For many kids, Summer Camp is a rite of passage, an experience that defines childhoods. Whether a weeklong day-camp, or a summer long sleep-away camp, kids come to enjoy new experiences, many for the first time. The camp counselors that supervise these energy-filled youngsters went to Reddit to share the bizarre moments that made them ask themselves, "What Did I Get Myself Into?" We scoured through for the best stories and have edited their responses for clarity.
Strange! Content has been edited for clarity.
“He Was The Most Miserable Kid”
“‘Kirk’ was ten years old, I think, but really small for his age. He was basically the biggest punk I ever had in camp, but you also felt really sorry for him, because his parents clearly sucked. See, I was hired by a day camp which enrolled by the week. We did the same activities week after week. Kirk was enrolled every week that summer. Meaning he did the same things, the entire summer, every single week.
I had the privilege of having him for the last week of the summer. And if I’d already known him to be an unhappy kid before then, he was the most miserable kid in the zip code that week.
Kirk would often talk about tormenting his little brother — who was also at camp — in really unsettling ways, like stealing his brother’s action fingers, tying them all up in nooses, and dangling them around the house. I hate the violent video game soapbox that always comes up after school shootings, because it’s the scapegoat for absentee parenting…but if ever there was someone not being parented who scared the life out of me when he talked about playing violent video games, it was Kirk.
I tried my best with him. I tried to let him lead activities, choose what we did next, help me come up with new ideas for things we could do that wouldn’t be repetitive of everything he’d already done.
That week Kirk really tried my patience. He ran away into the woods and it took me 30 minutes to find him and get him back. He would hit other campers, and once even hit my co-counselor. Hard. He destroyed a lot of things, and threw rocks at employee cars. That was my last straw that week, so I just parked him at the camp director’s office for the day after that one.
Once, he purposely kept going past the take-out point of our canoe trip, where the river gets wide and strong. Thankfully, he got stuck on a rock, but I had to ditch my group’s canoe on the shore, once I made sure it was properly secured, swim downstream to grab his canoe, and then swim upstream against a massive current towing the canoe. I didn’t want to jump in the canoe and take over paddling because I was afraid I would tip it given the current, and then he would be swept downstream, and we’d be in serious trouble. As it was, I exhausted every muscle in my body towing that hooligan back to the take-out point, and got three leeches on my leg for the effort. Thanks, Kirk!
And finally, on the last day, literally leaving the main cabin to go get picked up by parents at the pick-up point? He ran away. Again. This time, thankfully not into the woods, but the veranda of the main cabin. I had to literally pry his hands off the railing while he threw a fit and wailed on me. I’ll never understand that: he didn’t want to be there at all, but he ran away when we were leaving and put up a powerful fight when I tried to usher him back to the pick-up point. I’m sure that was a telltale sign of abuse, but you’d be shocked how hampered we were in reporting anything and actually seeing it be taken seriously.”
“She Loved To Get Attention”
“I was a counselor in training at a Girl Scout camp and we had this one little girl, that really loved to get attention. I mean, she would do anything to get it. Especially throw tantrums. We get this a lot, so we never thought anything of it.
The camp is very ‘rustic’ and natural, so we only have two places on the property with electricity, meaning that every campsite had latrines. One night we are sitting in our tent, and one little girl runs in and screams ”DERPETTE’ IS GOING TO FALL INTO THE LATRINE!!’ and runs away laugh/screaming. Well we all hop up and run over to see what is happening, and this little seven year old is in the middle of lowering herself in to the latrine.
Now, I was super freaked out. The camp had these latrines emptied probably in the latter part of the 80’s, they take the waste and use it for fertilizer and that good stuff, so if this girl had fallen in, she would have drown in sewage. We ended up being able to pull her out, but seriously. I thought I was going to die.”
“He Essentially Ran Off”
“I don’t remember the kids name, but we had a week for military kids where one or both parents is in the military and the kid attends camp for free, and the kid was 18! Well above the normal age of campers; max age in my group apart from him was 15. His dad as he was dropping him off mentioned something about not letting him get too sloshed and to keep him away from the girls, which I thought was a bit weird.
