Beartooth Anthony’s Halloween Campfire Story Contest has drawn to a close for 2018. Congratulations Karen S. Coan, who won the popular vote with her clever story, “The Night of the Wretched.” Enjoy the bragging rights, and the Petzl headlamp, around your next campfire, Karen!
Thank you all so much for participating. We received some wonderfully frightening campfire stories. I hope you all enjoyed writing them, as much as I enjoyed reading them.
The competition was tough, and, unfortunately, we could not publish all of the entries.
However, we wanted to recognize a few of the authors by sharing their stories below.
Read them now…if you dare.
With haunting realism, Timothy recounts the tale of a camper’s disappearance near Lake Michigan.
by Timothy Plennes
On a quiet, crisp fall evening, the Smith family gathered around a campfire. They had been camping in Peninsula State Park for nearly a decade, learning the lay of the land and making acquaintance with the various park volunteers. They had known almost every Ranger in the park for nearly five years. Except for one.
To entertain the kids one evening, Dad recalled a news article he had seen as a boy. “Student Missing in Peninsula State Park.” It was a tale of a high school boy, on a camping trip with his family. The boy, Matthew, went on a late night hike with his brother Owen just before a storm. They hiked a precipitous trail along cliffs and then down to the lake. The boys laughed and tried to scare each other, but the moonlight was too bright to let either of them be frightened. Just a bit further, and all of that would change.
The boys neared a cave along the trail. At the very moment they passed in front of the cavern, it was as if someone turned off the moonlight. They stared into a black abyss.
Owen reached for his older brother’s hand, but his grasp was met with emptiness. He flailed with his arms outstretched, searching the night air for a trace of his brother. There was nothing there.
A bolt of lightening pierced the night sky, providing enough light for Owen to search. His eyes found no trace of his brother. He had vanished before Owen’s eyes.
Matthew was born with a problem foot that eventually developed into peculiar limp. Owen knew he couldn’t have run off in fun. He started to worry. Panic even. His heart raced and he felt a rhythmic pulse, deep in his temples. “Matthew!” He cried out. “Someone please help me! I can’t find my brother!”
Park Rangers came to help the search effort. The search lasted four weeks before it was abandoned as hopeless. Owen would never see his brother again.
The case was never solved and every year about Halloween, children tell the tale of the boy who went missing. They embellish the details and claim he is still in the park, haunting the hiking trails. To this day, tracks of someone with a limp show up in the mud of the trails or the sand of the beach. A blood curdling scream can sometimes be heard in the distance. Always after a storm.
Dad wrapped up the story well past dark and just as a storm rolled in. The Smith’s hunkered down in their tents, waiting out the grueling weather. The boys were sure they heard someone dragging their foot just outside their tent. They even swore they heard terrifying screams muffled by the thunder. They didn’t sleep at all that night.
The next morning, around 5:00 AM, an unfamiliar park ranger stopped to check on their site. As he completed his round he went to the tailgate of the truck. As he walked, he revealed a strange characteristic…a dramatic limp. They had never seen this ranger before and never again since.
Participation in the Spirit of Campfire Terror
Teela submitted this story just hours before the submission deadline. Clearly she did so for the sheer joy of terrifying us all into staying awake on Halloween night. Thanks for the story, Teela.
by Teela Fields
“I’m not scared!”
Gillian glared at her twin brother. Most often the two were best buds, but not tonight. Tonight, Jeremy had become the stereotypical pesky brother, set on making Gillian so angry her head might burst…and enjoying every moment of her discomfort.
She didn’t care about that. Tomorrow he’d be Jeremy again.
Halloween was the problem. The stupid holiday turned perfectly ordinary, nice, caring people into human monsters. Too bad Jeremy got pulled into that stupid racket.
Right now, he and his friend Chandler seemed bent on making Gillian believe someone—or something—was trying to get into the house. Why in the world had Mom and Dad thought it was okay to leave the three of them home alone—especially on this night?
Knock, knock, knock!
