Top 10 Campfire Stories That Will Keep You Up At Night
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Remember these for your next camping trip! For this list, we'll be looking at the scariest stories to tell around a campfire. To be clear, we won't actually be telling the stories in full, but we will be giving quick rundowns and attempting to explain what makes the stories so effective. Our list includes The Hairy Toe, The Green Ribbon, The Hook, The Smiling Man and more! Did YOUR favorite campfire horror story make the list? Let us know in the comments!
Top 10 Scariest Campfire Stories
Remember these for your next camping trip! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten scariest campfire stories.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the scariest stories to tell around a campfire. To be clear, we won’t actually be telling the stories in full, but we will be giving quick rundowns and attempting to explain what makes the stories so effective.
#10: The Hairy Toe
The Hairy Toe is also known as The Big Toe in some circles, but the gist is all the same. Someone goes out into the woods to find something for dinner, only to come across a toe sticking out of the ground. So, they decide to take the toe home and cook it for some reason. As you would. However, this greatly upsets the owner of the severed toe, and they come calling in the night. It’s not much for adults, but it makes for a scary and quickly told story for children. It’s also great for camping, as it preys on our fear of unknown dangers lurking and hunting in the dark.
#9: The Spider Bite
The Spider Bite began as an urban legend before growing in popularity and renown after being adapted for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”. It starts with a young girl being bitten by a spider while vacationing in an exotic setting. In other versions, the spider simply bites the girl in her sleep, often in her mouth. Either way, the bite quickly goes from simple spider bite to massive growth before a colony of baby spiders erupts from the burst boil. This story is effective for both children and adults, as a lot of us have inherent fears of insects and spiders, let alone spiders LIVING INSIDE OF OUR CHEEK! This is another great story for camping, seeing as how spiders are so prevalent in the wilderness.
#8: The Keyhole
The Keyhole lacks a camping connection, seeing as how it takes place inside a hotel, but eh, still scary nonetheless! It concerns a man checking into a hotel and being told by the receptionist that his floor contains a locked and numberless door. He is also told to avoid the room and to not look in under any circumstances. However, his curiosity eventually gets the better of him and he is met with a particularly spooky sight. This is a great little story not just because it contains a lesson about harmful curiosity and disobeying orders, but because it contains a fantastic twist ending that is sure to leave kids gasping.
#7: Killer in the Backseat
This is an all-time classic campfire story. There are numerous variations, but the general outline is as follows: A woman is driving down a dark and lonely road when she is approached by a violent driver. This driver honks, flashes his high beams, and in some versions rams into her car. She finally learns that the driver was trying to tell her that someone was hiding in her backseat! This story has it all – fear of being alone and defenseless, a fear of dangerous drivers, a fear of being spied on or watched, and of course, a huge twist ending that puts a new spin on the events of the story. Tell this to someone and they’ll be checking their backseats for weeks!
#6: The Rustling Corn
This story is actually a short poem that seems to have originated on Reddit. The poem can be found in the subreddit r/shortscarystories, and it was posted by user u/Melodic_692. The poem is told in the second person, placing the reader directly in the story. You begin the poem by taking a shady shortcut through a dense cornfield, only to quickly grow concerned that something, or someone, is watching you. It’s a wonderful and wickedly concise poem that succinctly burrows into your primal fears of being watched and hunted. It doesn’t matter WHAT is in the cornfield – the only thing that matters is that it’s watching you. And that it wants you.
#5: The Smiling Man
Creepypastas are an excellent way to introduce new campfire stories to a new generation. And when it comes to creepypastas, they don’t get much better than The Smiling Man. It concerns an insomniac protagonist who goes for long walks at night. One night, they come across a tall and lanky man who slowly dances towards them with wide eyes and an abnormally large smile. What follows are some harrowing moments when the storyteller is stalked and hounded by The Smiling Man. Like many of these stories, this one preys on our fear of being alone, of being stalked, but most of all, of being watched by something utterly inhuman and insane. You’ll never want to go for a night walk again!
#4: The Hook
The Hook is another all-time classic campfire story. It has remained popular since the 1950s when it began to circulate around the United States and various lovers’ lanes. The story concerns a young couple getting steamy in a car and hearing an emergency news bulletin about a loose serial killer with a metal hook. At the end of the story, this couple finds a hook either on the door handle or embedded in the roof, signifying that they had been stalked and nearly killed by the murderer. The story may have lost some of its momentum over time thanks to its legacy, endless retellings and adaptations, and the prevalence of the slasher genre. That said, it remains a classic and still has the power to scare.
#3: The Green Ribbon
The Green Ribbon became widely known after being published in Alvin Schwartz’s “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories.” However, its roots go back centuries, and an old version can be found in Washington Irving’s collection “Tales of a Traveller” from 1824. The story sees a young man falling in love with a young woman. Everything seems ordinary…aside from the fact that the woman is always wearing a large ribbon around her neck. At some point in the future, the man finally takes the ribbon off his lover’s neck and her head falls off! It’s a horrifying story with a terribly dark and demented ending. So it’s perfect for kids!
#2: The Licked Hand
This story also goes by the names The Doggy Lick or Humans Can Lick, Too. It tells of a young girl left home alone for the first time. Well, we immediately know the perfect demographic for the story! She then hears a radio broadcast proclaiming that a serial killer is on the loose. What follows is a genuinely terrifying story about unknown sounds in the night, mutilated dogs, and people hiding under your bed. This story really gets at the freaky crux of living alone – unidentified sounds in your house, dangerous intruders, and perhaps worst of all, the possibility of someone else being inside the house without your knowledge. Sleep tight, everyone!
#1: The Vanishing Hitchhiker
This is arguably the all-time greatest urban legend, as it has been endlessly retold and spread throughout the world. As a result of time and different cultural variations, the story has taken on countless forms over the years. It’s the literary equivalent of playing a game of Telephone! Most stories involve a driver picking up a hitchhiker and driving them home. When they arrive, the passenger is gone, and the owner of the house tells them that their child died at the area their ghost was picked up. It’s worth seeking out for yourself just to see how creative each individual writer can get. But at its heart remains a timeless ghost story, and ghost stories are always welcome around a campfire.