There is nothing quite so calming as a walk through the woods on a bright and sunny day. The birds singing, the babbling brooks, the scent of pine—the scene is as picturesque as it gets. It’s a funny thing how something so comforting can become terrifying as soon as the lights go out. On a moonless night, the woods are another beast entirely. Outdoorsmen and hunters often claim to see things that would make anyone’s blood boil. Come take a walk through the woods with these tales of creepy things discovered in freaky forests.
1. Breath of the Wild
Breathing…just heavy breathing right outside my tent loud enough to wake me up. Very intense clear breathing. Middle of the night, no animal sounds, no grunting, no foot-steps, just breathing from something large. I loaded my shotgun and pointed it in the direction it was coming from and waited for what seemed like a lifetime—probably two or three minutes—until it just stopped.
I did not sleep for the rest of the night and I didn’t go out until the morning. No signs of any animals or people in my camp, no footprints, nothing disturbed. Still to this day I don’t know what it was. As an experienced hunter who has chased away bears from my camp, I have never been so scared.
2. Splashing Around
A number of years ago, I was up in the northern end of British Colombia in the islands out by Port Hardy. I set up camp right by the beach close to shore. I did the normal; catch a fish, cook it for dinner on the campfire thing. It was perfect really. A few hours pass and it’s getting dark. I climb into the tent and fall asleep quickly. I get woken up by extremely heavy breathing on the beach from something BIG.
In the area of my fire but the tide was in now so the waves would have covered it. My first thought was a bear. But on the islands where I was, bears were not common at all to the point that there hasn’t been one documented ever. This was blasting through my mind, but then the urban legend talk of Bigfoot runs through my mind. At this point, I am like there is no such thing as Bigfoot, so what is it?
I gain my courage and open my tent. I shine my flashlight around but I don’t see anything, so I get out of my tent. I am shining my light around when I hear it again. This huge breath but followed by a small splash. I focus my light on the beach when I see a massive Orca rolling around on the kelp right about where my fire was. This behemoth of a marine mammal scared the living poop out of me but it turned into being one of the most amazing events I ever witnessed.
As I sat watching this massive animal rolling and playing yards from me, I noticed more of them just offshore just bobbing there, probably half asleep. Needless to say, I did not sleep after that until they left.
3. The Loyal Lab
Hiking alone in Washington during late fall so it’s cold and there were few people on the trail. I’m halfway up a steep, switch-backed climb and laying down to take a break when two guys come along descending the trail. I wave and they wave back. As they get close one of them suddenly says, “Oh, you’re alone!” and then smiles at his friend.
I get a little freaked out and I guess my dog sensed it because she stood up and stared sternly at them. She’s an 80lb. black lab and full of love, but can look very intimidating. The guys saw her and completely changed and quickly hurried on their way. I’m not sure if they were going to do something creepy, but I picked a much less obvious campsite that night.
4. The Sea Serpent
The screech of an owl can be haunting. But the thing that freaked me out the most was a snake on top of the ocean surface. I’d never seen a snake around the beach before and I had no idea they could sit on top of the water like that. It was sort of mesmerizing, but I saw three of them that day on the beach and have never encountered snakes like that again.
One was diving in a shallow pool hunting crabs and it just sat down on the bottom for longer than I thought would be possible. All in all, I learned a lot about snakes that day.
5. Forest Rescue
I was riding my horse down a trail. Heard a noise; tink-tink, like glass. I looked down and saw a mouse in a glass bottle; it couldn’t get out. I stopped, tipped the bottle and let the little one go. Later on, I was riding my horse down a trail and heard a dog whine…real quiet…I whistled and it started barking. I rode that way and found the dog; it was a German shorthair hunting dog who had tried to get out of a creek and had gotten his collar hung up in a root.
Goodness knows how long he was there, he was skinny. On his last legs if you know what I mean. He had a collar with his owner’s info engraved; I called them and they were speechless. That dog had been missing for three weeks. He surely was in the water that long. Yes, the dog survived. Life is tough. It was a hot summer; the dog was very physically fit and well taken care of.
If he hadn’t been, who knows what would’ve happened.
6. Under the Hammock
I’m sleeping in my hammock in the woods off the Appalachian Trail somewhere, and am woken up by something walking very quietly under me. It was tall enough to lift my feet up as it went under me, which is terrifying to wake up to in the middle of the night. Probably a deer, but scared the crap out of me.
7. Don’t Feed the Animals
I was solo camping on the Chatanooga river. It was maybe midnight when I felt my hammock start to shake violently. I poke my head out and it’s a freaking raccoon trying to steal my boots. This was my first-time solo camping and I nearly pooped a hole through my pants.
And it didn’t end there. Those little gremlins tormented me all night long. Constantly trying to steal my stuff. The moral to the story, don’t feed the animals people.
8. Unwanted Guests
In the middle of nowhere. Set up the tent around noon. Zip everything closed to keep out flies. Go do stuff for the afternoon. Eat dinner. Relax. Go to the tent to sleep—but scorpions. Scorpions everywhere! Eventually, we found a tiny seam rip in the tent, but some of the scorpions were much larger than the tear. So, I’m not really convinced we know how they got in.
We slept in the back of the car for two nights then left.
