Scare Them ‘Til They Drop Their S’mores
At camp, dinner’s done, but the fire still glows. Evening has turned to night and the circle of campers gathers close to the warm flames. Outside the circle, deep shadows extend into the forest. The conversation slows, and someone says, “Have you heard the story of the girl who stood on the grave?”
In honor of Halloween and the tradition of scary stories around the campfire, here are a few frightening tales for your next camping trip. You can find lots of creepy stories suitable for campfires by searching the Internet for “camping ghost stories.” Examples are these 28 stories from AmericanFolklore.net and 14 stories recommended for kids at SheKnows.com.
When telling or reading campfire stories to others, do it slowly, exagerating parts of it to create a spooky atmosphere with your tone. In our research we did find one caution about not scaring younger children too much. It might make them afraid to be outside after dark or to go camping again! So make it as funny or as scary as your audience needs.
Here are versions of a couple of classics you probably heard when you were a kid.
The Girl Who Stood on a Grave
Some boys and girls were at a party one night. There was a graveyard down the street, and they were talking about how scary it was.
“Don’t ever stand on a grave after dark”, one of the boys said. “The person inside will grab you. He’ll pull you under.”
“That’s not true,” one of the girls said. “It’s just a superstition.”
“I’ll give you a dollar if you stand on a grave,” said the boy.
“A grave doesn’t scare me,” said the girl. “I’ll do it right now.”
The boy handed her his knife. “Stick this knife in the ground on one of the graves,” he said. “Then we’ll know you were there.”
The girl bravely took the knife and left.
The graveyard was filled with shadows and was as quiet as death. “There is nothing to be scared of,” the girl told herself. But she was scared anyway.
She picked out a grave and stood on it. Then quickly she bent over and plunged the knife into the soil and started to leave. But she couldn’t get away. Something was holding her to the spot!
She tried a second time to leave, but she couldn’t move. She was filled with terror. It must be the corpse’s hand that had grabbed hold of her, not letting her get away.
“It’s got me!” she screamed, and she fell to the ground.
When she didn’t come back, the others went to look for her. They found her body sprawled across the grave. Without realizing it, she had plunged the knife through her skirt and had pinned it to the ground. It was only the knife, not the dead hand of a corpse that had held her. She had died of fright.
And so the warning still remains. Who knows what can happen to someone alone….and in the dark….in a cemetery….with a grave beneath their feet?
The Big Toe
A boy was digging at the edge of the garden when he saw a big toe. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to something. So he gave it a good hard jerk, and it came off in his hand. Then he heard something groan and, with the toe in hand, he scampered quickly away.
That night, the boy was in bed. He had fallen asleep almost at once, but in the middle of the night, a sound awakened him. It was something out in the street. It was a voice, and it was calling to him.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” it groaned.
When the boy heard it, he got very scared. But he thought, “It doesn’t know where I am, It will never find me.”
The he heard the voice once more. Only now it was closer.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” it groaned.
The boy pulled the blankets over his head and closed his eyes. “I’ll go to sleep,” he thought. “When I wake up it will be gone.”
But soon he heard the back door open, and again he heard the voice.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” it groaned.
Then the boy heard footsteps move through the kitchen into the dining room…into the living room…in the front hall.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” The footsteps slowly climbed the stairs.
Closer and closer they came. The boy jumped up, slammed his door closed and dove back under the covers.
Soon the footsteps were in the upstairs hall. Now they were just outside his door.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” the voice groaned.
The door creaked opened. Shaking with fear, the boy heard the footsteps slowly move through the dark toward his bed. Then they stopped.
“Where is my to-o-o-o-e? ” the voice groaned right next to his ear.
“HERE! TAKE IT!” [Yell this as you jump up and toss a piece of potato or other object at someone in the circle.]
Here’s a tale adapted for telling while camping at American River Resort.
As you know, gold was discovered long ago not 1/2 mile from here in Coloma. What followed was the famous California Gold Rush. Miners came from all over the world to search for gold.
This is a story that happened at one of the gold mines dug deep into a hillside nearby. No one’s sure exactly where it is, but what happened can never be forgotten.
One day, the mine tunnel collapsed, trapping a number of men inside. They were able to survive, after a fashion, by drinking water which seeped into the tunnels, eating rats, mushrooms, and their dead co-workers. They worked to dig themselves out, confident that on the other side, others were digging in from the outside to rescue them. Surely help was coming. They wouldn’t just be abandoned here to die.
It took them many weeks and maybe months, no one knows how long. But the miners finally managed to dig themselves out. But when they emerged, something strange had happened. They had lived in darkness for such a long time, that they could no longer stand the sunlight. Their eyes were pure white—all color had faded.
Also, when they emerged, they found no signs that anyone, not a single other miner or local authority, had lifted a shovel to dig them out. They’d been forgotten, betrayed, left to die and rot. In their anger they made a pact right then. They pledged to take revenge on those who had abandoned them, no matter what it took.
Soon after, mysterious instances began occurring near here. One by one, miners were found dead. They were usually mauled, bloody and torn, as if attacked by animals. Close examination though showed teeth marks on them made by human teeth.
People began seeing glowing white eyes moving among the trees at night. Or not moving, rather staying still, just staring and blinking in the dark. Panic spread. The White Eyes wanted blood revenge. They had become twisted monsters out to satisfy their taste for human flesh. The collapsed mine, now thought to be the lair of the white eyed miners was called by locals the White Eyes Mine. No one dared go near it.
As the gruesome murders continued, no person felt safe outside after dark. Soon all mining stopped in this valley as miners moved away to search for gold in safer places, far away from White Eyes Mine and its terrifying occupants.
All this happened more than 150 years ago. The location of the White Eyes Mine has never been discovered. And surely all the White Eyes died off long ago. So we should feel safe here by the river, surrounded by these hills and deep oak forests. Even sitting here, outside, after dark. Even if the lost White Eyes Mine might actually be quite close to where we sit now.
Or are we safe?
Just recently, on a trail nearby, a hiker was discovered dead. He’d been mauled to death by something people thought must be a mountain lion or a bear. But examining the wounds more closely, you know what they found? Marks in his flesh made by human teeth.
If this story makes you nervous or afraid, don’t look behind you on the way to your tent tonight. Don’t look into the dark, surrounding trees. Most of all, try not to imagine pairs of glowing white eyes staring, blinking at you, following you in the night.