When you're used to the creature comforts of home, camping can prove to be a little unsettling. In the wilderness, when the night falls, scary and unimaginable things come out to play. From lurking strangers to terrifying predators in the dark, these stories give The Blair Witch Project a run for its money:
1. Don't Go In The Water
Many years ago, my wife and I made a reservation (and paid in full, as was the requirement) for two weeks in one of the local government campgrounds that had a nice lake. We'd only seen pictures of the place but we were excited to spend our entire vacation there.Then we heard the chilling news:A day or two before we arrived, a teenager was fishing in a boat with his uncle and cousin, and when he jumped out of the boat to cool off, he never came up.
We tried to book somewhere else, but reservations are very difficult to get. The day we got there, search and rescue dive teams were looking for his body. The bottom of the lake is very loose silt, so the search was difficult. In the first couple of days that we were there, they still hadn't found his body. We vowed to not go in the water at all, especially while the body was still in the lake.
Unfortunately, the weather was extremely hot that week, with temperatures about 40°C in the shade. Finally, we gave in and decided to wade into the water to cool off. By the next day, we gave up and swam in the lake, trying to not think about the fact that the boy's body still hadn't been found.If memory serves me correctly, they eventually found his body about a week into our trip.
The boy had become tangled in a fishing line under the water and he drowned before he could get himself free.
2. How Daddy Screamed
I was camping with my kids in the woods for the first time. They were very nervous, but I assured them that nothing was out there to be afraid of. Then the night took a turn. Immediately after one of my assurances, we heard something moving outside of the tent. They started crying a bit, and I said it was either the wind or maybe a distant raccoon.
At that moment, something came down on the top of the tent...and it started pushing in at four spots.They lost their minds with terror...even I screamed. But when I went outside to check it out, I let out a sigh of relief. It was our cat. My wife had let him outside, and he made his way down into the woods to see us. He was young and had never seen a tent before, so he jumped on top of it right above us.
This was a few years ago, and my kids still bring up how scary it was (and how daddy screamed).
3. Froggy Footsteps
I was camping once in Michigan, and we were in a pretty secluded spot with distinct individual campsites. It was in the fall, so dried leaves were all over the ground. When we were settling into sleep, we started to hear these slow, consistent footsteps on the leaves. They’d walk around the campsite, circle our tent, and just walk all around without any clear intentions.
Obviously, we assumed it was some kind of animal, but when we rushed out with a light, there was nothing—I mean no sound, no trace of anything. Once we were back in the tent, these footsteps immediately started up again, and they didn’t come from far away; they started up right next to our tent. We repeated this whole rigamarole probably three more times, because of how distinct and close and creepy those footsteps were. We never caught even a glimpse of what was walking around.
The next morning, we were sitting by the fire and started hearing the steps again—only to look down and realize it was the sound of multiple small frogs hopping around the campsite.
4. Quaking In My Tent
I was camping in Zion National Park in late August 1992. The campground was almost empty by then. At 3:30 in the morning, I woke up in midair. Do you know those dreams where that happens? I figured that's what it was...then I suddenly hit the ground.Earthquake. I started hearing cracking sounds, a few small thuds, then one big thud. Little bits of the cliff face had been sheared off.
Thankfully, the campground was far enough from there that no one was injured. Had that happened in the daytime, there'd be a good chance that a number of people wouldn't have made it. The park was closed for a few days after that, and we couldn't get in or out for much of that day. One entrance road was inaccessible, and the other one was blocked by a boulder the size of a car.
After some time, they removed the boulder and kicked everyone out of the park. I called home to say I was OK and everyone was like, "Why, what happened?" It hadn't made the news or anything. Fortunately, it was relatively mild; just some local destruction.
5. A Bone-Chilling Moan
When I was pretty young, went camping with my dad in Alabama. It was late at night, and the embers of the fire were dying down.We were about to go to sleep when we heard a bone-chilling moan.We looked at each other and decided it was just the trees rubbing together, but then it happened two more times. My dad grabbed the flashlight and I walked behind him with a big stick, determined I would save him if something went wrong.
Eventually, we discovered a woman lying on the ground, not far from our campsite. She was on a hill, with her head facing down, feet uphill, continuing to moan. It turned out that she had so much to drink she could hardly talk, but she was also camping out in these woods with her boyfriend. They had a big fight and he drove away, leaving her alone in the forest.
She had seen our fire dying and wanted to give us the rest of her firewood before she left too, but she had tripped and was too loaded to get up. We got her back to her campsite and made sure she wasn’t driving anywhere that night. I’ll never forget that moaning sound though.
6. Your Worst Fear
I was camping in the Serengeti with the Masai tribe men as guards. We were sitting around the fire when suddenly, the Masi looked out into the pitch blackness, turned the flashlight on, and illuminated the eyes of a lion 40 yards out. It was just staring at us. I never heard a thing.
7. Howl At The Moon
One time in the wilderness, me and a couple of other guys, fried as we were, started howling at the moon.Huge mistake.We inadvertently attracted real wolves. They showed up at our campsite about an hour and a half later when we were in our hammocks getting ready to sleep. They sniffed around for a couple of minutes and then went off.
I guess they were disappointed in what they found. Luckily, they were not desperately hungry. Anyway, I was very scared and I tried to remain completely still during the brief encounter.
8. Where Did They Go?
I used to camp at this fairly secluded spot on state land. I’d been going to that site since I was a kid, and it had become an annual tradition for my buddies and me to kind of “unplug” and rough it for a few days. However, at the time (a little over 15 years ago now), it was relatively unknown and it was a bit of a trek to get to the campsite.
It was in the middle of the woods but close to a lake, so perfect for swimming. We're talking no cell signal, no light pollution...We werecompletely alone out there.Still, my buddies and I were stoked to get out there. One summer afternoon, I was the first to arrive, ready for a week of camping, drinking, and swimming.
However, to my dismay, I discovered that the site already had an established campsite. There were a couple of tents set up. Granted, it's a fairly large campsite so I decided to haul my gear over and see if I could talk the other campers into letting us "share" the spot. Who knows, they might be cool and maybe it'll be one big party.