9. Times Are-a-Changing
My boyfriend and I were camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta this past summer. On the last night of our stay, as I’m falling asleep, my boyfriend tells me I’ve been pushing him off his side of the air mattress and asks me to give him room. Sounds good, we go to sleep. I wake up to him shoving me and think I’m crowding him by accident, so I move over a little.
He shoves me harder and I’m annoyed now because I already moved and I’m tired so I somewhat loudly say, “I’m moving!” And he grabs be and shushes me. I know something is wrong and am awake right away. He whispers very softly, “Do you hear something?” And right away I hear the unmistakable exhaling huff of a bear right by my head.
My heart is pounding because, at this point, I can hear it sniffing us and huffing—which is not good if you know grizzlies. My boyfriend says we need to get to our truck and I agree, but from what I can hear, the bear is between our tent and truck. Luckily, we have command start and our truck has a very aggressive start, so when my boyfriend started the truck, I heard some crashing through the trees and we both ran to the truck.
We drove a lap around our campground to make sure the bear hadn’t gone into anyone else’s site, but we didn’t see it. We slept in the truck until it was light out and let the wildlife hotline in the area know before we left. We started second-guessing ourselves because this all happened at about 1:30 am, but when we were packing up the tent that next day, we found coarse, brown hair all over the side of the tent where our heads were and on the grill of the truck.
I’ve never been so terrified and full of adrenaline in my life.
10. The Baboon Bully
I was hiking in Africa with a group of about eight friends. I felt something behind me so I turn around and find myself eye to eye with a giant alpha male baboon. I handed over my backpack, which is what he was reaching for, and he proceeded to carry it a few meters away, sit down, and stare at me while he unzipped the zippers and inspected every item.
He ate what was food and left the rest. He then proceeded to stalk/chase us all the way out of the gorge, coming back twice for more stuff. We tried scaring him off and even pepper-sprayed him in the face but he just shook it off. It was one of the most awesome and terrifying experiences of my life that I hope to never repeat.
11. The Shack in the Woods
My friend and I were searching for the perfect camping spot for about a year. After trying out quite a few, we found one that seemed perfect. It was about a half-hour walk from any trail or road and on top of a large cliff over a river. We got camp set up and decided to scout out around the area. It was getting dark so we started heading back, following the sound of the river to guide us when we spotted a shack.
We stop and look at each other, and decide we better investigate because it is pretty close to where we are going to be sleeping and this is weird. We get closer and realize it is basically a teepee made from scraps of aluminum and other sheet metal and a tarp. There is an inflated air mattress inside, and wine and whiskey bottles EVERYWHERE. But that’s not the worst part.
There were also X-rated materials and a lot of extremely weird objects that someone normally would not have out camping. This place is a couple of hours from any town and like I said, at least a half-hour from any road or trail. There were no vehicles parked anywhere even remotely close because we would have seen them in our travels.
We came to the conclusion that whoever had been here must have left, and they obviously did not want to be found. Then, on our way out, I noticed the campfire was still smoldering. We got the heck out of there. I immediately packed up camp and blindly made our way back to the road. Screw that, I’ve watched enough horror movies to know that us teenage white boys would not be waking up that morning.
12. The Scream
Backpacking in the woods with a group. I’m a bit of an insomniac, so I was up far after everyone else. We wanted to pack as light as possible and it was summer so we just had a tarp on the ground and put our sleeping bags on top of it. We are completely out in the open. It was after midnight and I was still tossing and turning. Then I hear footsteps.
I had heard a deer/coyote or something else with four legs running through the brush earlier, but this was definitely bipedal. What/whoever it was came right to the edge of the clearing, about 15-feet from us. I could just barely make out a shadow of the figure, but it was pitch black out and hard to tell what it looked like. It looked like it was swaying side to side, or looking around the clearing.
Then it turned and rushed into the woods, and I heard the running footsteps. Once they faded into the distance, I finally felt like I could breathe. I was considering waking someone up. Then I heard the most blood-curdling scream from the direction the thing went. I shook my friend awake, who was more experienced and familiar with the area. All he said was, “Dude it’s just a fox, go back to sleep.”
I told him I heard the footsteps and saw it and it was not a fox, but he just dismissed it completely and insisted I go back to sleep. I sat there for what felt like forever feeling paranoid and scared until I just gave up and took an extra dose of my sleep meds because I figured the anticipation was worse than being killed in my sleep.
13. The Screech
I was spending three days kayaking on the Coorong. I was having a great time and really enjoying the serenity and listening to the native birds and just appreciating nature. On the first day, I heard what I could have sworn was a human not screaming, but screeching, I guess? I didn’t think much of it and kept paddling. I saw what looked like a body close to the shore and found a seal that had just been eviscerated.
Honestly, this thing was spread all over the beach. No footprints of any kind, just a seal in a hundred pieces. After the screeching and the seal, I was a little creeped out but just continued my trip. Nothing of event really happened that night except that I kept hearing splashes from the water in front of me, yet when I checked there was nothing there.
The next day I went out again with the same plan. Just paddle until I got tired and then set up camp and go to bed. Unfortunately for me I got stuck on mud bog and had to spend a solid hour dragging my kayak across this thing to get to the other side of the water where I saw a deeper channel and a bunch of sand dunes. After what feels like maybe 40 minutes of struggling with my kayak and this bog, I saw a figure atop one of the sand dunes.
