Illustration: Angelica Alzona (GMG)

I have very few, if any, roommate horror stories scattered throughout my personal history, which means that I, like the oblivious sucker at a poker table, am likely the nightmare roommate in stories of OTHER people. Take my friend Fred, for example (not his real name). In 1999, Fred crashed at my studio apartment in New York for three months while he was hunting for an apartment of his own and meeting with New York real estate brokers, who are undoubtedly the world’s finest creatures.

During his stay at my place, Fred never shat in my toilet. Not once. He was so repulsed by my bathroom that he saved all of his bowel movements for work, or for Starbucks, or maybe even for Penn Station. My toilet was the forbidden zone. I don’t recall my bathroom being all that gross, but then again I used to be the type of bachelor who let dirty dishes pile up until visible mold formed, so perhaps I wasn’t the type back then to notice when something was amiss. I apologize to Fred, and to his butt.

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But was I the shittiest roommate ever? Reader, I dare say that I was not. Take it from these poor readers, who cohabitated with the worst that humanity has to offer and somehow lived to tell their sordid, naked tales...

Byron:

I had a roommate in college, let’s call him Brian, who was so offended by my lack of effort in college that he mailed a hand written letter to my parents before the end of my freshman year about how little I was going to class.

Brian, if you’re out there, what gives?

Larry:

When he wasn’t naked, he was dipping constantly.

Phil:

My freshman year roommate left so much of his stuff on the floor of his side of the room that he needed a running start to jump over it to get to his bed.

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Jacob:

My first interaction with Ryan is when I come home from a Phillies day game. Everyone’s hanging out on the steps of our house. He’s wearing a ratty bathrob, taking a drag from a cig and has a PBR tall boy. He points to my sweatshirt and literally the first thing he says to me is, “Are you a gay virgin?” Dumbfounded, I ask him why would he ask that. He responds, pointing to my Ultimate Frisbee jacket, “Everyone who played ultimate frisbee at my high school was a gay virgin, so that must make you a gay virgin.”

That night, I awoke at 2 a.m. to conservative talk radio blasting from his room. This became a normal occurrence, along with Netflix. The following day, he told me a story about how his girlfriend got addicted to heroin, kicked him out of the house and then he proceeded to (try to) show me nudes of her off his phone.

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Kyle:

In my early 20s, my fiancé (now wife) and I rented a house with two of my friends from college because DC is too expensive. We had our own space in the furnished basement, and my friends, let’s call them Jim and Sean, had the two rooms upstairs.

When I was helping Jim move in, he told me that he kept a bunch of Advil and other medicine in a drawer and told me to feel free to go up there if I ever needed anything. My fiancé had a headache one weekend and, fresh out of Advil, I decided to look upstairs, even though Jim was away. I was surprised to find that my roasting pan, which we received as an engagement present and hadn’t used yet, was sitting on his floor filled with water.

I asked Sean what the hell my roasting pan was doing in there, and he got a sickly look on his face and said, “oh, yeah, Jim’s had a nasty plantar wart on his foot for a while. He’s been soaking it in your pan.” When I asked if either of them ever planned to tell me, Sean said no. Mind you, we had several plastic buckets in the house and he still chose my pan.

Obviously, I threw the pan away and demanded Jim buy us a new one for our wedding. He went off registry and got me a beer brewing kit that I didn’t want instead. He’s getting married soon. I’m going to buy him a foot bath.

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Dave:

One of my suitemates did taxidermy in his spare time. He had a stuffed pheasant. He was a nice enough guy, but it was always weird to walk into his room and come face to face with a dead bird in a noble pose.

Mike:

We used the same type of shampoo. He wrote his name on his bottle so we would know which was which.

My other suitemate spent most of the year losing random stuff like clothing and ID cards at an abnormally high rate. At the end of the year he looked out his window and saw a bunch of his stuff stuck to a chunk of the building below.

Turns out our other suitemate had been throwing his stuff out the window the whole time and bragging to people on our floor about it. We only found out about that because he cheated on his ex and she told us a bunch of this stuff to get back at him. Then his ex told me the real reason he wrote his name on his shampoo bottle was because he used to piss in mine.

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Andy:

I had a roommate who was the dirtiest man I’ve ever met. He didn’t do laundry for six months, and would just re-wear his dirty clothes. He wouldn’t flush after taking a shit, even when guests were over. He smoked weed and cigarettes constantly. His room reeked and had food, garbage, and dirty clothes everywhere. And he stole from me - money and food. He had been stealing my canned tuna for weeks, and when I confronted him, he denied it.

The kicker? The dude DEMANDED Brita filtered water and wouldn’t drink tap water. If the jug was near empty in the fridge he would start yelling at us to fill it. I still find it hilarious to think that a dude who was too lazy to wash his underwear had such a strict, uncompromising standard about filtered water.