I approached the site, and...there were no people. The tents were empty. There was evidence of a campfire, so I knew there were people there not too long ago. I decided to check the lake, thinking that maybe they went swimming.That's when things started getting freaky.There was a steep path that led from the site to the lake, and as I was walking alongside it, I discovered some debris that had blown down along the path.
There was a sleeping bag, some tools, and some clothes that had been on a line, but now they were all in the dirt. The clothes were wet with ditch water, and they'd been sitting on the ground in the path for some time. There were no people at the lake...and when I returned to the site, upon further investigation, I discovered that the site had been abandoned for some time. But that didn't explain why they just left everything behind.
From what I could tell, the people camping there had left in a big freaking hurry. The tents were fairly new...I mean, that's not just stuff that you leave behind unless you're scrambling and only grabbing the essentials. What was weird to me was that the fire was out, but there was still ice in their coolers and beers, so it couldn't have been too long ago that they were there.
My other buddies arrived later on. We decided to set up camp nearby and keep an eye on it. Maybe the people had to leave for an emergency or something. We wound up camping there for the whole week and there was no evidence of people coming back to retrieve their stuff. Luckily, the DNR happened to stop by on patrol and we filled them in on our discovery.
They let us know they'd be packing up the stuff to take it to a "lost and found" up at their station. Kind of creepy, but mostly weird. Who knows what happened to those people.
9. A Bloodcurdling Shriek
When I was a kid, my best friend's grandparents lived on a "farm" (maybe 100 acres of forest with a few clearings and a house) that we used to camp out in all the time. One night, a few of us were camping and a sound cut through the forest.We heard repeated thumps and screaming coming from the trees.
We had literally just finished reading a book about Bigfoot in school and we were positive that Bigfoot was out in the woods hitting trees and roaring. We got out of the tent, terrified, and walked through the woods towards the noise. We eventually came to a clearing and found several of my friend's uncles trying to fix an old barn.
Oh, and they were absolutely loaded. At like 2 in the morning. The thumps were the sound of them hitting the wood with hammers. The screams were when they missed and hit themselves. We were terrified, but now it's hilarious.
10. When The Bee Stings...
I was on a trip with the YMCA Camp Widji and on our last day on the trail, we got up early to hike the last few miles to where the van to pick us up was. We rounded a turn on the trail and I could see the van and a weird swirling dark cloud on the trail ahead. Out of nowhere,the guy in front screamed and my worst nightmare started.All of us were suddenly swarmed by these big black wasps.
I accidentally got one in my hand and it was the size of a cicada. I only got two stings but the two guys in front got closer to 10. We booked it back up the trail away from the van and our counselor immediately started handing out Epi-Pens, but none of us turned out to be allergic. We hiked the long way around the wasps to the van but man, I was shaking the whole time.
11. Worst-Cast Scenario
10 years ago, I went camping for a weekend. It was supposed to be fun.That trip will haunt me forever.We went out hiking the morning of the second day and pretty soon we found ourselves off-trail on a pretty steep incline along the Monashee River. We were about 100 feet up the incline. Suddenly, one of my friends lost his footing and started to slide.
On the way down, he took out my other friend and I watched them hit every rock and tree on the way down to the rapids.I climbed down to find one of their bodies on the side of the river, and the other one taken away by the river. I couldn't locate him at the time, but his body was found two weeks later, around two kilometers from where they fell.
His body, or whatever is left of it, was still in the river because when the search and rescue teams tried to remove it from the log jam, it was stuck in, and the boulders on the river bank came loose and collapsed on top of him.This was a very abbreviated version of the story, but overall a very scary day.
12. That Laughter In Your Ears
I was on a camping trip with the Scouts and me and my friend were put in the same tent as this weird kid. He was acting up all the time, getting into fights, and showing off how many knives he had. Anyway, one night, we were in our tent playing blackjack and I guess I said something that made him mad because he started yelling at me. Well, that let the Scout leaders know we were still up, so they told us to get to bed.
I don't know how long I was asleep but ended up waking to him choking me. I thrashed about and tried to get him off me, but I couldn't focus and I was panicking. I remember the tent seemed to be getting darker, and that my eyelids were getting heavier. I tried to breathe, but I just felt so tired. I was starting to fade away.I feared his laughter would be the last thing I ever heard...then there was a WHAM!!!
It was my friend—he had woken up from the noise and he started clobbering the dude. I was part coughing and part breathing once he got off me. My friend screamed for help and that got the adults' attention. He was yelled at for what he did and they isolated him so that he would be sleeping in a tent alone right near the adults' tents. I couldn't sleep after that.
I got into a tent with my older brother and I must have woken up three times that night kicking and screaming from nightmares of him trying to end me. When we all got back from the camp, his parents were told what happened and that he was banned from Boy Scouts. They also told my mom, and it must have taken the active will of God for her not to go and kick him.
He got banned from a bunch of other activities, so I never really saw him again. I still wake up scared from nightmares of being choked or suffocated. And while I am a pretty sound sleeper, if anyone tries to walk or get close to me while I am asleep, I shoot up awake and panic. I can't even really nap with my dogs because of it.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep soundly around anyone ever again.
13. Shiver Me Timbers
When I was in Boy Scouts, we were camping in a pretty nasty storm that kept getting worse. When we tried going to bed, all we heard were loud thumping noises everywhere. Well as it turned out, a great number of the very large old trees around the entire site and campground had come down overnight. These were easily three feet wide, toppled all around us. Here's the scary part, though...
If even one of those trees had hit a tent, whoever was inside wouldn't have made it.
14. Nightmare Fuel
I fell asleep in the car, which had some firewood on the roof rack. I woke up later with a puffy eye that both mom and dad kept telling me was nothing (even though they never once looked at it). We were playing cards when all of a sudden, mymom let out this piercing scream.Sheturned away from me in horror.
A family friend of mine flicked off the big, juiced-up leech which had crawled out of my eye and was heading for my nose. I watched the leech burn in the fire while my eyeball bled into a noteworthy 14 tissues.
15. Extreme Sports
We went to a very small patch of land that my friend owned at the back of a local park. They had built some BMX jumps there and we wanted to test them out. We turned up and threw our bikes on the ground near these holes in the mud. We didn’t think about it too much; we just presumed they were old badger dens or rabbit tunnels or something, which were super common in the countryside where I grew up.