Logically it was probably a random tourist like me, or maybe a kangaroo. I stared at it for a second before getting back to trying to cross this bog. When I looked back it was gone. Weird. Anyway, I set up camp for my last night, I was a bit creeped out by the seal and the noises and now this figure, so I made sure I had my knife with me.
I set up my tent a bit away from the water in an open area so I could see everything around me. As I was eating dinner, I couldn’t help but feel I was being watched. As it was a total fire ban in the area, I didn’t have a fire so I couldn’t see much. I chalked it up to nerves and went for a short walk to explore the area I was in and wander down to the beach.
Now for some context, the beach nearby is LOUD, you can’t hear much other than crashing waves which makes what happened next especially eerie. I heard that freaking screeching again and looked back to where I came from. Again, a figure was standing in right by the path where I walked to the beach. Screw that I thought, I pulled my knife out and approached where I thought I saw this thing, and there was just a week-old fish that looked like it had been hung on the fence and forgotten.
As I walked back down the path, I heard what sounded like a kangaroo or wallaby just lightly hopping behind me, but when I looked back there was nothing there. Honestly, I just climbed into my tent and prayed to god there was nothing around. It’s kind of anticlimactic but nothing else really happened, I think I heard that screeching once more and then I didn’t hear it again.
Apparently, there are a few indigenous graveyards in the area, I’m not one for superstition but if I’m being honest this experience really spooked me.
14. The Man-Bear
This memory is over 20 years old, and super foggy because I was super little, but here goes. We used to camp at this same spot every year, until we moved. Anyway, this one summer I remember when we were first pitching our tent, the nearest campers came over to say hello and pass on some advice that had been spreading across the campground.
Something about bears, and how everyone should haul their food up in the trees or something. I remember the guy offering my dad some spare rope if he needed any. All seemed fine and dandy. Mom was antsy, but dad assured her a bear wouldn’t come into a campground this busy. On night two or three, everyone was woken to a crash and the sounds of a car alarm.
I remember pressing my hand over my sister’s mouth because I was afraid that if she cried the bear would come over. Or something silly like that. There was some distant shouting, and my dad decided to investigate. So, he grabbed the tiny little skillet and his equally dis-proportioned (but in the opposite proportions) flashlight and exited the tent.
I remember rolling over because there was this little tear in the tent that I’d discovered the last time it rained. There were a lot of flashlights and people over by the bathroom, where a car’s lights were flashing. It wasn’t a bear that had been breaking into people’s cars and stealing stuff all summer. It was a crazy homeless guy who’d been hiding out in the woods.
They were actually pretty sure he was the same guy who’d tried to attack two teenage girls at one of the nearby hiking trails a few weeks prior, leading to it being closed for a time.
15. The Black Dog
I was whitetail hunting in northern Michigan, it was getting dark and I saw a large black mass move into my bait pile, first I thought it was a black bear which isn’t uncommon. I soon realized it was a dog/wolf-like animal, but much bigger than any darn dog or wolf I have ever seen. It was pure black and its fur seemed wispy.
I sat there closing my eyes hard and opening them again trying to disprove what my eyes were telling me but I simply couldn’t. It walked in and out of sight in a matter of two minutes. I was scared stiff and hung my stuff up for the year after that.
16. The Singer and the Giant
My sister and I went camping in the North Cascades in Washington state. This was our first time camping just us two. The first night we set up our tent and went to sleep. The next day we woke up early and hiked Sourdough Mountain. That night when we got back to the campsite at around 8, it looked like our stuff had been rifled through.
Nothing had been taken. We brushed it off mostly because we were insanely tired and sore. We went to sleep. I woke up at around 3 am to the sounds of loud singing. At this point, I’m just annoyed because I’m exhausted. After listening closer, I realized it was not a language I am familiar with and the man sounded absolutely insane.
I’m increasingly getting more and more terrified because the singing kept getting louder and quieter like he was walking around singing. I wake my sister up to listen to the singing, and literally, at this exact time, we hear the sound of tree branches snapping. Someone or something was walking around our tent. At this point, we’re freaking out.
Suddenly, a flashlight is shining in on my side of the tent. Like he was looking in. There was no flashlight shining up until this point. He couldn’t have been more than five feet away from my side of the tent. We left all of our stuff in the tent and booked it to the car. The spots for parking were right behind the tent, so I shined my car’s high-beams at whoever it was and it was a large man in a hoodie unzipping our tent.
Who knows what he wanted, but it was terrifying. Also, I think the crazy singer saved us because it woke us up before the man got into our tent.
17. Standing Silhouettes
I was hiking along the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. If you’ve never been, it’s really thick old-growth forest. There’s a 360-mile hiking trail from Duluth to the Canadian border; really well-developed campsites and enough traffic that I wouldn’t feel unsafe on it anywhere. For this particular trip, my hiking buddy and I wanted to turn it into a loop instead of an out and back on the same trail.
Scoped out a section that’s connected with some back roads and a snowmobile trail that would work as our loop. As we’re hiking on one of the dirt back roads, we see a random dirt biker approach us, stop maybe a hundred yards back, and stare for a while. Kind of unnerving with him just staring at us for a while, but he eventually turned and left.