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Anon:

I used to work in Student Development at a University. One of my favorite times of the year was picking who was going where in the dorms. Sure, it would be easier to randomly place people (which was the official policy). But it was so much more fun to spend a little time matching people up for name combinations. Some of my favorites (last names here): Dickey and Seaman, Luka and Sky and Walker, Hairy and Johnson, and one year I put all the Beckys on one floor.

Cam:

My college roommate was a super genius who skipped all of his classes but somehow still got nearly perfect grades, he also edited all my papers which probably got me into grad school. But...

He often took showers for hours on end which he explained as his thinking time.

He played Madden for 24 hours straight in career mode as Aaron Rodgers’ backup, I believe he started one game in the 24 hours and played about 200 practices.

He would cook frozen meat in a frying pan, and dump a cup of water on it when it started to burn. Repeat x3, add rice and you have a meal.

When he occasionally left our dorm room he would dress head to toe in camo to either blend into the scenery or deter people from talking to him.

Eventually, he became completely nocturnal.

Dave:

Military dorm: I had a roommate who was “ghosting,” meaning he officially was assigned to share a room with me, but he also maintained an apartment off base. It wasn’t against regulations, you just didn’t get paid extra to cover your rent.

Well, my ghost roommate would appear and random times pass out on his dorm room bed and disappear again for a couple of weeks. One summer afternoon during a dorm wide cookout, my ghost roommate showed up and proceeded to drink himself stupid so that by early evening, I had to drag him back to the room to pass out. I left them him there on his bed and returned to party. A few hours later a group of us decided to hit some bars and we stopped by my dorm room on the way so I could grab a jacket.

I opened the door to find my ghost roommate naked from the waist down with one of my porn mags next to him, a jar of lube on the table and the speaking end of my cordless phone wedged firmly in his asshole. Yes, I DID make him buy me a new phone.

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Matt:

My sophomore year I lived in a 8-person suite situation with five people I already knew and two randoms. One random was a very nice guy, the other was a sociopath.

His name was John and he looked exactly like every generic serial killer in history. He creeped out everyone immediately upon meeting him, but we decided to see if things improved.

They didn’t. Over the next two months John would constantly ask us about our plans in a way that made it seem like he was digging for blackmail. He would leave for 36+ hours at a time, only to return and refuse to say where he went. Our stuff started going missing, and it was almost certainly him.

The one moment I remember involved him coming into my room to talk. He accidentally knocked over a cup of water. I asked him if he was gonna clean it up.

“Clean what up?”

“The water you spilled”

“I didn’t spill any water”

He stared at me with murderous eyes I’ll never forget and I said it was all fine. I actively avoided him after that point.

The breaking point came when he pulled a knife to the throat of my friend to, “show him where a tracheotomy goes.” We decided as a group we had to do something before he killed us.

But before we could he was gone. Apparently John wasn’t a very good student and had been skipping classes. He also was a stout Republican and disagreed with the “propaganda” he was being taught. Without telling us he packed his bags, unenrolled, and left.

He didn’t seem to have any family to go back to. He mentioned he wanted to go to Vegas to bang prostitutes. That’s the closest I have to any guess where he went.

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Brandon:

He liked to strip near-naked in the background while I was video-chatting my girlfriend.

Evan:

We all get set for Spring Break - various plans and destinations, Paul is the last one in the house but is also gone the longest. My buddy and I return mid-week and are welcomed by what can only be described as the smell of Satan. Immediately we assume the worst - there’s been a backup in the pipes and our house has been flooded while we were gone. Check the carpet - dry. Check the garbage - empty. Check for dead homeless guy - clean. Then we find it. Paul took a shit in his bathroom and forgot to flush before leaving for the week.

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Rob:

Freshman year: Roommate was a large, bulging man from a Catholic HS in Northern NJ (This was Rutgers). I was fresh out of an elitist private school in Central NJ. We didn’t get along. Every other Wednesday, he’d sit in the room in his underwear and play Doom from 8:00AM until midnight without stopping to bathe, eat, go to class, etc. The stench was so strong, you could taste it in the hallway.

Sophomore Year: Roommate was on the Rutgers tennis team. On move-in day, the first thing he unpacked was his cologne collection. I knew I was in trouble. He also had a black light and REALLY liked the Gin Blossoms.

One evening, I returned to the room to find a series of tennis ball cans lined up on the floor...all containing an oddly yellow liquid.

“Is this piss? Fucking piss?!?!”

Yes, it was fucking piss. He’d disrupted the bathroom system and was no longer walking down the hall to the bathroom and was pissing in tennis ball cans to save effort. He pissed on my TV.

He’s currently serving 13 years for exposing himself to elementary school-aged girls.