We were there for a while, but the jumps were in crummy condition, so we didn’t really ride; we just hung out. Later on, when we went to get our bikes, we were met with a shocking surprise—all of our bikes were literally COVERED in freaking wasps. Like I couldn’t even see most of my handlebars as they were swarmed.
Turns out, the holes underground were home to a giant wasp nest, and as hard as we tried, we couldn’t get our bikes back without being absolutely stung into oblivion.I called my absolute saint of a father, who I could tell was thinking "Ha, a couple of dang bees," but nonetheless, he agreed to help out. Well, when he turned up, he realized the extent of it!
But being the legend that he is, he turned up with a blowtorch and a rag on a stick to smoke the monsters out. It worked like a charm! I got home and hopped in the shower. I counted 18 visible wasp stings, and there were six wasps still physically attached to me and my clothes. There was one in hair and two in boxer shorts, too.
16. Crashing Down
I went to Guatemala with my girlfriend. We did a three-day hike through the jungle to Tikal. We slept in a tent at two tiny ranger campsites deep in the woods. During the second night, a massive thunderstorm came down from above us. Then, at 4 am, I woke up and heard some male voices outside. I left the tent to check them out and that's when two guys with rifles approached me.I froze in my tracks.
I told my girlfriend to stay in the tent because I didn't want her to worry. She didn't comply and joined me anyway...It turned out that those guys were local hunters looking for shelter in the camp. I offered them coffee, which made them more than happy. About 30 seconds later, the storm got so intense that a big tree fell and crashed onto our tent...If I had not left to check out the guys, or worse, if my girlfriend stayed in there...we'd have both been crushed.
17. Don't Get "Boared"
I went backpacking with my wife and our dog in Arkansas. Alone on top of a mountain, we heard grunts and footsteps just outside our tent. I wasn’t sure if it was an animal or a human. I was armed with a 9 mm, and I was deciding on what I should do, as even opening the tent zipper would undoubtedly give me away.
Strangely, our dog remained quiet, which was unusual in that situation. Something told me not to arouse the interest of whatever was out there. Eventually, it revealed itself, andI’m extremely glad I didn’t make any noise.It was a boar.If boars are as ill-tempered as I am led to believe, my piece would likely have made the situation worse.
Even if I miraculously hit the charging pig in the dark, it still would have probably torn me to pieces. Those things are battle tanks.
18. Interrupted The Chase
Just two weeks ago, I was eating dinner with a buddy on a mountainside in Denali National Park. We heard the sound of rocks tumbling down from the steep hillside above us and my first thought was, "Uh oh, landslide". But it turned out to be even crazier.When I looked over, about 10 feet away from us, five caribou (two of which were just babies) were sprinting down the hillside next to us.
Close behind them, a wolf was chasing them down the mountain.When it saw us, the wolf stopped next to us and stared for a second, and then ran back up the hill to a little outcropping of rock about 60 feet away. It stood there, stared at us for a good half of a minute, took a few steps towards us, then ran away. We knew there was a wolf den in the area, but wolf encounters are rare in that park and I never would've wished to see one so close.
I wasn't really afraid for my life since there were two of us and only one of him, but it was a very wild experience and my legs were definitely shaking.
19. Too Many Questions
We were teenagers, 16 and 18, when we went up alone. We made dinner and we were having a good time when some guy passed by our site in the river. He had a fishing pole, so we were like whatever. He asked to go through our site to the road and we figured it was harmless enough, so we both said yeah.Big mistake.
He stopped and looked around, asking us questions. "How old are you? Where are you from? How long are you staying?" These were typical questions that were obviously none of his business, but we were naive enough to answer. He eventually left and headed down the canyon on the road. A couple of hours later, he showed up again, but this time he was with a buddy.
Both of them were middle-aged, probably in their mid-40s. They started asking more questions. The first guy walked around and snoops about our campsite, and he gave us an uneasy feeling. Eventually, they left, and we were both super grateful.But there was still something...off.They went up the canyon, rather than back where they came from.
Another couple of hours passed and it was already dark. My friend mentioned how she couldn't hear anything because of the river and it made her a bit antsy. We both had a gut feeling that we needed to leave and FAST.Maybe nothing would have happened, but we both felt it. The guys asked all the right questions to know that we were there alone and defenseless that night.
20. "Do You Believe In God?"
In college, I did a lot of solo car camping in the back of the truck that I owned at the time. I went to a remote public area in the Ozarks and I planned to stay overnight. After setting up all my bedding and having dinner, I decided to hunker down for the night. Well, about 45 minutes after turning off the light, I started hearing leaves crunching in the woods about 30 yards away.
I wasn't really concerned; I just wrote it off as an opossum, deer, coyote, or another animal moving through the area.However, my imagination eventually started going wild as it always does and I started thinking of the worst-case scenario. More leaves were crunching, and closer every time. Something was definitely at the campsite.
I usually carry a can of bear spray but being a dumb kid, I didn't think about the fact that I was in an enclosed space until I was ready to use it. At some point, the crunching leaves began to fade, so Istarted to relax a little.But my ordeal wasn't over.At 2 in the morning, there was something walking between me in the campfire. At that point, an incredibly scary voice from inside my truck camper asked: "Do you believe in God?"
I started screaming and turned on headlamps, thrashing about and getting ready to fight for my life. The footsteps went away and disappeared into the woods as I was in full panic mode. I had to tell myself I hallucinated the whole thing because of the sugary dessert I ate before bed. It still gets my heart racing when I think about it too much to this day.
21. Big Surprise
When my girlfriend and I started dating, we went out camping in the fall. The leaves were down and it was kind of chilly...very romantic. In the middle of the night, we heard what we assumed was a two-legged creature near our car. Being the man I was, I got the boots on and headed out. My girlfriend handed me this crummy little pocket knife.
As soon as I undid the zipper, I heard the footsteps running away. I was being all manly, so I went check anyway. Upon returning to the tent, I was faced with a .380 pistol pointed at me...That was pretty scary.She sent me into the forest with a toy, basically. She didn't want me to know she had a pistol, so it wasn't "weird" to her.