We eventually get to a log shelter on the snowmobile trail that we planned as campsite one. Nice relaxing campsite, go to bed. We woke up in the middle of the night (full moon), and I swore there were two moonlit silhouettes standing on either side of my tent. Not sure if I dreamed it or it was real, but freaky as heck. I remember just staying as still/silent as possible for as long as possible.
18. The Cremation
I was hiking deep into a National Forest and I found a campfire in the middle of nowhere at night. Not weird or uncommon by any means, people tend to pop up where you least expect them outdoors. But upon further examination, in the fire there was a US army uniform and what seemed to be some of their possessions. I tried to pull out the wallet with their military ID, but It was pretty much a glob or plastic.
Something just felt unnerving about the situation.
19. The Gunshot
I was out camping one night by myself and started hearing voices. I was playing music and it was around two in the morning. My grandma’s house was about two miles down the river and I thought it might have been my grandpa, so I turned off my music so I could yell back, but I heard a dog and my grandma or grandpa don’t have dogs. Then I heard someone say, “The noise was this way!”
This genuinely freaked me out, so I climbed one of the pine trees and sat up there for about five or six minutes. Later I saw a flashlight in the distance and two people walking up. They were both men, and there was I believe a husky-German hybrid with them. They ransacked my camp and I swear they should’ve noticed me because they shined the lights around and went right over me.
After they left, I started to walk home and I heard two loud bangs, which sounded like a rifle, so I booked it. When I got home, I stood on the porch for a second and saw their lights at the edge of the woods. I can assure you I will never camp alone again. It wasn’t even hunting season so they shouldn’t have even been out with a gun and if they were, it should have been at least a handgun and not a rifle.
But I’m still not sure what kind of gun it was. I hate dark forests now though, and I got really bad paranoia from this.
20. A Forest of Eyes
Back in mid or late October, I was camping on the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast, in the little inlet that separates the Olympic Peninsula from the rest of Washington. My last night before returning to the mainland, I stayed in the campground in a state park on one of the islands. That campground happened to be just two miles or so away from the highest point in the rather hilly archipelago.
Hiking to the top of Mt. Constitution was the main reason I went back to that island before finishing my time on the islands, but I was initially just planning to do it whenever I happened to wake up the next morning. That evening as I lay in my tent, I realized it would be really cool to watch the sunrise from the top. So, I set an alarm for 4:00 am.
I figured that would give me plenty of time to be on the trail by 4:45. I figured it’s roughly two hours to the top, that would get me to the summit right around first light at 6:45 before the 7:15 or 7:30 sunrise. I forgot that the batteries in my headlamp were nearing the end of their life. My headlamp was pretty much useless in actually seeing where I was going, although it did cast just enough light to reflect off the eyes of all the animals watching me through the woods.
Presumably just deer, but it still freaked me out. The entire two hours, I was constantly noticing them. It was never just a single pair of eyes, either, but always two or three animals together. They never made a noise, never even moved. Just stood there watching me.
21. Don’t Move a Muscle
Years back, I was out solo backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness of northern New Mexico. Camping about a six-hour hike from the nearest pavement way up past Puerto Nambe. I typically used an enclosed camping hammock. Lightweight, bug proof, packs up small with a rain fly. No need to carry a pad or mat. Just need two trees.
It’s easy and perfect for solo camping. When you’re in it, with the full fly on, you don’t have any real visibility around you. The top was totally enclosed by bug screen. To get inside, you sort of climbed into a slit in the bottom, and then your weight pulled and held it closed. It worked well, but it was a convoluted process to get in and out of.
I picked a spot just at the edge of the tree line, so I could cook on the edge of the meadow with a view of Santa Fe Baldy. Ate dinner, cleaned up, bags in trees, looked at probably a billion stars, and then processed myself into the hammock for the night. At some point, in the pitch black, I bolted awake. I heard the crunching of footsteps in the pine needles around me.
It was the kind of awake where you go from fast asleep to instantly hyper-aware, but totally frozen. I make absolutely no sound. I can’t look outside, lighting a light would only illuminate the hammock like a lamp and leave me totally blind to the surroundings. The crunching continues as if it’s circling the hammock. I’m not sure how long I held my breath.
The crunching is right alongside me. I have zero clue what it is. Suddenly, something PUSHES against the side of my hammock, and in the hammock, that means it pushed against me. I could feel its body heat. This isn’t a tent wall, where you can cower away from it. If you lean, the hammock moves with you. Whatever it was seemed to use its snout to nuzzle or root against the side of the hammock, like it was sniffing something out.
I was still holding deathly still, trying to come up with a plan to get away, which would involve trying to slash the opposite side with my knife. The thing pushes again and slides up the side of the hammock. I could feel the texture of its fur/hide/hair/whatever scraping against the nylon side. I hear a sharp snort, and it crunches away.
I’m not sure how long I stayed absolutely still, but at some point, the sun came up and I ventured into the daylight. I looked around the campsite and could find no evidence of a visitor. The tree line edge was floored with pine needles, so there were no prints or tracks. None of my other gear was disturbed, the guy lines for the fly were all still tight, and I didn’t see any marks on the side of the hammock.
