Skyrim is a vast and beautiful game, filled with quests to complete and things you can kill. It’s no wonder that fans spend hundreds of hours exploring its hundreds of dungeons, looking for new loot and secrets. Sometimes, what they find goes beyond the usual “interesting, let’s end it” story. In fact, certain stories in Skyrim get so creepy we’re a little surprised they made it into the final version of the game.
There are night workers with unexpected toys, books exploring creepy stuff, and children who really don’t get a happy ending. That’s just the beginning. So while you think you may know Skyrim, be warned that there’s a whole other, dark layer beneath the surface, one that’s definitely not suited for all ages. And most players, innocent dragon-killing souls that they are, don’t even realize it’s there.
So while you dance around the countryside massacring bears and hunting down bandits (we’re looking at you, new Switch players, welcome to the game), be careful about running into these particular tales. They aren’t for the easily creeped out, they definitely aren’t for kids, and there’s no easy way to make it all right again just by choosing the right quest choice. No, this stuff sucks – and when it comes to the worst vampire stories, that’s not even a turn of phrase. So buckle up, because Skyrim is about to get ugly. Here’s all the secrets you didn’t know about (oh, and no mod stuff).
25Serena's Vampire History
When players first find Serena, she’s trapped in an ancient tomb because she’s an powerful vampire princess. So far, so good. But Serena is reticent when it comes to just how she became a vampire, and there’s a really creepy reason for that: You see, if you inspect journals and histories, you see that Harkon, her father, killed hundreds to begin a ritual of Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince of, to put it politely, Domination. The ritual to turn people into Vampire Lords requires Bal to have some…relations with his victims, who are then knit back together into vampires. Add that one of Bal’s lesser titles is the “King of [assault]” and suddenly, Serena being quiet about the whole thing makes way too much sense.
24The Argonian Maid's Adventures
The Lusty Argonian Maid is one of the most famous books in Skyrim and beyond. It’s porn. Can we be clear about that? It will save a lot of time. It’s a bunch of porn about an Argonian servant and her master have a significant amount of fun together with lots of pervasive metaphors and titillating conversations. Lots of fans of the Elder Scrolls know about this book, and there are even a few sequels floating around. You also tend to find the book in some awkward locations, such as beside toilet buckets, underneath beds, and close to sleeping quarters. Skyrim is more imaginative about using the Maid than other games, which makes sense. It’s a cold, lonely place up north, and apparently, a little imagination can go a long way (we’re not even sure Argonians have the right equipment, to be honest).
23Skyrim's Orphanage: Home To Horrible Attacks
If you start the Dark Brotherhood questline at all, you know that it begins with a runaway boy trying to summon an assassin to do his bidding. In this case, kill the headmistress of the orphanage he used to live at. That sounds a little disturbing until you learn that this headmistress, Grelog the Kind, is a total nightmare. She mistreats the children, tells them they will never be adopted, and yes, even chains them up in the bathroom when they misbehave. When you kill her, the children are delighted, especially one of the young girls, who is amazed at just how easy it is to kill someone and seems eager to go try it for herself. Look, you’re trying to join something called the Dark Brotherhood, you know things were going to get…pretty dark.
By far one of the creepiest quests in the game, Toying with the Dead, is about a necromancer living out in hidden ice caves by Dawnstar. Except, well, he’s not living alone, exactly. You see, you are in charge of stealing all the parts of his journal, which tell a very wrong story about a young wizard who couldn’t get a love of his own. So he started kidnapping young women from the village, doing away with them, and then raising their ghosts as his….slave-lovers. Yeah, there’s no going back from that. Especially once you discover his inner chambers where his latest ghost conquest is sleeping in his bed. You know, we destroy a lot of people in Skyrim, but this time it feels really, really right to put that necromancer in the dirt.
21The Torture Book: Extra Hideous Torture Edition
Skyrim has a lot of books lying around (more on this later), free for anyone to pick up and read – if they want everlasting nightmares. A lot of the books are creepy, but a few are downright disturbing. One of the worst is called the Horrors of Castle Xyr, which looks like a fairly normal script for a play. Except, that play is all about a castle filled with secret, bloody torture, a short but deadly story of people peeling off other people’s skin with magic: Perhaps one of the worst parts is that, as you explore Skyrim’s dungeons, you find many flayed corpses that no doubt underwent the same detailed process. Frankly, it’s even worse than the explicit live werewolf dissection in other books. Maybe just don’t have your character read at all?
