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The 10 most sweat-inducing ‘I Survived’ episodes

The episodes that had us sweating through our shirts

We will be honest, sometimes watching episodes of I Survived gives us the sweats. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t do the same to you, too. Watching people narrowly escape death through some of the most harrowing situations imaginable is enough to have anyone a little damp. Join us as we count down some of the craziest close-call escapes ever witnessed on the show, and bring the tissues.

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“Virginia Tech Massacre” (season one, episode 10)

Derek of I Survived
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The Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 is one of the most well-known school shootings in the U.S. Taking place on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, 32 students died and 23 more were injured when gunman Seung-Hui Cho entered the campus. This episode chronicles the accounts of students Derek O’Dell and Colin Goddard and Professor Ishwar Puri as the horrifying events unfolded. Derek is shot in the arm as 11 of the 12 students in his classroom were also shot. Professor Ishwar upon hearing the gunshots sat waiting in his glass-doored office for the inevitable. Somehow, Ishwar had the foresight to call several students who were due in to help with his lab to warn them of the danger, probably saving their lives.

Meanwhile, Colin was going through a similar scenario as Derek when the gunman entered his room. Colin was shot twice, and 16 of the 17 students in his class were also shot. Even more terrifying, the gunman tried to come back. Back in Derek’s classroom he and a classmate blocked the door with their bodies. Colin was shot two more times and only survived by pretending to be dead. Only five students in Colin’s class survived. Both Colin and Derek, as well as Professor Ishwar, miraculously survived the massacre, but their first-person accounts of the event, are truly horrifying.

“Mary” (season four, episode one)

Mary shows her hook arm replacement
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This horrifying story of survival begins when 15-year-old Mary Vincent, desperate to get home, decided to hitchhike from California to Nevada. When a man in a van pulled up, she was grateful for the ride. Although Mary was initially suspicious when the man refused to take other passengers, in her desperation to get home, Mary agreed. The man then proceeded to kidnap her and knock her unconscious with a sledgehammer. He then tied her up and began assaulting her. He assaulted her all night before he finally pulled out a hatchet and cut off both of Mary’s arms while she was still conscious. He then dragged and threw her off a 30-foot cliff. Somehow Mary survived the horrifying ordeal. Then after spending a long night in the ditch, she climbed out (with no arms, mind you) and walked three miles to the road to safety. Upon reaching the road, a car came but passed her by, horrified by her appearance. Finally, Mary was helped by a newlywed couple who got her to safety.

Mary miraculously survived and went on to live a full life. She continues to recount her story to inspire other survivors to this day. What an unimaginable ordeal and one that had us on edge every second of its recounting.

“Denise” (season four, episode 16)

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When Denise caught the attention of a creepy man on the subway while on her way home from work, it was a disturbing experience but one she didn’t think much of…until it happened again. The man on the subway was present again the very next night. As he kept his eyes locked on her, Denise felt that this man was up to something. Denise hurried off the subway and made it safely back to her building. Just as she entered the vestibule of her building, she heard footsteps behind her. The man on the subway had followed her. He now stood in front of her, brandishing a knife and warning her to cooperate. After robbing her, he proceeded to rape her at knifepoint in the front area of her building.

Thankfully a neighbor came home and interrupted the attack, and Denise was saved. This story is so terrifying because it could happen to anyone. Denise did nothing wrong; she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught the attention of the wrong person. It makes our skin crawl just thinking about it, and it certainly deserves a spot in our sweat-inducing countdown.

“Teri” (season three, episode one)

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This sordid story of survival begins when pregnant Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, a divorced mother of two, goes to her ex-husband’s house to pick up her daughters, aged 6 and 4. Teri had finally left David after years of abuse, and things had been tense ever since. David claimed the girls were hiding inside and wanted their mother to find them. When Teri stepped into the house, the girls were nowhere to be found. Instead, David began hitting Teri with a baseball bat, at least 20 times. He then tried to strangle and suffocate her. He tied her up and stuffed her into a large trash can that he dragged outside and filled with snow. He put it in the back of his truck, and covered it with a tarp. Teri managed to call 911, but the squad car passed them on the road as Teri’s ex-husband drove away with her daughters in the cab of the truck, and Teri still stuffed in the trash can in the back. She reported being able to hear her children but was unable to call out to them.

Still in the garbage can, David then left Teri in a storage unit and stacked boxes and wood on top of her. The temperature outside was below zero. Teri’s eyes were swollen shut, and she couldn’t see and was throwing up from the concussions. She was also hypothermic and frostbitten as she had been in the trash can for over 27 hours. Amazingly, after the 911 call, the police had searched David’s home and by luck found a business card for the storage unit, which led them to Teri. Her toes were removed due to frostbite, and she lost her baby but had no other lasting injuries. She was able to get pregnant again and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. It was a miraculous ending to a harrowing story that had us on the edge of our seats the entire time.