I couldn’t even find a broken twig. I’m not sure it even happened. I’ve never slept in a hammock since.
22. The Fire Eater
I was camping with my dad in this crazy bush area where you had to hike about two hours to this main waterhole. We inflated a boat and went to a small island where the front of the island was sand but the back all bush, so we put our tents up and went fishing. We cooked some fish and ate marshmallows when we heard a howl.
It sounded far away but it scared us, so we got enough firewood for the fire to burn all night, in case we needed to pee or something. No clue what time it was, but in the middle of the night I had to pee. I went to a tree and stood there. I returned to my tent and heard that howl, but it was very close this time—before it sounded a long way away.
I was scared but went back to sleep. In the morning we woke up to see a small snake trail and our fire in ruins. It was picked apart and way smaller even though we had enough wood because I have been here before and never had problems with running out of wood. There was also some gear left out chewed or missing. No clue what it was but it was weird as heck.
Other than that, great spot in Australia.
23. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane
This one time I was sleeping atop a mountain in the Italian Apennines. Just me, my sleeping bag and the stars. No tent. No cover. In fact, to be fair, there wasn’t even a forest; I was completely exposed to the elements, and that’s why it took me some time to fall asleep. But it didn’t last long. Just minutes before dawn, I get woken up by what I perceived as a deafening roaring of winds.
As soon as I opened my eyes, there it was, mere meters from me; a freaking ginormous eagle flying in circles above me, flapping its enormous wings in what seemed to be a desperate effort to not lose altitude and hit me. The scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.
24. Stranger by the Outhouse
When I was at least five years old me and my dad went camping. He told me on our way if I needed to go to the bathroom to tell him and he will walk me to the outhouses they had near where we were staying. It was at least two in the morning and I woke up having to go to the bathroom so I tried to wake up my dad. He didn’t wake up so I went by myself.
I walk to the outhouse I look around and see a tall skinny man near the outhouse. I didn’t say anything, I just ran back to our tent. Later I found out that there was an armed criminal in the camping area where we were.
25. A Close Call
I was elk hunting in Washington State a few years ago. As I was side-hilling a small canyon, I experienced the old cliché of an “odd feeling” and being really uncomfortable. I headed up to the ridge-line and eventually met up with another hunter coming down the ridge very quickly. He waved me down and informed me that he had been watching me through binoculars and that I had walked directly under a tree with a mountain lion in it.
Apparently, I walked right under it and it simply watched me. Guess he wasn’t hungry. Not so creepy, but an unnerving feeling!
26. Nightmare Island
Not in the night, but when I was a teenager my friends and I liked to explore uninhabited islands. They’re called The Thousand Islands in the Indian River Lagoon. We camped, played paintball, pretty innocent fun. One day we decided to explore a new island for a fresh spot. We found a big one, so to save time, I was inserted on the southern end to explore while the others canoed around the island to see what there was to see.
The plan was for me to meet them on the north side. That did not happen. The island was a nightmare. Brambles, and bush so thick I had to belly crawl through the muck. The perimeter was a swamp with dead trees and god knows what lurking under the film of green algae. And then there were the skeletons. As I crawled my way up the island, I came upon skeleton after skeleton.
Turtles, raccoons, deer. That’s when it hit me; this is an alligator haven. I freaked out and made a break for the open water, not wanting to die. I yelled out as loud as I could, and fortunately, my friends heard me and paddled furiously out to me. I had made it only one-third of the way up the island and was thankfully extracted.
We named that one Nightmare Island and never returned.
27. Nocturnal Activity
About a year ago, I was camping along the PCT in Washington. It was late October and getting to around freezing in the middle of the night in the mountains. So, there were no other people, which was what I wanted. I got to the trail late and hiked with my dog for a while in the dark with my headlamp. We found a place that was a few hundred feet from a small river.
It wasn’t loud but you could hear it. I get to work starting a fire when my dog suddenly starts barking. I’m pretty paranoid so I keep a 3800-lumen flashlight and a big knife on me. I whirl around and shine the light and grab the knife. Nothing. I sweep the trees, looking for the reflection of eyes. Still nothing. Dog’s on alert but not barking.
I get back to work and this happens a few times. Each time I grab the knife and light but can’t see anything. Eventually, I search the brush around the clearing but still nothing so I go to bed thinking maybe something small. Around 1 am I’m woken up by something rustling around outside. By the sound, I think it was probably the size of a coyote. I don’t get out of the tent.
About 3 am I’m woken up by a loud screech and two large animals bolting through my clearing. It’s cold and dark and most of the way up a mountain so there shouldn’t be anything. I’m a little freaked out so I grab my knife and listen in the tent. There’s a screech in the distance then nothing. Ultimately, I wake up and it’s raining so there are no prints, and nothing else happened.
But it sure freaked me out. If I had to guess, I’d say a goat or something with hooves became a midnight snack for whatever was lurking around my site.
28. A Big Black Eye
I was in Yellowstone with my wife. We biked about four miles to this geyser off the main road, so nobody else was around. While waiting for it to go off, we started hiking down by the river nearby. As I walked past a big tree with low hanging branches, I see on the other side of the tree just a few feet away from me, a big brown fur head with a big black eye staring at me.
