Human beings seem to have a love-hate relationship with the forest. Many of us find being in the woods peaceful and freeing and yet even the most experienced woodsman wouldn’t deny that forests can also be frightening and creepy places. Many poems and stories have been written about the mysterious feeling precipitated by being surrounded by miles and miles of trees. Mankind may have its origins in the woods as well as the technology to conquer anything found therein, but the forest never fails to inspire fear and awe. This list will share some of the most frightening stories which different aspiring forest explorers have had while hiking or camping.
35. The Wisdom Of Strange Old Men
Once I got lost around sunset on a state park trail. An hour later, shrouded in the darkness, I turned around to find behind me an overweight elderly man in only his underwear. I probably should’ve sprinted away, but I was so absolutely lost I just asked him for directions. They were good directions, got out safe.
10/10 would ask half-naked old man again.
34. Beware Of Wolves
Was camping outside my family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. Had the whole family plus some others, so the cabin was pretty full, and we decided to grab a tent instead. About 3am, my dog starts growling, and I could hear sniffing right outside the tent. She started barking and whatever it was ran away. We were the last ones to leave the cabin a couple of days later – about midnight or so was when we started driving. We were sitting in the car in the dark just talking, and my dog starts going nuts again. I turn on the headlights and see what looks like an entire wolf pack standing about 15 feet in front of the car. Started driving and got out of there.
33. Sneezy Deer
We went camping a few weeks back and midday two deer entered our campsite and got uncomfortably close. Our dog scared off one (the doe) but the buck stuck around for a while before lying down about 5 yards away from where I was reading in my hammock. I made a note he was there and to be conscious of his movements (in case he got aggressive I guess).
A short while later I dozed off in my hammock and completely forgot he was still sleeping in the grass. About an hour later it sneezed so loud I jumped up and nearly fell out of my hammock.
32. Flying Mimics
I was camping in Yosemite National Park and one night I heard what sounded like a man and boy yelling “HELP!” over and over. I was camping alone and it was the middle of the night so I decided I would stay put and check things out in the morning. I figured if I went looking in the middle of the night in known bear and cougar country then there would be 3 people who needed saving.
Next morning I checked out where I thought I heard the screams but I couldn’t see anything. I walked to the nearest ranger station to report what I had heard and the ranger just laughed. I was apparently camping near some infamous troop of ravens whose call sounds like people yelling “HELP!” I was relieved there weren’t stranded people out there but I fear for the next person who hears it but decides to go searching for its source in the middle of the night.
31. Screaming Cougars
Summer 2013 I went backpacking deep in the hills behind Ojai, California. It was early summer and we went looking for hot springs–not really sure why we would do that during the summer… but anyways the hike in was really tiresome and we didn’t reach our destination until dusk. After setting up our tents I heard this shrieking sound almost like short bursts of screams. It made us very nervous but it stopped shortly after and we didn’t hear it again. Anyways that night we decide to go looking for the hot springs when lo and behold the screams resume from somewhere in the underbrush. We decide to run back to camp in the dark and start a fire. Needless to say, I fell asleep and the next morning we went back out looking for the hot springs. Eventually, we found what we were looking for and proceed to pack out. Upon getting home I google animal sounds and find out that mountain lions make that exact sound that we heard. I had a close encounter with a pair of mountain lions which is actually a lot less scary than a human screaming alone somewhere in the hills.
30. Almost Caught In A Stampede
When I was 12 my dad took my brother and I camping on state land that also happened to be a cow pasture. In the middle of the night, it started to get windy and we could hear all these strange noises. I left the tent and discovered we were surrounded by about 50 cattle that all seemed agitated. I told my dad and he said: “Time to go”. No explanation. We packed up and got to the truck and it started to rain buckets–a wicked thunderstorm with bad winds. My dad later said that he could tell a storm was coming and if we’d stayed we would have been trampled by the cattle. Pretty scary in retrospect!
29. Met The Olympic Park Bomber
Some friends and I were camping in the Cherokee National Forest in 1999. We were out in the middle of NOWHERE hiking through the woods when we ran into this bearded, raggedy man in a plaid jacket. He was very intense and weird. We made a little small talk with him and went our separate ways. We were creeped out by him, to say the least. Something was very off about him.
