You can see it in almost every horror movie that our greatest fear is that of the unknown. Most often the scariest scenes are when something is lurking around the corner but we can’t see what it is. The scariest monsters are the ones that we don’t see on screen a whole lot. Think the shark from Jaws, the Cloverfield Monster and the Demigorgon from Stranger Things.
But these moments of uncertainty aren’t just relegated to the silver screen. Hikers, Campers and people who spend a lot of time in the wilderness shared their stories of the scariest things that happened to them outside.
Source at the end of the article. Comments edited for clarity.
Before the DNR was forced to admit to the release of cougars in the state to control the deer population, we were fishing (myself, husband, 2 kids) and kept hearing rustling behind us about 20 yards. Told my husband I thought I heard a low growl, of course he hadn’t, so it was all in my head.
Fast forward an hour to when we’re packing up our gear to leave, he finally hears a growl. Looks at me terrified because it was close and we were a good 1/4 mile from the car. I figured out very quickly how to fit 2 kids into a single stroller, I walked closer to the river, husband between us and woods, both adults terrified the whole time, kids thinking it’s fun to ride together. Get everyone in the car and flip on the lights before starting the car only to see a cougar turn and run back into the woods.
Yesterday I was hiking in New Hampshire, and as me and my group were descending we passed a family with a dog. We were in a groove, so we just continued past them as they were standing off to the side of the trail. But as we walked by, they appeared to be holding hands around the dog in a prayer circle. I heard the (assuming) father say “Lord please, do not let this dog kill again.”
I have no idea what was up with this dog.
I found a dead guy hanging from a tree out in the woods of a Korean national park. Really scared the shit out of me and the 2 guys with me. We were looking for a point and walking up a very steep hill when we rounded a bush and pretty much stumbled into this guy who hung himself from a tree. I sent them back down the hill and called up the duty desk for the nearby post. Standing up on the hill looking out at the last thing the guy must have seen just left me feeling incredibly lonely.
I was on a weekend hike with a friend, and we came across a man standing just off trail staring at us as we approached. I offered him a greeting, don’t remember exactly what I said. No response.
He had cold eyes and was just generally spooky. We were pretty far out from the nearest town, and he had zero hiking gear. Normal clothes that looked clean enough.
We passed him, and kept trudging on up the trail. I glanced back over my pack and the guy just turned and walked into the brush.
We stopped hiking that area.
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My girlfriend and I camped about 100 yards off a fire road which we drove up in my truck. I had firewood in the bed of my truck I chose not to haul to the campsite. I noticed just before dark the quantity of firewood seemed lower than I remembered.
I thought nothing of it at the time as we were a 45 minute drive from anywhere and was fairly certain there were no other hikers or campers close by. Nearing midnight I decided to get a couple more pieces of wood. My wife was not comfortable being alone in the woods so she walked to the truck with me. There was no moon that night so I grabbed my flashlight. I also grabbed my gun.
My wife asked me more than once if a gun was really necessary. When we got to my truck, we heard rustling about 20 feet away in the fire road. I shone my light in that direction and we see a middle aged man and two teenaged boys. They were filthy with tattered clothes, certainly no hikers. Think the movie Deliverence. The man asked, “y’all got any sticks?” I replied nope, grabbed the last couple pieces of wood and returned to our campsite.
I told my wife within their earshot, “that’s why I brought a gun”. Never saw nor heard them again.
I was camping, alone, in the Valley of the Gods in Utah. I had gotten a late start, and by the time I arrived at my planned campsite, (only to find the gate to the access road barred), the sun had set.
I drove on, trying to find a cell signal to search for a new site, but no signal came. After miles without so much as a crossroad, there was a gap in the guardrail, and I found a dirt road leading into the scrub. So I drove about a half mile before turning into what appeared to be a campsite. Now I have no idea where I am, but I don’t really have options either, so I settle in. By the time I had my one man tent set up, (for the first time ever, aided only by headlights and headlamp) it was 11 PM and I was exhausted.
I passed out fairly quickly, but before I knew it I was awake again, still unsure as to exactly where I was. Then I hear it: crtch crtch crtch, coming towards the tent.
crtch crtch crtch.
It’s about a foot away from my face now, but I’m terrified to peek up over the vinyl part of the tent, not that I’d see much in the dark. So I resolve to turn on the headlamp hanging from the center of my tent.
Lying on my back, I reach up with my left hand and flick on the light. Not a foot from my left hand, basically directly above my face was the most terrified looking sheep face I’ve ever seen, framed by the mesh window of the tent. She froze, I froze, and after a minute standoff, it became clear that the light confused/scared her, so I reluctantly turned it off and sat frozen in silence for about 5 minutes until I hear her walk away. crtch crtch crtch
It was about 2 am when I was woken up by a low snorting noise. I was only about 14 or 15 so it really freaked me out, and it being right outside my tent really scared me. Turns out it was a bunch of wild boars.