For a split second, I thought it was a grizzly bear and it scared the poop out of me. It ended up being a bison just sitting there for some reason.
29. A Warm and Quiet Place
Not creepy like the rest of these stories, but I woke in the middle of the night thinking I somehow got rain or water of sorts in my ear. When I tilt my head to get it out, something freaking MOVES in my ear canal. Turns out the “water” was blood. 20 painful minutes later, a darn mini cockroach crawls out of my ear. For the next few years, I had to sleep with earplugs every time we went camping.
30. A Marinating Meal
Went deep sea kayaking off the Carolina coast. We would camp on the various islands. It was so ungodly hot, even under our tarp was unbearable. I’m from Georgia and am used to our summers but this was something else. I spent about six hours just standing in the water one day, attempting to stay cool. The next morning there were literally dozens of sharks feeding on fish.
They would ride the waves onto shore and flop around until the next wave or two would carry them back out. I know sharks are overhyped and will most likely leave you alone but it still felt bizarre that I literally spent hours just marinating in the ocean and they were probably all around me.
31. Suspicious Snorts
My freaky experience happened a few years ago. My dad and I loaded some camping gear onto the back of our bicycles and left our home in Wisconsin to ride around a part of the state for a few days. I don’t like paying to sleep on the ground, so about an hour before dark, we’d start looking for somewhere we could disappear into the woods to pitch our tent for the night.
On the second night, we found a small grass path through the woods that went to a farm field quite a way off. We pitched our tent to one side of the path and quickly fell asleep. Until around 2:00 that night, when we were woken up by a sort of snorting sound outside the tent. Every, I don’t know, 30 seconds? A minute? We’d hear the noise come out of the woods behind us.
Figuring it was likely just a deer on the path from the woods to the farm field we were blocking, dad and I just started talking loudly to each other about it, hoping our voices would scare it away. When that didn’t work, I tried shining my light through the wall of the tent. Eventually, I ended up getting out of the tent, waving the light in the direction of the noise, and yelling at it to go away.
And then we never heard it again. I never saw so much as a pair of eyes reflecting the light, nor did I hear any plants moving around as it ran away, but the snorting sound stopped. Even though it most likely was just a deer, I had never heard a noise quite like that before. Once we fully woke up, we regained our wits, but in that brief period where we were only half awake, it was a terrifying noise.
32. The Thin Spot
We were camping at Long Beach, Washington for the kite festival, and decided to take a late-night drive. We found ourselves on some back roads in the woods, cruising along slowly with no music on and the windows down. No other cars but us, and suddenly everything just felt wrong. It was dark, but the light seemed different somehow.
I remember the hair on the back of my neck standing up and just having the thought, “This isn’t right, we shouldn’t be here.” I look over and my wife is wide-eyed and clearly feeling the same way. I decided to pull over so I could turn around and head back the way we came. Then we noticed deer were coming out of the woods and standing on the sides of the road, and they were just… staring at us.
We realize the woods are oddly quiet, which just made things seem even more strange. We look up and the branches were full of birds on both sides of the road. There must have been hundreds of them, all perched and alert. My wife said, “We need to go.” So, we left. Eventually, once we had gone far enough, everything seemed normal again.
I’m a pretty big fan of the idea of multiple worlds/dimensions, and honestly wonder if we accidentally drove through a “thin spot” and briefly wound up somewhere we shouldn’t have been.
33. Don’t Go in the Tall Grass
Mind you this was not in a forest but surrounded by tall dead grass by cliffs over the ocean. I went backpacking on my home island in Hawaii; there’s this trail that goes all the way around the island called the King’s Trail that has been known to have a particular bloody past with many murders happening near it in one particular area.
The legend goes that if you see men walking along with clubs/torches, you are near death. I was off the beaten path about 12 miles from a highway and another 15 to any hospital. It was 2 am, I got up to take a leak about 10 feet from my tent; it was a nearly moonless night with a few clouds. I finish up, go back to my tent and just as I am getting inside, I hear rustling, then grunts…which sounded almost human.
I quickly grabbed a knife and a flashlight leaving the tent I quietly slinked into the tall grass opposite to where I heard the sound. I stand still, trying to pinpoint the location. 10 minutes go by, the sound picks up again, at this point I’m on my hands and knee’s circling around behind to where they were coming from; could have been no more than 20 feet.
I throw a large rock five feet from where I could perceive the sound coming from. As soon as the rock hit the ground, the largest boar I had ever seen bolts out of the long grass. I watched it run for a bit until it disappears from my view 200m away; in the moment I felt nothing, I felt ready. But as soon as the boar had left, panic set in, heavy breathing, sweating, the full nine yards.
I immediately packed all my stuff and moved right onto a beach where there was no grass or trees for 100 feet.
34. Bambi and Friends
This was when I was about 17 years old. I was camping in the Australian outback with 3 other guys from high school. We each had our own tents. Sometime late at night, I get woken up by a clinking sound. Something or someone has just plinked a tin can at our camping site. We took them with us when we left, but they were stacked next to the fire.
