Get Outdoors and Enjoy the Age-Old Tradition of Ghost Stories by the Campfire

Robert Hudson Westover
U.S. Forest Service
June 16th, 2016 at 11:30AM

A photo of a family sitting by a campfire at night
Ghost stories illustration by Mary Horning, US Forest Service.

Shadows start falling fast while you scurry to gather the last scraps of dead wood before it’s too dark – and too scary – to leave the relative security of the campsite on your favorite National Forest or Grassland. But, once the fire is safely lit, everyone gathers around to start roasting marshmallows and listen to…ghost stories!

No one really knows when or how the tradition of telling scary ghost stories around a campfire began. It just did, and we really like to do it. In fact, there are many books out there that provide those with less creative story telling talents to get a group of outdoors enthusiasts nervously shifting their eyes and jumping at the sound of what was certainly a twig being broken by the heavy foot of a monstrous creature in the night or, yes, even a clumsy ghost.

There are many reasons most of us, to some degree, are afraid of the dark especially while outside. Some believe it’s simply an evolved trait that kept us from, well, being eaten by the above mentioned monstrous creature in the night.

All I know is as a creative writer myself, I really looked forward to trying out my story telling skills around a campfire. Sometimes my spooky tales are really creative like the ghost of Isabella who haunted a nearby meadow searching for her child who wandered off and was never seen again.

And, sometimes, my stories are complete rip-offs from classics like Washington Irving’s headless horseman, albeit with a little twist. My headless dude was a lumberjack who literally lost his head in a bizarre tree cutting accident that really challenged my imagination to the delight of those around me.

But, bad, good or just silly—ghost stories that really scare you are best served around a campfire with friends and family. So start your summer this Great Outdoors Month and Get Outdoors with some really spooky and memorable fun!