I was hiking a trail in east Tennessee. I hadn't seen a soul since leaving the parking lot that morning. I made camp up on top of a rock bluff 50 yards off the trail as the sun set, then I had a quick dinner and fell asleep at around 7 pm. Around 11 pm, I woke up to voices that sounded German. I listened for a few minutes and I could hear footsteps and voices coming toward the tent.
I woke up my hiking partner who heard the same thing I was hearing. The footsteps stopped some 10 feet from the tent and I heard the same two mumbling voices. I unzipped the tent and looked out, but there was nothing. I got my flashlight and shone it around....but still nothing.OK, now it was getting weird.After a few minutes, I got back in the tent, and we both tried to sleep.
But after a few minutes, the voices started up again...plus the sound of someone cutting a tree with an ax.My partner pulled on his boots, and we both agreed that the sound was just 10 feet away to the right of the tent. He unzipped the tent slowly, as we were still hearing sounds, and he jumped outside with his flashlight. He headed in the direction of the sounds...but nothing.
We sat outside the tent for over an hour because there was no way we were going to sleep, but we heard nothing. Eventually, we were both about to pass out, so we went back to the tent and fell asleep.Around 3:30 am, the ax started again, and we both just lay there, listening. A few minutes later, we heard the cracking and whooshing sound of a falling tree, as well as a thud as it hit the ground.
We both jumped up and scrambled out of the tent.Again, there was nothing. No sound at all. No wind whistling through the trees. No bugs. No frogs. Just silence.We packed up everything in minutes but decided not to leave because climbing back down to the trail was difficult in the daylight and too risky in the dark. We sat there until the sun came up without hearing the voices or the ax again.
We'd calmed down somewhat by that point and started searching the area. We probably went 100 yards in every direction from our camp and there was no sign that anyone had been there.
23. Check Your Smellables
About twenty years ago in Pisgah National Forest, I was camping in a hammock for the first time. I didn't have a rain tarp yet, leaving myself completely uncovered, save for a sleeping bag. Now, this was a trip organized by a summer camp in the area, so there were about six other teens with me. One kid decided, "Hey, chocolate, that's not a smellable right?" and he left the chocolate in his pack, right next to mine, under the hammock.
You may see where this is going...Lo and behold, around 12 am, a juvenile black bear mosied his way into our campsite looking for that sweet, sweet chocolate. As he was messing with the packs underneath the hammock, his back kept bumping into me. I was starting to wake up but I was very groggy. I kind of thought it was the kid looking for something in his pack.
The bear realized that the hammock was moving, and gives it a bat with his paw, like a cat with yarn, swinging at me. At that point, I realized it was not a camper and I started screaming. The rest of the campsite woke up and we threw rocks at the bear until it ran away. The kid got a severe punishment.
24. That's Not A Raccoon...
We were camping up in Canada in a small cabin. There had been raccoons trying to get into the outdoor trash cans every night. One night, my dad heard them and got out of bed. We all followed him so we could see him yell at the raccoons. As he went to the door, my mom was standing behind him, then my brother and I.
My father opened the door andthe next thing we knew, we had all crashed down on the floor. My father slammed the door and fell back onto us all. When he opened the door again, there was a massive Grizzly bear that stood up in the frame. I definitely did not sleep that night.
25. Clip Clop
Man, the most scared I've ever been was when I went camping at a horse riding show. The venue wasn't in the wilderness at all, just a big park area, and we were basically camped out in practically a grass parking lot. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I was woken up by something nudging my head.My stomach dropped.
It didn't take long to figure out that a few of the horses had gotten loose and were just grazing around the base of our tent—but that wasn't a good thing. The thing is, horses are freaking big, and one of them was walking around in the dark right next to my head. It seemed entirely feasible that the horse might accidentally step on the edge of the tent, which was where our heads were.
I considered making noise or swatting at the horse's nose to try and get him to move away, but spooking the giant horse standing right above us also seemed like a bad idea. In the end, I just ended up just sitting up in the tent until he moved along, it was all good, but it felt like we were just one casual horse step away from brain damage.
26. The Sands Reveal
I was in the Sahara and a sandstorm blew away loads of the sand, so old camps and buildings were uncovered. We were walking back at night towards what we thought was our camp because we saw a fire and even heard drumming, but when we got there, it was completely dark and silent. Turns out, it was one of the uncovered camps.
My friend got scared and he didn't want to look around, but I was curious so went closer. But as I got near to the closest building, I got a really ominous feeling and wimped out. I have no clue what we saw or heard, but there was definitely no fire or drumming when we were close.
27. No Normal Noise
I was once solo camping for the first time in Harz, Germany. It was my first time going alone and I was very new to it. When I arrived in Wernigerode, I started walking, but the path on my map didn't exist so I went back. It was already dark when I returned to the village, so I decided to sleep in the hills close to the village.
After I set up camp, I wanted to sleep but I heard noises. Not normal noises, though.Nightmare noises.It almost sounded like a baby crying and screaming in short bursts. I got paranoid over a 15-minute period, gradually hearing the sounds coming closer. After a while, the sound was so close that I said screw this—I put on my clothes, went out of the tent, and dragged it to the road.
I packed everything, went into the village again, and slept in the local park. Unfortunately, there were no places hidden from the path, so I chose to sleep as far away from the path in only my green sleeping bag. The next day, I woke up early and got back. It was probably some bird and my paranoia made it worse than it was.
28. It Is Time To Leave
Last summer, I was camping in San Juan's in southwest Colorado. We go almost every year, but the weather last year was like I'd never seen before. It's always monsoon season when we go camping, but this time it started raining and it just didn't stop. For five days, we camped in constant rain with landslides coming down all around us.
Every day, we were completely blocked from leaving camp, with the route to the closest town blocked. A bad avalanche that occurred in the winter prior cleared swaths of trees, and wildfires had cleared out our normal camping areas. It left nothing but bare ground to be washed away by the rains.On our last day of camping as we were packing up, we heard the familiar sound of a landslide starting.
Then came the most terrifying blood-curdling scream I had ever heard in my life.I had no doubt I heard someone die that morning from across the valley, so we booked it down the mountain and found someone with an ATV and radio to try to get help.We headed back home going east on I70 afterward and ended up missing the Glenwood Canyon landslide by about 45 minutes.