A couple of years later a few of us were watching tv at my house when the news came on that the authorities had apprehended Eric Rudolph and someone started yelling “HOLY THAT’S THE GUY!!” We’re convinced that’s who we ran into that day in the woods. We’ll never know for sure I guess but he looked an awful lot like him. All in all, it was an unsettling experience.
28. Flying Rocks
I was hiking in the PNW. Stopped to get water when rocks start flying over my head. I don’t think they were intended to hit me, but there was a clear arc–they were being thrown. As I’m finishing up this huge rock came flying over my head.
I’m pretty strong, about 6’3 and 200 lbs. I had also just spent the summer hauling 50 lb bags of cement for work, but when on my way back I tried to lift it I just couldn’t. Had to be at least 100 lbs.
Don’t need to say how fast I lit out of there.
27. Dogs Know Best
A number of years ago back in Colorado (near Evergreen) an ex-GF and I were walking our 2 dogs along a fairly popular trail. It was an approximately 2-mile loop around a rocky point, the backside of which ran along a heavily forested area.
We got a late start, so the sun was starting to set as we left, but no big deal as we’d done this hike plenty of times before.
Around the halfway point, we started hearing what sounded like a woman screaming (sort of) in the distance and the hair on my neck just stood up. What really spooked me was how our dogs (both german shepherd mixes) after the first sound went into tails-tucked, ears down, pulling-hard-at-the-leashes-to-GTFO-of-there mode.
The sound got closer and maintained the same distance and direction from us as we fast-walked our way back to the truck–it was absolutely howling. We later found out that sound was a mountain lion, which apparently followed us all the way back to the parking lot.
26. Phantom Hikers
We were hiking in a small reservation in New York and looking for a site to pitch our tents on. My friend went off to scout out a location around a hundred yards away while we all took a break from carrying the stuff. It was thick forest so we couldn’t see that far, and about twenty seconds later he comes running back to us and so we asked him what had happened. He told us that it was getting a little dark so he couldn’t see that well and heard voices and footsteps nearby, and saw lights moving. He was so sure it was us that he ran towards us to ask why we were starting to move on. He comes up and sees that there is nothing there. He was totally sure it was people walking in the woods and when he said it was literally nothing, he booked it away. This was a big, pretty fearless military type guy and he was scared out of his mind by this. We still don’t know if he was just seeing things or what but it spooked the heck out of all of us.
25. Eyes, Eyes In The Dark
2 am at Cypress Bowl with my headlamp on. I glance to my left and I can see 3 pairs of eyes side by side looking back at me. I can’t see what they belong to, just a floating pair of eyes. They followed me up the mountain for 15 minutes until I reached a point where their path goes into thicker brush and forest and I couldn’t spot them anymore.
24. Black On Black Bear
Saw a few bears so I kept hiking to get out of the area. When I thought I had gone far enough and had no energy or light to go farther I started to pitch my tent. We heard a stick break and I looked in the direction of the noise. When I looked in that direction, my headlamp illuminated another black bear with an all black face. I yelled and screamed at him but he would not leave. He kept inching closer, while kind of pacing back and forth with his head down. I have seen bears before, but this one made me feel really uneasy and I had this feeling it was being aggressive. I kept yelling and throwing stuff out, stomping and fake lunging at it, but this bear was not fazed. Well, that was until I hit him in the head with a rock on a good throw. He turned around slowly and just kind of walked away. Didn’t sleep much that night.
23. Doll Hanging
A friend and I were hiking on an old, very seldom used fire road and spotted something about 20 feet up in a tree a few hundred yards ahead. We initially thought it might be a large bird.
Once we got underneath it, we saw it was a child’s doll that had been stripped and hung in the tree by the neck. Its hair had been brushed forward, obscuring the face. It had obviously been there a while because the hair was matted and discolored.
We kept walking a little distance down the road and found some stones which had been arranged into what looked like a word, but we couldn’t make out what it said. Didn’t see a single person the rest of the day.
