Ever been out and about, having a great time, when suddenly something feels off? A gut feeling, saying to leave the place as soon as possible? Sometimes, these feelings mean nothing. But other times, they can be the difference between life and death.
Quora users share the gut feeling that saved their lives. Content has been edited for clarity.
"My buddy Seth and I went spelunking a few times back in the day. We’d find casual area caves (North Florida) and head on in. One day we visited a local, easy walk-in cave, not very deep, cut right in the side of a very small hill surrounded by other nearly identical hills. The cave appeared to be natural but ‘dead,’ no stalagmites or anything- just a few drink cans and dust.
We walked in, wandered around a bit. The whole thing may have been about 50 feet deep. Daylight easily reached the rear of the cave. Just as we were wrapping up our somewhat underwhelming visit, one of us discovered a 3 feet wide horizontal hole at the rear of the cave. Where it went, we certainly didn’t know, but we were skinny and careless enough to find out.
Lacking flashlights, we lit tea candles and got on our bellies. In single file line (him first), Seth and I crawled into the darkness, pushing those tea candles ahead of us, crawling on our stomachs slowly into the darkness like hairballs in kitchen plumbing.
Maybe 3 minutes into our crawl (at the rate of maybe 10 feet a minute, arms and elbows in front of us, tea candles teetering along in the blackness), the hole grew tighter. It barely let us continue, peeling at our shirts at times as we kept our arms in front of us. It was all we could do to keep claustrophobia at bay; the weight of many feet of earth above us, a heavy silence, and muffled dialogue were our only companions as we pulled our way through this tunnel, a rocky tube the diameter of a lawn trash can.
Then I felt the sensation. Get out. Get out now. Out. NOW.
Vivid, flashing words in my mind. Screaming. It had to be the tight grip of the tunnel, the void, the weight of the earth, all shouting in my head. Right?
Seth said it first, 'Man, we’ve gotta get out of here. Right now.'
I didn’t argue. Our shirts peeled forward as we dragged ourselves in reverse, slowly making our way out of the tunnel and back into the small main cavern. Daylight and birds chirping were a priceless symphony.
After a silent walk to the car, sheet white in the faces, we headed home. Seth described his experience as the person in front as we crawled. He said that he pushed his candle forward until the darkness ahead opened into the blackness of a chamber. The air was chilly and had movement and we apparently weren’t welcome.
Later that night we ran this account by his parents. They described the cave’s hill as a mound among burial mounds. Supposedly a tribe wiped another tribe out some 500 years ago and the mounds were the result. There’s no telling what artifacts, bodies, or other spookiness lay in that chamber…if Seth was being straight with me.
In any case, it was one of the most acute experiences of 'get out now' I’ve ever experienced. I'm happy to have made it out with my sanity."
"On our way to dinner at a local pizzeria, my girlfriend was driving her giant lead sled, a 1960 Chevy Biscayne. I don’t remember why I was not driving, I rarely allow myself to be a passenger. As we approached a freeway overpass, I started getting a real bad feeling something terrible was about to happen. I’ve had these feelings before and learned the hard way to trust the unknown I could only 'feel' over all logical evidence available in any given moment.
The feeling became stronger the closer we got to the intersection. The hairs on my arm and neck were standing up and I began feeling trapped in the car, even though everything appeared just fine in the world. I finally had to do something, so I told her quite sharply to slow down. There was no traffic light or even a stop sign ahead for us, the traffic exiting the freeway had stop signs before turning onto our road. She took her foot off the gas, coasting while becoming very confused about my sudden worrying. She looked down at the speedometer, and started to dismiss me, claiming she wasn’t even doing the 45 mph limit.
By now my nerves are screaming at me, still for no good reason, so I reached across, grabbed her arm and shouted 'STOP NOW!'
She obeyed immediately. I’m sure I simply scared her into complying, but she stomped on the brake pedal as we began under the freeway bridge. Before we even came to a stop, a huge Lincoln came screaming into view from the right side behind the bridge. The car ran the stop sign on two wheels, cutting across in front of us and missed getting t-boned by inches. It was immediately clear that had we not began slowing when we did, he would have hit square into my passenger side door. Hard. At his speed, probably fatally!
My girlfriend looked at me, spooked in disbelief, and asked me 'How did you know?'
To this day, I still don't know."