It was so powerful that it changed the course of the Colorado River and completely washed away the highway. Mother Nature taught me a lot about respecting her power that trip.
29. Where Am I?
I was in Boy Scouts (in the US) which does many campouts throughout the year. We were camping at some park in New England when I was about 14 years old. I was tent mates with this other kid who was always such a jerk. I don't remember the details well, but before bunking down for the night, he somehow developed hypothermia. It was cold, but no snow or anything.
Either way, he got taken away; I could only assume to a hospital. So I had the tent to myself.That turned out to be a serious problem.There was a nasty windstorm that night, but being a very sound sleeper, I never noticed. In the morning, I heard people calling out from really far away, but couldn't understand them, so I ignored it. The wind must have shifted direction because suddenly I could hear the conversations.
I heard my name mentioned and someone said, "His tent was here last night, where did he go?" I heard people calling out again, and at that point, I understood that they were calling my name. I opened the tent to find out I was no longer in the field near the Pavillion where I had struck my tent. I was about 500 feet away and about 150 feet into the woods. I don't know how I got there.
I can only assume the wind somehow moved me. Perhaps by other scouts, but people were genuinely concerned and they were starting to put together groups to go out looking for me. If it was the wind, that is some scary stuff...especially since I didn't wake up. If it was other scouts, I will never know as nobody claimed to have done it.
30. Perilous Pancho
It had just stopped raining and dinner was on the go. We had to stoke the fire back up quickly, so everyone went to work gathering wood from the forest. Twigs, branches, kindling—the fire was going nicely, tall flames and all. We had to keep adding to it so we could get the coalsto boil the water and cook the food. I was in a plastic poncho and at one point, I turned around to tidy the wood pile by the fire.Then came a loud shout: "LOOK OUT!"
I turned around, startled, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then, I heard running footsteps from the side and before I could turn to look, I got tackled. The poncho got ripped off, up my back and over my head, and as I hit the ground, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a fireball sailing through the air. It then landed on the pine needles of the ground ahead.
The others ran to it and stomped it out, as the camper who tackled me stood and helped me to my feet. My back had been to the fire, and as I was bending over to tidy the woodpile, the bottom edge of the poncho had caught fire and flames shot up my back. I didn't even feel it or know it, but my dad's friend Ted just happened to glance up that moment and see my back go up in flames.
He didn't hesitate,just ran and jumped and tore it off...split seconds before it would have melted into my back. Saved my life.
31. Panic, But Silent
During high school, I went camping in the Cherokee National Forest at a common but not official campsite with two friends. Everything went great and we went to sleep in the one tent we brought. Well past dark, I awakened to hear voices at our campsite. All three of us were in our tent. Based on where the voices were coming from, I knew they were sitting around the fire in our camping chairs.
My two friends both started stirring too and I quickly hushed them.We all began to silently panic.I always carry a pocket knife, even back then, so I grabbed that and silently waited. They eventually got up and walked away, but I’ve never forgotten that night. This was also the same campsite where one of my friends and I got scared awake by the loud howl of a wolf.
It sounded like it was across the small creek that was right next to us (probably 20 yards at most).
My partner and I misjudged how far we could get in a canoe before dark. We did a few portages and ended up on a big lake, and seemingly all the campsites were taken. So we just kept going, trying to find an empty site. We got to a section of the lake that had almost no campsites, but we knew there were more up ahead, so we kept going.
When the sun set, it got very cold and very dark, very fast. We had to slowly canoe along the edge of the lake, pointing our flashlights at the trees. The trees were so dense and the rocks so steep that if it was not a campsite, then there was no way we could climb ashore. Even with the flashlights and being up close, we could barely make out the trees through the mist hanging on the water.
Occasionally, we'd see the reflection of eyes in the trees—probably a raccoon or something, but still terrifying. It took hours. We knew that if we hit a log and capsized, it was so cold that we would have risked getting hypothermia. Eventually, we found a campsite and set up our tent in the dark. We were exhausted, but so happy to finally be safe.
For the next few days, we stayed on that site and ended up having a great time, but for a while there it was pretty terrifying.
33. Take Shelter
Two years ago, my wife and I decided we would sleep in a shelter on the AT after a long 14-mile hike. We were having dinner with another couple who was camping down the trail a bit around sundown when a man came into the shelter. He turned us down to join us for dinner and had us sitting on the edge of the shelter, watching us.Alarm bells started going off in my head.
Nightfall came and it was time for bed. My wife and I were the only other people in the shelter that night and we tried to make small talk before going to bed. The man finally communicated with us a little as he set up the last of his gear and crawled into his bed, turning off his light. Then things started getting creepy. Around 11:30, the man opened his pack and proceeded to pull out some devices. He opened and closed it for thirty minutes.
The problem was the noise was distinctly that of a pocket knife. Around 12, the man went out without a headlamp to "use the bathroom". At that point, I try to place my wife's hand on theknifebeside my pillow because I knew she was awake and terrified as well. The man came back into the shelter and just stood by his sleeping bag for the next twenty minutes while we lay perfectly still, with my back facing him.
Then out of nowhere, I heard him walk toward us.I panicked and let go of my wife's hand that I had been holding and I turned over towards him, pretending to be startled. I honestly thought I was about to have to fight for my wife's life. The man scurried back to his bag 15 feet away and zipped it up. I am still not sure what his intent was to this day and it bothers me the most.
I stayed awake for the rest of the night and I would occasionally make noises to make him aware that I was awake. At 4:30, a horse, common in this section of the Grayson Highland, tried to get in the shelter with us and my wife feigned interest in him to make an excuse to get up. I have never had a longer hike than the seven-mile hike out the next day.
34. Ocala Omens
I used to do a lot of solo camping in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. On a long weekend trip, I found a nice, primitive campground about 20 minutes from a paved road and I set up camp. On the third night, around 2 am, I woke up to a vehicle barreling down a dirt road near the camp area. I heard it stop and someone got out.