Anyway, he was constantly complaining about everything, didn’t want to do arts and crafts, didn’t want to go swimming, all he wanted to do was spend time with girls. So one night after all camp games we were spending a bit of time with the girls, and he is talking to this one girl, who is interesting to say the least — she had told her counsellors that her life goal was to move to Florida and be an exotic dancer, and then later got kicked out of camp for a reason I forgot.
Fast forward to the end of the week, everyone is getting picked up by parents. This kid says he needs to use the toilet and rushes off. They are supposed to go with a ‘buddy’ but he essentially ran off. Time passes and he is nowhere to be seen, his mum and dad turn up so I am really panicking, they tell me they have rang him and he is just saying goodbye to someone. Another one of the counsellors sees him walking out of a wooded area pulling his pants up; next thing she sees is the future dancer walking out of the bushes looking disheveled. Kid got more action than I did that summer.”
“It’s The First Thing He Noticed From A Mile Away”
“Over last summer I counseled a bunch of inner city kids at a tennis clinic. My coworker and I were both from Jersey City but we had to drive all the way up to north Bergen every morning to their tennis courts. Work began at 7:50 and the camp started at 8. ‘Lawrence’ would be waiting from 6:30. He was an odd case, not very socially active, pretty shy, was hitting that weird point in puberty where he wasn’t the most handsome devil on the block. All in all, he was a strange kid. But this was just the beginning. Lawrence had a crush on this girl named Valarie, I think they both went to the same middle school, I’m not sure, but it turns out he really had a thing for her.
It got so bad that when we’d make the kids run and exercise, Lawrence’s hormones would get the best of him, and POOF, his excitement would show. He would try to conceal the monster but it was never to any avail. It was noticeable hundreds of feet away, but all the youngins did not know what it was.
One day our supervisor stopped by to check up and it’s the first thing he notices from a mile away. Obviously he wasn’t cool with the beast so he ended up talking to his parents about it. It was an awkward summer.”
“Victim Of A Perfect Storm”
“Most memorable camper goes to ‘Fred’: I was a counselor at my high school’s day camp every summer and was always with the pre-schoolers. The school is pre-school through high school and essentially so is the camp if you count the junior counselors. As the pre-school camp we were in a different building (the lower school) on the other side of campus from the rest of the school buildings/camp facilities and the pool. Walkable for most kids, but not pre-schoolers.
While at the pool one of the senior counselors is informed there is something wrong with the pipes/water at our building. We are not allowed to flush the toilets. So we force all the kids to go to the bathroom at the pool. We tell them they won’t be able to go to the bathroom once we go back.
We go back to our building for nap time. Halfway through we are told the water is back on, and everything is cool. We don’t bother to tell the kids because they are sleeping. Near the end we all smell something NASTY. We figured one of the kids let one loose in their sleep. I never thought the source was Fred. Kid was just lying on his pillow, hands behind his head looking at the ceiling, cool as a cucumber.
Nap time is over and we smell it again. It has gotten stronger. We’re putting the kids at the table for snack and I catch a look at Fred’s face. It’s heartbreaking. His big adorable brown eyes are wide and tears are forming. He’s pouting, his lip quivering from the force of impending tears.
I walk over, kneel in front of him and ask. ‘Fred, whats wrong’
He was silent for a few moments before the quietest barely audible whisper escaped his lips
‘…I pooped my pants.’
Horror rushes through me. I look at his pillow and see just a drop of liquipoo. I look at his leg and see a bit dripping down his shorts. I grab other counselors and tell them to empty the room. NOW.
You see poor Fred was under the impression the bathrooms could not be used under any circumstances, and didn’t want to wake the others, so he didn’t bother to tell us of the storm brewing in his bowels. And a three year old can only hold that stuff in for so long. I doubt a full grown man could have lasted much longer than he did.
At first I didn’t think it would be that bad. Yes it was diarrhea but I never thought for second just how much of it I’d be dealing with.
It. Was. EVERYWHERE.
His shorts were salvageable but stinky. We contained them in a plastic bag. His body had to be wiped down over and over and over by me, myself, and I. For some reason no other counselor — including the senior counselors who had all been preschooler teachers for years — helped. I guess they couldn’t stand the smell. Just when I thought I’d gotten rid of it all I realized there were still spots I’d missed. The kid had to have exploded and sat in it for a solid 15-20 minutes without saying a word. It took me an hour to clean him up and even then I don’t think I got it all. I had to have him wipe his front-side, as we both felt uncomfortable with me doing it and poor Fred was traumatized enough.
