May 10, 2023 | Carl Wyndham

Hikers And Campers Share The Creepy And Unexplained Things They’ve Encountered In The Wild

Hikers and campers can be a courageous bunch, braving the elements and the wild unknown while most of us are content to stay in and watch Netflix with some drinks in the comfort of our living room. The fresh air and the breathtaking vistas usually make it all worthwhile for outdoorsy sorts, but there are some truly creepy sights and sounds out there, and there are some things you just can’t unsee. These people have shared the most memorable things they’ve encountered out in the wild—things, it’s fair to say, they probably wish had stayed hidden.

1. One Step Ahead

My old man was an avid outdoorsman in the Colorado Rockies in the late 80s. He'd go on week-long treks with his buds. One summer, they'd been out for a few days in Pikes National Forest. They set up camp in a ravine they thought was safe. That night my dad unzipped the tent to take a leak in the dark and outside stood a pair of pale bare feet.

My dad screamed and zipped up the tent. Everyone else woke up and asked what was wrong. My dad said someone was barefoot out there. They went out and flashed their lights for a bit, hollering.  My dad swore he saw what he saw and described the feet in detail: they were old blotchy feet, one even had a lump on the ankle. Tony, his bud, asked which foot, left or right.

My dad said it was the right. Then Tony said they needed to move their camp immediately. Dad asked why. Tony said they didn't have time. They went along with it and packed up and moved on top of the hill. The next morning they woke up to find a flash flood had torn through the ravine during the night. It would have surely killed them.

Tony's grandfather had just passed on a month prior and one of the last things he said to him was that he would always watch over him. The feet my dad described reminded Tony of his grandfather's feet.

stories from the wild

2. Hanging in Wait

Last year I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee when I came across a noose just hanging from one of the trees. Nothing was hanging from it, it was just there.

Creepy Hiking FactsFlickr

3. Not Cool

My buddies and I found a cooler in a gully while camping. It was dark and we left it, but authorities found it a few weeks later and there was a body in it.

Twisted FactsShutterstock

4. A Matter of Time

This old woman hiker in her 70s somehow saw us in reverse order through a wormhole or something. The first time we saw her she said: "Oh, well hello again!" I just passed it off as her being old, slightly senile. Then 30 minutes later, we saw her again, and this time she just said "Hi" as she passed us. I'm not even sure how she got there...she was going the opposite direction of us on the trail both times.

Awkward Wedding factsShutterstock

5. Mystery Messenger

We saw the words "Per audacia ad ignotum" drawn in the snow in the absolute middle of nowhere, yet there were no footprints around them. The words were probably a few hours old. The closest translation we could find was "Through audacity towards the unknown".

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

6. We All Scream for the Ice Cream Man

I was fortunate enough to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2012. Stopped by this guy's house—known as the ice cream man—right on the trail. An old man with thick glasses appeared at the door, took me inside by the hand, and gave me an orange cream popsicle, as he read Where the Wild Things Are to me as we sat at his kitchen table.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

7. A Bone-Chilling Beekeeper

I was camping near Nederland, Colorado and a fellow walked out of the woods with a large blade and a beekeeper hood on. It was near dusk and he walked between our tents and our fire, where we were, through our campsite (which was dispersed camping, not in a campground) and back into the woods on the other side.

I assume he was just trying to scare the heck out of people, and he succeeded brilliantly. I am glad I brought a change of underpants, and he is lucky that we weren't the gun-totin' sort.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

8. Night Terrors

Camping with family, it's about 11 PM in the middle of a forest. Pitch black, you can't see anything without a flashlight. Out of the blue, my little cousin who was about 3 years old at the time starts crying. When my uncle asked him what was wrong, he just kept repeating "Help guy come". He couldn't yet talk in complete sentences yet, which made the whole situation even more terrifying. Nobody slept well that night.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

9. There’s Something in the Fog

I was hiking in the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington back in 2003. I was trying to do this really snazzy hike from the Ocean to Mt. Olympus. Well, day one is a blast, get everything accomplished. Day two, fog. Fog as thick as anything you can imagine. I can't get a decent GPS fix, so I'm pretty much blind, but I know if I follow the Hoh river upstream,

I'll get to one of the campsites I'm going for. The day goes by, and fog isn't clearing up at all. I get to a fairly big clearing and set up my tent. I grab a power bar and chill out as it starts going to the darkest black night I've ever experienced. I'm seriously a bit unnerved at the whole thing...not scared as much as just...anxious.

