Spooky September Challenge: Day Three – Spookiest Campfire Story


It’s Day Three of Parajunkee’s Spooky September Challenge and let me warn you right now I’m horrible at retelling stories. Especially since the stories told around the campfire weren’t original ones in the first place. There’s this phrase people use when synopsizing – “long story short” – well I when it comes to retelling, for me the opposite applies – “short story long” – so I apologize in advance.

Today’s challenge is…

DAY THREE: Spookiest Campfire Scary Story You’ve Ever Heard

Anyway… if you’d like to know more about the challenge, just click the link above or either of the graphics and you’ll be taken to the information post.


My Favorite Scary Campfire Story

I never went to camp but as a family we did a lot of camping when I was a kid. Enough that I had no interest as an adult. So it has been awhile. And most of those spooky stories have drifted from my memory as the years passed.

But there was this one story, which wasn’t so much a story but an audio play-by-play of a film, that counts as my favorite campfire story.

I must have been six or seven, as my brother was still living with us and so was my dad. We had gone up to this lake in New Jersey we often visited, which wasn’t too far from civilization but was remote enough that you had to walk past a large grouping of derelict bungalows to find it. We usually went there during the day and left by nightfall, giving us a chance to walk around the lake, exploring the nature trails. But this time we were there at night.

And while my parents were there, I was hanging with my much older brother and his friends. Who decided it was the perfect time to try and scare one another. (Actually I think they were trying to scare their girlfriends, but it was me that was left with nightmares.)

Some brainiac decided it would be a great idea to head out on a canoe into the middle of the lake to tell their tale. I, of course, decided to hop aboard – at six or seven I was a bit of an idiot, clearly. So it was in the middle of this lake, in the dark, where the moon, stars and the faint glow of the distant campfire provided enough light to outline the ominous-looking trees and the black surface of the snake-filled lake, that the story was told. (Yes, there were snakes in the water. Not the best lake. Definitely starting to wonder about my family.)

So why am I telling you all about the setting and not the story? Because it was the setting that made the story so much scarier. As is usually the situation with campfire stories – you’re out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a million different hiding places for the things that go bump in the night.

Anyway… the story they decided to tell was of a film that took place at a camp. In the woods. In which a lake played a role. Yeah, I’m sure you know exactly what movie I’m talking about – Friday the 13th. And if you have seen that movie you know exactly what happens right there at the end. Which just so happened to be what was recreated by one of my brother’s friends.

So it was after this story – told in hushed tones, about a lake very similar to the one we were on (maybe it was even the one we were on, we were told), with campers not so different from ourselves, staying at a cabin not so different from the one at the side of the lake, in which a deranged slasher picked them off one-by-one in the dark, until only one remained who took refuge on a canoe very much like the one we were on, in the center of the lake, just like us – when someone rose silently from the dark surface of the lake and reached out and grabbed one of the girls on the canoe, causing her and everyone aboard who wasn’t in on the prank, to scream bloody murder into the silence.

It was a great and terrifying reenactment of the dream sequence at the end of the film. It made a scary story a horrifying nightmare and kept me from sleep for weeks, kept me from wanting to ever watch a scary movie – yeah, that lasted until I was 11 and finally got the courage to watch every single horror film with a camp setting from the safety of my living room to try to shake the fear I got every time I turned out the light and closed my eyes and dreamt about that night.

As a teenager I probably would have laughed my ass off. One of my friends would have probably pissed themselves – either from laughing or fear. But at six (or possibly just-turned-seven) it was probably the scariest effing thing I ever experienced. And to this day that first film in the long, long franchise creeps me out in ways that no other horror film does.

So I told you I’d make a short story long. I apologized in advance, but I’ll say sorry again now.

Oh, and yes my brother was grounded for quite some time, even if it wasn’t his idea to let me into the canoe. He was, after all, the one that told the story. But he swears, to this day, that he never arranged to have the unsuspecting girl from the canoe dragged into the lake. And that he didn’t know who did it. Because, you see, all his friends were on the canoe with us when landed ashore.

What about you?

Have you sat around a campfire telling or listening to spooky stories? What kinds of stories make you look over your shoulder, stare into the dark forest, wondering what threats are lurking there? Are they tales of slashers and other deranged killers? Are they stories of imaginary and terrible beings that hide in the shadows? Or are they tales of paranormal entities that seek vengeance and wreak havoc?

What is your favorite spooky campfire tale?

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