They traipsed through the woods to where my tent was and stood outside the tent door for a fairly long time—long enough for me to hear a distinct guttural breathing sound and some groans as they stood outside the tent door. I had agunwith me and it was pointed directly at the area where I heard the breathing. They continued to stand there for a long time, like 10 minutes.
I was going to say something but didn't want to exacerbate the situation. I just remained quiet. I heard a heavy sigh and they walked away. After I heard the vehicle leave, I just continued to lay motionless for about an hour before I decided to pack up and leave. There is always a body or two showing up in the deep woods of Ocala, and I often see gangs of prisoners walking lines in the brush to look for evidence of wrongdoings...
But I never thought I'd be involved.I haven't been back since and I only solo camp in areas close to or in state parks.
It was a sheer terror when I was a kid at Boy Scout summer camp. One kid left a couple of Airheads out on the picnic table. Everyone woke up in the middle of the night to, no joke, 30+ raccoons fighting over the Airheads. They were also going into tents looking for more food. If you've never heard that many hissing and growling raccoons at the same time, good for you.
36. Lock The Door
When I was a dopey little kid (maybe 10 or 11), I went to a family reunion at a campground. My similarly-aged cousin and I were left near the fire as a bunch of other people were down at a meadow playing the traditional family football game. The fire was dying and we couldn't find any wood, but we noticed that we were surrounded by trees that we realized were made of wood.
We found a saw and started cutting off the deadest-looking branches. Partway through, a car stopped in front of the campsite—a guy got out and started yelling at us to stop cutting the branches off. We stopped, but he got angrier and angrier, saying that we were cutting down the trees and that he was going to get a ranger. I was already scared, butthen things took a dark turn.
That was when he pulled a pistol out and said he was going to make us stop cutting down trees. Luckily, just then, my father—a very tall and imposing man—showed up and the guy jumped in his car and tore off. My parents called the ranger and we did get a stern lecture about not cutting off branches in a state park, but that was the end of it—or so I thought.
We were sleeping in an RV that year which we had borrowed from a neighbor. The next morning, I slept in. My parents had gone to get the fire going and I was still asleep with the door thankfully locked. Someone tried to open the door to the camper, but I was too tired to get up. When the door wouldn't open, they started pounding and shaking the RV.
Then they started yanking and pulling on the windows.I woke up, freaked out, and started screaming.All I could see through the frosted glass was a large shadow. Unfortunately, the fire pit was on the opposite side of the door, but just as the stranger got really angry, a ranger car pulled up with lights flashing and the figure ran.
I later learned that my dad had asked the ranger to drive past our campsite periodically and he had caught the guy from the night before trying to break into our RV with me inside! I didn't sleep well that night.
37. Sweet Tooth
We heard footsteps all around our tents late at night while camping in the desert. We thought it was maybe some sloshed guy from one of the nearby camps who had been riding dirt bikes and stuff all day, but we couldn't see anyone. We couldn't see any shadows, either. We kept hearing the footsteps, literally inches from our tent. I woke up my friend silently and made him listen too...we were freaking out.
Finally, they went away, so I slowly opened my tent zipper to look around and see who it was. I threw out a glowstick and saw some eyes flash in the darkness. Turns out, it was two white desert foxes, whose footsteps were somehow extremely heavy sounding. When I saw them, they were on our camp table, eating all of our chocolate.
38. The Shadow On The Wall
When I was a teenager, I was camping with some friends in an alpine hut. I would have been 14 years old. We'd hiked in through the bush, and we hadn't seen anyone else since we were dropped off that morning. It was late at night, in the middle of winter. I was the only one still awake, it was a full moon and clear night. Moonlight was streaming in through the window, casting a big light patch on the wall opposite me.
I remember it clearly, right down to the shadow of the cross between the window panes. Now...imagine, if you will, someone walking up behind you as you face a wall, with the headlights of a car behind. I'm sure you can imagine the way you would see their shadow, clearly humanoid, looming up alongside your own.
Well, lying there, on the floor of this old hut, the only person awake, I saw that shadow. In the rectangle of moonlight opposite me, I saw a shadow like that of a person walking towards the hut grow up the wall over about 20 seconds. It even swayed slightly from side to side as a person's shadow would with each footstep. When the shadow was filling about 3/4ths of the moonlit space on the wall, it suddenly shot to the side, as if a person had suddenly dived away to avoid being seen.
I got up, looked out the door, and there was no one there. I woke up my best mate and told him I thought someone was outside. We went all around the hut, and there was no one out there. We called out into the night, and there was no response. We were about 20 km from the nearest highway, on a remote bush track, so it's not like there were many casual passersby.
There were certainly no vehicles nearby that we could hear the sound of, and as I said, we hadn't seen anyone since that morning when we were dropped off. Pretty much the most unnerving thing I have ever experienced. I've never seen anything like it since, and to this day, I can't think of a rational explanation for it.
I went camping with a large group of friends a couple of years after high school, eight years ago maybe. Everyone was good and sauced, and one of my friends, we'll call him Lyle, wanted to go have his own private fire in the woods, away from the campsite.Terrible idea, I know.He would start a fire in the woods, and someone from the site would put it out quickly and say, "Lyle, you're gonna start a freaking forest fire. Stop".
This happened a few times and Lyle got mad that people were raining on his parade. He argued that it was far more difficult to start a forest fire than everyone thought. And to prove his point, he poured lighter fluid all over his shirt and shorts and started stepping over the main campfire we had built (remember, almost everyone was pretty loaded).I wish I was joking.
He did this a few times and, amazingly, he didn't catch fire. He kept pushing his luck, and let one of our other friends touch a flaming stick to his shirt. All of a sudden Lyle goes up in flames and instinctively sprints off into the woods, down a hill. A couple of our friends tried to follow him but he was booking it, and we lost track of him quickly.
He came walking up the hill a minute later with his shirt off, and he appeared to be okay. His shirt was burned badly, and his skin was a little pink, but he seemed fine. He went to go lay down in his van and a few minutes later, he started screaming bloody murder. We went to check on him in the van, and he was writhing around in agony. His chest was particularly messed up.
My girlfriend and I were the onlysoberpeople up there, so we had to drive him down the mountain in his van. We had no cell service up there, so we were trying to get down quickly so we could call an ambulance. I came like 10 inches away from plowing an elk at 60 mph on the way down, but we made it and an ambulance met us on the road.
