Camping at night

Spooky Campfire Stories: Unexplained Encounters

Updated on February 7th, 2024

Are you ready to add a touch of the unexplained to your next camping trip? Mysterious encounters can transform an ordinary camping experience into a thrilling, spine-tingling adventure.

Camping trips often take us to remote, enigmatic locations where strange events can occur. Whether these events are genuinely supernatural or have a logical explanation, they will leave a lasting impression. Let’s dive into the real-life stories of campers who’ve had some eerie encounters during their stay in the great outdoors.

Additionally, if you’re looking to add an extra layer of spookiness to your next camping adventure, we’ll be sharing a list of the most haunted campgrounds known to give even the bravest campers goosebumps. So, buckle up and prepare to explore the unknown!

Flying Orbs of Light

Mystery while camping

A family set up a campsite along a lake in Texas. That evening, while relaxing outside, two members noticed a light move across the lake.

They continued their conversation, thinking they saw a low-flying shooting star or maybe a firework. However, a minute or so later, another light comes by, and the family can see it’s a deep yellow/orange color with a circular shape.

The orbs made no sound, and they counted around ten passing by in the same direction across the lake in consistent intervals. The orbs did not scare them, but they were baffled by what they were seeing.

The final orb stood out from the rest, as it was bright white. After the white sphere disappeared, no other orbs appeared that night, nor for the rest of the trip.

The family tried to research what they had witnessed and found that locals in the area had reported seeing the same orbs over the lake but did not explain what they might be.

Many paranormal experts believe orbs of light are the manifested energy of deceased people. In addition, the color of the orbs may bring peace to this family, as red or orange orbs seem to be associated with protective spirits, and white orbs relate to positive energy.

Blue and green orbs are often connected to the energy of Native American spirits, who live in harmony with nature. Conversely, a dark brown or black orb is associated with a very angry or evil presence.

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Mist from the Water

In this story, an RVing friend said she and her husband were camping at the side of a small lake about two months after the passing of their adult son.

After enjoying a nice campfire meal where they talked about their son, they put out the fire and began to head inside. Suddenly, the wife spotted a white mist forming on the water’s edge about twenty feet away.

Her husband assured her it was just the smoke from the fire caught up in the light breeze, but something made her stop and watch. Slowly, the mist created a human shape and moved toward her until it floated around her and her husband, then vanished.

Both felt an immense sense of peace and love and, at that moment, knew their son, who loved to camp, was letting them know he was okay.

Paranormal experts agree that a sudden appearance of a mist, fog, or cloud can be a spirit trying to make its presence known. In most instances, it’s an intentional act by the departed to send a message. But, sometimes, it’s a residual apparition that repeatedly follows the same path they did when they were alive.

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The Whistling Wanderer

A young couple was tent camping in a remote location in West Virginia when they heard the sound of a person whistling a tune in the distance.

Slowly, the sound came closer to their campsite, and they could discern the song was Yankee Doodle. Finally, the young man grabbed his gun and poked his head out of the tent, waiting for the person to enter their camp.

The man watched in the direction of the whistling but didn’t see anyone approaching nor hear any crunching of the underbrush. In shock, the man kept thinking someone was playing a prank on them, even though they had no sightings of anyone camping nearby.

While the girl huddled inside the tent in fright, the man kept his gun ready but was flustered as the whistling kept getting closer, then passed by their tent and moved off into the forest.

As the song faded away, both had no explanation of what happened, but the girl recorded part of the encounter on her phone, where you could hear the whistling.

Throughout history, whistling was a way for shamans, healers, and spiritual leaders to communicate with the afterworld. However, paranormal experts think that people hearing someone whistle a song is generally a residual event that isn’t meant to be fearful.

Often, a person who has passed away, like a mountain man on his way to inspect traps, can emit such strong positive vibes that it’s powerful enough to be perceived by those who are still alive.

However, hearing a short whistle is often a sign that a paranormal event is about to happen, such as an apparition appearing or an object moving.

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Dark Shadows

Several couples decided to take a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. The first days were uneventful, but during a hike, one group member was disrespectful to the natural landscape, breaking off branches, picking flowers, and kicking around rocks for no reason.

After returning to camp, they hung around the campfire. The person causing trouble earlier in the day spotted a dark shadow on the edge of the woodline.

No others in the group could see this “shadow person,” but the guy was adamant it was lingering and watching them. Soon after, the guy gets up and runs to his truck, saying many shadow people are coming at him.

The other camping party members begin to tease the guy, saying that’s what he gets for being a jerk on the hike. Regardless, the man refused to get out of the truck until morning.

Whether the man had too many beers and was seeing things or the shadows were real, it did the trick as he passed on any additional camping trips with the group.

The paranormal field perceives a dark shadow as an angry or malevolent spirit. In this instance, it could be the ghostly manifestation of Indigenous Peoples who lived on and honored the land, who wanted to teach this man a lesson for being destructive.

