Nothing beats winding down your day at camp than cosying up around a campfire. Staring into the flames and watching the colours dance before your eyes can really get the imagination going. It’s an ideal atmosphere to spark creativity, and it sets the scene perfectly for an evening of campfire stories and songs.
Some people are born storytellers. Pre-written content only acts as an unnecessary constraint on their imaginations, and they can bust out campfire stories at will. Good stories, too. But for the rest of us, a little storytelling guidance can go a long way.
So, whether you’re entertaining the kids with funny campfire stories, trying to spook the living bejesus out of your friends with scary campfire stories, or hoping to simply create a calm environment before bed with a thought-provoking campfire story, we’ve got you covered!
I asked campers and outdoorsy folk from all around the world to share their favourite campfire stories with us. So I hope that, as well as getting some inspiration for your next camping trip, you’ll also learn stories from other cultures to your own.
- A scary campfire story: Tailypo
- A scary and funny campfire story: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
- A serious campfire story: Chii and The Shadow Game
- A spiritual campfire story: Connecting with Nature
- A silly campfire story: Little Larry Lizard
- A silly and funny campfire story: Are You a String?
- A spooky campfire story: The Campsite Photo
- A funny campfire story: The Ghost of Gosforth Park
8 campfire stories to scare, intrigue and entertain!
This is a classic campfire story that has been told at our ranch for years. As your guests gather around the blazing campfire in a circle you begin your story as you start walking around the fire. It’s a bit too scary for little kids, but older kids and adults will enjoy the suspense.Once upon a time in the big woods, there was a man, and this man had three dogs named Uno, Ino, and Cumptico-Calico. This man, he went off to hunt for his dinner one evening and saw something running away from him. In a bid to catch something, anything, for his dinner, the man managed to cut off its tail before it got away. WACK! He brought it back to his one room cabin without questioning what sort of beast the tail was from.
In this room he had his bed, a window and a fireplace, where he put this tail in a stew he was cooking. Once the stew was ready, he called his dogs Uno, Ino, and Cumptico-Calico, who came busting up from under the porch. He ate the stew, which was juicy and delicious, and gave the rest of it to the dogs, who were very grateful for such a flavoursome treat. Then he put his dogs out to sleep under the porch.
Tired from his day out in the forest, he climbs into bed early. But at around midnight he is woken by a faint noise. He sits up and listens more closely… “Who has my tailypo? Who has my tailypo?” His heart quickens. But he hears nothing more, until suddenly it gets louder: “Who has my tailypo? Who has my tailypo?” And louder still… “Give me back my tailypo?”
He starts to panic and so he calls his dogs…Uno, Ino, Cumptico-Calico, who come busting out from under the porch to protect him from whatever this thing is. Now he hears it again, really loud like it is in the room: “Who has my tailypo? Who has my tailypo? Give me back my tailypo?” With his dogs barking loudly at his side, the petrified man pulls the covers over his head and hopes it will go away. He listens again… there is nothing.
Just as he starts to relax, he feels something crawling on his bed, getting closer and closer and closer. He pulls the covers even tighter over his head… “Give me back my Tailypo!”
Then the storyteller suddenly jumps at some unsuspecting person around the campfire, grabs them and says “YOU have my Tailypo!”
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
This campfire story a little scary at the end for really young kids but the fright at the end is as funny as it is scary for slightly older kids.It was late summer, a couple of years ago, and the carnival was in town. So my friend and I went to ride the rides, gobble up some cotton candy, and soak up the festival atmosphere. As we wandered around, sipping on our cold soda, we noticed a fortune teller booth nestled between some food stands. With nothing much else to do, we thought it would be fun to have our palms read. Why not, hey? My friend went first and was told she was going to lead a healthy, happy life.