About 2 in the morning, I start hearing this huffing noise. Like Darth Vader without the helmet on. My imagination starts to go freaky, and I reach for my flashlight. I pull the drawstring on the tent a little...very quietly...and poke my head out. Still pitch dark. I hear the noise coming from maybe, MAYBE five feet to my right.

At this point, I'm seriously re-thinking my belief in Sasquatch. I poke my flashlight out and turn it on. I'm a few feet away from a MASSIVE Roosevelt elk, who'd lost his way in the dark as well. He sees the flashlight, bolts the other way, tags a tree and knocks himself clean out. I laid in the tent until I heard a groan, a bunch of commotion and the big guy grunt away.

Creepy Hiking FactsWikimedia Commons

10. The Ritual

I was backpacking in New Hampshire and camped out for the night after a day hike. I wandered off from our fire to go take a leak and stumbled upon a circle etched into the ground with tuning forks surrounding the circle standing up straight...It looked like a creepy ritual circle and it bugged me out so I booked it back to the group.

Creepy Hiking FactsMax Pixel

11. Sinister Signposts

A series of arrows carved into trees leading into the middle of a swamp, ended up leading to a body. The open space was in a very populated area, the sheriff told us it was probably a homeless person. There are several phases of finding a lifeless person: Loss of words. Shock. Continued shock. Realizing you're all alone in the middle of the swamp. Intense fear.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

12. The Sinister Sound of Music

I lived in a national park by myself for three months. Several times when I was going back to my trailer for the day, I would hear music, like a music box or an ice cream truck. It was always loud and sounded like it was coming from somewhere over my head. One day I decided to look for the source so I followed the dirt road past my trailer.

The music continued, I couldn't tell if I was getting closer or not. I had my eyes on the trees and looked down just in time to avoid stepping on a snake. I scrambled back but it didn't move. I realized it was dead and it wasn't alone, there were half a dozen dead copperheads stretched out in the road, looking in the same direction.

I went back to get my car because I couldn't bring myself to step over them, but by the time I got my keys, the music had stopped, and I didn't hear it again.

Big Bang Theory FactsFlickr

13. Close Encounters

My sister and I were driving around Lake Tahoe at night. A car followed us for a few miles. We went over the top of a hill, and as we drove down the other side the lights behind us came over the top of the hill and continued up into the sky. We both were quiet for a moment, then turned to each other and said: "Did you see that?"

Russian Empire quizShutterstock

14. Time to Turn Back

I was walking through the arboretum in Madison, Wisconsin, it’s a huge, unkempt watershed, very very rustic, though still in the middle of the city. I found this faded cross nailed to a tree waaay back in there that said, "Forever in my heart, Delilah".. It looked like it was 50+ years old. I noped the heck out of there and never went back. Who knows what’s buried out there; it would be the perfect place to dump a body.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

15. Musical Mystery

Out in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. I could hear this strange music way in the distance. It didn't sound like any instrument...but it wasn't quite natural either. I never did figure out what it was. It lasted only a minute or so. We were miles from civilization.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

16. Mysterious Meetings

There was a period when I kept seeing people not dressed in hiking gear walking into the deep back paths of the hiking trails as the sun was setting. Many miles away from any civilization, where there are just canyons and trails to those giant utility towers. Men, women, and children. Only on a couple of occasions did I see someone carrying a suitcase or backpack.

Most of the time they weren't carrying anything. I usually checked the internet and timed my hike to return to my car as sunset hit, so those people were definitely not making it out of the hills before dark. My car was also usually the last one out, so they most likely got dropped off or parked somewhere other than the public trailhead.

