; rather, they’re sourced from within the military community at large — and apparently, they’re true.

“When you’re sitting around bored, and people are tired, and it’s the middle of the night, you inevitably start talking about this stuff,” Orton said. “These stories always come out in little whispers when higher-ups aren’t watching.”

This is how it works. Every week, Orton receives a trove of submissions from service members and veterans from around the world describing paranormal encounters that they or someone they know experienced while serving in uniform. Then, in the order he receives them, and without naming the authors, Orton posts each story on “Grid Squares” — vulgarities, grammatical errors, military jargon, and all.

Tales From the Grid Square

Spooky. A coalition force member crouches during a night operation that led to the arrest of a senior Taliban leader and three other insurgents in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 24, 2013. US Army photo by Pfc. Elliott Banks.

Since Orton created the account a little more than two years ago, Tales From the Grid Square has become something of a phenomenon. The account now has more than 110,000 Instagram followers. To date, Orton said, he has received nearly 1,500 story submissions, and hundreds of those are still in his backlog.

Like many crazy endeavors, Tales From the Grid Square was born amid the COVID-19 lockdowns. Bored and restless, Orton would scroll through Instagram, Reddit, and the wider internet to kill time. A longtime fan of “lore and the weirder side of history,” as he put it, Orton eventually found himself consuming stories about paranormal experiences. Many of the best stories, he realized, were about experiences people had while serving in uniform.

“That got me thinking,” Orton said. “What are some strange things that people have seen in the military?”

He decided to find out. In 2021, Orton created Tales From the Grid Square’s Instagram account. And slowly but surely, veterans and service members began sending him stories.

You’re going to want your “woobie” while reading these spine-chilling books. Since starting Tales From the Grid Square, Nick Orton has self-published two volumes of paranormal military accounts. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die.

From the beginning, Orton has sifted through the submissions for obvious fakes, plagiarism, and certain red flags, like submitters who claim to belong to Delta Force. Beyond that, Tales is built on the honor system. 

Even many of the submitters themselves admit in their accounts that they aren’t entirely convinced of the paranormal and don’t really know what they saw. They just know something strange occurred and don’t want to keep it in.

“[It’s] as if they aren’t trying to convince you of something, just letting you know what happened to them,” one fan commented.

Tales from the Grid Square has become so popular that Orton has compiled what he deems the best submissions into two self-published books. In May 2022, Volume 1 went live on Amazon. Volume 2 followed a year later. Like on the Instagram account, the stories included in the books are also unfiltered, but Orton has lightly edited each of them for the sake of readability. He says that, as long as submissions keep streaming in, he intends to publish a new volume every year.

Read Next: WWI Soldier-Poet Alan Seeger’s ‘Rendezvous With Death’

Jenna Biter
Jenna Biter

Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.

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