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Mr. Smile

Estimated reading time — 6 minutes

It was in early November of 1997 that a series of very strange sessions led a child psychologist in Maine to contact the authorities.

It began when a patient of his began to tell him about one of their ‘friends’. This friend being imaginary as far as both the psychiatrist and the boy’s parents were concerned. He called his friend ‘Mr. Smile’ and would talk about him at great length during some sessions.

The boy called him Mr. Smile both because he would always be smiling and because when he was around the boy said everything felt ‘happy’. He said that there was a feeling of everything being okay. The boy in question was being treated for serious issues to do with anger and depression but when Mr. Smile was around he said that all the anger and the sadness seemed to just disappear. He said that Mr. Smile wouldn’t speak but rather just stand there, at the foot of his bed. He smelled like candy floss and just by being there he made the boy feel calm and safe.


The psychiatrist assumed this imaginary friend was some sort of coping mechanism the boy had developed to deal with the problems at home that had led to his violent temper and thought nothing much of it. Until another patient, a girl of about nine years old also began talking about her imaginary friend ‘Mr. Smile’.

And then a boy of seven.

And then a boy of twelve.

And then a girl of eleven.

All in all close to fifteen separate patients all began to talk to him about Mr. Smile. The first few he’d put down to coincidence… after all, many children have imaginary friends and the name and description of ‘Mr. Smile’ were just generic enough that it didn’t concern him too much at first. But as more and more of his patients told him about Mr. Smile he began to grow concerned. He asked for more details.

Every single one of them described him the same way. Using the exact same words.


Now there was no way that all of these children could be in contact with each other. Five of them, for instance, were currently being home schooled and according to their parents when he spoke to them, never really even left the house, except when it was to accompany them on shopping trips and the like. There was no way that every single one of these kids could have rehearsed or prepared their statements together

Which led him to a deeply disturbing conclusion.

He spoke privately with each of the children’s parents one at a time. He avoided disclosing too much information but told them that something troubling had cropped up in multiple sessions with various patients and that he believed that there was a chance their child was at risk. He asked for their permission to discuss matters with the authorities and the parents gave their consent, provided they were kept in the loop as to what was going on.

And so, over the course of the next week, the police came and talked to the children about their ‘friend’. They asked for details about his appearance (which they couldn’t seem to describe apart from the smile and that he was ‘Not like them’), how he got into their house, anything he said or did while he was there. Because by this point the psychiatrist, the parents and the police were all convinced that Mr. Smile was quite real and quite dangerous. The authorities had checked to make sure there were no known predators living in the area which they had confirmed was not the case. But it was quite clear that whoever this Mr. Smile was he was a real person who had been sneaking into the homes of these children at night.

None of the children claimed to know how he got in. They said they would just wake up and he’d be there at the foot of their bed. Sometimes they said he would be singing something but not in English. It sounded like a lullaby, they said. It made them feel safe.

Finally the children were asked to draw Mr. Smile, as they couldn’t put into words how he looked. Each and every one of the children picked up a red crayon and proceeded to color in the entire page until it was just a rectangle of red.

When asked about this they insisted that they had drawn Mr. Smile. When asked where his head, arms and legs were they would insist that they had drawn those. They claimed that they had drawn a perfect picture of the man at the foot of their bed and when they were told that they had simply colored in the page and not drawn anything at all they became deeply angry, feeling that they were being accused of lying and insisting that what they had drawn was a picture of the man they had seen.

Acting more on a hunch than anything else, the psychiatrist decided to show one of the colored in rectangles to the various children and ask them what it was. Each and every one of them, with no knowledge of what the picture was supposed to be or who had drawn it (And with no knowledge that the other children that had been spoken to about this subject even existed), replied that it was a picture of Mr. Smile.


Cameras and baby monitors were placed in the children’s rooms so that they could be monitored. Many of the parents simply stopped sleeping altogether, staying up all night staring at the screens that displayed where their children slept. At no point did anyone enter or exit the bedrooms. No sounds except for them snoring or occasionally talking in their sleep were heard over the baby monitors. There was no sign of Mr. Smile.

After almost two weeks of this, many of them began to doubt that Mr. Smile had ever existed. Other psychiatrists since have put the whole thing down to some strange shared delusion that while it couldn’t be explained yet did not have any basis in reality. Some suggested that maybe this whole ‘Mr. Smile’ thing had its basis in a TV show or film that the children had all watched leading them all to dream up something similar.

Then one of the boys went missing.

The camera in his room had gone dead at around two in the morning. His mother had run to check in on him only to find his room empty. It had literally taken her less than a minute to run to his room. There was no possible way for him to leave (or be taken) and be out of her sight in the time it took her to leave her bedroom and run towards his but he was gone.

She said there was a smell like cotton candy in the room.

The search for the boy turned up nothing. No one had seen anything strange or unusual around the home before or during the disappearance and no trace of him was ever found. It was less than a week later that one of the girls who had spoken of ‘Mr. Smile’ vanished as well. Then another. Then another of the boys. One by one each of them began to disappear, until only four remained.

The four remaining children began to talk about how ‘Mr. Smile’ and his friends were going to take them away soon. When asked about these ‘Friends’ they talked about how Mr. Smile lived with the other smiling men in ‘The happy place’ and that he would take them there soon. They said that there were lots of people there already and that in the happy place everything was beautiful. They said that they knew about it because Mr. Smile talked to them ‘In their heads’ because he couldn’t talk like other people did and that he would show them pictures in their heads of the place they were going.


Things began to get increasingly disturbing. After a few weeks, the children began complaining of headaches and nausea. Their schools reported that they had begun to suffer hallucinations and two of them started complaining that they didn’t like the place that ‘Mr. Smile’ was showing them anymore. One began screaming for half an hour, acting as if they were having a fit and screaming for the colors to stop. That the colors were ‘horrible’ and that they needed them to go away.

One of the children claimed that Mr. Smile was talking to them in their head all the time now and was telling them things. Terrible things. But that they couldn’t talk about it. That they mustn’t because then their parents would know about the terrible things too.

The psychiatrist asked them to write down what Mr. Smile was saying, promising that he would show it to no one, managing to gain the trust of one of the boys enough that he agreed. The contents of the book are known only to him and the authorities but whenever anyone involved has been asked about it they just get real quiet. And quickly find an excuse to change the subject.

The children stopped sleeping. Footage from the security cameras showed them sitting bolt upright, their eyes unblinking, just staring at the wall without moving or making a sound. Sedatives did nothing. One of the girls began cutting strange circular marks into her skin while two of the boys ceased communicating in English altogether. The language they spoke was never identified and despite numerous people being asked to listen to them, they could not translate what they were saying.

By the start of 1999, all four of the children had vanished into thin air.

There was no trace of who took them. Searches have turned up nothing to this day, with no indication of where they are or if they’re even dead or alive. No suspects have ever been found either…all four of them appeared to simply vanish into thin air, much like the others, all of whom also remain missing, their disappearances unexplained.

Credit: Alice Thompson

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