My guess was either a squatters’ camp or drug operation deep in the hills. Either way, sucks for those kids.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

17. Bill Can’t Catch a Break

Been waiting years for this question: Hiking alone at dusk doing a five-mile loop in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles. I see another lone hiker approaching from the opposite direction. As he gets closer, I suddenly realize I know this person: It's the guy who played Jame Gumb, AKA Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. We get within three feet of each other.

He looks at me. He sees the lightning bolt of recognition hit my face. His sad and resigned expression back said it all: "Yes, I'm him. No, I'm not really a serial killer". I walked briskly by him anyway and didn't look back until I was a good 100 yards down the trail.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

18. Feeling Cagey

A cage. Not like a trapping cage or anything but something that could easily hold 5-10 average sized people. I was hiking in the mountains just above the house I lived in, at the time, in Missoula, Montana. Took maybe 45 minutes of walking, mostly uphill and without a path, to get to the spot. Round steel bars for the edges and rope instead of chain link for the walls and ceiling.

It was all set up just on the far side of the ridgeline I was walking, so it couldn’t be seen, I suppose. Nothing around it, no footprints or tire tracks or anything. The rope looked undamaged as well. No idea what it was for but it definitely creeped me the heck out.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

19. Don’t Lose Your Head

A couple years back, I was hiking in the middle of nowhere with some friends, and as we were walking back to camp because it got dark we noticed an honest-to-goodness guillotine off the trail a little bit. Walked a little faster after that.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

20. The Full Monty

We were driving down a fairly rough trail in the middle of nowhere up in the Rockies. We look out our window and there is a guy walking parallel to the road about 40 yards into the woods. He was an older guy and he was huge. The only thing he had on was a hat. That's it. Not even sandals. It was hilarious, confusing, and creepy all at the same time.

Unsolved Mysteries FactsShutterstock

21. Silent Stranger

In my experience, the creepiest thing you can see out on the trail is a sketchy person or a drifter. I was on a weekend hike with a friend, and we came across a man standing just off trail staring at us as we approached. I offered him a greeting, don't remember exactly what I said. No response. He had cold eyes and was just generally spooky. We were pretty far out from the nearest town, and he had zero hiking gear.

Normal clothes that looked clean enough. We passed him, and kept trudging on up the trail. I glanced back over my pack and the guy just turned and walked into the brush. We stopped hiking that area.

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22. Bad, Bad Dog

Yesterday I was hiking in New Hampshire, and as me and my group were descending we passed a family with a dog. We were in a groove, so we just continued past them as they were standing off to the side of the trail. But as we walked by, they appeared to be holding hands around the dog in a prayer circle. I heard the father say "Lord please, do not let this dog kill again".

I have no idea what was up with this dog.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

23. Almost Cougar Food

Before the DNR was forced to admit to the release of cougars in the state to control the deer population, we (myself, my husband, our 6-year-old, and our 3-year-old) were fishing and kept hearing rustling behind us about 20 yards. Told husband I thought I heard a low growl, of course, he hadn't, so it was all in my head. Fast forward an hour to when we're packing up our gear to leave, he finally hears a growl.

Looks at me terrified because it was close and we were a good quarter mile from the car. I figured out very quickly how to fit two kids into a single stroller, I walked closer to the river, husband between us and woods, both adults terrified the whole time, kids thinking it's fun to ride together. Get everyone in the car and flip on the lights before starting the car only to see a cougar turn and run back into the woods.

Creepy Hiking FactsPixabay

24. Morning Kisses

I woke up to a bear licking my face.

I screamed, he screamed. We parted ways mutually.

History's Greatest Revenges factsPxhere

25. Unidentified Flying Objects

20ish years ago, myself and my fellow boy scout troop saw some strange lights in the sky. We were in Texas, pretty far out in the middle of nowhere, away from city lights. I don't recall the name of the area. On the night in question, we were sleeping outside in sleeping bags, on cots, and we arranged our cots out so that we were laying in the same direction, head-to-toe.