But the worst part was his underwear. It was soaked, positively soaked in liquipoo. Clearly unsalvageable, I found a plastic baggie, stuffed it in, and ran outside to dispose of the horrendous monstrosity that used to be this kids big boy underpants.
If it hadn’t been diarrhea, or we had told the kids the toilets could only be used for absolute emergencies in the beginning, or told them right away when we found out the water was back on, or if Fred had spoken up (his only real mistake), none of this would have happened.
When his mother arrived she insisted this had never happened. We insisted it was our fault and that poor Fred was the victim of a perfect storm.
I still feel sorry for that poor kid. Hopefully he forgets most of what happened. He was three almost four so it’s likely, fingers crossed.”
“I Can See In The Dark”
“I was a camp counselor for a total of 8 years, and although there I have a cornucopia of stories about my campers (usually involving blood, vomit, urine, or some combination of the aforementioned), ‘Casper’ stands out in my mind as the defining moment of my career as a counselor.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of attending a summer camp, it will do well to note that attendance at such an institution rarely costs less than a combination of 1 1/2 limbs on the black market. These same premium summer camps love getting off on nothing better than their own sense of smug self satisfaction, and what better a way to empower that than by offering scholarships to less-privileged children from rough circumstances. These kids are usually from the inner city and have an extreme lack of common sense and social skills. This was, in a word, Casper.
Casper was a 7 year old orphan who had been bounced to his 4th foster family, and as far as we could tell he was sent to camp to give his foster parents some kind of momentary relief from the never-ending stress that was his companionship. Casper was obviously abused the majority of his short life and had taken to the wonderful coping mechanism of picking a fight with everyone before they could hurt him. That way, in his mind he was never picked on or beat up, he simply lost a fair fight. All of the counselors loved the kid at first, but we soon found that any phrase that was not shameless flattery was immediately taken as an affront to both him and his ancestry — his phrase, not mine. Whatever, the kid was cute and we were doing our best to put up with him.
Casper was here at camp on a two-week program, and by the 4th day nearly all of the staff were losing sleep over the kid. No programming could be accomplished without separately attaching two counselors to Casper at all times to deal with his every whim. Where do you get two free counselors, you ask? Well, unlike a normal job where you have an 8 hour workday, at camp you work all day with the exception of sleep and a one hour break where you were free to email friends back home, read a book, nap, etc. In essence incredibly valuable time. And now instead of taking a nap, all of the staff had to spend their time off explaining to Casper how the person who asked him to stop throwing food, was not ‘calling the cas-man a little punk.’ After all, ‘Cas-man don’t play that way’
Ok, so the kid absolutely sucks but its still not easy sending a 7 year old orphan back to his foster family because we didn’t want to put up with him. The final straw came when it was my turn to try to get him to go to bed. Although lights out was at 10:00, we were lucky to get him asleep before 12:15. It was 2 in the morning, and Casper decided that sleep was another one of those things that he ‘didn’t bother with’ … whatever that meant.
Finally I told him that that I was going to turn out the lights and stand by his bed staring at him until he went to sleep. He nodded, looked away for a moment, then stared back in my eyes with some demented kind of fervor, and said ‘It don’t matter moron, I can see in the dark’.
So I turn out the lights and wait for 5 minutes, and by sweet holy Moses it was silent and he was falling asleep. Or at least I thought he was. All of a sudden a feel something hit me in the face. Something small. Something like a 7 year old fist. Now, under normal circumstances, no big deal, but I was stressed out, falling asleep on my feet in the pitch-dark before getting a right cross from this lil’ punk. I was furious and I scream for the other counselor to get this kid under control while I step outside and compose myself.