And then, later that night, back at the campsite one of my other friends broke his leg trying to backflip off his car.
40. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Two years ago, I was camping in New Jersey at a State Park campsite. It was late in the season, so there were only three groups there. One night, I heard some ATVs and trucks driving around, and I assumed it was just some locals off-roading throughout the night. I had my contacts out, so I couldn't see more than 10 feet, and I slept pretty well anyway, getting up once to pee on the nearby tree, then going back to my tent.
The next morning, I opened my tent and there are around 15 officers from three agencies and two search dogs walking around the site next to me, through my site, back and forth, and around my car. I was like, "Uh, is everything okay here?" The officer asked me about the people at the site next to me. When did they get there? Were they arguing about anything? Did I see or hear anything odd?
I told them that a guy and a teenager showed up around dinner, set up camp, sat around their fire, then I went to bed. Nothing unusual. That's when they told me the dark news. The teenager went missing the night before. The father had left, and when he came back, the dude was gone. They asked me about my travel plans. I had out-of-state license plates. I was camping alone. They got my contact information and entered my info into some database.
I cooked my hamburgers on the campfire and read a book while they started to pack up and leave, a few at a time. Two of them were still there after dinner, about to leave. And then, out of nowhere, the teenager dude walked out of the forest.We were all like "What the eff?"Turns out, he went for a walk that night, got lost, spent two nights in the woods, then found his way back, literally walking out of the woods right before the officers were going to leave for the evening and return with a boat to drag the lake and search for a body.
41. That's A Funny Wolf
I went camping last week. While I was chatting with some people who were staying past the end of a private event that had just concluded there, I mentioned camping alone in a certain secluded part of the 170 acres available. I was warned to camp elsewhere since I was the only person camping that night. I guess wolves typically raid the camp for scraps of food from careless campers, and this particular area was a favorite of theirs.
Obviously, I camped in my usual spot, rather than this secluded spot. As night replaced the sunlight, I could hear the wolves howling and yelping as normal, but they sounded much closer than I remembered on my numerous camping trips in this same spot over the years. I decided I just imagined them sounding closer, louder. Eventually, I went to bed.
And then something woke me up from a deep sleep. It was a slight noise. A rustle. Then the snap of a twig.Suddenly, I was awake and extremely alert.I turned on my headlamp and looked out through the netting of my tent. It was hazy with smoke and fog, so I couldn't see anything. And then I heard more rustling. I made some loud noises to scare off whatever it was. That didn't work.
After several attempts to scare this thing off (whatever it was), I decided to just get it over with and be stupid and brave. So I got out of the tent. I had a long, pointy fence post as my weapon, should I need one. Turns out it was a dang raccoon. Not a wolf. And it tore through everything. The end.
42. Immaculate Campsite
I went on a road trip with some friends to Lake Chelan. We left late and got lost (this was before cell phones, we didn’t have a map and trusted my friend's memory). So we pulled off the road and decided to camp for the night in a grassy area. We had limited lights and quickly made our tent. We were woken in the morning by someone hitting the tent and screaming to get off his property.
We’d inadvertently camped on some poor guy's lawn. We were just dumb 18-year-old kids but we have never packed up camp that quickly before!
43. Hot Rocks Are No Joke
We used to cook on "hot rocks" for a lot of stuff. We'd find a nice flat smooth rock and put it just inside the edge of the fire, let it heat up, then pull it out and drop a burger patty, some bannock, or one of those frozen hash brown squares (seriously, like 10 seconds a side and you're eating tasty golden brown crispy potato, heck yeah).
For a long time, we only used small rocks, about the size of your hand or so, and it worked great. Perfect, even. Then we started trying river rocks because they were so smooth, but they cracked and broke apart from the water inside them. Then, one time, our buddy came back to camp with a 30-pound, 5-inch thick slab of limestone he found in the bush looking for firewood and he dropped it in the middle of a roaring fire.That was not a good idea.
We messed around for a while, collected some wood, and when we started clearing spaces for our tents a couple of hours later, that's when the slab blew up and split like two slices of bread, one slice propping itself up on end with the flat face facing out, right at us. We were all thankful that nothing happened because we had made the fire pit in the dirt hole of an uprooted tree, so when the rock burst, it couldn't come straight out at us.
Three of us spaced about ten feet apart when the slice that was propped up blew up again, about a minute after the first.This time, it was like a hand grenade of shrapnel.Glowing hot, jagged, tumbling rocky goodness, shrapnel. Not a piece touched us. We all saw stuff fly through the air, the size of two fists sailing past my friend's head (who said he heard it still sizzling). Since then, we've stopped using rocks around the fire in any form.
This was many years ago, and you know what? We're still nervous about whistling rocks in the campfire.
44. Don't Follow The Deer
A few years ago, my girlfriend at the time and I wanted to take a road trip to Bryce Canyon. We live in SoCal, so we took a week off from work to have time to drive up, camp a few days, and drive back. We drove to the national park without incident, but when we were there, we discovered that it was packed and there was no open campsite, so we drove out of the park and a county over. About 30 to 40 minutes away from the park, there was a dirt road that went off on the side, and we decided to see where it led.
As we followed the road, it got rougher and rougher...to the point where we slow down to deal with the rocks and unevenness. After an hour of that, to our relief, we saw signs for a campground up ahead. I do not remember the campground name, but it was a real place and it wasn't too shabby. There was hardly anyone there and it was pretty big.
We kind of just picked a campsite and set ourselves up. No one charged us for anything, no one said anything. We had a couple of good nights there.Now the scene is set and onto the scary part.On the third evening there, at about 4 in the afternoon, my girlfriend and I were at our campsite and we had just finished cleaning our bowls and utensils.
We heard a faint but close rustling, then a doe popped out from behind a tree, about 15 feet away. It was very close and coming closer. My girlfriend moved very slowly toward her bag, which had her camera. It was in the tent behind her to her right. The deer was not frightened at all, though. It didn't get all that close, maybe 10 feet away, and my girlfriend was able to get a picture of her.