I don't recall what actual direction we were facing, we were just lined up the same way. We broke up the sky into sections (e.g. "top left, top middle" etc) and started watching for satellites. After we'd been watching a while and had seen what we were sure to be at least a couple of satellites, we saw three lights—not much brighter than the satellites we'd recently seen—moving towards each other, none moving in the same direction that the satellites were moving.

We were stunned...even more so when they stopped. They stopped about half of a finger width (holding your finger to the sky) apart from each other. Eventually, they all shot off, each in the direction they came from, but MUCH faster than they were moving the first time.

Creepy Hiking FactsPxHere

26. Torn Asunder

I was out on a hike and I noticed some deer bones on the side of the trail. Odd, I thought, but there are lots of deer out here, and it's not uncommon for them to be taken out by a cougar, bear, lynx or a myriad of other predators. Then I saw a hipbone in a tree. Later I saw the severed head had been neatly placed on another tree.

Throughout my hike, someone had physically placed parts of a fresh deer carcass all over the trail and throughout the trees. It was pretty darn unsettling.

Creepy Hiking FactsFlickr

27. A Bang-Up Job

I was doing a fairly long trail run from one town to another. I was up in the mountains when I heard some shooting. Not uncommon for people to drive the forestry roads and do some target practice. As I kept running, the shots became louder, so I started yelling out that there was a hiker on trail and to please stop firing. About four minutes later, I hear some crazy high pitched crackle and then another shot!

I immediately fell to my belly and started screaming at them to stop. They heard me and started hollering if I was alright. A little ways down the trail I met up with them at the road crossing. They offered me a beer and said sorry they couldn’t hear me. I thanked them and kept on my run.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

28. Poe Would Be Proud

A raven saying "Hello!". It would say it once or twice, then stare. It followed me for a while. I'm pretty sure someone trained it to do that, and it was waiting for a treat, but man that was creepy.

Dark Ages factsPixabay

29. What’s for Dinner?

While some buddies and I were hiking in Arches National Park we decided to go off the beaten path for a bit. Shortly thereafter it started raining which turned to a torrential downpour, forcing us to take shelter for a bit. We found an alcove in the small gulch we were hiking. After a few minutes, we turned around to find a mountain of bones and animal carcasses behind us.

We noped right out of there, only to find a notice posted at the trailhead warning of several mountain lion sightings in the park that day. Thankfully, we avoided being eaten alive to hike another day.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

30. The Eerie Aftermath

I was in visiting Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and I knew it was the scene of a bad volcanic explosion a couple of years ago, where many people lost their lives. Everything looked peaceful though, so I kind of forgot a huge tragedy had happened there before. I was wandering off trail to get good photos when I just encountered all these houses that were still partially covered in ashes.

I stepped inside and there was no evidence that anyone else had been in there since the explosion. It was really creepy seeing how time seemed to stop there, and all you can see are destroyed ruins.

Creepy Hiking FactsMax Pixel

31. Unholy Encounter

A horse that appeared to be sacrificed. We were riding quads in the Arizona desert and came upon a horse with it's back legs tied and rib cage and skull showing.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

32. Behind the Dark

Took my young children to a cave not far from our house. Popular spot, but we had the place to ourselves. You can walk through it in about 30 minutes without too much difficulty. It has a tiny exit at the opposite end. It was pretty muddy, so we decided to turn around and head back to the entrance. Halfway back, there was a lit candle sitting about eight feet up one side.

It was definitely not there on the first trip. I went into full-on protective-dad-mode, knowing there was likely someone hiding in the dark while we walked the rest of the way out.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

33. Horsing Around

I was backpacking in Yellowstone above the tree line, at about 10,500 feet. We are hiking on a ridge above a lake when all of a sudden we came across a horse skull. No body, just the skull—pretty cool looking. We get to our campsite, not to far away from the lake near where we found the horse skull. When we climb down to the lake we find the body of the horse rotting on the edge of the lake with negative film strips floating in the water and laying around the shore near the body.