22. Tepees, Dead Fish And Jars Of Sand
Last Fourth of July my friends and I were trying to kill some time before the fireworks started. We decided to go for a walk in the nearby woods that led to a beach. I’d lived in that town before, so I knew the area and the best places to go. As we approach the beach, we noticed this weird tepee-looking thing in the middle of the beach. It was made of driftwood and logs and was surrounded by larger logs, probably for sitting or something. Anyway, as we got closer, we notice that it smelled ROTTEN. The smell hit us in the face like a spiked bat. So, now even more curious, we decided to get closer and noticed that there were dirty diapers hanging off this thing as well as a pedestal in the center of it with an eyeless, dead fish placed atop. Then we saw that there was a jar of sand inside of it.
Nobody went inside.
21. Dreaming Of Crashes
In 2005 I biked with my dog to a secluded hill in the woods and was resting in the open on a sleeping pad. The sunset was dark red-purple through the trees and all evening a nighthawk was diving and making this rushing zoom noise. I heard some loud noises in the distance, sirens, but chalked it up to early 4th of July celebrations. Late into the night, I dreamed black shadows of people were standing behind my head and woke panicked. In the morning I learned a small plane had crashed in Davis Bay, about 5 miles away. A 17-year-old girl swam to shore, found a house and called for help. Her parents died but 4 people in the plane survived including her.
20. Catman Comes In The Night
So it’s around midnight and everyone had been telling scary stories, just as on most normal camping trips. Well, I had to go to the bathroom and asked my friend to come along. He said sure, and we headed for our pocket knives (we knew that there were bears in the woods, and it made us feel safer). Well, we went to the bathroom and began our walk back. This is where it got scary.
I felt an instinctual fear. I look at my friend, and he had the same look as me. We begin to walk a little faster and unfold our pocket knives. I then turn around and see it. It looked similar to a cat, but it was ~6 feet tall and was on its hind legs, kinda hunched over. I freaked the hell out and started running. My friend, who saw it too, sprinted back with me to the cabin. It made a moaning/howling noise (it was somewhere between the two) and followed us slowly.
We pounded on the door and the guys let us in. We told them what we saw and to their credit they actually believed us. So we locked the front door and moved to do the same with the back door. But it had no lock and so we pushed a table up against it and had a kid stand there with his pocket knife just in case. We drew the blinds on all the windows that had them (only one didn’t), and we sat there, with all the lights on. Then we saw the eyes floating outside of the blind-less window. We were all crapping ourselves as the thing slowly headed to the back door. We could hear it bumping up against it (maybe trying to open it, we think). Finally it left, but we were still convinced of our impending doom. No one slept that night. When the adults came to wake us up the next morning, we told them but they just laughed and said we were making it up. We know it happened though, even if they don’t believe us.
19. Close Encounters Of The Orb Kind
A couple years ago I went camping out in Pennsylvania with some friends. We had a good time–it was a long hike and we set up camp and made a campfire. We had plenty of drinks and food and firewood. We were all telling stories and having a raucous time. The noise quieted down for a moment and that’s when we heard some movement in the distance. We all got freaked out. We threw some more wood on the fire and kept a lookout. About a half hour later we notice these two bright orbs in the distance. We watched them with great interest for the rest of the evening. As the fire started to die down they approached us, constantly bordering the edge of the dark and the beginning of the firelight. Nobody slept that night. We kept the fire constantly burning and never turned our backs to it. Come morning, the orbs were gone and there was nothing in the brush except for some heavy footprints of a big cat. Now, I know that they shouldn’t be in New Jersey and Pennsylvania but I truly think that there was a mountain lion stalking us in the woods that night.
18. Military Or Sketchy Business?
I backpack in the mountains a ton. Usually solo and have never felt unsafe. But one night I was off-trail and way out, many miles from anyone or anything, when at about 2 am I was woken by the sound of footsteps. I bolted from my bag, opened the tent door and looked out. It was a full moon and coming towards me was a line of guys. Maybe seven or eight of them. None of them were wearing headlamps. As they got closer I could see they all had similar, military style backpacks on. Some were wearing camouflage. As they passed by I said “Hey” and the guy in the front of the line said “Hey” and they kept moving. Not one of them even looked at me. And then they were gone. They definitely weren’t backpackers. I got out of my tent, stood in my underwear and thought “What was that?” I was so remote. And then it hit me–substance harvesting.