Went camping with my boyfriend when I was 19. We weren’t in a designated camping site, just out in the wilderness of Northern Scotland. We hadn’t seen another organism for nearly a day. We had a fun evening drinking and watching the stars.
He fell asleep before me because he’s a lightweight. I was just chilling in the tent, reading my book when all of a sudden the roof just starts bowing inwards. It came down 2/3 feet to the point where I had to lie down so it didn’t touch me. I was still pretty wasted, but I’m sure I saw 10 points pressing in right above my face, like someone was pushing it down with their hands. I was full of rum at the time and I’m pretty scrappy, so I went outside with my torch and a knife in full on ‘lets-be-having-you’ mode, but there was no-one to be seen.
I was scared for the rest of the night.
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20ish years ago, myself and my fellow boy scout troop saw some strange lights in the sky. We were in Texas, pretty far out in the middle of nowhere, away from city lights. I don’t recall the name of the area.
On the night in question, we were sleeping outside in sleeping bags, on cots, and we arranged our cots out so that we were laying in the same direction, head-to-toe. I don’t recall what actual direction we were facing, we were just lined up the same way. We broke up the sky into sections (e.g. “top left, top middle” etc) and started watching for satellites.
After we’d been watching a while and had seen what we were sure to be at least a couple of satellites, we saw three lights – not much brighter than the satellites we’d recently seen – moving towards each other, none moving in the same direction that the satellites were moving. We were stunned, even more so when they stopped. They stopped about half of a finger width (holding your finger to the sky) apart from each other.
Eventually they all shot off, each in the direction they came from, but MUCH faster than they were moving the first time.
Me and a group of friends camp in this really remote area in Southern Brasil, not far from the border of Argentina. It’s by a small pond with only 4-5 families, all small ‘vacation houses’ that are only sporadically occupied. There’s 0 cell phone service in this region.
So we spend a day swimming and grilling and whatever, and most are sleeping except me, when I see a flashlight through the trees not too far away.
I just watch the flashlight, thinking maybe it’s someone going to another camp who arrived early (I guessed it was 3am-ish). Then the person (a woman) started yelling in kind of a panicked tone in a language I didn’t understand.
Some people out there do speak German, and it sounded like a weird English, so I thought maybe it’s German – so I woke up my friend who speaks some.
He yelled out something, and the person replied again, but my friend didn’t understand. He said maybe it was Dutch. So I tried shouting in English, but this time the person didn’t respond at all.
They pointed their flashlight toward our camp, paused for like 10 seconds, then turned it off and we could hear them running quite fast across the woods. None of us were able to really go back to sleep, it was just creepy.
The next day, we walked around the pond to each camp and asked if anyone heard/knew who the person could be, and nobody had a clue, although some said they heard the yelling and saw the flashlight and thought it was just us being drunk or something.
This is a really remote area, nobody would ever be there by mistake.
I had an experience about a year and a half ago in Colorado. I was hiking up a steep ridgeline and my friend suddenly grabbed me and put a finger up over his mouth, signifying that I needed to shut up. I looked over to the left of the trail and about 50 yards away, there was a large, white wolf. We stood still for about 5 minutes while it walked away in the opposite direction.
We slept in the car the night before at the trailhead and I remember that we heard some odd sounds the night before. It was mainly sounds of movement near the car and growling. We slept in the car with the windows down and I remember it kinda freaked me out a bit.
I was camping near Nederland, Colorado and a fellow walked out of the woods with a large knife and a beekeeper hood on. It was near dusk and he walked between our tents and our fire, where we were, through our campsite and back into the woods on the other side.
I assume he was just trying to scare people, and he succeeded brilliantly. I am glad I brought a change of underpants, and he is lucky that we weren’t the gun totin’ sort.
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One time as a kid my family was staying in a cabin. I was still pretty young so I had a flashlight lying on the floor as a nightlight. It was casting a large ring of light against the wall. And a daddy-long-legs walked in front of it, casting a giant spider shadow on the wall.
While hiking with my dog on a remote trail, I saw a man about 100 feet down the trail behind us taking pictures. At first, I assumed he was taking nature photos or something, but then I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was pointing his camera right at me.
When I looked at him, he quickly turned away. I started walking faster, wanting to get the hell out of there as I was getting bad vibes. My dog kept looking over her shoulder and growling. I looked back and now the guy was maybe 30 feet away. I start walking again and a couple of minutes later, my dog starts growling again. I look back and now this dude is maybe 10 feet away, clicking away with his camera.
I was nearing the end of the trail, so I started going faster, jogging at this point. Suddenly, my dog (a 100lb german shepherd) stops dead in her tracks, turns around and starts barking and showing her teeth, which she never does. I turn around and this guy is maybe 4 feet from us, he had to have been jogging to have kept up.
