It was a dark and stormy night.... If you happen to enjoy spooky campfire stories and twisted urban legends, this phrase is often the opening for any scary tale. (Or if you enjoy Peanuts, you know that Snoopy attempts to start many stories this way!) We like a good scary story just as much as anyone else, so we're going to share ten of our favorites with you, from creepy cryptids to ghastly ghosts and odd occurrences! Some of these are kid-friendly scary stories but others aren't, so please use your best judgement when choosing tales for your particular audience. (We're just going to give you a summary of these stories, so if something piques your interest you can look up the full story elsewhere.) Don't forget the campfire snacks!
This story is an oldie but a goodie. We'll give you the bare bones here, but the devil is in the details and you can draw this out as much as you like. (Bonus points for adding sound effects!) A boyfriend and girlfriend are parked at a lovers' lane.They have their car radio on when a public service announcement interrupts their music with breaking news about an escaped convict. The police want the people to know to keep an eye out for a crazed killer with a hook for a hand. The girl gets scared and talks the boy into taking her home immediately. When he drops the girl off at her house and exits the car, upon opening her door for her, the boyfriend notices that there is a bloody, steel hook hanging from the car handle.
The legend of Bloody Mary is quite well-known, although the road to this familiar story is almost as interesting as hearing the story itself. (The long and short of it is that "Bloody Mary" may refer to a witch killed hundreds of years ago, a more modern woman that died in a car accident with terrible damage to her face or that she was a Queen of England and while she wanted to have children, she suffered several miscarriages or phantom pregnancies and died shortly thereafter.) Whatever the case may be, this is the woman that allegedly shows herself in the mirror after someone repeats "Bloody Mary" three times. The story changes depending on who is telling it, but the person conjuring her through the mirror may meet her apparition, receive a curse from her or be killed by her among other things.
Tales of Sasquatch
This is another great campfire story (or urban legend—the lines blur a lot here) that can vary wildly depending on your storyteller. There is a lot of freedom for storytelling here, but you can always search for specific stories to tell if you're not fond of improvising a story of everyone's favorite cryptid. Sasquatch, or Bigfoot as he is sometimes called, does stay consistent in his description as a tall, hairy, bipedal creature with large humanoid footprints. Stories can be told about Sasquatch that vary from a monster that eats your unattended camping goodies to a wild beast that makes lone hikers and hunters disappear.
The Vanishing Hitchhiker
Like many of the other stories, there is a "root" story in place that can be altered depending on the storyteller. Typically there is a couple or someone driving in a car, when they notice a hitchhiker and they pull over to pick them up. The hitchhiker tells the driver the address they would like to go to, and the driver takes them there. Somewhere along the way the passenger vanishes, so the driver asks the people living at the address about the missing passenger. (Unfortunately the people at the address are all too familiar with this situation, as they have an explanation at the ready.) The person hitchhiking had actually died along the road, and they usually hitchhike on the anniversary of their car accident.
The Licked Hand
This campfire tale can have a couple different names such as "Doggy Lick" or "Humans Can Lick Too", but the story remains fairly intact. In the story, a pretty little girl is left home alone for one night while her parents are away. They have her make sure that the entire house is shut and locked for the night, but she has trouble shutting and locking one of the basement windows, so she locks the basement door too. The girl goes to sleep with her dog beside her, and she allows her dog to lick her hand as reassurance that it is there throughout the night. She wakes up several times to hear strange dripping noises coming from the bathroom, but she assumes it is the faucet dripping and she puts her hand down for her dog to lick it and comfort her before falling asleep. After the dripping interrupts her beauty sleep several times during the night, she finally decides to get up to go check out the bathroom. In the bathroom, she finds out that her dog has been skinned and the dripping she keeps hearing is from the blood dripping to the floor. The girl screams and runs scared back to her room, and finds a note next to her bed that reads, "humans can lick too".
Don't Turn on the Light
Like many of the previous camping stories, the details of this story can be changed a little, but there is a core to the story that stays intact. In the story, two roommates leave to go out and party. Early in the night, one of them leaves to grab his or her purse or wallet, as he or she left it behind. (For the ease of storytelling, let's call the forgetful one Lucy and the other one Miranda.) Upon getting home to retrieve her purse or wallet, Lucy doesn't turn on the light because she knows exactly where it is. Lucy goes back to the party to rejoin her friend. Later that night, the other roommate, Miranda, leaves the party early to get some sleep. The party animal roommate, Lucy, that had originally forgotten her purse or wallet finally goes back home, only to find that it is covered in crime scene tape with cops everywhere. She finds out that her roommate has been killed, but initially the police won't let her inside. After some persuading, the officer does finally allow Lucy to pass and she walks into the room where the body of Miranda is covered by a sheet. There is a large mirror in the room and in large, red letters (presumably written in the deceased's blood), it reads, "aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light"?