17. Shifting Slopes
A couple of friends and I were tearing up this open slope on our snowmobiles when we heard the loudest rumble. We killed our engines and just sat there, wondering if it was an earthquake or an avalanche from somewhere else on the mountain. We decided to get out of there and started making our way to the bottom of the slope. There was an old road that was a groomed trail at the bottom of this hill, and when we got down there it looked like a glacier had covered up the slope – the entire slope we were on shifted about 12ft downhill while we were on it. I have never ridden so hard to get back to the trailer, but we decided to stay away from there for a while. We found out later that some other riders the next weekend found that the hill had completely let loose, thankfully with no one on it.
16. One Goat, Hold The Heart
This happened in Colorado. We generally do not camp on campgrounds. We like to find spots off of jeep trails. This was about 12 years ago. It was evening and we just had put our tent up. I went back to find a “potty” spot and instead found a very LARGE goat hanging upside down with its heart missing. It was starting to smell. We figured it was cult activity, so got out of there immediately.
15. The Singing Woman
I was living in Brazil when a friend and I decided to do a one night out-and-back through mountainous rainforest terrain in one of the southern states. We mostly wanted to get some exercise and do a gear shakeout before going on a longer trip in Patagonia.
At early evening we came to a flat spot (the first we’d seen in hours) and decided to make camp as it was starting to pour. I basically made camp in several inches of standing water. I was beat anyways so I just sat in my tent reading.
Around 3 AM I woke to a girl singing in the distance. The singing approached until it sounded like she was singing right outside our tents. She pushed past us though and the singing drifted off. She was singing (maybe a lullaby, or children’s song?) about rain in Portuguese, but it sounded very strange.
An hour later, I got woken up to the singing in the distance again. She was coming back towards us, singing the same rain song. As she passed us, I could hear a little exasperation in her voice. She continued singing and went back in the direction of the trailhead.
Another hour later, I was again woken up by her singing as she was again coming back towards us, except now she was also crying. She continued to cry and sing as she moved past us for the final time.
14. Whistles In The Woods
When my dad and I go hunting we have a specific whistle for calling out to one another. So one time my dad and I went hunting and he told me to just hangout for a second while he went up a hill to scout. I waited for about 15 minutes then I heard the whistle straight ahead and followed the sound. I walked for 10 minutes following the whistle until I heard my dad come from behind yelling at me. When he asked why I left I told him that I had heard his whistle. But he said that he hadn’t whistled. Back home our local shaman said it must have been my lover from a past life trying to lure me and take my soul. After that we invested in some good walkie talkies.
13. Gossamer Ghost
I woke up in the middle of the night feeling cold because the fire was out. It was of course pitch black. Now hubs was sleeping towards the outside of the shelter and me on the inside, facing the back. That’s when I saw it. A “thing”, whatever it was, floating around inside the shelter. Don’t know how to describe it, other that a gossamer spiderweb looking thing, floating through the air, turning and twisting over and over on itself. It was really quite lovely. I wasn’t afraid of it, but so fascinated. I really wanted to wake him up and ask if he could see it, but I was afraid it would either disappear or he wouldn’t be able to see it and think I was crazy. I mean, I barely knew the guy. So I watched it for a bit, fell back asleep and said nothing.
Until, that is, a couple months later when we’d gotten more familiar and were reminiscing over the trip. When I told him about it his mouth dropped open in shock.
He explained that after we’d packed up the next day and I had dropped him off at his house, he had seen the exact same thing that evening while out on his porch having a drink! Twisting and floating through the air, seemingly almost a living thing. As it dissipated near some shrub he said he had stared out wondering what the heck he had just seen–when all of a sudden he noticed a pair of glowing red eyes in the distance. He freaked out and booked it inside, but never spoke of it to anyone until I had told him about my own experience at the camp.
12. Heavy Breathing
I was in the woods once and a few times I stopped to turn around because I could have sworn I could hear the sound of someone breathing heavily, as if they were running behind me. I even stopped and complained to the people I was with that it sounded like someone is right behind me. Well a few months later a friend was reading about haunted places in my area for fun, and one of the places listed was the woods I was in–the article commented that there “People say they often hear the noise of breathing/running behind them even when no one is there.”