20The Latest Toys ;)
Riften’s famous lover is Haelga, who has a reputation for sleeping with men around town thanks to her worship of the goddess Dibella. There’s a whole quest about confronting her, but her nighttime activities are actually a lot more detailed than you think. For example, if you sneak up to her bedroom (hey, the Dragonborn is no saint, either), you discover a store of items that are very appropriate, considered. That includes leather straps, shackles, stamina potions, a jar of honey, some dubious elixir, and of course a copy of the [BLANK] Argonian Maid. So it’s pretty clear exactly what was going on in that bedroom, and why Haelga was so popular with the men of Riften. It also demonstrates one of the great truths of RPGs: Always look everywhere.
19A Poisonous Cult
Let us introduce you to Forelhost. If you never found it in your playthrough, it’s a very big ancient draugr stronghold atop a mountain south of Riften, ruled over by the undead dragon priest Rahgot. That’s not the scary part – it’s totally normal for Skyrim. But as you explore the stronghold, you find an ancient tale: Rahgot got caught in a battle with more honorable Nords, and was forced to retreat through the dungeon. The dragon priest ordered all the men and women to eat Deathbell blossoms (still strewn around the chambers) and kill themselves. He hoped the pile of bodies would scare away the other Nords – and to put extra meaning to it, he commanded that his people also kill all the children. When the head alchemist refused, she was killed too. The Dragonborn can still find the small, wrapped bodies in the tomb.
18The Extra-Gross Residents Of Markarth
If you’ve played Skyrim’s Daedric quests, you probably remember The Taste of Death. It’s a quest about hunting down a cult of secret foodies who steal the living to devour, and either join them or destroy them. You know, as you do. But it gets much weirder when you visit the final dinner and realize the cult is made up of…pretty much everyone you meet in the city Markarth, including people who send you on quests of their own. The local owner of the trade shop is one. The local dog breeder is one (he feed them “spiced meat”). The local food merchant is one too (he claims he sells more than one kind of food to his unknowing buyers). Frankly, we won’t blame you if you never visit Markarth again.
On a slightly lighter note, another Daedric quest, A Night to Remember, is a fun story about a romp with a Prince of Parties where you get blackout drunk and wake up in a lover’s temple half a world away. The story itself is lighthearted enough: You have to piece together the pieces of what happened to you until you find the demon prince again. But the details are…more complicated. You stole a goat, borrowed a ring, and got married – to a Hagraven. As the name implies, Hagravens are a mix of filthy giant crow birds and old women, and your wife cackles after you talking about your wedding night. We’re not sure if it’s worse or better that you can end up killing her and ending the whole thing.
16The Vampire Ghost Girl Burned Un-Alive
There’s a lot of wicked vampire stories in Skyrim, but one of the worst is from the small swamp village of Morthal, where you can explore the ruins of a burnt house. Here you meet the ghost of a little girl who asks you to come back at night so she can play with you. When you visit again, she tells you a particularly nasty story about how her mother was seduced by a vampiress in town and forced to burn down their home. The mother tried turning the little girl’s burnt body into a vampire too, but there wasn’t enough left of her for it to work. Skyrim, you hit us in the feels pretty hard with that one. Fortunately, vengeance is on the menu and you can put the little girl to rest if you complete the quest.
15Sacrifices Had To Be Made
Rorikstead is a weird little town in the middle of nowhere, just a peaceful little farming community. There’s not really any quests attached to the place but something about the whole thing tends to make players uneasy. Vigilant Skyrim fans have put together a lot of clues, including weird mismatched historical dates, awkward excuses for their unusually good crops, and magical books found in odd places among these “innocent” villagers. It all adds up to a secret Daedra cult that is sacrificing people (possibly their own children) to have healthy crops. That’s really not cool, little farming town! And worst for the player, if you just wandered on through without carefully investigating everything, you may have never noticed.
Hagravens are easily one of the grossest creatures in Skyrim (depending on how you feel about giant bugs). These wheezing, stomping, malformed combinations of straggly bird and gross old woman are annoying to fight and creepy to think about, but let’s go deeper. You see, there’s a particular quest in the game called Repentance that shows you exactly how Hagravens are created. They do start with a normal human woman (in this case, an evil witch) who must undergo a ritual that transforms them into the raveny monstrosity. But a sacrifice is required, and it has to be a human…in this case, you. So you and the witch’s daughter hatch a plan: You pretend to be the sacrifice, and the daughter sneaks up to cut her own mother’s throat before the transformation can finish.