I didn’t end up seeing Casper again after I left the cabin that night because he was sent home the next day for punching a counselor in the face for no reason. But the last memory I have of the little rascal was my cabin-mate holding Casper down while he was writhing around like a demon posses screaming at the top of his lungs “I told you I could see in the dark…”
“In the past 10 years I’ve been staff, one story really stands out. The camper was about 7 years old, she was in the second grade program, but had been home schooled. The mother had never EVER left her child anywhere before. The mother takes the bus with the child into camp — which is a HUGE no-no, but the bus aide — who is a member of camp staff who checks kids on and off the bus — called the director to get permission because of how upset and persistent the mother was. So they get to camp and the mother is literally clinging to the child crying about letting her go to the program. The director offers the mother a ride back to the bus stop where her car is parked, but she just won’t leave. The mother physically held onto the child the entire day and cried about having to leave her baby.
The day is over, they go home, and we assume that they won’t be returning. Wrong. The next day the mother drives her in after being refused onto the bus and does the same thing. The poor kid by now is mortified and is crying she wants to go home but for whatever reason the mom stays again all day and they’re both crying all day.
Camp director has a little talk with the mom basically saying the camper is welcome back, but she’s not. Day Three: the camper gets dropped off by a neighbor or someone at the bus stop and gets to camp and besides being awkward and embarrassed at first for the previous days fiasco, is a really well rounded, happy go lucky camper. She never came back any subsequent weeks or summers though.”
“The Shannon Incident”
“Not a camp counselor, but a camper, but I think that I can safely say that my story is memorable to the counselors of the camp that year. The story has been passed on every year for six years now.
It was my first year of soccer camp. I was pretty shy and also pretty mediocre at soccer. I only had a couple friends. I was in sixth grade at the time.
One night, I wake up and someone is sleeping next to me in my bed — the top bunk. I’m crazy groggy and barely awake, so I don’t realize what’s going on. In my tired stupor I figure it’s one of my cabin mates messing around or pranking me. So I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep. 10 seconds later, I’m a little bit more awake and I realize that the person next to me isn’t someone I know. And the person has long hair. The person is also sleeping, and is NOT awake let alone trying to prank me.
I tap the person on the shoulder and ask who it is. SHE screams, jumps from the top bunk and runs away. Naturally I’m really confused but I try to go back to sleep.
Five minutes later some counselors come into our cabin (because they probably heard the scream). Now I’m trying to decide if I should pretend to sleep or if I should tell them what happened. If I tell them, I might get in trouble for a girl being in my bed, and if I don’t tell them and they figure out, I’ll get chewed out even more. I take the safe route and told them what happened.
Turns out ‘Shannon’ who was probably in 10th grade at the time and who I had never met, sleepwalked to fill up water, and then came into my cabin. The girls’ cabins and the guys’ cabins are structured the same so she thought she was sleeping in her own bed. Instead, she was sleeping with a confused, prepubescent little Indian kid.
The next day at campfire, the (admittedly pretty funny) story is told by the counselors to the entire camp. The Shannon Incident was extremely awkward, but at the very least it gave me an interesting story and made it easier to make friends.”
“She Erupted Like Vesuvius”
“One summer I worked at a camp where I ran the gift shop. It was a pretty big camp, and we sold mostly T-shirts, hats, camping supplies, and toys.
Probably my worst interaction ever was with a woman who dragged her daughter up to the register one morning, furious. She declared that her daughter (who was tearing up) had stolen something, and was going to tell me about it. She couldn’t get it out though, and after a massive build up, I finally asked the mom what she’d taken.
She told me that her daughter had stolen a quarter that was sitting on one of the shelves next to the merchandise. I blinked, and told her that unless she took it out of the register, the girl wasn’t stealing from us, and it sounded like she was just lucky to find a quarter. Wrong answer. This lady erupted like Vesuvius, spewing the molten lava of her fury across the fleeing tiny villagers of the gift shop. She accused me of subverting her parenting and corrupting her kid, and then demanded my name so she could report me immediately. I don’t know if she ever actually talked to my boss, but when I told him about it, he just thought it was hilarious. I feel bad for that kid though.”
“Most Homesick Kid Ever”
“I had a kid poop in his pants AND his bag in an effort to get sent home. His parents told us to keep him. He then made himself throw up, but that only got him to the nurses building. Then he decided that self harm wasn’t doing the trick so he decided to throw peanut butter at a kid who the whole camp knew was severely allergic to nuts. That worked. That was the most homesick kid ever.”