11. Horned Bear
I was hiking in glacier national park with some buddies and we were on switchbacks that were only a foot and a half wide, with dense trees around, so we couldn’t see around each bend until we took it. Because we were deep in bear country we had bear bells on our packs, though we weren’t being exactly quiet either so my friend was terrified about running into one. We rounded a corner in the trail and came across the largest animal I’ve ever seen, standing at least 7 feet tall on this tiny trail was a giant moose. I knew moose were large but I’d never seen one in person, let alone while on a trail I couldn’t step sideways on because of its location on a mountain. We were spooked but the moose seemed more curious than anything . We were not all around the bend yet, just me, the lead guy, and one other hiker. Our lead guy pulled out the little air horn he had brought to “scare away bears” (telling you my friend was terrified) and blew it to make the moose back up. Instead of backing up the moose cocked his head like a dog and starting meandering towards us. There was no way to side step him, and so we slowly backed up to avoid him. At this point, my friend who was scared of bears noticed the giant creature in front of him (he had yet to make it around the corner) and screamed “the bear has horns! We’re dead!” He proceeded to book it back down the mountain. The screaming and bouncing of the bear bell on his pick proved enough for the moose to begin backing up and he left. Coincidently we did see bears later in the trek but not my dearly departed but chicken friend.
10. A Frozen Pit
I was on a camping trip with some friends years ago, and we were walking through an open area when we came across a 4 foot wide hole in the ground. It was deep enough that we could stand in it and turned so we couldn’t see the bottom. The area around the hole was covered in frost, unlike the rest of the clearing.
In the morning we could not find it again.
9. Giant In The Dark
I was staying at my uncles small A-frame right on the coast of Maine. I was sitting on the porch drinking a cup of coffee and using a pipe. It was around midnight and pitch black past the porch. I heard a series of giant crashes, that sounded like large branches were being crushed on the ground, like something was walking on it. I pointed my flashlight inland and saw two huge yellow angular eyes. From where I was, I could see the outhouse nearby and these eyes towered above it–a couple feet taller than a port-a-potty. I was the only one awake and even though I was in my early 20’s I still freaked out. I ran inside and upstairs to grab a small rifle that my uncle kept in an attic type storage space. It was only a .22 but was the only gun available there. The walls of the building were very thin and all the windows were open to keep cool, and I heard this thing trudging through the brush, circling the cabin repeatedly for what must have been 3 or more times. I still don’t know what it was, but I always thought it was strange that it circled the cabin. I was too terrified to look and I’ve always kicked myself for not seeing what it was.
8. A Door Of Mist
Went hiking at a state park in my home state of Michigan when I was 18 with 2 friends from high school. We walked the woods and sand dunes of Lake Michigan for about half the day and ended up staying at the beach until nightfall. During the walk back the fog rolled in, pretty normal for the area since we had to walk through the woods to get back to the parking lot. We knew the trail well since we had hiked it weekly since we were 14. On our way back down the trail at night we were about 100 feet away from our car nearing the end of the trail when we saw a misty fog on the path in the shape of a large rectangular door about 10ft tall and 6 feet wide. It had many swirls of a gray/dark purple fog. We decided to pull out a flashlight at this point which we rarely ever did and shined it at the door like thing. We couldn’t see through it with a light, like it was a solid object. I wanted to walk through it but my friends told me I was crazy and I would die. After that we saw 2 large red glowing orbs in the mist and that was enough for us. We ran like heck on an alternate path to our car. When we got there we could still see the misty door thing on the path basically illuminating itself so we darted to the car and drove out of there.
Footsteps. In multiple directions. Midst of a dense forest, though lots of moonlight that night. Old growth forest, massive, ancient trees. Beautiful. But those footsteps. Some at my twelve, some on my six, some at my 3 and 9, just all over. Closer, closer, persistent. Woke my partner up, neither of us could pinpoint the sounds. Stood back to back for four hours listening to the footsteps as they circled the edge of the clearing. So many sound sources, but nothing in sight of the fire. No eyes glinting, nothing. Right around 0400, all the sounds stopped dead. No retreating footsteps, nothing. Just gone. Waited for daylight, promptly packed up and left. Never, ever returning.
