45 of the scariest campfire stories you can read for free

by | Sep 30, 2022 | Campfires

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Everyone loves camping stories to listen to when sitting around the campfire.

But when it comes to the scariest campfire stories, you can’t go wrong with some of the most timeless classics that have been told for generations.

There’ve been many talented authors of scary campfire stories throughout history, including Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, and H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft was one of the most prolific, with many of his perfect-for-camping horror stories having been inspired by his nightmares.

His camping stories are relatively short and often focus on the fear of the unknown—making them perfect for telling around the campfire.

They’ll be sure to send a chill down your spine.

Check out the following list of the scariest campfire stories, which includes many of Lovecraft’s classics!

 Because they’re all in the public domain, you can click on each link to read the full story.

Scariest stories about creatures and monsters

A concept of the Wendigo from Native American folklore.

Scary creatures and monsters lurking in the woods make some of the best camping horror stories!

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood

The Wendigo is a creature from Native American folklore that is said to dwell in the northern forests. It’s a fearsome creature with long claws and sharp teeth. This story is about a group of men who venture into the forest to hunt for the Wendigo and the terror that ensues.

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

This is a classic horror story about a monkey’s paw that grants three wishes. But be careful what you wish for because you might not get what you expect.

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

A black cat brings misfortune to its owner. It’s a classic tale of madness and revenge. A man who’s addicted to alcohol turns to violence, leading him to commit horrific acts, including murdering his own cat. The cat’s ghost comes back to haunt him.

The Crawling Chaos by H.P. Lovecraft

A man descends into madness after reading an ancient book. The book tells of an Elder God who will soon return to take over the world. The man becomes obsessed with the book and starts seeing crawling chaos everywhere he looks.

The Dreams in the Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft

When a man rents a room in a witch’s house, he starts having nightmares about being transformed into a rat and being devoured by rats. The story culminates in a horrific scene where the man is indeed turned into a rat and eats his

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

A creature is born from unnatural unions between humans and monsters. The creature goes on a rampage, terrorizing the town of Dunwich. Can anything stop it?

The Lurking Fear by H.P. Lovecraft

A group of people are being terrorized by a creature that lurks in the dark. The story is full of suspense and horror, making it perfect for telling around the campfire.

The Beast with Five Fingers by W.F. Harvey

A disembodied hand starts terrorizing a group of people. The hand seems to have a mind of its own and can’t be stopped. Can the people stop the hand before it kills them all?

Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft

A man named Delapore moves into an old house in England. He soon discovers that the house is infested with rats. But the rats are not what they seem.

Pickman’s Model by H.P. Lovecraft

A painter becomes obsessed with painting pictures of monsters. He eventually finds a real monster, and he’s so fascinated by it that he doesn’t realize the danger until it’s too late.

Tree branches in the moonlight at night.

The Thing in the Moonlight by H.P. Lovecraft

A man thinks he sees a creature in the moonlight, but the creature is unlike anything he’s ever seen before. He soon realizes that the creature is not of this world.

Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce

A man creates a machine that can create life, but the machine gets out of control and starts creating creatures that are not human. Can the man stop the machine before it destroys everything?

The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce

A group of men go hunting for a creature that’s been terrorizing their town. They eventually find the creature, but they’re not sure what to make of it. It doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever seen before.

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

A man discovers that there are ancient creatures called Cthulhu living in the world. These creatures are so powerful and evil that they can barely be comprehended by human beings. And they’re coming to destroy the world.

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft

A man named Albert Wilmarth is investigating reports of strange creatures in the Vermont woods. He eventually comes face to face with these creatures, and he realizes that they’re not from this world.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

A group of scientists journey to Antarctica, where they discover a lost city that’s been taken over by aliens. The aliens are planning to invade the Earth, and the scientists must stop them before it’s too late.

Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft

A man gets shipwrecked on an island. He eventually discovers that the island is inhabited by a race of fish-like creatures, and he’s soon caught up in their dark plans.

Scariest stories about ghosts and haunted places

A haunted looking forest with mist and leaves on the ground.

If you’re looking for some really scary ghost stories for camping, you’ll definitely want to check out the following…

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

This is one of those classic campfire ghost stories about the Headless Horseman, a ghost who haunts the town of Sleepy Hollow. The Horseman is said to be the ghost of a man who was decapitated during the Revolutionary War. He comes back to haunt the town every Halloween.

The Haunted House by Charles Dickens

A family moves into the house and starts to experience strange things happening. They soon realize that the house is haunted by the ghost of a man who was murdered there.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A governess is hired to take care of two children, but she soon realizes that the children are being haunted by the ghosts of two people who died in the house. Can she save them from the ghosts?

The Haunter of the Dark by H.P. Lovecraft

A man moves into an old house in Providence, Rhode Island, which is said to be haunted by the Haunter of the Dark—a creature that is too horrible to behold. The man starts to see the Haunter in the dark, and it’s only a matter of time before the creature destroys him.

The Ghost of Canterville Chase by Oscar Wilde

A family moves into an old house in England, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a man who was killed there. The ghost is determined to drive the family out of the house. Can they stand up to the ghost and keep their home?

The Phantom Rickshaw by Rudyard Kipling

A man is haunted by the ghost of a woman he loved who appears to him in the form of a rickshaw, and she takes him on a ride through the city. The man is driven mad by the ghost and eventually kills himself.