"I went on a first date with this woman who I thought was very cute, but she had a lot of 'street' in her. You know, one of those type of people who are attractive, intelligent and well-mannered, but came up in a hard environment. Well, she wanted to stop at one of her friend’s house after we went to a movie. As she was giving me directions, I noticed I was driving into a side of town I usually avoided. This was a super hot ghetto. Bars on the windows, roaming pit bulls, and police in the neighborhoods all the time ghetto. Well after we arrived, I was instantly uncomfortable. There were a lot of people in this house who were smoking weed, playing cards and drinking. I can read people pretty well and the majority of them had 'prison' or recently released from prison all over them.
We went to another room to chat with her friend. After about 15 minutes or so, I had the strongest urge to leave. I wanted OUT of there. I told my 'date' I wanted to run to get gas in my car and play some lottery numbers real quick.
She said 'That’s cool,' and went back to her conversation.
I left and went straight home. I found out the following day that there was a raid in that same house (roughly 3 hours after I left). They arrested multiple people. Thank GOD I didn’t stick around. I could’ve been 'guilty by association,'"
"I was commuting home from work a few months ago. I live in the Bay Area, worked in San Francisco so I would take the BART home. Anyway, I usually get on the last car, because they are less crowded. I sat down and put in one of my ear buds and drifted into a nap. I woke up to someone yelling and slamming things. This is honestly a usual occurrence, so I tried not to pay it any mind. But this dude was out of control. He was screaming, throwing his backpack, and obviously having some sort of hallucination. I looked behind me to make eye contact with the other man who was in the car. However, the man was getting more amped up and trying to make eye contact with me. I kept averting my eyes and pretending to be asleep (my usual tactic with crazy people on trains), but it seemed that my avoidance was making this guy even more mad.
Suddenly a small voice said into my right ear, Get off the train!
You could call it a guardian angel if you want. Every hair on my body tingled and I was suddenly horrified that I missed the Last stop before going under the tunnel. But I blinked and suddenly the train was in reverse and pulling up to Embarcadero. It was such a weird moment but I got up to run out of the car when the man tried to block the doors. I literally leaped through a small space to his side and watched as the doors closed. He spit on the window and screamed at me as the train pulled away. I was beyond relieved.
I am so sad to say that this man ended up committing a murder that same day. I saw his picture on the news. I am still horrified by it. I wish I had contacted the police, but I didn’t think they would do anything since people freak out on the train a lot and I escaped physically unscathed."
"It was July 1990, I was 16 and working 6 days a week. I lived at home most of the time, but often hung out with a bunch of homeless squatters in East London. Seemed like fun. At 16, I didn’t know that I was lucky enough to have a home, job, and money in the bank while they did not. The house they squatted in had no gas, electricity, or water. The basement was filled with thousands of empty drink cans, literally thousands. In the corner was a single lonely chair, where some poor soul probably drank himself to death. The rest of the house was no better– missing floor boards, cracked or missing windows, mold, damp…not exactly a place to call home. The place stank.
I guess it looked a lot like the dilapidated house in the movie Fight Club, except it didn’t even have running water or electricity. The local pub doubled up as a toilet…that one also stank. The story began after a night out. It was late and I wasn’t in to illegal substances, so I sat and mostly observed, while the others smoked, drank, and basically went through whatever narcotics they could find. Later, they went about heating up some canned food on a camping stove, which unfortunately doubled up as a room heater.
It got late. I was dead tired and there was no way I could do the long trek home. All I wanted to do was sleep. It really didn’t matter where, so I collapsed on an old mattress on the floor. My body was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep because this voice in my head kept saying get out of here, again and again. I started having a really bad feeling about the place, a sort of sixth sense emotional version of a dialogue. Basically, it was either my imagination or something bad was going to happen. I just wanted to sleep, I wasn’t going to listen to some stupid irrational feeling. I planned to sleep, get the bus home in the morning, shower and go to work.
But, it didn’t happen. The feeling didn’t pass, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, so I got up and got out. I didn’t stop to say goodbye to the guys, even though they were still hanging out in the next room.
That night I ran home, had a big bowl of cereals, then crashed for the night. I never saw the squatters ever again.
The next day, a copy of the local paper was sitting on the kitchen table. I saw something and picked it up. The lead story read, 'Squatters die in tragic house fire.'
It happened just after I left."
"When I was a kid, we visited Washington, D.C. We went to the National Zoo. After we’d been there in a while, my Dad started to get in a bad mood. My brother and I didn’t care– we were having fun. Eventually, he insisted that we had to leave. Now. He was so insistent that he was actually rude to our mother, his wife, which was weird. Really weird. So, we left.