Then it was my turn to have my palms read. The mysterious fortune teller took my hand and after peering at it for a couple of minutes, she looked at me very strangely. In a cautious yet curious voice, she asked me if I was fond of dogs. I told her I loved dogs, but asked what that had to do with anything. So she continued tracing her fingers over my palms as she told me that in a previous life I had been a dog, but I had been treated poorly by my owner. In fact, I had been kept tied up with a heavy chain. She said I tried so hard to escape that my collar bone broke because I was pulling on the collar so hard.
I paid my money and left the fortune teller’s tent swiftly, feeling flustered and very aware of my collar bone. But what’s really weird, is that I have had a lump on my collar bone for as far back as I can remember. There was no way that the fortune teller could have known that. Go ahead, you can feel the bump right here…
At this point, get one of the kids around the campfire to feel your collar bone and when they do, turn and pretend to bite their hand while barking and growling loudly!
Chii and The Shadow Game
This is a story from Japan that is quite sad, but beautiful. It is taught to elementary school children throughout the country there, as a way of teaching kids about the war. I’ve told it around the campfire several times, and it never fails to bring out a tear or two and get family members hugging each other.Once, there was a little girl called Chii who lived in Japan, and learnt a game called Kageokuri from her father.
Her dad told her “you play Kageokuri by looking at a shadow and counting to ten. Then you turn to the sky, and you see the shape of what you were looking at outlined above you!”
She often played the game with her family. They even played it the day her father was deployed to go away to war. The four of them formed a line, looked at their shadows, and then turned to the sky where they saw their own outlines projected there.
Chii kept on playing the game with her mother and brother while her father was away, until fighter planes started appearing above her city and it was no longer safe to play outside.
One night she was awoken by an air raid siren. Her family ran outside to find fires burning all around. People were running every which way, her mother pleaded with her and her brother to stick together, but somehow Chii got separated from her mother.
Not knowing what else to do, Chii slept under a bridge with some strangers.
In the morning she found the place where her house had been. In the wreckage she waited, telling herself: “I just have to be patient. I am sure my family will come”.
She waited for what seemed like many, many days.
One morning she woke from sleeping amidst the wreckage with a bright light on her face. She heard a voice. It was her father’s voice saying “you play Kageokuri by looking at a shadow and counting to ten”.
Chii stared at her own shadow. Her father’s voice said “1,2,3”, she heard her mother’s voice join in “4,5,6”, and her brother’s “7,8,9”. When the voices reached ten, she looked to the sky and saw their projected 4 perfect white shadows. She felt herself becoming light, see through, as if she was becoming one with the sky. Before she knew it, she saw her father, mother, and brother running towards her.
In this way, many decades ago, a little girl’s life became one with the sky. But even to this day, if you choose to look long at your shadow, count to ten, and then turn your eyes upwards, you can see her waving back down to you, playing kageokuri.
Connecting with Nature
This is a spiritual story that that encourages us to live in harmony with natureWe sat around the fire telling stories, and on that night I heard from a wise old woman the very story I am about to tell you. It happened a long, long time ago. It happened, I am absolutely sure. Or perhaps it didn’t…
Roma (Gypsies) had just begun their journeys through foreign lands. A taboro (a group of families) moved along a long drom (road) in search of a new place to stay. As the night drew in, the road took them through a dark dense forest. It was frightening to be in the forest during the new moon when you couldn’t see anything and you never knew when a dangerous animal or a gang of robbers might attack you.
This particular taboro made a camp on the edge of the forest with the tents set up very close together and everyone gathered around the yag (fire), laughing, singing, chatting.
Suddenly, they heard the sound of branches cracking. It must be someone attracted by the fire making his way through the dark forest, they thought. Roma froze in silence and turned their heads towards the sound. They squinted to see what was out there in the darkness and what they saw startled them… Ah! An old man appeared in front of them.
He greeted the Roma and asked for permission to warm up next to the fire. Once they had calmed themselves, they welcomed the old man to have a seat around the fire. They fed him a bowl of mushroom soup and then a strong cup of tea. First, feed the guest, then ask the questions.
