18 Campfire Stories You’ll Want to Share This Summer

Round up the s'mores ingredients and snuggle under comfy blankets. It's time to settle in for a night of good old-fashioned storytelling.

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There’s a reason people have been telling campfire stories pretty much ever since there were people and fires. There’s something so delightful about sitting around a warm campfire and hearing a story that sends a chill down your spine. Whether you’re a camping pro or you’re looking for tips for camping for beginners, you’ll need some camping activities to keep things fun in the forest (or beach or desert or backyard). So you’ll want some campfire games and, of course, the best campfire stories.

Campfire stories are for every age and can be about anything from ghosts and goblins to local lore and urban legends. But this tradition of storytelling isn’t just for entertainment. These deceptively simple tales are a way of passing down history, culture and values. You may notice that almost all campfire stories have a moral at the end, used to teach an important life lesson.

These tales can be funny, scary or just plain weird—or all of the above. Seriously, have you heard the one about the bride who won’t untie the yellow ribbon around her neck? If you haven’t, keep reading. We have the yellow ribbon and 17 more of the best campfire stories—and camping songs and movies—to share on your next overnight outdoor adventure.

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Scary campfire stories

Boogie Monster in the Tentchrispecoraro/Getty Images

Tall tales can be scary, but getting prepared to go camping shouldn’t be. We’ve got you covered with the best tents for camping, best sleeping bags and best camping chair—you know, to relax in while you tell all these scary stories.

Who can you trust?

A small-town man is murdered in the middle of a dark night. No one saw what happened, and the only evidence they have to go on are 10 puncture wounds in his chest. After being blessed by their grandmother, two brothers set out to protect their town. One is attacked by the mysterious killer beast, but the two of them together fight it off. And as the story goes, they discover a horrifying truth about who the monsters in our lives really are. Not going monster hunting alone may not be one of the top camping hacks, but it really should be.

The yellow ribbon

In this classic campfire tale, a young couple falls in love. But as their relationship progresses the woman has a surprisingly odd request: That no matter what happens, no one can remove the yellow ribbon she always wears tied around her neck. The couple marries, has a family and grows old together. Then, one day, she dies and her curious husband decides to finally remove the yellow ribbon …

Don’t believe everything you’re told

You visit a psychic at a fair and end up learning something terrifying that happened to you in a previous life—something that still haunts you to this day. To convince your listeners, have them become part of the story, and then delight them with a hilarious surprise ending. Just make sure you brush up on your acting skills!

How the 10,000 lakes were made

Local lore has long been shared around the campfire, and it can get more elaborate with each telling. Use this tall tale to explain how Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” was formed, thanks to a giant moose and a pesky fly. The ending is equal parts icky and funny, leaving your listeners with a shivery laugh. Would you also like to find the best RV parks in every state?

Grandma in the basement (maybe)

Children hear a suspicious rapping noise when the family is cleaning out the house of their dearly departed grandmother. But is she really dead? As this spooky story goes on, they decide to investigate the source of the scary noise only to discover it’s definitely not what you think it will be!

Campfire stories for kids

Mother and children in a tentImage Source/Getty Images

Camping with kids can be like regular camping, but set to “difficult.” One way to make it a little easier is by making sure you’re stocked up on these car camping essentials, camp cooking, tips and stories the littles will love.

But seriously, where did the pink ping-pong balls go?

It all starts with a son’s strange request for a birthday present: a single pink ping-pong ball. His father obliges him—only to watch in frustration as the mystery deepens over the next decade. Literal truckloads of pink ping-pong balls arrive and disappear, and the father and son’s relationship strengthens. Until you get to this story’s ending, which none of your listeners will be prepared for. Looking for a place to build the ultimate storytelling campfire? Try one of these incredible campgrounds across America.

This gives new meaning to “hacking up a lung”

A man walks past a cemetery, only to be joined by a creepy new friend who lives in a coffin. After a harrowing run, he finally discovers the hilarious thing the ghoul really needed in order to lay down for its eternal rest. This campfire story is perfect if you have little ones who love to be delighted with a scary tale but you don’t want them sleeping in your room every night for the next month.