“Go get it, Gilly!” Jeremy stage-whispered. He and Chandler had dimmed the lights, but it wasn’t dark enough to hide her brother’s evil grin. “It’s just trick-or-treaters…right?”
Gillian grabbed the big bowl of candy Mom had instructed them to pass out to the little witches and warlocks, and not to consume. “Of course it is. Why? Are you scared, brother mine?”
Despite her brave words, she hesitated at the door. Drew a deep breath. Finally, with no other sane alternative, she pulled it open. A blast of cold air whirled around her like an evil spell.
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
She shuddered, not sure whether from the cold or the loud squeals from little costumed terrors. Sheesh, did kids not know how to speak in normal tones anymore? They weren’t exactly Michael Myers, but they might have done some serious damage to her eardrums.
She dropped candy into bags and pillowcases and plastic pumpkins.
“Happy Halloween,” she murmured, then closed the door with a firm click and locked in with unnecessary haste. She shivered again. Something about that last group of masked minions had unnerved her.
With the door firmly locked, Gillian hurried back into the living room—and found it unoccupied.
“Okay, guys, that’s enough. You’re so immature. Where are you?”
No answer. Not a sound, not even a muffled giggle.
Fine. She knew how to ignore people. Not being outgoing like Jeremy, she practiced every day. She’d become quite good at pretending those who ignored her weren’t even around—at school, at the mall…pretty much everywhere she went. If Jeremy came along, it was even worse. Her brother shone. He fit in anywhere, and he was so handsome. Everybody loved Jeremy.
Gillian was under no delusions about her own appearance. She was so plain she’d become invisible. She was not likeable, and didn’t find much to like in others. Except her cats. She loved those two little critters more than any human around—except her Mom and Dad, of course. And Jeremy…usually.
Gillian jumped. The horrible, nails-on-blackboard sound came from the window. Startled and momentarily frightened, she froze, her gaze on the dark pane. What was out there?
She grimaced. Had she really wondered “what” instead of “who”? Enough. Time to get a handle on this whole scary Halloween nonsense. Jeremy and Chandler would not get the best of her.
She’d give them one more chance.
“Hey, guys, I found ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ in Dad’s stack of movies. Want to watch it?”
Nothing. She waited two minutes. Three.
“Jeremy, get your rear in here. You’re supposed to be helping.”
Now she was getting a little nervous, but no way would she let her traitorous brother and his mischievous friend know they were getting to her.
“All right, that’s it. If I don’t see your stupid face in one minute, I’m calling Mom.”
With a huff, she shoved the DVD into the opening and hit the ‘on’ button on the remote control so hard her thumb vibrated. Maybe the boys would show up when the movie started playing.
They didn’t. Ten minutes passed. No one knocked on the door, which wasn’t surprising. It was getting a little late for kids to be out roaming the streets. More importantly, Jeremy and Chandler were nowhere to be found.
Fine. I’ll watch the movie alone.
After hitting ‘pause,’ she headed for the kitchen to make popcorn. Salt over sugar any day of the week.
Just inside the kitchen door, she stopped cold and bit back a scream.
Oh, God, no! Please, no!
Jeremy and his friend were seated at the table, a plate in front of each of them. The plates held sandwiches and chips. A perfectly normal thing to expect from teen boys. Of course they’d run off to the kitchen to pig out.
But neither boy said a word. Their heads hung at awkward angles, and neither of them looked up when Gillian drew a tortured breath and moved into the room. They couldn’t. Their eyes were sewn shut, with dry streams of blood on their cheeks.
She stared, unable to speak for a long time. Then she swallowed hard and lifted her chin. They’d almost gotten to her. Shoving aside the momentary fright, she strode across the room and grabbed Jeremy’s plate.
“Nice of you to think of me, bro. Ham and cheese with sandwich spread—my favorite. Thanks! I was thinking popcorn, but this actually sounds better.” She started for the door, but turned back. “I’ve started the movie, if you idiots want to watch with me. I don’t think we’re getting any more trick-or-treaters tonight.”
Proud of herself, she crossed the room, grinning.