6. A Great Rumble
My friend and I were walking in the woods in NJ right near a big lake/pond. All of a sudden we hear this really really loud rumbling sound (literally sounded like thunder but 10x louder) and felt the ground shake. Lasted probably 3 seconds, then dead silent after that. Didn’t happen again. We have no idea what it was. We guessed an earthquake but we’ve never experienced one there before and heard no news reported about it. Freaky.
5. Mysterious Molester
My husband and I were camping outside of Asheville, NC high up on a mountain. When he woke up in the morning he felt something prodding his side through the tent wall once, twice, and a third time (like poke poke pooooke). He scrambled up and out of the tent to figure out what manner of creature was provoking him.
It was a stray cat nudging him from the outside of the tent.
4. A Wedding In The Woods?
I was on a backcountry hike a couple years ago with my then girlfriend. It was a one way hike going from a backcountry trail through a valley and ending on the top of a popular tourist and easy hiking destination (gondolas and such). However, the trail we were on was an advanced trail and involved some scrambling and technical skill and good gear. It took us around 14 hours to hike it. This was our first time doing the trail and didn’t really know when we would be done.
On one side of a mountain, we crossed a couple holding hands and walking through the trail. Mind you, we hadn’t see anyone else on this trail for the past 10+ hours. The girl was wearing a dark blue evening dress and heels while the guy wearing a dress shirt and shoes. We didn’t think much of it and just said hi as we crossed paths. We thought that we were close to the end of the trail which was a touristy mountain, but we ended up needing to hike 3+ more hours until it was done.
So somehow this couple, dressed in what was appropriate for attending a wedding, hiked 3+ hours in the opposite direction of a one-way only trail. I still don’t know how or what happened to them. There’s no cell phone reception at the top of the mountain and the trail is a difficult and dangerous one even for experienced and well geared hikers. It’s a one way only trail for safety reasons. We later found out that more than 20 people had died on that trail previously. To this day I still wonder what happened to that couple.
3. It Shouldn’t Exist There
While hiking a few years ago I stumbled across a fallen tree obstructing my path. We are talking about a tree about 2 meters in diameter. So when I climbed the fallen tree to cross the path, I looked at its crown. I saw a buffed chimpanzee-like creature about 2 meters heigh and with patchy silver skin walking down the hill. I could only see its back. It was standing just 5-10 meters from me. That’s when it turned and looked at me . I didn’t take it seriously because I was exhausted after 3 hours of continuous hiking and so I just carried on supposing it was my imagination. Later I realized that the creature could have ended me with 1 punch which gladly hadn’t happened. I was on a mountain in West Java, Indonesia. And that creature is absolutely not on the species list there.
2. Definitely Not Normal
There was a decent stretch of woods behind my parents house when I was a kid, despite the fact that we lived in a suburban area. My Dad and I would sometimes go back there just to explore and enjoy nature, but on one occasion, I recall seeing an unidentifiable object between a small clearing in the trees. Thinking it was some sort of debris, I went closer to investigate. As I got within about 15 feet, however, I realized it was a deer corpse, which isn’t out of the ordinary by any means, but what was so weird about it was that it was missing all of its limbs and it looked like it had been pried open. Aside from that, the head was perfectly preserved, as was most of its fur.
This could be a completely typical thing to encounter in the woods for all I know, but my Dad and I both recall having the same feeling of unease after noticing it. What seemed so bizarre is that it wasn’t as messy a sight as you’d expect. It just looked like it had been stripped clean.
I used to go out hiking and camping in the woods a lot. When I was 16 I was camping in Algonquin Park in Canada, when I heard an odd sound. It sounded like a woman shrieking. I’m not talking about the odd yell – I’m talking loud screams at the top of her lungs every 20-30 seconds. I never heard her say “Help!” or any other words for that matter. I thought that was strange. I decided I either would have to go find her or get to a ranger station to call for help. Just when I was about to leave, the sound changed to something like a baby crying. After a couple minutes the sound stopped. I spent the whole night awake, terrified that something straight out of a horror movie was coming for me. The next day I passed by a strange man while hiking. Without saying hello and with a totally straight, emotionless face, he said “Last night – Did you hear the sounds?” I went still. Then he let out a laugh, sensing my terror. “Calm down, that was just the sound of foxes mating!” he said. I went home and checked youtube and sure enough, he was right.