Who doesn’t love a good scary campfire story?
Telling spooky stories around the campfire while you’re toasting marshmallows is one of the best parts of a camping trip for any kid.
But don’t be fooled – it can be tricky business.
After all, you don’t want to scare your little ones out of their minds right before bedtime. On the other hand, you don’t want the stories you tell to be boring, either.
So it’s a delicate balance, and finding the right story isn’t always easy.
To help you out, I’ve gathered some great campfire stories for kids that are just the right balance of creepy and fun. I’ve included some milder stories for younger kids, as well as some scarier ones for the big kids.
Let’s dive straight in!
Funny Campfire Stories
Now, the “Gloop Maker” is a story even adults can enjoy, given the hidden message it brings, which is that there are no stupid questions.
The story starts with a sailor falling into the water on his return to the ship and being saved by a little man claiming to be a Gloop Maker.
As a favor, the sailor promised to get him a job on the ship, even though neither he nor anyone else knew what a Gloop Maker is and does.
As it later turns out, it’s definitely not a profession they have use for on the ship or anywhere else.
But because they were too embarrassed to ask, they had to learn it the hard way.
“Sneakers” is one of those stories that really keeps the kids intrigued until the end, as there’s no way they’ll see the ending coming.
In short, it’s a story about a boy who’s working hard to win the smelly sneakers contest.
In the end, he gets the help of a mysterious stranger. But is the stranger selflessly aiding or is there more to his purpose?
Who wouldn’t enjoy a good monster story? Now, every monster story needs a hero, and in this case, that’s Erik the Brave!
“The Medicrin” is about a dreaded monster that sneaks into villages at night and grabs a villager to eat for breakfast.
This story tells a tale of how Erik studies the monster to figure out its weaknesses and save the village from the menace.
While it’s a monster story, “The Medicrin” is by no means scary. In fact, it’s a beautiful tale with a happy ending and a funny point behind it.
Personally, I love the “Vinder Viper”. It’s a short-but-sweet story with an unexpectedly funny ending.
It’s about a man who inherited his great uncle’s house, and he’s receiving phone calls from someone named Vinder Viper, who will be there in two weeks.
A threat or something else? Well, that’s to be seen in the end.
Apparently, the story should be told in a German accent, but reading it normally won’t lessen its impact.
The Ghost Of The Bloody Finger
“The Ghost of the Bloody Finger” is a tale that starts out scary but has a funny ending. It’s about villagers challenging a man to visit an abandoned house.
In there, he’ll encounter the house occupant that’s mentioned in the title – the ghost with a bloody finger.
Now, you should tell it in such a way as to build tension until the very end.
There are certain lines where you need to interpret the ghost, so make sure you use your spooky voice.
And then when you get to the last sentence, change his voice to make him sound conversational and friendly.
The Misadventures Of Silly Sam
Technically, “The Misadventures of Silly Sam” is a poem. But it’s short, sweet, and great for very young kids.
The poem tells a tale about a clown named Silly Sam, who was so funny even the most serious crowd couldn’t keep a straight face around him.
The Talking Animals Of Whispering Woods
This heartwarming story teaches us the value of friendship and respect for nature around us, so it’s perfect for a campfire tale. What kid doesn’t like adventures and fantasy?
“The Talking Animals of Whispering Woods” follows Emily and her Golden Retriever named Max venturing into the enchanted Whispering Woods.
Throughout their journey, they’ll meet different animals, all of whom can talk inside the forest.
Legend & Folklore Stories
Chipmunk & Bear
This Haudenosaunee legend is a story about a pompous bear who thinks he’s omnipotent, and a chipmunk who is ready to prove him wrong.
The legend explains how chipmunks got their stripes (hint – it’s all bear’s fault). Like with most folklore stories, there’s a strong moral behind this one.
Ultimately, it gives a great example of why you should never make fun of another being.
The Ballad Of Johnny O’Dell
If you have an instrument ready (and of course, you know how to play it), then by all means, make this poem into a camping jam.
“The Ballad of Johnny O’Dell” tells the tale of a fearless young man and the best of cowboys at the time.
Johnny had a very important job, which was to deliver mail through a dangerous trail, and the poem follows him on that dangerous endeavor.
How Bear Lost His Tail
This Oneida folk legend speaks about how bears came to have such tiny tails.