As the day wore on, my dad kept noticing more and more groups of three or more young men. They had angry expressions and a somewhat uniform-looking appearance he surmised might be gang colors of some sort. He’d seen a fistfight nearly break out between two of these groups at one point.
Before leaving, he’d wrestled with his conscience, trying to decide if he was unfairly judging them. He finally decided that increasingly large groups of angry-looking young men of uniform appearance in what should be a fun place was what was making him nervous, so he decided to act. He decided angering off his wife, and disappointing his kids, was acceptable when all of his instincts were screaming that his family was in danger.
When we got back to the hotel, we found out via the news that less than 10 minutes after we’d left, there was a gang shooting resulting in several fatalities if memory serves.
Clearly, he made the right call."
"One summer when I was a kid, my parents and brother and a bunch of other family members all took our toy haulers up to the lake to camp for the weekend. We had gotten to our campground early that morning and spent the day setting up camp. By late afternoon, my brother and cousins had gone swimming in the nearby river. Soon after, a thunderstorm had come through. When it started raining, the boys were forced to get out of the river. We had seen a couple lightning strikes but thought nothing of it since it’s common.
About 20 minutes after the storm had passed, the sun barely squeezing through the gray clouds. My mom noticed our dog was acting weird. She wouldn’t come out of the trailer and wouldn’t move off of my parents bed. My mom did not take this lightly, and literally rushed to pack our stuff up by throwing unfolded chairs and tables into the trailer as fast as she could. She said something wasn’t right and we needed to leave. While we were loading up, I looked up and saw a small stream of black smoke reaching into the sky. It looked to be no less than a mile or two from where we were camped. Within 10 minutes, the sky was black. Emergency personnel had come to our campsite to evacuate us. My cousin’s dad, in the same fashion of my mom, started throwing everything in the trailer in sheer panic. By the time we had gotten out of there, the fire was immense and was literally chasing us down the mountain. I just remember looking out of the back of the truck window and seeing nothing but glowing orange surrounding us. It was dark by this time, it was like a scene straight from a disaster movie. I was scared.
By the time we had made it home, we looked up the mountain and the fire had started to trail over the other side of the mountain because it was so large. The night sky radiated orange. This fire burned 23,000 acres. Almost 12 years later, and each summer we drive up to that lake the aftermath still remains. We were lucky to get out of there on time."
"I was about 12 when my mother’s husband came home after days of, what I now know to be, a substance binge…days of no sleep and lots of crystal. The moment he came into the house, the hairs all over my body stood up. Looking back, I’ve tried to find non-verbal cues that led to this feeling. There weren’t any, just an overpowering sense of evil.
He called me into his room for 'help' with something. I remember staring at the cheap floor divider; it was about an inch thick with cheap, gold coloring. I stared at it and simply knew that if I crossed that line, I’d be dead. As visceral as that. I don’t think my body would have crossed the line even if my mind wanted it to.
After what felt like forever, but was probably 30 seconds, he lifted a knife from behind his back, fairly long. I turned tail and ran into the dining/kitchen area, with him following. I took two trips around the dining room table before he stopped and we were face to face, across the table from each other. I literally saw the blackness, the evil, leave his eyes. He put the knife down and left. Afterwards, I found a rubber band with my hair intertwined on it in the living room, about 8 feet from where the chase began. I can only surmise he grabbed me by my pony tale, but I kept going. I didn’t even feel my hair getting pulled out. Thank you, adrenaline."
"I asked my manager for an on-site trip/business trip for a month. He obliged and I got offer for a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. A beautiful place. It was my first business trip and most importantly, I had asked for it. It sadly clashed with a wedding of my second cousin. It made sense to skip the wedding and go for the trip.
But, I refused the trip and went to the wedding instead.
It was weird, but when I was told to go for the trip, I just didn't feel like it. It wasn't a really bad feeling, but just that I don't want to go. I could not understand why. My friends called me stupid. I risked my manager getting angry, but I still cancelled my trip and went to the wedding.
The result? The wedding was so great. It was in a beautiful resort in a very, very small city. Almost a village. The resort was grand– clean, beautiful atmosphere. Cheap roadside food, cheap travel, cheap parlor. And the cousin group was good too. We enjoyed a lot.
On the other hand, on the business trip I was replaced by some other guy. He came back and told how the trip was a disaster. He was there alone. Generally, they send a teammate, but not this time. Above that, there were bomb blasts in the city. Blasts everywhere. Once every few days, with some even within 100 m from the hotel he was staying. He was so scared, he just stayed in hotel or went to office. Only one weekend he went to an island, and that was it.