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Dan:

I lived in a house with three other guys for the last three years of college. Someone left and we were in a bind, so we put an ad up and said yes to the first response (yea, this was fucking stupid). His room was right next to mine. The following things occurred over the next four months:

— He became the coke dealer to our neighbors across the street.

— He promised me $80 to drive him to the DC suburbs so he could buy a crack rock the size of a robin’s egg in broad daylight, informing a newly paranoid me that we were committing a felony during our drive home. I was young, naive and poor. It was worth the $80, ultimately.

— He stared at a lava lamp on the stairs for a solid eight hours one day.

— He watched lots of porn at an unreasonably loud volume.

— He picked up a homeless man during a rainy day, offering to let him stay on our porch “for good karma.” Knowing nothing of this, I came home to find an ambulance and police car outside of our building. I walked upstairs to find the roommate talking with a police officer while the homeless man laid unconscious in the corner of his room with his pants down.

Regarding the last one, the roommate said he had offered him coke, but the homeless man started to pee in the corner of the room and tried to stab him. At this point, I was becoming jaded, less naive in how the world works. He wasn’t our roommate anymore.

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Andrew:

Around October, I started noticing a faint odor that vaguely resembled sour milk or cheese. It wasn’t overpowering, just barely noticeable in certain areas. I chalked it up to some of Karl’s dirty clothes or lost chicken tendies, or maybe he leaving his cum sock under his desk. Or maybe it was his cigarettes. I was just a dumb teen so I thought enough Febreze or a Glade air freshener would mask it.

At the end of fall semester, we were both packing up to go back home for Christmas when we got to cleaning thoroughly for probably the first time. There was a small sill under the window, which had been mostly covered in loose clothes, papers, books, or whatnot. We cleaned up all this and discovered for the first time the source of the smell: ladybugs. Hundreds of dead ladybugs, which had apparently swarmed through the window A/C unit to fester and die and stink in our dorm room. I had never smelled them before, but in great enough quantity they are revolting. We had to borrow a vacuum cleaner from the RA to get them all up, which had to be emptied several times.

I actually apologized to Karl for blaming him for the smell, which I don’t know if he ever noticed. During spring semester, he continued being generally gross and even took to sleeping on the floor on his disgusting sheepskin rug when he was too drunk to reach his lofted bed, but he snored less on the floor. For the rest of the year, the room just smelled like stale chicken tenders and $9 handles of vodka instead of dead ladybugs, which was an improvement.

He would move to an off-campus house next year where he kept a ferret in his bedroom, the olfactory results of which were predictably nauseating. We stayed friends and did drugs together periodically. I was in his wedding a few years ago.

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Adam:

I found a roommate on craigslist, and when I went over to see the apartment, he seemed friendly. He was Swedish and older than me, but whatever, the apartment was nice and a good location and the right money.

And then a couple of weeks after I moved in, I noticed he had some trophies on his mantle in his room. Those were AVN awards. Four or five of them. He wasn’t a performer, just a writer/director/producer. But he apparently cleaned up at the AVNs back in the 90s. Then he blew all his money on fast living and god knows what else, plus the porn business became monopolistic and internet-based. When we met, he was working at a gas station.

Sometimes I’d come home from the gym and he’d be watching some porn on the TV and say something like, “That’s Marilyn Chambers. We used to date. I wanted to see her in this new lesbo scene.”

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Philip:

We had a buddy whose freshman year roommate was a super socially awkward architect student. About a month into spring semester, my buddy went around to everyone and asked them if he could use their closet doors. He had his girlfriend coming to stay for spring break and he literally built a wall out of closet doors and duct tape down the middle of their maybe 150 sq foot room. Everybody thought it was a little extreme, but my friend was kind of manic and the architecture student was a really weird dude with serial killer vibes, so we never questioned it.

Fast forward 6 or 7 years and I’m having drinks with the buddy and he tells me the reason for the wall. One day he receives a package that is wrapped in cellophane or tape, such that the normal keys or teeth won’t cut it open. So being that the roommate is an architecture student and has all types of exacto knives and scissors to build models, my friend goes into the dude’s desk to find one. Nothing in the first drawer. Then, he opens the second drawer to find the Lovecraftian horror within. The roommate had been hoarding his pube trimmings, and the drawer was his vault. Now I’m not here to say my buddy was right to go snooping in his roommate’s drawer, or that it wasn’t an aggressive move to literally build a wall down the center of the room. But I’ve never stared down 5 months of somebody’s taint hair, meticulously stored feet from where I slept every night. Those are shoes I never want to walk a mile in.

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Ryan:

About halfway through the semester, my roommate and I are sitting in our Chemistry lecture, and the professor has us watching a video of mercury shaped like a gummy bear melting. I lean over to my roommate and whisper, “This is un-bear-able.” He turned to me and yelled out, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Everyone turned to look at us, and I just shrugged because I had no idea how that had escalated. He just sat there steaming and shaking his head.