Just as she stepped out of the kitchen, Jeremy spoke. Another stage whisper…but his voice trembled. “Chandler, h—how did she do that?”
“I don’t know, man.” Chandler’s voice rose an octave. “That was unreal.”
Gillian frowned. What were they talking about? All she’d done was steal a sandwich.
“You saw—I mean, didn’t see her either, right?” Jeremy demanded. “It wasn’t just me?”
“No, man. She wasn’t there. But I sure saw your plate get up, all by itself, and float across the room.”
“Me too. And I’d know my sister’s voice anywhere.” Jeremy went silent, while Gillian stood in the next room, horrified by their conversation. “That was her, but she was completely invisible.”
She’d felt unseen, unnoticed. Sometimes she’d even wondered if it was true…that she could only be seen by her brother and her parents. Had it become real?
Slowly, her gaze lowered to the fingers she’d tensed around the edge of Jeremy’s plate.
The plate seemed to float in mid-air, with nothing to support it. Nor did she see her arms, or her feet and legs. Nothing. Even her clothes had melted into nothingness.
She was invisible. For the first in her life, she wasn’t plain. Now she just wasn’t there.
I’m no one. Nobody…with no body.
This had scratched at the window. This is what entered when she answered the door.
A horrified, bone-chilling, scream wrenched past her throat and split the air. Her voice still worked quite well.
She heard the pounding of clumsy feet when her brother and his friend came running from the kitchen. Jeremy screamed her name. Chandler said nothing, just started bouncing around the living room like a ping pong ball. Why in the world would he look under the sofa cushions? Did the moron think she’d be under there?
Gillian watched the boys search, and with each second that passed, she came to kind of…almost…enjoy their pure, unfeigned horror. They could keep searching if they felt the need to, but they’d never find her.
Gillian picked up the hideous vase Jeremy had given their mother for her birthday. Poor Mom. She tried so hard to pretend she loved it, but Gillian saw the truth in her eyes. She hated the thing. With a little smirk, she let it fall to the floor and shatter.
Both boys rushed across the room to stare at the chunks and slivers of ugly glass on the floor.
“G—Gillian?” Jeremy whispered.
“J—Jeremy?” she replied.
Then she ran up the stairs, laughing aloud.
On the landing, she looked down. Jeremy and Chandler stood below, their wide, horrified eyes gazing upward.
“Now who’s scared?” Gillian spoke just loud enough to be heard.
The terrified, confused expressions on the boys’ faces filled her with a strange joy. She didn’t understand what was happening to her but…she liked it. She liked it a lot.
Now she could ignore people without getting one of Mom’s lectures. Be in a crowd without feeling like the odd girl out. Be alone any time she pleased. “Look in” on people without their knowledge or permission.
Oh, yes. The possibilities were endless for an invisible plain Jane twin.
Accruing the second most votes, Joseph’s story will have you hiding in your sleeping bag when you hear strange noises in the woods.
by Joseph Atkinson
On a cold October night, seven college students sit around a campfire telling ghost stories. Justin got finished telling his story when Aaron pipes up.
“Okay I got one that none of you probably ever heard of before and the creepy part of this story is it’s actually true.”
“Yea right,” Beth says with the role of her eyes.
“No, it is completely true. It happened forty years ago in a forest not too far away from here.” Aaron replies.
“Come on everybody give him a chance to tell his story. You all told some crazy ones so what would it hurt to hear one more.” Sara says annoyed.
“Thank you, Sara, at least someone is willing to hear me out.”
Everybody except Sara throws a few marshmallows at him.