I sit up and listen, and whatever it is, there’s more than one of them. In fact, we appear to be surrounded. I can hear small noises coming from all over the campsite. I’m a bit worried, but I finally work up the nerve to stick my head out of the tent flap. And discover it’s a herd of miniature deer. None of them are taller than my hip, they look like a herd of Bambi. About twelve of them.
One of them sees me and stops for a moment and just looks at me, then they turn tail, and run. In the morning there were little hoof prints imprinted all over the camp. I guess they were after the “fruits in syrup” cans I brought with me.
35. There Be Lions Part I
Camping in the bush in Africa years ago. It was a big, semi-permanent campsite with big, rectangular tents you could stand up in, and we were only there for the weekend. My sister and I were in a tent set a little away from the others, down a short pathway. It was a stunning night, full moon, clear sky, and my sister wanted to leave the tent flaps open.
No way. Nope. I insisted on closing them. I was woken up several times during the night by lions roaring—it’s a sound you only want to hear with something sturdy between you and it. The next morning, a couple of the other campers walked up to our little path. They were following lion footprints. It had wandered through the main site, up our path, right up to our firmly closed tent “door,” walked all around the tent, then walked off into the bush.
No arguments about closing up the tent that night!
36. The Ranger’s Tale
I actually slept through the creepiest thing that happened to me in the woods but it has made me a much more cautious camper. My friends and I were packing up camp in Glacier National Park. A park ranger came over and started to chat. After a few minutes, he tells us how the night before he watched a mother grizzly and her cub wander around our camp.
Luckily no one woke. The ranger stuck around and watched to make sure we were okay. It disturbed me both that I could sleep through the sound of a bear outside my tent and that someone could stay just outside camp watching while we slept and we would have had no clue if he hadn’t told us.
37. A Rustling Sound
I was out camping with my family down at the Gulf of Mexico, and I assume it was 1 am when I heard a deep rumbling noise kind of like cans moving but soft. Quiet at first but building up. So, I get up quietly and unzip the tent door to see what it was—and before the whole door is open, I stop. There was a man, very old skinny and dirty looking, going through our bags.
The noise I heard was him shifting our supply’s around. He was shoving our food into an old plastic bag. I assume he was homeless and just trying to get a meal, but it was terrifying none the less…
38. The Walking Dog
I was at a rest stop somewhere in Nebraska or South Dakota along I-29 and I couldn’t sleep so I was kind of roaming around, checking out the rest area ground. Behind the facilities were some woods. A black lab-looking dog came out and sat down, and watched me. I kept my distance and it would reposition when I paced to keep me in front of it.
I finished my smoke and pulled out my phone, and the dog stands straight the heck up on its hind legs like a person and walks backwards into the woods. I’m sure I was just wrong and it wasn’t a dog, but I went right back to the car and didn’t sleep until we were on the road again.
39. The Stake Thief
When I was a kid in Boy Scouts, we would stay up then go to sleep when we were bored. But one time when we did this in the middle of the night, we heard footsteps. So, we came out of the tents to see what happened. Nobody was there. We told the supervisors that said probably nothing. When we woke up in the morning, one of the tent stakes were stolen off of all of the tents.
It was nothing big, but someone was there following us. It creeps me out to this day.
40. Kegger Confusion
Not entirely outdoorsy, but as a kid, probably around 11 years old, I was “camping out” with a friend and her sister, in a tent set up beside their carport, right beside their house. We were awakened in the middle of the night by a vehicle coming up their private drive. Sleepy, confused, and a bit frightened, we all laid there staring at each other as the vehicle stopped right beside us and at least two people—men from their voices, got out.
They walked right past our tent and argued in low voices in the carport for a minute before getting back in their vehicle and driving away. We then ran inside and woke my friend’s parents, after also discovering the flashlight we left on the nearby picnic table was gone. It turned out some teenagers further up the main road were having a “country kegger” (a party involving a keg of beer in a field) and someone took a wrong turn trying to find it.
Now, if you want some really creepy hiking/camping stories, find some Appalachian Trail hikers. I’ve heard some crazy stuff goes on in some of the more remote stretches.
41. The Fear
My first overnight backpacking trip with a friend—we’re both women—I parked my car at a trailhead, loaded my gear into friend’s van and we headed to another trailhead to sort our stuff, sleep in the van and get an early start the next morning. This trailhead is very popular, just off the main highway. The plan was to then backpack through a pass back to my car.
It’s starting to get dark and we have everything pulled out. The last people are coming down to their cars. It’s dark now and there were a couple of cars left in the lot. Then I notice two older men hanging around. They did not look like hikers and were not acting like hikers. They would talk to each other, but at an oddly far distance from one another and were facing us, not each other.
Every time I looked in their direction, they were standing in a different spot, watching us. I instantly felt danger—like electricity buzzing on my skin. My friend was oblivious, rationing food or something. Next thing they started talking to her asking strange questions and making comments about a big party and wondering if the trailhead gets chained at a certain time.
I don’t know, as I’m writing this, it sounds innocuous but the dudes were creepy and fanned out in a strange way. I felt hunted. My friend, without saying a word, started throwing our gear back in the van. We hauled butt, messed up our packing. I held my knife and tried to shine my headlamp on it in their direction as much as possible—truly ready to fight or flight.