13Forsworn To Never Return
The Forsworn aren’t a great bunch. Sure, their land was sort of taken from them and the Nords don’t like them very much, but then they go around dressed in rags and putting heads on spikes everywhere. Almost all of them will attack you on sight, and the most powerful have their hearts exchanged with a briar patch to give them powers. Weird stuff. But as you travel the land of Skyrim, you start to notice more and more heinous crimes committed by these traveling bands. Families thoughtlessly murdered. Young women brutalized and left to die. Prisoners kept in cages for sacrifices, and unholy pacts with Hagravens. By the end, you probably don’t feel sorry for mowing any of the Forsworn down, because at a certain point it starts to feel like justice. Does that make you the monster?
12The Falmers' Fate Worse Than Death
Everyone hates the Falmer. We don’t blame you if you purposefully skip Falmer dungeons because you want to avoid those blind, poisoning wretches with their giant bugs and ridiculously deadly attacks. But wretches they really are, and their story is one of the most unpleasant in the game. You see, the Falmer started out as a noble race of tall, contemplative Snow Elves (there are still two alive in the game, although you will need the expansions to find them). To avoid more wars with the Nords, the refugees of the Snow Elves went to the Dwemer (the mysterious, steampunk dwarves of the Elder Scrolls) and begged for help. The Dwemer agreed to help and then cheated. They fed the Snow Elves a strange fungus that turned them into blind little Gollum-creatures that were made into slaves and then left lost in the dark when the Dwemer vanished.
If you have played the Dragonborn expansion, there’s a chance that you may have come across a wizard in the middle of nowhere, standing around vacantly like all NPCs. But if you talk to him, you find out he babbles out nonsense, screeches something about finding lost secrets, and casts a spell on himself that launches him into the sky. Wait for a few seconds, and he comes crashing down again, dead. It’s kind of disturbing on its own, but it’s meant to mimic one of the first wizards you meet in Morrowind. Except this guy didn’t make a mistake, he was driven entirely insane by a forbidden Black Book. And you just watched him end himself. Isn’t that a little too creepy? Yes, yes it is.
10Adrianne Avenicci, Her Dad, And All The Dirty Rumors
Adrianne is the blacksmith you meet as soon as you arrive at the first big city of Whiterun. She’s nice, she sells you stuff, and players like her, except for one line that she says frequently: “I help my father in more ways than people realize.” This line is (hopefully) completely normal because her father is a steward up at the castle and presumably she gives him the lowdown on city events. But Skyrim players from the first year of playing to years later have assumed that she means something way more…fun for the whole family. Look, her tone doesn’t help and Skyrim is a harsh place, but are we really going this far? Yes, apparently we are, based off a single line from a blacksmith who just wants to secretly give her father a giant sword and hopes you can help.
Cicero is the annoying jester in the Dark Brotherhood questline that everyone loves to hate. Get past his giggling and his dancing, and you find a crazed assassin trying to kill everybody, as expected. But if you get far enough and read Cicero’s journals, you find his story is a lot more alarming. As the Dark Brotherhood fell in Cyrodil, Cicero was forced to hide alone in a sacred tomb, guarding the rotting body of The Mother all alone, until he eventually fell in love with a corpse. The man you see is broken, dangerous, and far more insane than you realize at the time…which starts to make sense around the time he babbles in front of The Mother’s corpse like a jealous lover when he finds you inside her coffin (look, it’s a long story).
8The Whispering Door
Time for another Daedric quest, ladies and gentlemen! This quest starts with one of the Jarl’s kids in Whiterun, and that alone is unsettling. You see, this little kid has been listening to The Whispering Door, which is actually one of the most wicked Daedric Princes (or princesses – Mephala isn’t big on gender), who has been whispering poison in his ear and driving him mad. The kid is now violent, cruel, and acting like a jerk to the Dragonborn, which is probably the worst thing of all. The quest involves choosing whether or not to give into Mephala yourself, which requires killing the people who trust and follow you because, of course, it does. But it was still surprising for even long-term fans. In the past, Daedric Princes mostly stayed away from harming kids, but in Skyrim, apparently, everyone is fair game.