We didn’t speak for about a day, and then I finally asked him what that was about. He said, “You’ve been making shitty puns all week and I’m fucking sick of it!” He didn’t think he had overreacted at all. After that we decided to make sure to give each other some more space, and I cooled it on the puns.

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Danny:

On move-in day, Dylan and I said a quick hello and then I went out to grab lunch with friends. Upon returning, I opened the door, turned towards Dylan’s room, and there was Dylan, cargo shorts bunched around his ankles, yanking his crank like his life depended on it while watching Anime porn. He turned towards me, erect penis in hand, and his face was immediately sucked of all its color. It was as if he’d just seen a ghost. I immediately ran into my bedroom and closed the door.

As I sat on my bed contemplating my next move, Dylan opened my door and said, “Hey dude, I have some powdered doughnuts in the kitchen. Feel free to help yourself.” They were the last words either one of us said to each other for the next nine months.

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Outshined_One:

Back in college I was assigned a roommate who thought he was a skater punk. He sucked at it. Badly. However, he spent hours a day attempting kick flips, ollies, and jumps in our room. He’d frequently use the furniture in our room for practice.

Ty:

The man would only shower once every four or five days, basically when he needed to shave. He’d get in, do God knows what for 30 minutes, and get out without drying off. Why didn’t he dry off? He didn’t own a fucking towel! He’d put his shorts on, walk around the corner, stand in front of the mirror and shave. Water was everywhere, then when finished he’d get back in the shower for another 30 minutes. When he was done, he’d dry off with the only thing he had that closely resembled a towel: his only bed sheet. He’d hang that shit up soaking wet on the metal bed frame where it never really dried completely.

I’ll answer some questions you probably have. Yes, he would sleep in a damp sheet at night. NO, of course he never washed it. Yes it smelled terrible by the end of the year. Yes it had rust stains all over it from the bed frame. We didn’t buy him a towel because we wanted to see how far it would go.

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Dave:

Nihilist gamer type- the type of guy who thinks he’s superior to you because of the breadth of his knowledge of manga. One day he decided to listen to Raffi’s Bananaphone for 24 hours based on some Flash he saw. He played it at full volume.

Devin:

Let me tell you ‘bout Scary Garry. Here is just a list of our time with him.

- He calls an apartment meeting to complain that he doesn’t feel like we like him as much as we like each other. Threatens us that “we shouldn’t let the beast out”.

- He was in a long-distance relationship and would routinely call his gf on speaker and make us talk to her. “Say hi to the guys, Sweetie!”

- We had a computer hooked up in the living room and he spent most of his time watching YouTube videos of people playing games that we owned, keeping us from playing said games.

- Would turn the thermostat up all the way so that the A/C would never turn on. We lived on the Gulf Coast.

We basically stopped hanging out in the living room to avoid him and spent most of that semester in our rooms. He would routinely stand outside each of our rooms for 5+ minutes. He nearly ruined our last semester in college.

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Jeff:

I was living with a friend from college for a few years in my early 20s. One day I’m taking a super quick shower, and I hear a knock on the door. I say, “one second man I’m literally rinsing, I’ll be out in a minute.” So probably a minute, a minute and a half later, I rush out, open the door, and offer him the bathroom.

“Oh that’s alright, I’m good,” he says. Later that night, I see that one of my mixing bowls was in the recycling bin. I call out, “Dude, no need to throw away stuff, just clean it!” And start cleaning out this bowl that’s mostly clean, with some black specks kind of caked on, like brownie dough.

My roommate comes racing in shouting, “NO DON’T CLEAN THAT DON’T CLEAN THAT” as his face drops at the sight of me scrubbing off this persistent batter before saying, shame deep in his voice, “I, uh… I pooped in that bowl.”

Apparently in my 90 seconds he had time to hover over a mixing bowl in our kitchen, shit in it, hide it from me until I left for work, and somehow clean it mostly out before tossing it. I was honestly more impressed than mad.

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John:

“Eli” had a girlfriend going to medical school in Dominica, and he would call her on the phone. Every night. For six months. And talk. For three or four hours at a stretch. Every night. For six months. Until one in the morning. When I was desperate for sleep, practically hallucinating from carrying a full classload AND working two jobs to pay for my tuition, this jagoff would sit and yammer away until I seriously considered wrapping the phone cord around his neck and seeing if I could actually strangle someone to death.

I hope he (and his girlfriend) got run over by an AT&T truck.

Jeff:

I once had a roommate who cooked his hot dogs by boiling *and* frying them. He would put them in a pot of water, then let ALL the water boil off, so the hot dogs would then fry in the now-dry pot.