If you want a creepy campfire story that takes the suspense factor up bit by bit, you will love telling The Keyhole. A man enters a hotel and goes to the front desk to receive his key. Before he heads to his room, the receptionist tells him that there is a locked room on his floor with no number, and he is not to disturb it or try to look inside under any circumstances. The man finds this odd but obeys her instructions on the first night. However, the man has an increasing curiosity about the room and he notices that it has a fairly large key hole, so he decides to take a quick peep on the second day. The room is apparently blasting some cold air as he can feel it on his eye, but he sees a hotel room just like his with a pale white woman sitting on the corner of a bed, her back to him. The man is still curious, but he decides not to knock on the door, proceeding to his own room. On the third day, he looks through the keyhole again, but this time he only sees the color red. He figures that the inhabitant noticed his spying and blocked the keyhole with something red. However, he cannot keep his gnawing thoughts at bay so he goes to see the receptionist and confesses that he had looked into the room. After a long sigh, she tells the man that a man had murdered his wife in that room, and her ghost still haunts that room. Oddly enough, those people were not normal—they were pale white, but their eyes were completely red.
The Clown Statue
No scary story round-up is complete without a creepy clown. (Scroll past this really fast if you have coulrophobia.) A couple enlists the help of a babysitter while they enjoy a night out on the town. The babysitter is told that she can watch TV upstairs in the parents' bedroom to be close to the children while they sleep. After getting the children tucked into their beds, she enters the parents' room and notices a large clown statue in one corner. It disturbs her, but she settles down to watch television. However, the clown statue was so unnerving that she peeks at it over her shoulder from time to time. Every time she does so, she can swear it inches closer and closer. After a while, the babysitter is so disturbed by this that she calls the parents and asks them if she can watch TV downstairs instead. They ask her why, and she explains that there is a clown statue in their room that scared her enough that she had to leave. The tone of the parents immediately changes and they scream at her to grab the kids, run out of the house with them and call the police because they don't have a clown statue! The police arrive even though they think the call is a prank. Upon entering the bedroom, they find a masked murderer dressed like a clown and they take him into custody.
Fans of cryptids may be familiar with the tale of the Mothman, but honestly we can't help but think of Arthur from The Tick. There are a couple slight variations on this tale, but the Mothman is at least man-sized or larger with wings and big, red bug eyes. Reportedly, a couple was out driving at night and they noticed two big, red lights near the road, so they stopped and got out of the car. (Clearly, these people were not familiar with horror movies because you never get out of your car or house to observe something mysterious in the dark.) The pair of red lights turned out to be the eyes of a large creature over six feet tall, somewhat gray and furry and with large wings folded on its back. Terrified, the couple drove away, but they noticed that the creature was actually flying after them in their car. They managed to get to safety to share their tale.
The Slender Man
The story of the Slender Man (or Slenderman) is one of the newer urban legends on the block, but the myth took off and has spawned numerous "sightings", appearances in video games, Halloween costumes, and even a feature-length movie! Originally, the first pictures of the Slender Man were created for a horror picture contest, and they went absolutely viral. He was a slim, suited man with tentacle-like limbs coming out of his back and he didn't have a face—and he was in the background of a photo of children at a playground. Due to the fact that the legend of the Slenderman is built off of a manipulated image, you can perpetuate the myth with a variety of stories, or one of your own creation. (He generally appears in the woods, and he likes to prey on children and young adults.) Unfortunately, some people have believed this myth—usually teens—and there have been actual crimes and stabbings in connection to the Slender Man myth. Should your audience be really freaked out by this or any other campfire tales, kindly remind them that they are simply stories and nothing more.
We hope you enjoyed our round-up of spooky stories to tell around the campfire! There are lots of oldies but goodies here, but it's hard to list all of the favorites or else we'd need to write a book. What are some of your favorite stories? Did we include them? What are some good stories that we haven't mentioned? Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments below. (Bonus points if you share your story while eating a s'more!)