By Jenny Gumbert
There’s a reason that people have traditionally told scary tales around a campfire; being surrounded by dense landscapes emphasizes our greatest fear: the unknown. While spending an evening out in the woods, you’ll hear the sounds of unidentified creatures lurking close by, and your imagination may get the best of you once you start imagining who or what may be in the shadows…
Even though these mysteries can terrify us, the adrenaline rush of a quality scary story is too good to pass up. And when those narratives are set in the wilderness, all the better. Here are some of our favorite ways to find terrifying outdoor tales, plus a few ideas for how to have your own haunting adventure during the spooky season.
Haunting Adventure Tales
Listen to a petrifying podcast
While we never expected that radio would come back into popularity, we love being able to just push “play” and instantly hear a spooky tale set in the outdoors. It’s like campfire stories 2.0!
If podcasts are your thing too, try out REI’s Camp Monsters podcast. Each episode explores a mysterious creature that may be hiding in the wilderness across North America. The host shares stories from those who claim to have encountered the beasts. Episodes include “The Legend of the Bat-Squatch” and “The Ozark Howler.”
Read nail-biting novels
In our opinion, a book by the campfire is a beautiful thing. You could go with a classic man vs. monster novel like “Frankenstein” or “Dracula,” but why not try out a modern novel set in the wilderness? Here are a couple of recommendations for those who want their terrors set amid the great unknown.
Dan Simmon’s “The Terror” tells the tale of the men on board the HMS Terror who become stranded in the nightmarish landscape of the Arctic Circle. Nature isn’t their only adversary—an unseen, monstrous terror is constantly clawing their ship to get in.
In Michelle Paver’s “Thin Air,” a group of mountaineers sets off on an expedition to climb one of the world’s highest mountains, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time. As they get higher and higher, one climber starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes.
Watch frightening adventure films
There’s no shortage of terrifying movies that are set in the outdoors. The “Blair Witch Project,” “The Thing,” “The Descent,” and many more all share a common thread: our greatest fear is that which we cannot see. A wild landscape—the woods, caverns or a snow-covered tundra—provides the perfect shadowy coverage for something to hide.
For a different kind of outdoor horror, Outside Magazine recently made the argument that “Free Solo” (the documentary about Alex Honnold’s historic, rope-less ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan) is perhaps the ultimate outdoor horror movie. Watch it and decide for yourself.
Better yet, experience your own “haunting” adventure!
After you’ve scared yourself with the terrifying tales above, channel that spooky energy into some frighteningly fun outdoor activities.
Take a haunted hike
Love hiking and horror? We’ve got an activity for you: haunted hiking! After a quick internet search, it becomes abundantly clear that there are no shortage of reportedly haunted trails. These lists from Backpacker and the Travel Channel will inspire you to find a haunted hike in your area.
Get lost in a creepy corn maze
Even the most mundane corn maze can put you on edge, but add zombies and ghouls and you have an extra adrenaline rush. Who knows what you’ll face around every cornstalked corner? Find one in your area and then enter if you dare…
Tell scary stories around the campfire
Participate in the original spooky outdoor activity: a classic session of campfire tales. Best of all, you don’t have to leave your backyard to partake in this eerie endeavor. Set up your fire pit, gather your crew, and ask everyone to sit around and share their favorite scares.