The Red Room by H.G. Wells

A man goes to an old castle to investigate a ghost where he’s told that the ghost is afraid of the colour red. But when the man goes into the red room, he realizes that there’s nothing to be afraid of. The ghost is just a figment of his imagination.

The Dreams in the Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft

A man rents a room in a house that’s said to be cursed. The man starts having nightmares, and he soon realizes that the witches who once lived in the house are trying to lure him into their world.

The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft

A man goes to Ireland to help drain a bog, but he quickly realizes that something is very wrong. The bog is haunted by the ghosts of those who have died, and it’s also home to a creature that’s not of this world.

Scariest stories about death and murder

A pool of blood on a wooden floor.

If scary ghost stories to tell around a campfire don’t give you enough of a scare, you may want to crank up the horror factor with these murderous tales!

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

In one of Poe’s most famous stories, a man kills an old man and hides his body under the floorboards. But the old man’s heart keeps beating, and the man starts to hear it. The man goes mad from the sound of the heartbeat and eventually confesses to the murder.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

Here’s another one of Poe’s stories, about a man takes revenge on his enemy by trapping him in a crypt and leaving him to die. The man feels no remorse for his actions, and he even laughs as his victim screams for help.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

A small town holds a lottery each year to determine who will be stoned to death. This year, the winner is a woman named Tessie Hutchinson.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

Two women are brutally murdered in Paris. The police can’t find the killer, and they suspect that the murderer is an animal. But when they catch the killer, they realize that he’s not an animal at all. He’s a human being.

Herbert West-Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft

A man named Herbert West is obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. He eventually succeeds in reanimating a corpse, but the results are not what he expected. The corpse is alive, but it’s also a monster.

Berenice by Edgar Allan Poe

A man named Egaeus, who’s suffering from a strange disease, becomes obsessed with the teeth of a woman named Berenice. He eventually digs up her body and pulls out all of her teeth. But the teeth have a strange effect on him, and he starts to see things that aren’t really there.

The Horror at Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft

A detective is investigating a series of murders in Brooklyn. He eventually discovers that the murders are being committed by a cult of demons, and he has to stop them before they can sacrifice more innocent people.

Scariest mystery and science fiction stories

A man looking through the blinds of a window.

Science fiction can make for some great scary campfire stories. Try these…

The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft

This story is about a man feels like he doesn’t belong in the world. He’s an outsider looking in, and he longs to be part of the world. But when he finally gets his wish, he realizes that the world is not what he thought it was.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A woman is confined to a room by her husband in an attempt to cure her of a nervous condition. But the isolation only makes her condition worse, and she starts to believe that there is a woman living in the wallpaper.

The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

A prince locks himself and his friends inside a castle to avoid contracting the disease known as the Red Death. But the prince is eventually killed by the disease, and his friends are left to deal with their own mortality.

The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter by Ambrose Bierce

A monk is taken prisoner by the hangman. The monk is sentenced to death, but he’s given a reprieve if he can teach the hangman’s daughter to read. The monk, however, has ulterior motives, and he plans to use the girl to escape from prison.

The Statement of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft

A man named Randolph Carter goes to search for his missing friend, Harley Warren. He eventually finds Warren, but he’s not the same man he used to be. Warren has seen things that no human being should see, and he’s not sure if he’s still sane.

A Descent into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe

A man is caught in a whirlpool and pulled down into the depths of the sea. He’s lucky enough to survive, but he’s changed by the experience. He’s seen things that no human being should see, and he can never go back to the way he was before.

The Nameless City by H.P. Lovecraft

A man discovers a city that’s been lost to time. The city is inhabited by creatures that are not of this world, and the man is quickly caught up in their dark plans.

A meteorite falling to Earth.

The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

A meteorite falls to Earth and brings with it a strange force that starts to change the people who come into contact with it. The force is something that’s beyond human understanding, and it eventually destroys the town where it landed.

The Temple by H.P. Lovecraft

Agroup of sailors find a temple that’s been lost to time. Inside the temple, they find a statue of a Cthulhu-like creature, and they soon realize that the temple is a gateway to another world.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft

A man goes to the town of Innsmouth, but he quickly realizes that something is very wrong. The people of the town are strange and unnatural, and they’re hiding something from him.

Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft

A man is dying of a mysterious illness, and he’s desperate to find a way to stay alive. He moves into an apartment that’s kept cool by a strange machine, and he soon realizes that the machine is keeping more than just the air cool.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

A man is about to be hanged for his part in a plot to destroy a railway bridge. He’s given a reprieve when the rope breaks, but he’s quickly recaptured. As he’s being led back to the gallows, he makes a final escape into the river below.

3 great books to tell the scariest campfire stories

If you’re looking for some more ideas for the scariest campfire stories, check out these books:

Classic Campfire Stories: Forty Spooky Tales

This is a great collection stories that’s perfect for both kids and adults. Each story includes an outline at the end that makes the story easy to remember to retell without having to read it every single time.

True Ghost Stories (Book 1 of 3)

Popular paranormal podcaster Jim Harold tells some of the best true stories about encounters with ghosts and paranormal activity. There’s also a second and third book!

Campfire Stories for Kids: A Story Collection of Scary and Humorous Camp Fire Tales

The book includes 21 kid-friendly scary stories and urban legends—many of which come with a funny twist. Ideal for older kids who can follow along with the plot of slightly longer stories.


And that’s it, folks! We hope you found at least one or two scary campfire stories to tell during your next camping trip with friends and family.

Happy camping, and stay spooky!

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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