“As I was saying,” Aaron continues, “It was in a forest not too far from here. Four college students decided to get away from it all for a weekend and went camping at Lake Green Cloud. On the first night, they were fine, having fun and laughing. As soon as darkness fell on the second night all four of them could hear the sounds of brush being moved from the distance. Five minutes pass of continuous noise from brush moving before all goes quiet. The college students think nothing much of it and go back to having fun. An hour later the noise of brush moving returns but this time the noise is closer. Like before in five minutes the noise was gone. Instead of ignoring it again all four of them with flashlights go into the woods to investigate. They end up finding nothing, no tracks, no broken pieces of branches, not a single sign of life. Returning back to camp they find that some of their belongings have gone missing. One of the guys pulls out a pistol from his pack. Nobody says anything about his actions as they feel safer now that they have some protection. All of them sit around the campfire and decide in order to get their minds off of what has been going on they tell ghost stories. Like clockwork the next hour, the sounds of brush moving can be heard along with the sounds of trees falling no further than twenty feet away. Brad stands up and yells into the woods in the direction of the sounds. At that time the noise stops. Everybody is scared except for Brad who is furious. It takes awhile but they become calm and go back to telling stories. An hour later the noises start up again but this time its only about ten feet away. Five minutes later all goes eerily quiet. Out of nowhere, something crashes down on their tents flinging mud on them and putting out the fire. They turn on their flashlights pointing them at the huge object that turns out to be a tree. The college students panic and turn to run away when they run into a tall horrible hairy monster. Their screams echoed off the trees. People have reported from the nearby town hearing screams coming from the woods that night. The day the police go to investigate they only find the campsite destroyed. No trace of the college students other than the camp was ever found. The four of them was never heard from or seen again.”Aaron leans back as he finishes.
“That actually happened?” Pam asks with a shiver.
“Yea, I know some people that know all four of them. It is sad what happened.” Aaron replies.
“In my opinion, I think it’s just a legend,” Nathan says confidently.
Just then the sounds of brush moving come from not too far away.
“Okay, who’s messing around?” Oliver demands.
Everybody shakes their heads. Five minutes pass of constant noise when it stops suddenly. Then from the nights’ air, a monstrous roar echoes off of the trees.
2018 Contest Winner by Popular Vote
Congratulations Karen S. Coan, winner of the 2018 Halloween Campfire Story Contest. Those who commented especially liked the unique ending of this story… which I won’t spoil for our readers.
“The Night of the Wretched “
by Karen S. Coan
Wickety-crickety-crack. Lightning flashed close. Thunder boomed loud. Shivering campers tucked tight for the night. No one, they thought, not even hateful monsters would dare a brave in such dreaded darkness drenching the ground and raining terror all around.
Even the owls lost their hoots.
Even the bears hid their noses.
Even the leaders shivered their fears.
Carefree days of pranking seemed distant as the shadows fell silent. Into the pitch of black. Onto the canvas of tents. Unto the scare of night.
It was then, of course, the remembrance of forgotten crept into guilt pounded deep into the soul of every camper who came on this adventure. Duties and chores should not be left undone. Lest others find lacking of skills needed to move up the pole of bottom-useless to top-command. Other than being at the top, there was no other reason for anyone to be foolish enough to be in these woods, this night.
The night of rain, with the fire drowned worthless.
The night of rain, with the ground rendered useless.
The night of rain, with the critters frightened helpless.
Gulping deep. Trying to muster courage. Drawing on words of wisdom from those more brave. A slow pull of the zipper – tug-tug-tug. A slow move of the feet – squish-squish-squish. A slow open of the tent – zip, zip, zip.
Lightning ripped wicked fast through the drench, and something horrid flashed eerie in the distance.
Was that the man who had escaped from the hospital? The hospital filled with the ruination of wretched lives. Lives cursed by brains with no skin, scarred from treatments with no results, rendered into nothing with no hope. Doomed to live out their lives as tortured and tormented and troubled souls. Was that the man who had escaped from the hospital?
If only there was a light switch, to be sure.
If only there was a lightning flash, to be sure.
If only there was a dry match, to be sure.
As the night creeped to a crawl, shaky hands reached into the pounding chill of rain drenched in darkness … so much darkness … such awful darkness … darkness now confounded by a lantern coming closer, closer, closer … darkness now surrounded in a bound feeling warmer, warmer, warmer … darkness now dissolved by a squeeze growing tighter, tighter, tighter.
Not even a wretched man escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane stood a chance against wet mothers marching in headlamps to the rescue!