“This Is Where It Got Bad”
“The kid had problems of some sort. I’m unsure of what exactly they were but it was apparent.
We went on a field trip, and he was placed in my group. It was an amusement park, so there were larger rides as well as small rides like merry-go-rounds and McDonalds-type play places.
It turned out that the kid was afraid of heights, but was with friends who wanted to go on some of the taller rides. Feeling pressured, he asked me if he could join his group mates on a giant slide. I obliged him to ensure he had a good time. He timidly started to walk up the stairs to the slide, but chickened out about halfway. I offered to walk him to the top of the slide, and he agreed. At the top, he fearfully clung to me and began to cry. I told him he could walk down the steps with me or slide down with his friends. This is where it got bad.
After refusals to descend from the slide on either route, I decided to call the camp director. The boy, fearing I was calling his mother to report a misbehavior, jumped on me while I was going down the stairs. I was lucky I kept my balance. I peeled him off me amidst punches and scratches. I was bleeding a little bit but had no major damage. The kid, who should have gotten suspended, didn’t and remained in the camp.
He later went on to call 911 from the camp phone a week later and he also purposefully pooped on a bus en route to another trip destination.”
“One year at camp, I showed one of my kids how to take apart a disposable camera, which was sold at the gift shop, to access the charging circuit for the flash (the capacitor gets up to about 300 volts, and if you charge it with two batteries it gets up to about 595 volts). He was interested in electronics, so I was explaining how the high voltage is required to blah blah blah. I really didn’t think much about it, as he seemed happy enough. Fast forward three days, disposable camera sales have spiked. The camp director calls a meeting to discuss ‘the epidemic of kids shocking each other’ and how it started. I guess it went viral.”
No Friend To The Outdoors
“The best one was when I was checking campers out and looking in their tents for holes or anything, and the back flaps to this kid’s tent were slashed up. I mean six foot long gashes, probably a dozen of them.
He was probably 11, and when I called his leader over, the leader got understandably angry and asked the kid why he had done it, and the kid said he saw a spider and tried to kill it.”
The Real Life Indiana Jones
“‘Indy’ was 11 or 12 years old, I believe. He showed up to the first day of camp in a bomber jacket and full cargo pants, with a whip (like, an adventurer’s whip similar to what Indiana Jones has) tucked into his side. He legitimately wanted to be called Indy, like Indiana Jones, despite not being his real name, so I just went with that.
It topped out in the high-90s that week. Kinda sensed Indy might be a ‘different’ kid then.
So our first morning with the group, after flagpole, I had the group play an icebreaker game to get to know everyone’s names, because my rule for groups was we couldn’t do anything fun until everyone knew each other’s names. I realize people hate name games and other people might disagree with that approach, but I always found that if you don’t force kids to get social and get comfortable being around each other off the bat, it just leads to awkward groups and at least some kids hating camp.
So we’re playing Two Truths and a Lie first. Most kids’ truths and lies are just dumb, banal stuff, like ‘I have three cats’ or ‘I can play the cello.’
Indy’s two truths and a lie: ‘I have a younger brother’, ‘I hate cheeseburgers’ and ‘my dad died in a car accident a few months ago.’
Everyone just figured he was trolling with the last item, and selected that as the lie. Nope. It was the truth. His dad had just recently died in a car accident. This was confirmed by his mother later on, who just kinda pulled me aside at sign-out each day to talk about how he was fitting in with the kids, if he seemed like he was having fun, and so on.
I felt really bad about his loss, and tried really hard to pay attention to him in particular. I learned that the whole adventurer’s get-up he wore consisted of his dad’s hat, his dad’s bomber jacket, and a whip his dad had given him, as they were both big archaeology/Indiana Jones/adventurer fans.
He didn’t want to take off the jacket, afraid he might lose it or someone might take it, though I eventually convinced him we could just keep it in my car and get it at the end of the day. Just became a safety issue at some point, when it was 99 degrees out.
He was definitely odd, but the kids seemed to like him well enough. They were interested in his whip in particular. One day, a girl in another group asked if it hurt to be whipped. He said not really, it was a plastic whip, not a real one, but she insisted he try it on her anyway. This was my mistake, as I had left the group at flagpole and gone back to the main cabin to get something, can’t remember what off the top of my head.