Dudes stood there and didn’t back away. We drove off before I even had a chance to close my door. I’ve never been so angry. It sucks to live in a world in which you must fear for your own safety.
42. An Unwanted Guest
I used to go to a survival summer camp. One night we were heading back to our campsite, about 3 1/2 miles from the nearest road, a tiny dirt road leading to the main road, at about two in the morning after an 18-mile long hike. We started hearing loud music as we got closer to our site. We thought it might be a party or something, which happened quite frequently, unfortunately.
As we got closer, we saw one guy sitting against his car, obviously very drunk, with a firearm. We ran down the trail about a mile to the only place on the whole property with reception and called 9-1-1. It was actually really scary and being a bunch of 14-year-olds, we freaked. Luckily, we had spent the better part of the last seven summers in these woods.
43. There Be Lions Part II
Six years ago, I was outside with my telescope at my cottage. I heard branches moving in one of the trees that were only about 40 feet from me. Then I heard a growling purr sound. Then I heard a pack of wolves howling. There had been reports of mountain lions in the area even though they went extinct in Ontario, Canada.
A few days later I checked mountain lion sounds online and that was definitely what I heard.
44. The South Pole
I spent a couple of years at the South Pole. First, when it’s night and windy with extremely low visibility, you have to walk via the flag lines. Sometimes the visibility is so bad you can’t actually see the next flag and have to go based on the sound of the next flag flapping. There have been a few times where the wind has made some scary sounds, and I’ve thought to myself that we’ve put a lot of trust into the fact that there’s nothing out there.
The second more rational fear is that if I were to trip and break my ankle or get lost in this visibility I would surely freeze to death before ever being found. Lights don’t help a lot in thick blowing ice crystals. Second, we have underground arches, including the fuel arch, logistic arch, etc. People swear they have experienced the ghost of Rodney Marks down there.
I’ve never experienced THAT, but the ice periodically does make some very scary sounds.
45. The Ghost Train
In my old cub scout troop, there was this train that was about 40-45 minutes away from the campsite that we went to frequently, and we would hear it about every 30 minutes or so during night time. It was a real train, but the scouts liked to say that it was actually a ghost train and that it doesn’t need any tracks to run along. One night at the campsite, I kid you not, I hear that train whizzing directly outside my tent.
Just loud and clear, this supposed ghost train whizzes right by my tent, and I can hear its wheels on the tracks as it rolls along. I don’t know if it was a dream or a hallucination, but that was really creepy.
46. The Mysterious Figure
Me, my brothers and my dad were camping out on the trampoline when we saw a shooting star, but as soon as it faded away, there was a low rumble and I think I saw a figure approaching. When the rumble suddenly stopped, the figure disappeared with it. I was the only one that saw it and no one believed me.
47. The Night Tent-Diggers
I was doing the Juan De Fuca trail but I am not that experienced, I have only done a couple of multiple-day hikes, guided by a friend. The Juan De Fuca trail is fairly busy—you are far from out in the woods alone. Anyhow, we were partway in and I heard something pawing and digging at the side of my tent, so naturally, I ducked down for safety.
Being a wimp, I asked my trail partner to please check. He did not see anything and was totally unruffled, but I had trouble sleeping, worrying about the terrifying night tent-diggers. The next day we were drinking tea on the beach and found a mink running across the rocks. The annoying but cute little buggers had chewed through anything they could find, including our neighbor’s laminated maps.
Part of the creepy factor is really just feeling vulnerable to a lot of little unknowns.
48. The Lost Man
Apparently, I have a lot of these but this one is not mine. It was late at night and I was three years old so memory is a bit vague. I wake up to a desperate knock at the door and walk out of my room. I see my dad taking his .44 mag revolver to the door. We lived in the middle of nowhere at this time of my life. It turns out that it was an honest hunter who had been lost in the woods for three weeks.
My dad woke up my mom (because he can’t cook for anything) to make the hunter some food and then drove him the 30 miles into town. He kept the revolver the whole time. Turned out fine though.
49. That is No Stick
I was deep in a state park in North Carolina at a primitive campsite with my mom. We were setting up camp after hiking 15 miles in and it started getting dark. We had a fire going but needed more wood to keep it burning through the night so we were poking around the perimeter of the firelight picking up sticks. My mom started reaching for a long branch behind a log but something about it gave her pause.
She pulled another stick from the bundle she’d already gathered and hit the one on the ground. It started writhing, coiled up and started rattling at her. We both jumped back and watched as a seven-foot rattlesnake slithered away into the woods. We decided we had enough wood.
50. Wood, Brick, and Legs
This was technically in the jungle, but I think it’s worth a mention. I was volunteering in South America a few years ago in a nature park/range. Mosquito nets and hardcore bug killer was practically mandatory, so I was pretty keyed in to the fact that I was probably going to be dealing with some biting bugs. The building I was staying in was made of old wood and brick, and was cracked and warped, dark and warm.
I had fallen asleep fairly quickly most nights, but the worst of my curiosity led me to click on my flashlight one night. In almost every crack of brick, almost every warp and slit of wood were spider legs. And not just the same spider legs. Furry, skinny, colored, thick, small, large, all were filling the nooks and crannies of my room. And all I had was my mosquito net. which is for mosquitos.