Who are you? Where are you coming from and where are you going?
“Thank you for your hospitality, thank you for food and warmth. I am the Father of the Forest, Veshitko Dad,” said the old man. “I have something to ask you. Roma travel from place to place, you go through thick forests. Are you not afraid?”
“We are very much afraid,” they replied. “But what are we to do but to live well with the fear?”
“Here is what I’ll ask you,” said the Father of the Forest. “Would you like to learn to understand the whisper of leaves, the language of trees, wild animals and birds? Would you like to feel not fear in a dark forest, but to be surrounded by protection?”
“Is there anyone who doesn’t want that?” exclaimed Roma.
“Then it shall be done. But I ask something in exchange. Don’t cut down my trees and don’t kill wild animals and birds. Do we have a deal?” Said-done. Roma agreed and as naturally as waking up from a long sleep, from that time forward they began to understand the language of trees. They communicated with wild animals and birds. They felt safe and could sense even when they could not see.
I’m telling you, this is how it happened. Or not.
Little Larry Lizard
This is one of the silliest campfire stories around! It’s full of funny tongue-twisters and is very kid-friendly. To tell it well, you’ll need to practise first!Little Larry Lizard liked Linda Lue Lizard. She was his gal pal. His girlfriend, but mostly just the friend part. Little Larry Lizard liked Linda Lue Lizard because they both liked to lay in the sun at lunch licking on liquorish. And, Little Larry’s daddy’s name was Leonard.
Leonard was a long lizard. Lots of folks liked to call him “Lanky Leonard.” Little Larry’s momma’s name was Lucy. Lanky Leonard thought Miss Lucy was a luscious lady. Larry had a little sister named Lori, but everybody called her Lolli because she licks lollipops! Lizard lollipops, you know the kind with flies and stuff in them.
Little Lolli, Little Larry, Miss Lucy and Lanky Leonard lived in a log cabin on lonely lookout mountain. Sometimes Little Lolli would tease Little Larry. She would say things like, “Little Larry, Linda Lou wishes you’d kiss her.” And Little Larry would turn livid and lash out at Lolli. Now, Lanky Leonard would sometimes accuse Little Larry of being lazy because he liked to lay around.
One time, Little Larry and Linda Lue were laying in the sun when up raced Ronni Roadrunner. Ronni Roadrunner was a self-righteous rascal and he raced everywhere he went at a rapid rate. If there’s one thing that really riled up old Ronni Roadrunner, it was listlessness. And one thing he couldn’t stand were lazy lizards. Ronni Roadrunner rationalized every time he was to eat a lazy lizard, the whole world would be better off – especially him. So, when old Ronni Roadrunner raced up and was ready to reel in Linda Lue, Larry Lizard leaped up larger than life and landed right on Ronni Roadrunner’s head and he licked his left eyeball.
Ronni Roadrunner reacted and got distracted. Little Linda Lue scurried over and laid underneath a leaf and Little Larry climbed up, grabbed a handful of feathers and yelled, “Don’t look Linda Lue! I’m fixing to terrorize this brush turkey!”
Little Larry climbed down and licked Ronni Roadrunners’ right eyeball. Ronni Roadrunner thought that was revolting. He began to shake his head and snap his beak to get at Little Larry. Little Larry climbed a little bit closer… When Ronni Roadrunner opened up his mouth, Little Larry Lizard reached in and grabbed old Ronni Roadrunner’s bright red tongue. He pulled it out and Ronni Roadrunner snapped his beak shut… right onto his tongue!
When Ronni Roadrunner realized what he did, he reeled, and he roared and ran off ranting like a raven back to the ragweed. And Little Larry leaped off to where Linda Lue was laying, and he gave her a lingering hug!
When Little Larry and Linda Lue got back to lonely lookout mountain, Little Linda Lue told everybody about what Little Larry had done. Little Lolli even looks up to Little Larry now!