“Anita” (season seven, episode eight)

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Recent college graduate Anita was enjoying a quiet morning at home when she woke to a knock at the door. A man named Victor Steele was there. He was a member at a gym Anita had previously worked at, but why was he at her door? The reason was more sinister than Anita could have ever imagined. Having known Victor from the gym, Anita thought nothing of it when he asked to come in for a glass of water. Once inside, he began stunning her in the back with a stun gun. He tied her up and forced her into his car at gunpoint. Victor took Anita back to his home and revealed his true reason for abducting her, to “fulfill his sexual needs.”

Victor then drove Anita to Wisconsin, two states away from their home in Indiana, where he had rented a storefront. He had Anita live and sleep in a metal cabinet, letting her out to act as his girlfriend, then placing her back in the box. After eight days in captivity, she was miraculously rescued by the police. They had been searching for her, and fortunately the authorities found out where Victor had taken her and had been able to track her down. For eight long days, Anita had been kept as a slave, living in a box.

What really made us sweat about this story of survival, besides the obvious, was the randomness of the kidnapping. A man Anita had barely known and hadn’t seen in over a year had been harboring insidious intentions for her the entire time. Then one day, out of nowhere, he decided to act upon them and just showed up at her door. Anita’s ordeal could happen to anyone. That in and of itself is enough to make us break out in a sweat.

“Sarah” (season two, episode nine)

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Sarah Brady was nine months pregnant when she received a call. The woman on the phone claimed to be named “Sarah Brody,” saying she was also pregnant and had received a baby shower gift of Sarah’s in error. Sarah picked up the package from the woman’s apartment and returned home. Then the woman called again that night, claiming she had received a second package of Sarah’s, and the two struck up a conversation. The woman said she was new to the area with an out-of-state husband, and few local friends. The woman’s details and description of her life put Sarah at ease. The next day when the woman insisted on Sarah coming to retrieve her gifts, she agreed.

The woman began acting strangely right away, meeting Sarah in the entryway, and locking the apartment door behind her. Although she had claimed her husband would be home and was excited to meet Sarah, he was nowhere to be found. The woman was also very insistent on Sarah staying. When Sarah caught sight of an inhaler with a different name on it, she knew something was up. It was at that moment the woman dropped to the floor screaming in pain as if going into labor, then just as suddenly appears fine. As Sarah tried to leave, the woman pulls out a knife and knocks her to the ground, hitting her on the head with a candy dish and punching her. The woman gets up and grabs the knife that had since fallen away and lunged at Sarah again. She was able to wrench the knife away and finally stabs the woman in the shoulder, allowing Sarah to finally escape.

In a truly horrifying ending to the already sinister saga, Sarah found out that the woman’s real name is Katie, and she had never really been pregnant. Her plan all along had been to kill Sarah and take her baby. Not only that, but the woman had a history of faking pregnancies, 11 in total since she was in the eighth grade. Katie later died from the stab wound, and Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby girl. But what an ordeal. Lies, betrayal, and baby snatching. No wonder this episode made our sweat list.

“Cults” (season six, episode one)

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When Amber Dawn Lee was 9 years old, she and her adoptive parents sold their shop and moved to Utah to join the Mormon LDS church. Before long Amber’s parents found themselves on the outside of the church as they searched for something more. Her parents thought they found it in the Zionist Society, a small group formed by an ex-communicated Mormon Arvin Shreeve. The group was only about 70 people, and they welcomed the new family with open arms, perhaps a little too open.

The group was extreme, to say the least. They believed in polygamy and that they would be the sole surviving people following an impending apocalypse. Now 12 years old, Amber was separated from her parents. In order to visit them, she would have to set up an appointment and have chaperones accompany her. Amber had been selected to become a wife of the elderly prophet, Arvin. That wasn’t all. The children were homeschooled ,and their curriculum was disturbing with lessons in sewing, reading scripture, and learning how to sexually please the prophet.

Before long, Amber’s parents learned of the insidious happenings in the group. When the couple confronted the leaders, they were kicked out, leaving Amber behind, where she stayed for three more years. Weirdly enough, the cult also had a side hustle of sewing and selling lingerie, which brought in people from the outside and piqued Amber’s curiosity about life away from the cult. Amber realized she had to escape, so she called social services, and eventually was rescued.

