For centuries death has been personified, perhaps to help people better understand and cope with it. The name of this personification: The Grim Reaper, otherwise known as Death. Reportedly the most common embodiment of the Grim Reaper is a tall, dark figure, clad in the black robes of a monk, with a pale or sometimes skeletal complexion, his hand grasping his scythe with which he reaps the souls of the living, often holding in his other hand an hour glass in which the grains of life flow. His eyes small glowing flames, or perhaps just empty sockets. Other descriptions given call him a "tall, dark, striking" man with combed back hair and a deep, booming voice. Descriptions of his personality (if he even has one) varies. Some say he is an evil tyrant who takes pleasure in the destruction of humans, created by Satan, while others call him a guide, here to help us on from this life into the next, and to ensure we do not suffer. According to Mark Chorvinsky, a top paranormal researcher who has in recent years carried out investigations into a number of reported sightings of the Grim Reaper, the Grim Reaper is said by most to be gentle and patient aid, there to help people through death of even persuade them to continue to live. Chorvinsky is reported to have said:

"People I have interviewed are totally sincere. There are cases where there are multiple witnesses, where two or more people who did not even know the person who had died had seen the Grim Reaper"

Following are just a few of the alleged sightings of the Grim Reaper across the world:


In a hospital located in Cheshire, England, a nurse entered a darkened ward one evening to see a dark hooded figure standing over the bed of an elderly patient, its arms reportedly folded patiently as it apparently waited for the patient to pass on. The nurse described the figure as being clad in a monks robes, his face a skull with tiny flickering flames for eyes. As it turned to face her, the nurse turned and fled from the ward to summon her colleagues. On their return, they found the figure had vanished, and the elderly patient on whom it had apparently been waiting had died.


A British businessman known as Monty was staying in a hotel with his wife in England. At 11pm, Monty was startled to see on entering his room a tall figure standing in a long, dark robe. Its face was apparently a gleaming white skull with empty sockets. In one skeletal hand the figure clutched a scythe. As the figure began to glide towards him, Monty was frozen with fear. In a low, blood-curdling voice, it told him that his wife wished to end her life, and that he must stop her, before vanishing as mysteriously as it had come. Monty's wife was in the bathroom, and when he knocked on the door, there was no reply. Forcing the door open, Monty found his wife sitting by the bathtub clutching a bottle of sleeping pills, sobbing. It emerged that she had wanted to commit suicide, after noticing a number of lumps on her breasts. On examination, it emerged that they were benign.

1995 A Territorial Army unit was encamped in the woods of Swan Green, in the north-west or England. On sentry duty was soldier Mike Clark, who sat wrapped in a cagoule in the hollow of a tree unarmed. The other soldiers slept soundly in their tents dotted throughout the woods. The only light same from the moon. As he sat there, Mike noticed moving through the woods toward him a tall, dark figure, wearing a long black flowing robe with the hood drawn about its head. Its face was not skeletal, but pale in complexion. As he was about to shout and awaken his sleeping comrades, a soldier named Barry exited his tent in order to confront the unknown entity. Mike rose to assist his companion, but when he looked around, neither Barry nor the mysterious intruder were anywhere to be seen. A roused the rest of the unit, and when they tried to wake Barry, they found that he had died, according to the units paramedic, in his sleep.


Martin Raines was attending a twenty-first birthday party held by his brother in a house in Aurora, Illinois, USA. Martin was in the rear garden with his girlfriend, a colleague from work and two members of a local rock band. As they all talked together, Martin heard someone call out his name. Turning, he saw to figures standing in the shade of some bushes at the end of the garden. One of them he recognised as Jack Crawford, an old school-friend, remembered as a practical joker. The other was seemingly just a black silhouette in the evening gloom, around six feet five. Despite Crawford's joking personality, he wore a sombre look on his face. By now, Martin's girlfriend and the two band members had also noticed the two figures at the end of the garden. Martin attempted to communicate with his old friend, asking him is he was gate-crashing the party. Instead of answering, Jack Crawford raised his hand and called "Goodbye, Martin", before fading away, along with the dark shadowy stranger. Martin and the other on-lookers walked to the end of the garden, but found no means by which Jack and his mysterious companion could have exited. The garden was surrounded by a high stone wall on all three sides. However, one thing they did notice was a smell of gas, which could not be explicated. It remained for around fifteen minutes after the incident, before finally disbursing. Martin was later that night informed by a friend that Crawford had been found dead in his home, after committing suicide. He had apparently gassed himself to death in an oven.

These stories, all easily dismissed as urban myths, all support the image of the Grim Reaper wearing flowing dark robes and a skeletal appearance. The are also reported incidents in which Death has allegedly contacted his victims before their eventual demise, apparently making an arrangement to meet with them under the guise of an admirer. This was the case in the following story, which allegedly took place in London 1967, though as with the previous accounts it is likely an urban myth.