And so, this is my tale of how Little Larry Lizard saved his true love Linda Lou and how he licked Ronni Roadrunner fair and square.
Are You a String?
One of the funniest campfire stories I heard my scoutmaster tell over the campfire, was silly, stupid, and uber kid-friendly. I have no idea why any of us thought it was so funny, but I remember laughing till my sides hurt at the time, and to this day, it still makes me chuckle to think about it.A tired piece of string had been traveling in the wilderness for days. He had struggled up craggy trails, passed through lush woodlands, seen thrilling vistas and slept under breath-taking starlit skies.
As his journey was nearing its end, he passed by the only bar he’d seen. Not wanting to forgo the opportunity to slake his thirst with an ice cold beverage, he opened the door and stepped inside.
As the string approached the bar, the bartender looked at him and said “You have to leave, we don’t serve strings here!” Dejected and disheartened, the string turned around and walked out.
Not one to fail for lack of trying, the string stood outside thinking for a moment. Then he hastily fluffed up his hair, looped himself a few times and walked back in.
When the bartender saw him the second time, he was puzzled. Although he had changed his appearance slightly, he still looked generally the same. Glaring down at him, the bartender demanded, “Are you a string?!” to which the string replied, “Nope, I’m a frayed knot.”
The Campsite Photo
This is one of the most chilling and scary campfire stories out there. It’s not a good choice for little kids, but it’s a great one to scare older kids (and adults!) when out camping.One time, a group of hikers went up a mountain and decided to go on an overnight camping trip. Before they walked the trail, they had been warned by the guide not to spend the night on the mountain because unexplainable things have happened there. But the campers just laughed at the old man and shrugged it off.
They proceeded with their hike, and when the night was fast approaching, they decided to set up camp and start their campfire. They spent the evening exchanging stories. Some were funny, some were scary, and some seemed almost impossible. After one silly story too many, they decided to call it a night and the four campers snuggled up inside their tent.
Morning came after a surprisingly restful sleep. Over breakfast, one of the campers decided to check out their photos from the previous day. When he got to the last image, he froze and went completely white. What he saw shocked him so deeply that he started shaking.
His friends rushed over to see what was wrong, and there they saw a photo of all four of them sleeping inside their tent the night before. None of them had taken the photo. But what chilled them the most was the fact that their tent was shut from the inside and secured shut with a small padlock. There was no way that the tent could have been opened from the outside without damaging the tent.
Numb with fright, the group packed up and left immediately. They never went back to that mountain ever again. And they never talked about it with each other again.
The Ghost of Gosforth Park (or the name of whatever campground you’re staying on)
This is a campfire action/copying/trick story traditionally done around a Scout or Guide campfire (as told by Caroline, aged 10) but it works really well with family and friends too.
For it to work, at least one person should know the below instructions and explain basically to the other participants, at least one or two of which need NOT to have seen the story acted before.
Start with a line in front of the campfire of at least four people standing close together, almost touching shoulders.
The person who knows the trick stands at one end of the line and says, “I saw the ghost of Gosforth Park today.”
The person next to them then asks, “Oh, really? What did he do?”
Person one states, “He went like this..” [Performs action – sticks out left arm and KEEPS IT HELD OUT]
The second person then tells the third “I saw the ghost of Gosforth Park today” and the third responds “Oh really? What did he do?” The second then performs the action and it continues down the line.
The final person tells the first person they saw the ghost, the first person asks what the ghost did, the arm movement is repeated and so all members of the line are standing with their left arm outstretched.
The first person starts again with the same statement, “I saw the ghost..” etc. This time the action is sticking the right arm out so all participants end up with both arms outstretched.
The third action is to squat, with both arms still outstretched.
The final action, performed by the first person is to push the next in line so that hopefully all participants fall over like dominoes, not in the direction of the fire!!
Whether you’re out to scare your friends, educate your family or simply provide some funny and silly entertainment on your next camping trip, we hope you’ll find something appropriate in our list of campfire stories.