According to the tale, bears once had luscious, black, and glossy tails that all animals were envious of.
Among them, the sly fox decided to play a trick on the bear, which ultimately resulted in the bear losing his tail.
The Hunting Of The Great Bear
This is another beautiful Iroquois folktale about these wonderful animals. As many legends do, “The Hunting of the Great Bear” is one of those tales that was inspired by the stars.
The great bear can be seen as a square-shaped constellation some call the Big Dipper.
Ultimately, this legend explains why the leaves turn colors every fall due to the hunters chasing the bear every year.
Spooky Stories For Younger Kiddos
These stories are spooky and a little bit creepy, but they’re also kind of funny. There are scary themes, but they don’t go into any gory details that’ll keep your little kids up at night.
If you’ve got really young kids that you don’t want to freak out with scary stories, you can still tell them a ghost story around the campfire.
In fact, lots of ghost stories are funnier than they are scary.
A great example of this is “The Underpants”. It’s a story about an old man who always wore two pairs of underpants but was buried wearing just one pair when he died.
Naturally, his ghost wouldn’t rest until he got a hold of a second pair.
The Bear Lake Monster
The tale of the “Bear Lake Monster” originated in Utah. It’s an old folktale, and it’s one of my absolute favorites to tell around the campfire, because it can be enjoyed by kids of all ages.
It won’t scare your little ones too much, but it’s still a great ghost story for the older kids, too.
If you’re camping near a lake, you can substitute Bear Lake with the name of the lake you’re close to.
It’ll definitely make the story more chilling, if that’s what you’re going for.
This one definitely leans more on the comedy side but definitely still keeps it creepy.
“Yellow Ribbon” is an intriguing story about a girl who always wears a yellow ribbon around her neck and a boy who pretty much spends his entire life trying to figure out why.
The story actually doesn’t get scary at all until the very end. But when you find out why the girl always wears a yellow ribbon, you’ll see why this one definitely belongs in this category.
Never Mind Them Watermelons
“Never Mind Them Watermelons” is a great spooky campfire story for young kids, because it isn’t so scary that they won’t be able to fall asleep afterwards.
Instead, it combines spookiness with comedy, so your little ones will be giggling by the end of it, rather than shaking in their socks.
It’s about an old man called Sam who doesn’t believe in ghosts spending the night in a haunted house.
His friend said he’d give him a wagonload of watermelons if he lasted the entire night.
You can probably guess if old man Sam made it from the title.
If your kids can handle a theme that’s slightly bloodier, “Old Bill” is a great ghost story that’s a little bit more intense than the last ones.
Don’t worry, though – it’s still pretty mild.
It’s about a ruthless captain that murders a crew member, only to be haunted by his ghost to the point where he throws himself overboard to escape.
Scary Tales For Older Folks
Now, if your kids are a little bit older, the stories above probably won’t cut it.
You’re going to need some better ammo to get the hair standing up on their spine.
The following tales are one step up. They’re a lot creepier, and a whole lot more gruesome.
Where’s My Liver
This one comes from Ontario, and it’s my nephew Jayden’s favorite.
I’d say it has something to do with how gruesome it is. You know how boys are – they tend to like that kind of thing.
“Where’s My Liver” is a hair-raisingly creepy tale of a little boy who forgets to buy liver from the store for his mother.
To avoid punishment, he digs up the grave of his recently deceased uncle and takes his liver home to his mother to cook for a dinner party.
And if you think that’s disturbing, just wait until the uncle’s ghost comes looking for revenge.
“The Thing” is based on a Nova Scotian folktale. It’s a bit too gory and gruesome for younger kids, but older kids who enjoy that kind of thing will dig it.
It’s about two young boys who spot a terribly deformed creature in a cornfield.
“The thing” attacks them and although they manage to escape, one of the boys becomes ill and starts turning into the terrifying creature.
This one is definitely by far the darkest story in this article, if you ask me. It’s definitely one I’d keep reserved for the big kids – and even then I’d be cautious.
“La Llorona” is a Latin American folktale about the ghost of a woman who wails, mourning her drowned children as she drowns men and children alike.
There are quite a few versions out there and the details vary quite a bit in different parts of South America and the US.
The Shadows In The Woods
Now, “The Shadows in the Woods” is a bit spooky, I must admit. It tells a tale about a group of friends who went camping.