Whatever you do, don’t touch the purple gorilla

A mysterious, remote cabin. A monstrous, hidden creature. A dire and ultimately unheeded warning. It’s the perfect setup for a terrifying campfire story. And the ending will definitely have you screaming—with laughter. Little ones, especially, will get a kick out of this surprising tale. If your listeners can handle it, share these spooky stories from the world’s most haunted places.

Two rotting heads

In this spooky tale, a New York taxi driver—you could even make him an Uber driver to give the story a modern take—picks up a passenger carrying a strange bag. Throughout the ride, the driver recognizes an increasingly strong smell of decay and rot and begins to panic. After dropping off the passenger, the driver realizes the bag was left behind, and he opens it to find … well, we don’t want to spoil your surprise. (Kids who hate veggies will crack up at this ending.)

Puns + exotic animals = the perfect campfire story

This story takes place deep in the heart of Africa, in a battle between a certain hoofed mammal and neighboring humans. Eventually the score is settled, and the moral is summed up in a hilarious punny saying that will have your listeners laughing and rolling their eyes at the same time. And if you come across a different kind of animal on your own camping trip, here’s what to do if you see a bear.

Campfire ghost stories

People who swear they don’t believe in ghosts may be convinced they exist after sharing these stories around a campfire. So get cozy in your camping hammocks or luxury camping cot (for those who like glamping) and check your disbelief.

What color is a ghost’s eye?

A visitor to an old Victorian hotel is given his room key along with some oddly specific instructions: Whatever he does, he’s not to go in one certain room. Of course, this only tantalizes his curiosity, and that night he peers through the keyhole. All he sees is a woman with white skin staring forlornly out the window. Something about her catches his attention, though, so the next night he returns, and what he sees, and where the story goes, will change your perspective on ghosts (and maybe on hotel clerks who give obviously bad instructions).

Mountain man vs. miserly ghost

In an epic battle of wills, children have to fend off the ghost of an old miser in order to win a tempting treasure. This story’s ending will give you a good giggle, but the real humor lies in asking your listeners what they would say to the specious spirit.

When ghosts are helpful

Not all ghosts are bad spirits, as a young couple stranded in the middle of nowhere discovers in this strange tale. After their car breaks down, they seek refuge for the night in a solitary but friendly cottage. The next morning they awake early, leaving some money on the table as a thank you to their hosts. But their hosts aren’t who they first seemed. Who, exactly, did the couple meet?

Funny campfire stories

Friends sitting together in nature around campfireOliver Rossi/Getty Images

Whether you’re camping with pets or yurt camping, you’ll get a good chuckle out of these funny (and punny) stories.

Why am I so unlucky?

A man who seemingly has everything goes on a quest to find out why he isn’t content. As the story unfolds, he encounters several plants, animals and other people with similar questions. At last, the man finds God at the end of the world and asks him why they are all so unlucky. His answer will have you chuckling—and then questioning your own priorities.

Are you me?

Two coyotes get into an argument over who and what they really are. They decide to let a nearby farmer decide. But even though they hear the same response, they arrive at two very different conclusions. Listeners to this humorous tale will be howling with laughter. (Especially if they’re the parent of more than one child!) You can also get a chuckle out of your tent mates with these funny songs.

Depends on your definition of “lucky!”

Ball pits are a favorite of young children but also a source of worry for parents. Who knows what dangers could be lurking under all those brightly colored balls? This unexpected story turns that worry on its head with a hilarious twist ending.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Two friends go hunting in the woods only to suffer a terrible accident. But things really go sideways in this outdoorsy story when one friend calls emergency services—and then hilariously misinterprets their instructions.

For a stalker, you sure walk really loud

Everyone has had the unnerving experience of walking alone at night and feeling like they’re being followed, but in this creepy tale, the woman finally confronts her stalker—only to discover that the situation was far different from what she’d imagined. Now, check out the spookiest urban legend from every state.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte is an award-winning journalist who covers etiquette, relationships, psychology, health and lifestyle. She has written more than 50 etiquette stories for Reader’s Digest, spearheading the site’s popular Polite Habits and Best Messages series. With a knack for capturing the essence of an interview subject, she also specializes in human-interest and “as told to” stories. In addition to Reader’s Digest and The Healthy, her work has been published in Shape, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, O Magazine, Fitness, Redbook, Seventeen, What to Expect When You're Expecting and more.