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The Poltergeist

A man decided to hike to a deserted mining town out west and camp and explore the area for a few days. Upon arrival, he felt someone was watching him, even though he knew there wasn’t anyone living within thirty miles of the location.

After thoroughly searching the broken-down abandoned buildings and surrounding brush, he was confident he was alone and set up his camp. He laid some utensils and cookware on a rock for his evening meal.

When he came back to start a fire, he noticed that the utensils were lined up in a row. He thought he must have done that himself, so he finished his meal over the fire.

Later on, as the man was setting up his tent, he heard the sound of a tin can being kicked, and when he looked behind him, there was an old, rusted can sitting on the ground where, only minutes before, there was nothing.

At this point, the man started talking aloud, saying he was not here to mine any gold or silver and wasn’t looking for trouble. He offered to share his food if he could stay in peace.

After a few minutes, he said the eerie feeling left him, and he didn’t have any other strange encounters the rest of his stay.

Paranormal experts say a poltergeist haunting is one where items move, appear, or disappear. What’s interesting about this type of interaction with the unknown is that the person experiencing the event often provides the energy the spirit needs to get objects to move.

In the story above, the man said he often feels the presence of people from the past and has an open mind about ghosts.

Luckily, most poltergeist activity is a harmless and often playful way for spirits to interact with the living. Maybe an old miner was happy to have some company for a few days and wanted to introduce himself!

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The Nightcrawler

The area around Yosemite National Park is home to a paranormal creature unlike any other.

One couple describes a late-night encounter where a glowing apparition “walked” through the forest on two long legs attached to a head-like shape at the top. The gait was slow and strange, and it suddenly disappeared after watching it move along.

Another person saw a similar sight while camping nearby, but this time, there were two creatures of different sizes.

Yet another person caught this same apparition on video, which spread on social media and brought forth more people with similar encounters.

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The local Indigenous Peoples have legends about this alien creature they call the Nightcrawler. They say it comes from space, and it’s not a ghost. Other people have seen similar creatures in other states, often in wooded areas at night.

Paranormal experts are divided on this one. Some believe the video and sightings are a hoax, while others think they are “watchers” conjured by the Indigenous Peoples or actual alien visitations.

Top 5 Haunted Campgrounds

Haunted campgrounds

1. Mount Doom Haunted Forest, Hanceville, Al

When the fog rolls in through the 200 acres of Mt. Doom’s woodlands, campers seem to have otherworldly experiences they can’t explain. From misty shadow people to haunting moans and groans, you’ll never know what will happen, which only adds to the fun!

Choosing a remote primitive campsite can increase your chances of a paranormal encounter.

2. William B. Bankhead National Forest, Double Springs, Al

Before this 181,000-acre National Forest came to be, the area was home to Jenny, who lost her husband and eldest son during the Civil War when the Home Guard murdered them. Some said they were accused of feeding war deserters, while others say they were killed because they refused to join their ranks.

Jenny and her remaining sons vowed to track down and kill the eight Home Guard members who took her husband and son’s lives and succeeded in catching seven.

Legend has it that Jenny cannot rest until the last Home Guard member gets the justice they deserve, so her angry spirit continues to roam the woods near her homestead. Hikers claim to have seen Jenny’s apparition and heard whispers in their ear to leave.

3. Holy Ghost Campground, Tererro, NM

The Holy Ghost Campground is on the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest. Many people claim they have encountered the apparition of a priest in the woods.

Local historians mention a Catholic priest who died while engaging with the Pueblo inhabitants in the 1700s, and this could be the connection.

However, in recent times, there have been plenty of strange reports of shadow people wandering the forest, horrible car accidents without an apparent cause, and people outright disappearing near the campground—so camp here at your own risk.

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4. Braley Pond, Augusta County, VA

Braley Pond is a recreation area within George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and has a large contingent of camping guests who claim encounters with paranormal activity.

Many guests say they suddenly feel nauseous or extremely sad once they arrive, and reports of disembodied laughter are common. In addition, people see orbs floating in the woods and over the water at night, and shadow or mist people are spotted roaming the area.

No one can say why there is so much activity at Braley Pond, but it could be related to a murder that took place there in 2003.

5. Antietam Creek Campground, Hagerstown, MD

Antietam Creek Campground shares a history of the deadliest Civil War battle fought on Antietam Creek, leaving over 23,000 soldiers dead or wounded. The blood-soaked land is now famous for paranormal encounters from the past.

Campers claim to see apparitions of men in military garments moving along the fields and roadways, and others state a heightened spiritual energy level in the area.

Other people claim to hear the sounds of cannons and gunfire in the distance during the night. Most people agree that the activity is startling but doesn’t feel aggressive or harmful.

In Summary

Most people never think paranormal activity will happen while camping, but the stories above show that it can occur anywhere.

Some campgrounds have a history of spirit encounters that draw curious campers who want a paranormal experience, from shadows to orbs to eerie disembodied voices.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, visiting a haunted campground or seeing or hearing something you can’t explain during a camping trip will certainly be exciting and memorable!

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"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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