In October of that year, a good-looking young woman named Christine got a job as a secretary with the Life Assurance Company based in London. On her first day at work, a co-worker called Jack asked her if he could take her out, but she politely declines, replying that she was saving herself for somebody else. When quized by Jack as to the identity of this lucky person, she confessed that she didn't really know who he was, only that he was a tall, dark, hansom young man whom she was seen in the street regularly, and that he always smiled at her. A week later, a letter arrived at the office addressed to Christine. A man had apparently handed it in at the reception desk on the ground floor and requested that it be passed on to her. The letter read as follows:

Dear Christine, our paths have finally met. Please meet me on the corner of Regent Street off Piccadily Circus, near the Taxi-rank at 5:30.

The letter was signed; Tall, dark and handsome.

That evening before leaving the office, Christine went to the toilets and put on lipstick and eye-shadow, before leaving with the other staff. She went alone to the appointed meeting place. As she stood, she spotted Frank, her manager, watching her from the corner. When she asked him what he was doing, he explained that he was concerned for her safety, in case the man she was meeting wanted to hurt her. She told him that he would be okay on his own, and that he could leave, which he did. At 5:30pm, Christine was found dead at the taxi-rank. According to witnesses, she collapsed "like a rag-doll" and died almost instantly. The coroner gave cause of death as heart-failure, unusual, as Christine had never suffered from heart problems.

Later that week, Jack was in a nightclub, when he met an attractive woman named Janet who he immediately took a liking to. He danced with her and bought her a drink, and they seemed to be getting along well together. However, as they sat talking at the bar, Janet looked up at someone standing behind Jack. Jack looked round to see a mad with heavily oiled hair, as was common in the 1950's. He said something to Janet which was sickeningly familiar to Janet.

"Hello there Janet. It seems our paths have finally met.

The man then allegedly proceeded to lean forward and kiss Janet. Shouldered aside by the stranger, Jack went to the toilet and on his return found the man gone. Janet was stood at the bar, oblivious to the three men all asking her out simultaneously. Janet revealed that, though she did not know his name, they were to meet the next day in the same place where Christine and her suitor had been appointed to meet. Jack was then shouldered aside by a bouncer, who put his arm around Janet and listened to her tale of the tall stranger, before asking her to come out with him the following evening instead, which she declined. The following evening, shortly before eight o'clock, Jack arrived at the taxi-rank on Regent Street to watch what happened between Janet and the tall dark man. He noticed the bouncer from the club moving toward him, and at the same time a crowd of people standing around a body lying on the steps of a cinema. It was Janet. Jack reportedly left the firm after this incident, however he later met with a former work colleague from the firm who told him of another secretary working for the firm, who had been asked to meet with a tall dark stranger whom she had met in Hyde Park. Their appointed meeting place was the taxi-rank on the corner of Regent Street. On her arrival at this location, the girl collapsed and died of a massive aneurysm. According to a taxi driver parked in the rank, a tall, dark man had stood over her as she died before turning and leaving without doing so much as checking on her condition.

There are many people still living in London who remember this spate of incidents, and it is reported to have had a deal of media attention at the time. Those who recall these events are mostly of the opinion that there was something more sinister than coincidence which caused these deaths. Could it have been Death in his modern form? This is certainly not the only story of a casually dressed Reaper, though it is possibly the best documented.

The accounts so far have all happened to members of the public, to people who could all easily be fictitious. But the following event, which took place in Austria, allegedly happened to one of the best-known musical composers of all time.

Mozart, a man so talented that he wrote a piano concerto aged four, was sat in his home one evening in 1791, when he heard a knock at his door. When he opened it a tall man clad in black robes with white skin and black eyes entered, and requested that the musician compose a requiem for the late Count Walsegg. Mozart agreed, and the stranger smiled and left, after pointing his long finger at the composer. Mozart walked to the window to see the man leave, but his long garden path was empty. Mozart became convinced that he had just met Death, and confided in his closest friends that he felt like the requiem he was composing was for his own funeral. Days later, Mozart caught typhus and died. The piece he composed, Requiem Mass, was played at his funeral.

Whether or not the tales documented above we will probably never know, but what is certain is that there are hundreds like them, telling of mysterious figures (see also banshee)appearing at the time of peoples deaths in order to guide them onto the next life. The personification of death in any form illustrates the human need to find an explanation for anything, especially those which they find threatening. Whatever the truth is behind the Grim Reaper, we will probably never know until the day we die.

See also: Death, Reaper

Source: Mind's Secrets - Does not give name of author