I guess he whipped her arm, at her request, and nobody ever knew because she didn’t cry about it or complain about it, didn’t mention it to any adults. But I guess she did mention it to her mother later, and had a mark on her arm from where it hit her, so his mom sought out the camp director and started reaming her about letting kids carry around weapons at camp, and that ‘freak boy’ that whipped her daughter.
I was furious, naturally, because the mom didn’t know half of the story. So we had to confiscate his whip. He was pretty upset, but conceded. The next day, he brought in a replacement whip, which was stuffed with cotton, and no more menacing than a pillow. I guess the mother saw this when dropping her daughter off and literally started walking toward this kid calling him a weirdo, and screaming about hitting her daughter. I had to march her out of the way and back toward our camp director, trying my best not to call her completely clueless, and we finally got her to leave under the promise it was a cotton-stuffed whip that couldn’t hurt anyone, and it would stay in his backpack the entire time.
I was normally the kind of counselor who liked to get kids to play sports and physical activity games: soccer, basketball, football, etc. I never knew what to do with the kids who weren’t into physical activity, who just sat in the grass and did nothing. Not really a dumb jock so much as just not sure what to do with kids who didn’t want to participate in physical activity at an outdoor day camp.
In any case, Indy didn’t like sports or games, but was a huge trivia and riddle buff. So I came up with this whole riddle game that got the group really involved working together to solve riddles for candy I probably wasn’t supposed to actually give out. He loved it, which made my day, and the rest of the kids loved it, so we just kept hanging out and playing trivia/riddle/logic games for the rest of the week with prizes on the line, and it made my summer knowing he actually had a good time, and I could connect with a kid who obviously needed some male role model or friendship in his life.
Man…I have a career and all now, and I’ve done some pretty cool things there, accomplished some things I’m proud of. But the look on his mom’s face and the way she said ‘thank you’ when she picked him up for good at the end of the week — that’s something I’ll never forget.”
“This summer I was an archery counselor at an all girls camp for ages 7-16. There was this girl ‘Leila’ who came out to archery a lot at the beginning of the summer, I didn’t know her very well until this year although it was not her first time at camp. Her personality was a little off beat. She was a little too obsessed with the Hunger Games and the hunting aspect of it and was very pessimistic. Me and my co-counselor joked she might shoot us with bow and arrow if we upset her.
About a week or two into camp though rumors started circulating that Leila had a “talent” of sorts. According to Leila she had a disease that mixed up her senses and was very open about it. She was able to acquire a taste by looking at someone. Her most common ‘flavors’ I guess i’ll call them were mint, honey, and various fruits — I was oranges for the record. Someone even got baby back ribs! As word spread and her ‘talent’ became increasingly known around camp she began to claim she could tell what color ones aura was. This is where I hopped off the Leila bandwagon.
Apparently there is something called Synesthesia which confuses your senses but nothing of this sort. Not completely sold on her story but she was definitely a memorable camper.”
“That Moment Was Derp Defined”
“Louis was a 6-year-old with the coordination of an inebriated colt on stilts. The amount of times he would fall down in one day simply astounded me. Playing kickball? Falls down at home base. Walking on any surface? Falls down. Aimlessly wandering? Falls down. And every time he did, he would say ‘OW?’ as if posing a question. He didn’t cry. He wasn’t particularly hurt. He seemed to phrase it like he wasn’t sure if he should be hurt or not. OW?
Louis was also one of those kids who just did and said very, very strange things. For example, one time he regaled us with a story of zombie peanut butter. Or in his words: ‘One time I was eating peanut butter and a zombie hand camed out and it grabbed me and I punched the zombie peanut butter.’
Or he would muse about insect dissection. ‘I played with the ants and they was crawling and I saw one and I picked it up and I pulleded the legs off it and it couldn’t walk any more!’
But my favorite Louis moment was catching him just staring off into the sky, sun washing over his face, a reflective glimmer in his glasses, just smiling this wide Toothy Fairy-mugged grin and clumsily clapping his hands together. I think he was just an odd little kid, nothing really mentally off, just clumsy and odd, but that moment — that moment was derp defined.”