Gathered around the campfire, they started hearing strange and spooky noises.
Soon, they discovered a shadowy figure that was approaching them, in a non-friendly manner. They start running from it, but in the end, they’re not successful.
This is one of those stories where you really need to read it in a spooky voice to bring the message across.
The Quest For The Golden Leaf
This recommendation actually comes from a children’s book.
“The Quest for the Golden Leaf” is a story from the collection named The Great Adventures of Fidolino by Stan Berenstain.
Intended for young children, the story tells a tale about a dinosaur named Fidolino on his quest through the world of quest and adventure.
The book itself is really great and features blank pages for children to draw their own images, which is a great way to let them create their own interpretations.
When it comes to adventure stories, you can always rely on Aesop’s Fables.
You can count on each tale to have a hero, an obstacle, and a moral that is great entertainment for kids of all ages.
Plus, there are plenty of retellings and version variations to choose from when it comes to these stories.
Campfire Stories Book Suggestions
While most campfire stories can be found online, there are many story collections available as well.
Whether you’re looking for a physical edition or a Kindle version, there’s a huge selection of camping story books to choose from.
Campfire Stories: Tales from America’s National Parks is one of the most popular ones, for a good reason.
The writers, Dave and Ilyssa Kyu, have spent half a year traveling and researching stories from park rangers, historians, artists, curators, educators, and local residents.
Another great edition is Campfire Stories, Vol. 1: Things That Go Bump in the Night by William W. Forgey.
This book is a collection of 22 ghost stories with suggestions on how each should be told to a group.
Finally, for little kiddos, there are a number of Curious George picture books that tell stories about activities like camping and fishing.
Campfire Storytelling Tips
Having a great story isn’t enough. It’s all about how you deliver it.
There are a few things you can do to up your game when it comes to campfire storytelling.
First of all, find the right tone. The tone you use to tell a story can make a huge difference in how it comes off.
Now, which kind of tone you should go for depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
If you want to make a story scarier, you want to speak slowly in a low, almost raspy voice.
Take long pauses for dramatic effect, and use your voice to emphasize the scary bits.
Shifting your volume at certain points in the story can also make it a whole lot scarier.
If you build up to a scary part quietly, then raise your volume for the climax, it’ll more than likely make your audience jump.
On the other hand, if you want to make a story less scary, you’ll want to use a different tone altogether.
Use your voice to add a comic spin on things by giving the characters funny voices. Focus on the funny parts of the story, rather than the scary bits.
And, finally, if you see that your kids are getting too spooked out – abort mission!
Stick to s’mores and campfire songs until they’re old enough to take it on board.
Even stories that aren’t all that scary can be enough to make some kids uncomfortable, so just be aware of that.
How Can I Make A Spooky Story Less Scary For Younger Kids?
The way you tell a story plays a huge role in how kids may interpret it.
You don’t want the frightening part to be too surprising, so let them see it coming.
Alternatively, you can turn the climax into something silly or funny instead of scary.
Lastly, you can adjust your tone to make the scary parts seem lighter.
Just make sure that your storytelling delivery isn’t making it more scary.
Are There Any Stories That Can Teach Kids Moral Lessons?
Of course, that’s particularly the case with legends and folktales.
These stories always have an ending that can teach the listeners a specific lesson that they can apply in real life.
How Long Should A Campfire Story Be For Kids?
You don’t want the story to be too long, so that they forget what it’s about.
But at the same time, it can’t be too short either, or else you’ll have to skip any detailing.
According to experts, you should keep the length of the story the same as the kids’ age.
Can I Involve Kids In Creating A Spontaneous Campfire Story?
Absolutely. Letting them engage in the creative part not only can result in a seamlessly funny or spooky story, but it’s also a great way to get them tired and ready for bed afterward.
Where Can I Find More Campfire Stories Suitable For Children?
From Native American folklore to Boy/Girl Scout resources, you can find a bunch of campfire stories that are suitable for kids of different ages.
Just a simple search online will bring you hundreds of stories to choose from.
Hopefully your little ones will enjoy some of these campfire stories for kids.
And hey, you can always come up with your own, too. Sometimes stories made up on the spot turn out to be the best.
Plus, having the kids come up with their own stories is a great way to awaken their imagination!