Labor Day weekend is made for camping. The dog days of summer are over and the weather is cooling down, making it the perfect time to gather up s’mores ingredients, pack your bags, get out of the house, and get ready for a weekend of relaxing by a crackling fire.
But camping isn’t always that idyllic, is it? There are the mosquitos, the threat of bear attacks, and the creepers lurking in the woods with terrifying shark teeth, ready to rip you apart…
Okay, so maybe the silver screen dramatizes camping a bit. But in real life, it sometimes isn’t all that great, either. In fact, sometimes it can be downright terrifying. Take it from the folks over at Reddit, who pitched in with their stories of the most spine-tingling, goosebump-raising camping stories after unemotionals asked the question, “Campers or Rangers of Reddit, what’s the most unsettling, creepy, and/or supernatural thing that’s happened to you while in the woods?”
The top comment was submitted by DrJimDanger, and is a story that’s both innocent and, in retrospect, terrifying.
When I was about 18 me and some friends took a road trip about 7 hours or so down to the Apilachicola National Forest near Tallahassee FL. We were going to do a little car camping, drink a few ice cold Natty Lights. You know, 18 year old stuff. As such we didn’t want to be bothered by any park rangers so we drove waaaay deep into the woods.
Got there, set up camp, had said Natty Lights, and me and a guy decided to go do a little exploring, so we walked about 100 yards from our site back to the main road, saw another path directly across from us, and started walking. Immediately we started seeing signs that someone had lived there for a while. Big bags of trash, stuff like that. Should have been a huge red flag to turn around. But you know. 18. Nothing could hurt us. So we get to this camp site of an older white guy living out of his van. Clothes lines strung up, coolers placed around it, and a big gorgeous dog, I think maybe a golden retriever. We tried to back out, but he sees us and starts talking. He’s friendly enough, asks us where we’re from, tells us about some cool spots to check out in the park, we end up chatting for ten minutes and going on our way. I kept thinking to myself how odd it was that he gave directions in steps, not yards or miles. Guy always seemed to be off balance. Not stumbling drunk, but like he was walking on a balance beam, swaying side to side. Oh and he was SUPER excited to talk about national parks and forests where we were from.
Ok. Camping part over. We went back to our tents. Fast forward two months, same buddy calls me late at night and tells me to turn on TV to the news, I oblige. I see an old dude with a van. You see where this is headed but I didn’t, so I get pissed at my friend for waking me up. “No, WATCH.” And then I see the golden retriever and it all clicks. What the fuck. That man’s name was Gary Michael Hilton, convicted of at least four murders. He kidnapped and murdered a girl on Blood Mtn GA, an older couple in the Pisgah NC, and a girl in the Apilachicola at that camp site not long after we left. Yes, the very same places he had been talking to us about.
Obviously we call the cops, they put us in touch with the FBI (F is for Florida), and we get flown down to take investigators to the camp site. Point out every spot we saw anything, tell them exactly what he told us, and show them the places he described to us. I didn’t find out until after the trial, but apparently they found what appear to be partially destroyed human finger bones in an area near the site. Had to fly down again to testify.
TL;DR: went camping with murderer by mistake. Had to help with investigation
OGDinosaur’s comment certainly sounds supernatural:
Not a camper or ranger, but an archaeologist.
A few years back we were doing a massive survey in the middle of nowhere in the interior of BC. All the crew had gone home and it was just my boss and myself left for a few days to follow up and confirm some coordinates and finish some mapping.
We head out from the motel an hour or so into the bush. Middle of nowhere along deactivated logging roads. Closest town is miles and miles away. We hike out to this one area we had found a site a few weeks previously. For some reason the whole area just felt…off. So, we get down to business and about 15 mins after being hunched over mapping, there is this WEIRD deafening “WOMP” sound. Like, I could feel pressure in my ears. I immediately looked at my boss about 20 feet away and he is white as a ghost staring back at me. Standing, it fucking happens again “WOMP!” ear pressure and chest pressure like I was just squeezed. Chills all over my body and every hair is standing on end. My boss just looks at me and says, “let’s go!”. We grab all of our shit and speed hike back to the truck.