The deer then walked away slowly into the woods. And my girlfriend and I looked at each other and for whatever reason, we both had the same thought: Let's follow her. We followed the deer, keeping pace but walking slowly behind her until we were maybe 10 minutes outside of the campground. My girlfriend was able to get some great shots of the deer walking through the woods with sun rays.
As we were looking at this amazing photo she took, we looked up at the deer and it was gone. And in front of us, nothing but forest. The same behind us. All around, just forest with no way of telling which way we came from or where to go. We walked back the way we thought we came and we didn't recognize anything.
It was quiet too. Not even birds. We couldn't hear people at all. We were a 10-minute walk away from the campsite, so we thought should hear someone. Right? Anyway, we tried to retrace our steps but we didn't recognize anything. And the sun was going down and it was starting to get cold. So we started picking up pace, lightly jogging. And eventually, we had to pull out our phones to see where we were going.
We eventually saw a campfire through the trees and went there. The people there helped us realize where we were...which somehow put us on the opposite side of the campground. I have no idea how we got so turned around. It took us another 45 minutes to find our campsite. It's crazy how easy it is to get lost. Or I'm just stupid.
We were only "lost" for like three hours. But we were so confused and disoriented. It sounds stupid, but it was scary...
45. Kangaroo Court
In Australia, there is this group called Outward Bound where you go out into the Bush for a few days or weeks and hike. They also teach you some skills. One of the things we do there is a solitary night where the instructors give you a place to set up camp and you spend a day and night by yourself to reflect.
During the day, the place where I had set up camp had at least two packs of kangaroos. A couple of times, they would hop right up to me, then see me and then turn around to hop back to the pack. There wasn't much else exciting happening during the day and I went to sleep. In the morning, I felt what I thought was someone trying to grab me so naturally,I pooped myself.I struggled a bit and it went away.
It turned out that a kangaroo hopped into my tent and jumped on me and then couldn't get its footing or something.
46. That Better Be Ringo
In high school, my friends and I used to do a lot of camping at Ragged Point; well before it had bathrooms and signs and stuff. It was basically a clearing under trees, a few yards away from the edge of the cliffs. It was a local spot mostly, and we never saw anyone out there when we went. We would bring drinks that we were too young to have, and we'd just hang out. We'd set up our little village of tents and do all the things we couldn't with parental oversight.Thinking back, it was a recipe for disaster.
One night, I think we'd been there for three nights already, and not seen anyone else. It started raining so we mostly retreated to our tents and went to sleep. In the early morning hours, we started hearing distant drums. No talking, just really deep, rhythmic drums. Slowly getting closer and closer. We were a mixed group of teenagers, in the pitch black, on a stormy night, alone.
It sounded like sacrificial drums coming our way. At least that's what my boyfriend at the time concluded, and once the idea had been introduced, that's what I thought too! Whispers from tent to tent ensued, but we weren't all that close together because how could we get busy if we were? We were also still a little loaded from the drinks.
Some people panicked and fled their tents to go to the biggest tent. I convinced my boyfriend to stay inside our tent, initially. Better not to flock together and make an easy single target like the dumb blonde in the horror movie who panics and gives away their position. Nobody slept much that night. The drummers stopped just out of sight but kept up until dawn.
Once it got light, we wanted to get the heck out of there ASAP. We threw all our stuff together as quietly as possible and debated the safest way to get from the cliffs to our cars, which would take us past the unseen threat.But as we were leaving, we finally realized the truth.Turns out, a bunch of hippies with giant drums had decided to go camping, in the middle of the night, in a storm, without tents.
They just hit the tree line and stayed there. Drumming away. They didn't even wake up when our huddled group scurried past and started hysterically laughing from relief. That was terrifying at the time, but it's one of our favorite stories to share in the years since.
47. Don't Stick Around To Find Out
Some buds and I decided to go on a hunting trip out in the Canadian Rockies. In the middle of nowhere, we set up camp on a cut line. I shot a deer about 50 yards from our camp and my friends helped me gut it. After we finished, we dragged the deer back to camp, but for someone reason, something told me to look behind where we gutted it.
In the span of fewer than 10 minutes, the pile of organs was gone. We don’t know what took it, but we packed up and got the heck out.
48. End Of Days
My brother and I were camping in our remote lake cabin during a dry summer. One night, while sleeping in the cabin, we woke up, smelling intense wood smoke.When we went outside, it looked like the apocalypse.The woods all around us were on fire—and spreading toward us, quickly. We grabbed our gear, got into the canoe, our only means of escape, and paddled out into the lake.
We sat there, watching our cabin burn, and everything around it, as we paddled further away for clean air to breathe. Both of us had nightmares from the experience for a long time thereafter. Even now, it's difficult to think of, knowing how hard our parents worked to create that camp, and how quickly everything was destroyed.
49. Savannah Scares
We were camped by a small river with very steep embankments that dropped a good few meters to the water. It was dusk, the light was fading, and I was walking towards the chow tent, which took me along the top of the side closest to the river. I saw a long dark shadow in the water and I shone my flashlight at it.That was almost the last thing I ever did.
A massive hippo exploded out of the water and went charging up the opposite bank. That's as much as my brain registered before I was full-out sprinting in the opposite direction, shrieking. We also had a leopard prowl through the camp that night, before the guards chased it off. The savannah is freaking scary.
50. Mama, Mama...
I was tent camping in Arkansas in 2003, andThe Blair Witch Projectwas still fresh on my mind. I was about 20 years old at the time. Around 2 to 3 in the morning, we were woken up by what sounded like a small child running around our tent, crying and trying to get in.I was thoroughly freaked out.
Finally, I decided to open the tent and there was a kid that couldn’t have been more than three years old, scared stiff, and only wearing a diaper. I had a lot of thoughts going through my head, but mostly: "How the heck do I handle this?" I couldn’t really go from campsite to campsite; plus the ranger office was closed. I was just standing there in the middle of the night holding a child that wasn’t mine.
We eventually decided to call 9-1-1, figuring it was the safest thing to do. Just then, a lady walked down the trail and exclaimed, "How did you get out?" The kid was saying "Mama, mama…" and went straight to her. She nonchalantly said thank you and walked away. Now, as a parent, I can’t imagine how much more that would freak me out if it were my kid.