Always trust your gut feelings!"
"It was on a Sunday morning in November 2016, in Northern Idaho. I had my twin infants in their stroller and my husband was holding our elementary-school age son’s hand. We walked together from the parking lot of our church and my husband took my son into the children’s ministry building on the left while I continued on with our new babies to the main auditorium of the church.
It was chilly, so I practically ran inside with the babies and sat down in the very back of the huge church, in case I had to make a quick exit if one or both of them started crying during the sermon. The worship music started when suddenly my husband appeared behind me, surprisingly with our older son still in tow.
'Something weird is going on,' he said. 'We have to leave. Now.'
I’ve been with my husband since 2004, and he’s never once said that to me, so I didn’t ask any questions or argue. I just grabbed my purse and the stroller with our twins and quickly followed him out of the building, back toward our car.
One of the volunteers saw my entire family 'storming out' and ran up to us to ask if everything was okay.
'Something weird is going on over at the children’s building,' my husband told him. 'I’m not sure what. I brought my son in, and a few people were staring at the glass door. I went to see, but as soon as I put my hand on the door, a woman told me ‘You can’t leave. No one can leave.’ But my wife and the babies were out there! No way I’m leaving them alone if it’s dangerous for some reason, which she wouldn’t tell me. So I grabbed my kid and ran after my wife and the babies.'
The volunteer looked baffled. 'I don’t know why she wouldn’t let you leave. That’s…odd,' he said.
My husband said, 'Maybe you should go check it out. But I’m taking my family and getting us out of here.'
When we got to the parking lot, we saw a police officer standing back between some cars, looking over at the children’s building. We saw some friends arriving late to church as we were loading the kids back into their car seats.
'We’re leaving,' I said. 'I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s not right, so we’re leaving. Maybe you should, too?'
'What?' they asked.
But we didn’t have an answer for them, other than something was 'off.' They shrugged and went inside.
We went home and I texted some friends inside the church, trying to figure out what was going on. 'Nothing,' they all said. 'Everything is fine.'
Fifteen minutes later, the live feed I was watching of the sermon abruptly shut off.
There was a man outside the children’s ministry with a weapon. Many people carry weapons to church in North Idaho, almost always concealed somewhere on their body or in a purse. That’s normal here. My husband had one on himself that day. What’s not normal is to have it in your hand for any reason. That’s what was off. The man had a weapon in his hand, just kinda looking at it. The woman who tried to stop my husband saw and didn’t want my husband to go back outside, but didn’t communicate what she’d seen. All my husband knew was something bad was outside with his wife and babies.
He actually ran, with our son in his arms, right past the man in an effort to find me! My husband didn’t know I’d already be inside because I’d run with the stroller.
The man stood under the big cross out front of the doors to the building. He pointed the weapon at his own chest, then back at the ground. Over and over.
The cops came and tried to negotiate with this lost soul for three hours, while a thousand people stayed away from windows and just prayed and prayed for the man. No one was allowed to leave. We had gotten out just in time, seconds after the lockdown had started, before all the staff knew what was going on. We were lucky the man was more suicidal than homicidal (as awful as that sounds to say), or my family would have been an easy first target.
The man was a Gulf War veteran. He was clearly hurting. The police showed extreme restraint by continuing to talk with him even though he wouldn’t put the weapon down. After three very long hours, with all the parents separated from their kids because no one could leave and they were in the building behind the man with weapon, they heard a shot.
The man had killed himself. He took his own life with his own weapon, under the cross, with hundreds of terrified children mere yards away.
The volunteer security team did a good job that day, keeping nearly a thousand people out of danger. They missed us because we’d caught on early that something was off and got out of there.
The church made huge changes after this incident. Parents no longer felt comfortable being in a separate building from their children, so they built a new wing onto the main building for all the kids’ Sunday school classrooms, so if there was an emergency, we wouldn’t be separated.
Some of us spoke later about how we felt shaken, that despite a thousand prayers for three straight hours for the man to put down his weapon, he still killed himself. Maybe the prayers worked in a different way.
The following day was a Monday, and I signed up for a conceal and carry license class because you never know when or where someone will show up with a weapon and bad intentions. I still go to church every week, but I never leave my house without lawfully carrying, just in case. I have never had to use it other than on the range. This was my way of feeling safe again after an incident that had left me feeling decidedly unsafe."