Creepy Hiking FactsMax Pixel

34. Out Like a Rocket

I was backpacking in Western China and ran across an army rocket, cached at an abandoned campsite in an area with a fairly large anti-Chinese nomadic population. I noped out of there as fast as I could.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

35. Six Feet Under

I like to hike really deep into the woods. Sometimes I use narrow deer trails. One day I was out in literally the middle of nowhere and found a 6-foot deep hole, about two feet wide, and about 5-feet long. No shovel. It was New Jersey. Mafia.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

36. Scare-Me Elmo

I once found an inside out Elmo doll that was restuffed and it had a soundbox from some kind of Halloween toy that made this creepy laugh. It wasn't that bad, but it sure creeped me out.

Creepy Hiking FactsFlickr

37. The Light in the Sky

I was camping in California and I over the hill I saw a large red flash and streak of light fall over the hills. I have seen meteors before, but this seemed more intense. I told my parents what I saw but they didn't believe me.

Creepy Hiking FactsPixabay

38. The Watcher in the Shadows

Well, this was on a trail cam, but I was looking through some of the pictures and most of them were just deer, foxes, and coyotes. But there was one which was just a pair of glowing eyes, with the rest of the picture completely dark.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

39. The Man in Black

When out exploring an old abandoned quarry with some friends we found this dude stood staring at this rock, occasionally twitching, but he never turned around. We were pretty creeped out, so we didn't investigate, and left pretty soon after. Later on that night we found out that another friend was driving down the lane that runs parallel to the quarry found a guy in a black coat stood in the middle of the road, and wouldn't move.

She was pretty freaked out and had to reverse all the way back up the lane in the dark because he was still there. Pretty sure it was the same guy, otherwise it was just a big coincidence.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

40. Shrines to Murder

Bushwalking in New South Wales (Australia), me and my friend came across this weird platform looking thing made out of rocks. Later that year, the authorities apprehended some bloke on suspicion of the murders of a series of backpackers who had gone missing over the course of a few years, and at the sites of several of the murders slightly off in the bush were these "altars".

A current affairs show runs footage of one (the trial and run up to it were all over the news) and yeah, it's that thing we found. The altars were typically no more than 300 yards from the victim's shallow graves. The guy who was apprehended and subsequently convicted for the murders is Ivan Milat, Australia's worst serial killer.

Now the officers are pretty sure that at least one other person was involved in the murders other than the one now locked up for the offense, they just couldn't prove it.

Thomas Seymour factsShutterstock

41. Oh Deer

Over the years when I have told this story, many people haven't believed me, but it's true as the sky is blue. Me and my brother were hiking out in our new backwoods (we had just moved in to a new house) and we stumbled upon a small, open, grassy field. In the center of it, there was a person with a blue jacket crouched over.

We thought it was a friend of ours that we had recently met, so I ran out to greet them. I did not have my glasses on, but I got pretty close enough to see that it was a grown man leaned over the carcass of a deer, stabbing it with an unsharpened stick. He looked up and saw me. I was pretty freaked out, so I turned around and yelled at my brother to run, and so we started to sprint as fast as we could back home.

Creepy Hiking FactsShutterstock

42. Need a Hand?

I went camping in southeast Ohio once with my dad and sister miles from civilization. As it started to get dark, my dad and I started to prep food for the fire while my sister went to change in her tent. A couple minutes later she walks over to me and asks "Were you outside my tent?" I asked her why, and she tells me that someone walked out from the direction of the trees to her tent and placed their hand on the wall of the tent.

She smacked the hand away thinking it was me messing with her but when she came out no one was there. We tell my dad and he says he did it and left it at that. The problem was, I knew it wasn’t him, because I was with him the whole time. Later that night I asked him why he lied and he told me it was too late to go home so there’s no sense in scaring my sister when there’s nothing to do about it.

I stayed in my sister’s tent that night with a knife in hand. I didn’t sleep. We stayed for another night without incident, but I couldn’t get my mind off of the fact that we weren’t alone.

Creepy Hiking FactsPixabay

Sources: Reddit, , , , , ,

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