I could see my car then, so I pulled my dog over to a nearby fence and stood with my back to it while motioning for the guy to go ahead of us. He looked nervous and lingered for a minute and then took off.
I don’t ever go hiking alone without my dog anymore.
Camping one night and was awakened by two owls hooting in nearby trees. The origin of the sounds kept changing, so I could tell they were changing perches every few minutes.
After a while I heard a flutter of large wings and an utterly ear piercing scream as one of them had apparently nailed a rabbit. They were cornering prey cooperatively.
One day I was hiking on a mountain near the town I lived in at the time when I ran into a man walking the other way, carrying a couple bags. I nodded and said hello, as one should do when they pass someone in the woods. He mumbled something and scurried on by.
I didn’t think much of it. We had a nice hike, summited the mountain and began to head down. On the way down, two big vans pulled up. Men in full SWAT uniforms and AR-15s popped out. They ran uphill past me, rifles at the ready.
Turns out, the guy I passed had just robbed one of the towns banks. They guys who passed me were the SWAT team going to pick him up.
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My husband and I were camping up near Canada and went for a bike ride on one the park’s trails. We’re peddling at a good speed when a black bear tears out of the woods and into the middle of the path.
It didn’t really click at first, so by the time I stopped my bike, I was probably 20-25 feet away from it. Pretty sure it could hear my heart pounding. It looked over at us and had more of an “oh no!” moment than we did. It ran into the woods and we kept going.
Every rustle in the bushes afterwards spooked us.
When I was a kid, we used to camp down by this river. Not an official campground. On the way down to it, there was an old school bus and some creepy guy living in. He used to tell us stories of seeing lizard people coming out of the cliff sides in giant bubbles to visit him and of some wild river monster that would eat our toes. Creeped the hell out of me as a kid.
I was on a short day hike with my then 8 year old daughter. It was winter and we were trying to hike a favorite summertime trail. The problem was while this trail was safe enough in the summer, it had become a narrow and icy path with an almost 90 degree drop down a high cliff.
I decided we would take our time and finish the trail, but take an easier route back. 3/4 of the way along a black lab bolts past us and I had to grab saplings to keep from being knocked over the cliff edge. The dog’s owner comes along trying to apologize but I was too shook up to talk and rudely waved him off and we continued.
A minute later we hear the guy holler. My daughter and I just laughed and kept walking. We finished our walk and went back to the car. I noticed the lab in the parking lot and cursed him as I drove away.
The next day on my local news I read about a guy who fell off the cliff and died the same location as our hike. The report also mentioned the black lab…
My daughter will never know she and I shared a laugh over a man falling to his death…
Camping with family, it’s about 11:00 at night in the middle of a forest. Pitch black, you can’t see anything without a flashlight. Out of the blue, my little cousin (who was about three at the time) starts crying.
When my uncle asked him what was wrong, he just kept repeating “Help, guy come”. He couldn’t yet talk in complete sentences yet, which made the whole situation even more terrifying.
Nobody slept well that night.
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A friend of mine went backpacking out on the AT alone with her digital camera. Wakes up one morning to find photos of herself sleeping on the memory card…
My father was in the Army Special Forces and liked to take me on long hiking/camping trips when I was a pre-teen. One night in far Northern Ontario, after a full day of hiking, we were at least 20 miles from the nearest road or sign of other humans. We collapsed and slept the sleep of the fatigued.
When we awoke, our campsite was completely trashed. Everything from backpacks to an aluminum frying pan were shredded. We had hung our food including a box of powdered milk from a high branch of a nearby tree. The bag was nowhere to be found.
Our best theory is that a bear was attracted by the food (particularly the powdered milk) and caused all the damage. We slept through whatever it was, and our tent (really more of a mosquito net) was completely untouched. Whatever destroyed our campsite was not interested in us.
One time I was hiking in my yard (perks of living in a small town!) and I stepped in some mud that acted almost like quicksand.
I spent a good 5 minutes trying to get out of it scared for my life and another minute or two fishing my shoes out of the mud. To add insult to injury, I was about a mile from home and had to walk the whole way back covered in mud up to my knees and wet shoes.
Luckily I never experienced that again.
There’s a house in the woods on a hill in South Lake Tahoe. I’ve hiked there a few times to witness the weird phenomenon.
Basically, you stand on a hill across from the house and the porch light appears. When you walk to the house(half mile) you lose sight of it in the tree line before walking up on it.
When you walk to the house, there’s no light on. No lights work at all actually as the house is completely abandoned.
What’s creepy is I’ve seen this many times with many people and it’s always the same. We’ve even planted people at the hill and the house to see what’s happening- those on the hill see the porch light while those at the house do not.
The story goes, a girl would sneak her boyfriend into the house after parents were asleep and let him know they were asleep by turning on porch light. The girl died in fire.