7A Hairy Situation
Ohhh, we’re not done with the Dark Brotherhood yet, not nearly. Let’s talk about Astrid, the leader of the DB Sanctuary, for a minute. She has a super sultry voice, long legs, and that’s pretty much all most players remember. But if you spend the time to talk to all the DB members, you will find she also has a werewolf husband. The weird thing is, he’s gruff and strange (doesn’t like the color blue, skins Khajiit alive, etc.), but he doesn’t have any problem with Astrid flirting with you. And Astrid really, really, seems like she’s flirting with you, with every line. This has led to the assumption that she seduces people into the Dark Brotherhood, and that her husband is okay with an open relationship with just about everyone in the Sanctuary.
6The Devastated Mother
We won’t spoil the ending of the Dark Brotherhood questline, but we are gonna talk about the first quest you complete. It begins with visiting a jealous alchemist girl, who asks you to kill her ex-lover and, if you want, an ex-lover of his as well. His lover is Nilsine Shatter-shield of Winterhold, and if you’re playing an evil character you probably pay the city a special visit just to find her alone in an alley and do the deed. The problem is, the Shatter-shield’s recently lost another daughter, and Nilsine was their last child. If you kill her, then her mother will eventually end her life inside their home, leaving a note saying that she couldn’t take it anymore. Yeah, the Dragonborn is responsible for that…and most players probably never find out.
5How Babette Murdered A Creeper
Okay, one more Dark Brotherhood story for the road. When you first visit the Falkreath Sanctuary, you find all the current members of the DB exchanging their latest gruesome kills for each other. Hey, they are all assassins, it’s not inappropriate for them. Until we get to Babette. She’s a little girl who looks about 10 years old but is actually a vampire who has lived for more than two centuries. And, there’s no easy way to say this, she lures in older men who like little girls and kills them. Her story is about pretending to be an innocent who is tricked into an alley by a gentleman offering her “sweeties” until she shows her fangs to make the kill. She completes her story with groans and sighs, and anyone who listens all the way through tends to feel pretty rattled.
Let’s talk about the creepy ruin of Aftland. For obsessive Skyrim players, it’s a popular ice-covered Dwemer dungeon because it leads to the fantastical Blackreach zone, but the worst part is in the very beginning when you are exploring the collapsed ice caves of the ruin and find a whole band of explorers who have been slaughtered (extra blood included). If you read all the journals and explore the whole place carefully, you realized that a Khajiit, J’zhar, was trying to help his brother J’darr, who is recovering from skooma addiction. Unfortunately, J’darr is far sicker than they realize, and he kills and eats everyone on the expedition is his madness. You find him standing over the corpse of his brother. Never try skooma, guys.
3The "Helpful" Necromancer
Some necromancers raise nubile ladies from the dead for company, and others prefer to force people to slowly end their lives. Take Halldir’s Cairn, for example. When you first step inside, you find a cavern with a glowing stone pyre and a bunch of dead bandits. Investigate, and you will find that the dungeon is actually an ancient sunken castle filled with ghosts and commanded by the undead lich Halldir. To survive, he lures mortals to the cavern and enchants them with the desire to end themselves on his stone altar, giving him more energy. It’s a necromancer version of ordering takeout, but that doesn’t make it any easier to discover, especially after reading the bandit diaries and realizing that Halldir has been doing this for a long time.
2The Old Man, The Boy, The Shack, And Filthy Minds
Up high in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, is a little cabin called Froki’s Shack. Technically, it’s where Froki and his grandson live, and if you dig a bit deeper you realize that the grandson is one of the only survivors of the first scene in the game where Alduin destroys Helgen. Now he’s living with his grandfather, and here’s where things get disgusting. You see, people keep on noticing that Froki only has one bed in his little hut, and that the game never shows him sleeping there. Obviously, it’s just a poor family on hard times and a refugee boy who never seems to sleep. Except when people decide that Froki is actually a gross old man. Sigh. Okay, Internet, we’re taking away your toys now.
1The Worst Kind Of Slaves
Chances are good that Skyrim players kill a lot of draugr, the ancient Nord zombies that live inside tombs. But we bet you never felt sorry for them, although maybe you should. While conventional wisdom holds that draugr were cursed for worshipping dragons, wizards investigating the zombies have discovered the truth is much less cool. Specifically, the draugr are ancient slaves who have their life force tied to the lord buried in the tomb. Every night they are forced to rise and tend the tomb, keep the torches burning, and slay any outsiders, over and over again, gradually growing more rotten as the centuries pass. Sure, you’ll still strike them down one after the other. But keep in mind they don’t have a choice in the matter, and that this whole game is really messed up.
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