“Eduardo” (season eight, episode four)

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Eduardo and his of wife of 15 years, American-born Jayne, lived a happy life in Mexico. The couple was on the way back from dropping their three children off at school on what seemed like any other day when things suddenly went terribly wrong. The SUV in front of them stopped dead. Before they knew it, they were surrounded by men with guns. They pulled Eduardo out of the car and forced him and Jayne into the kidnapper’s car. Eduardo was stripped naked and stuffed inside a box. The box was outfitted with a lightbulb, two speakers pumping loud music, a bucket to use as a toilet, and a video camera. Jayne was left alone in the getaway car and was able to escape. A ransom note had been left at her home. It turned out that the men thought Eduardo was well off due to his father owning a newspaper, but the reality was the father had lost most of his money. So the $8 million ransom the kidnappers were asking for was impossible.

Then things got worse, the kidnappers injected Eduardo with blood they said was tainted with HIV. They then began shooting Eduardo in 10-14 day increments, first in the leg, then in the arm. Jayne, under advice from the Mexican authorities, stopped answering the kidnappers, and they became increasingly desperate. As Jayne pretended to pack up to leave for the U.S., things came to a head. After being trapped in the box for seven months, the kidnappers accepted the amount Jayne had been offering all along. Jayne sent two employees to hand off the money, and the kidnappers grabbed the employee saying until the balance was paid, neither man would be released. By some miracle, they released Eduardo, leaving him at a cemetery, and he was able to hitchhike home.

Eduardo was in the box for seven and a half months. He lost half his body weight and half of his hearing in one ear, but thankfully the blood he had been injected with did not have HIV. The family left Mexico and eventually the kidnapped employee was also released.

“Sandy and Ken” (season 10, episode eight)

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Sandy is a nanny for the young daughter of two environmental researchers in Zaire. When the parents were gone Sandy and the project manager, Ken, would look after the children. Sandy, Ken, and the kids went down to the local swimming hole to play, something they had done many times before. This time, something went terribly wrong. As Sandy dipped her head back in one last time, she felt something large slam into her. It was a 14-foot Nile crocodile. It clamped onto Sandy’s left arm and pulled her down into the water, attempting to drown her. What was worse, Ken didn’t initially notice. When Sandy was finally able to call for help, Ken thought she was joking. That was until the crocodile pulled her under in a death roll. Amazingly, Sandy was able to resurface and Ken ran toward her to help. He tried to poke at its eyes and its neck, but the giant crocodile was unphased and dragged her under for yet another roll. The croc would continue this pattern for 30 minutes, and Sandy’s strength and air supply were dwindling.

As Ken and Sandy tried to pull the croc into shallow water, it tried to drag her into the depths. To make matters worse, it was getting dark. Suddenly the croc rolled Sandy into a rain gauge, breaking it and impaling her in the back. As luck would have it, they finally hit a sandbar and were able to roll up onto it. Sandy sees her chance so she and Ken pulled as hard as they could, severing part of her arm which the alligator then ate, but freeing her. Her ordeal wasn’t over yet. They lived in a small village in Zaire, and the closest hospital was a three-hour drive away through dangerous territories at night. They made it to the hospital where the remnant of Sandy’s mauled arm was amputated with what little pain relief resources the hospital had available. She flew back to the U.S. for a year of follow-up surgeries and rehabilitation, then returned to the same job and lived in the same village in Zaire.

“Heather” (season nine, episode nine)

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They say no good deed goes unpunished, and that is exactly what happened with our next survival story. When Heather agreed to help a man who said he was almost out of gas, she could never have known the outcome. When he approached Heather and her elderly friend ,”Grammie Louise,” after a night of karaoke, he didn’t seem especially threatening. With wire-rimmed glasses and good manners, Heather never suspected that when he asked for assistance, he had far more in mind.

Heather had the man follow her in the direction of the nearest gas station, promising if he ran out of gas she would drive on ahead and get him help. When he forced her to pull over and hopped into her car with her, Heather knew she was in trouble. The man immediately began punching and yelling at her. She stabbed him with her keys in defense, but he choked her and slammed her head into the dashboard. He then pulled Heather from the car and stabbed her with her a screwdriver.

Heather saw a car coming and tried to escape, but he grabbed her inches before she made it to safety and pulled her back. The car passed by, and they continued to struggle as the man told her he was going to kill her. Fearing that this was the end, she attempted one last time to bargain with him. Miraculously, it worked. The man let Heather go. She ran to the road to flag down a car, but the driver told her that they will be right back then left. Heather is once again facing the madman. By promising not to tell what he’d done, he let Heather go and drove away. Another car came and went. Finally, the police arrived, and Heather was able to give them the man’s license plate number. They discovered he had done this twice before. He was caught and convicted and his true plans to kill, rape, and dispose of Heather’s body were revealed.

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Bethany Nicole
Bethany is an LA-based freelance writer and astrologer who specializes in entertainment, relationship and true crime writing. To see more of her work, follow her on Instagram @bethanynicolelove.