We’ve all heard about the Navy and Air Force pilots who contend with UFOs, and it’s not uncommon for grunts on the ground to claim they saw ghosts of soldiers and tanks rolling by on late nights pulling security. Finally, someone has captured those stories for the masses.

Nick Orton (a nom de guerre used for his books and social media) has made it his mission to share his fellow service members’ bizarre happenings. Through a series of Instagram posts which eventually turned into multiple books called “Tales from the Grid Square,” that’s exactly what he’s doing. 

Orton has been fascinated with all things supernatural or otherwise hard to believe for as long as he can remember. When he first came across Whitley Strieber’s book, “Communion,” during his childhood, he was hooked.  

“I didn’t really understand anything when I tried to read it because I was still too young,” Orton said. “But looking at supernatural anything, from bigfoot to ghost stories to lost treasure and ciphers — I loved all that kind of weird niche stuff. The weirder, the better.”

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In “Grid Squares,” readers get firsthand accounts of the supernatural and other “weird stuff” experienced by service members worldwide. But Norton didn’t start out as a published author. Everything traces back to the early scares of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. 

“I’m not afraid to admit that I had a couple of beers one night, and due to some previous experiences and some stuff I had heard from other soldiers, I had this drunken idea that I want to start an Instagram page about paranormal military stories,” Orton said. 

Ever since then, his reach has grown dramatically, with his Instagram account growing to 126,000 followers. The more his page grew, the more myths about the account manager appeared. The audience has assumed he’s everything from a salty old non-commissioned officer to a secret squirrel operator. 

“When it comes to military service, I’m just some regular guy. I’m not some Special Forces guy or Ranger,” Orton said. “I’m just a regular, normal, conventional dude just trying to make his way in the Army.”

Though he describes his own paranormal experiences as “mundane” compared to what he’s seen submitted, there’s one that sticks with him to this day. At his house while stationed in Virginia, he found a box of ammunition with 49 rounds of 9mm left over from the previous owner, who had used the 50th round to kill himself. 

“That set the tone for the two and a half years we stayed in that house. We experienced phenomena like whispers, shadow figures out of the corner of the eye, items moving behind our backs, and the sound of footsteps and dragging in the night,” Orton said. “I was convinced the previous owner was still sticking around. You could chalk it up to tricks of the mind, but on more than one occasion, I saw items move on their own with my own eyes.”

Despite his own experiences, he still approaches everything with a skeptic’s eye. He’s shot down submissions before because the details just didn’t add up, like a unit’s deployment timeframe not matching with historical records. 

While he doesn’t always know what to think about strange or downright supernatural experiences, his audience often steps in to provide corroborating witness accounts. 

“I’ll post the story, and there’s people validating the story in the comments,” Orton said. “Like, yeah, I’ve seen that — I’ve had that same thing happen to me.”

Orton balances his passion for “Tales From the Grid Square” with work and family but wants to help those with hard-to-believe stories feel validated. In the end, he just enjoys bringing entertainment to the foxhole. 

“I am just trying to have fun and post stories. Half the time, my stories [on Instagram] are not paranormal-related. It’s like memes and things I find funny,” Orton said. “In the end, I’m still a soldier. I do it for the boys and the girls. If my page can bring someone entertainment and distract them from life for a few minutes, that’s a win for me.”

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