(But, in retrospect, was probably a grouse, as another commenter pointed out. OGDinosaur did, in fact, confirm that they were in grouse territory.)
Thekeezler’s story of an unidentified man with territorial issues outside of Crescent City, California is slightly terrifying:
In the pitch dark with all of our tent windows and canvasses closed I was awoken at 1am by someone whistling outside of our tent the tune of “when the saints come marching in”. After a few minutes of this repetitive whistling I nudged my girlfriend who awoke and was obviously freaked out as well. The whistling then turned to chanting things like “when you sleep here you disrespect me, and when you disrespect me you disrespect the US Marines!” The person would then start spelling out words like “F.L.E.E”. The verbiage and tone kept getting more aggressive so we decided we had to make a move. I slowly unzipped the tent while our guard dog was snoring and got my head out if the tent. I took a few seconds to let my eyes adjust and figure out where the person was. I felt more confident once I could somewhat see and hear so I climbed down and the girlfriend passed me the dog and she climbed down too. We flipped the tent up without securing it and we jumped into a truck (while the person was still whistling) to a motel in crescent city.
Of course, not all the stories shared are scary. Some are actually sort of funny, like rogerairgood’s tale of his father’s run-in with bears, trains, and the Mounties:
My dad was up camping in Canada. He was sleeping naked in his tent in a patch of woods near some train tracks. A bear cub came rustling up and messing with the tent. My dad who had long hair and a beard at the time grabs a long bowie knife and runs outside the tent, notices the bear cub. Where bear cub is, mama bear is near by. He backs up near the train tracks just as an early morning freight train comes by. He could see the engineer looking at him in horror thinking this long haired bearded hippy with a big knife was gonna try to hijack the train. He got a visit from the mounties later that day inquiring on if he had seen any angry hippies with weapons around.
But most of the stories are at least jarring. Take PacificKestrel’s story of sleeping through an actual (non-fatal, thankfully) bear attack:
On a road trip with a friend, and we hiked into a trail in Colorado one evening to camp so we wouldn’t have to pay for a campsite. Found a little clearing by a stream, my friend set up a tent while I decided to sleep under the stars. Right as we were getting ready to go to sleep, another woman showed up and pitched her tent in the clearing as well.
I hadn’t been feeling well that day plus we had the hike in with all our stuff so when I slept I slept hard. Woke up to a ranger shaking me and asking if I saw where the bear went. Bear? What bear? Then I look up and see the woman’s tent just shredded. Turns out she had left her food in her tent that night (we hung ours from a tree), and a curious bear came by at like 4 in the morning to have a snack. In tearing in to her tent, it ended up raking its claws across her forehead as well. She decided to gtfo, though why she didn’t bother waking either me or my friend up to let us know about this very hungry bear nearby, I don’t know.
Finally, EtsuRah’s tale of encountering a human-like figure while out hunting is…eerie? Baffling? We’re actually not sure what to think about this one:
When I was a kid, about 12 or so, my dad would always wake me up in the middle of the night to go hunting. I fucking hate hunting.
A few weeks prior to this night I saw an episode of “are you afraid of the dark” about the jersey devil. I was on edge because I knew my dad would make me go hunting soon and we sometimes hunt in Jersey.
Sure as shit, he wakes me up one morning at like 3am and we are off to the woods in Jersey in pitch black so that he could be there and all set up before the deer come out.
I’m up in the stand, starting to calm down, when I see a little figure on the ground. It’s human, with a face I can barely make out since it’s a bit far in the distance, but I know it’s human, and it’s like 2-3 feet tall.
I’m losing my shit but don’t want to say anything because I know my dad will just tell me to suck it up.
I stare at this fucker for at least 4 hours until we get down from the stand and walk towards it to leave.
It’s a fucking lawn gnome. Miles and miles into the deep woods. There’s no roads for a looooong while and certainly no houses. How the fuck did a gnome get there? The stand we were in wasn’t even a permanent stand. It was one we out up when we got there.
As per usual, Reddit asked, and Reddit received. The thread is packed full of so many other great stories that it’s worth checking out on its own. Just maybe don’t do it until after your Labor Day camping trip is over.