On their drive to the park, the Johnson family eagerly planned all the fun things they would do while camping. Joey and Jenny looked forward to a big campfire that evening. They loved s’mores, and their mom and dad, Jesse and Jane, loved to scare them by telling creepy stories.

Unfortunately, they had been so busy planning their weekend that they hadn’t bothered to listen to the radio. News reporters had announced that a large creature had been seen in the vicinity of the park. Some speculated it might be Sasquatch. If only the poor Johnson family had known…

Tales like this are the perfect way to enliven an evening around the campfire. When the sun sets, the night becomes chilly. A campfire provides a warm, comfortable spot to relax with friends and family.

The shadows of tall trees loom above the campfire. Snapping twigs and rustling leaves sound loud and scary as we imagine wild animals and even ghostly spirits. As the burning wood crackles and smoke drifts lazily toward the sky, the dancing flames just might put you in a trance.

Telling ghost stories is a traditional part of campfire fun. If you’re wondering who invented campfire stories, no one knows. But we’d bet it was probably the person who first figured out how to make a fire.

That’s right. Campfire stories are probably as old as fire itself. The earliest humans didn’t have a written language, so they told stories to communicate with each other.

Some of the best scary stories are famous old ghost tales. For example, each Christmas families listen to the retelling of A Christmas Carol — the famous tale of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Another famous favorite is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The gangling teacher Ichabod Crane returns on horseback late one evening from a student’s home. They had shared a big meal and told ghost stories by the fireplace.

Tired and very full, Ichabod slowly makes his way home. He had no idea he was about to encounter the frightful ghost of the headless horseman.

Do you have a favorite ghost story? Is it a story about a scary creature, such as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster? Or does it feature zombies or werewolves that might come out of the woods next to your campfire at any minute?

There are thousands and thousands of scary stories to tell around a campfire. Some feature ghosts, while others are spooky mysteries, myths, legends or tall tales.

Ask your friends and family members about their favorite ghost stories. Do they remember a really scary tale from their youth?

In Wonderopolis, there’s an old story about a creature that lurks behind a floodwall. It’s half fish, half man. And it’s up to no good… but that’s a story for the campfire!

As you listen to these scary stories, your body will probably react in certain ways. Your heart will probably beat faster. You may get goose bumps. You might even start to shiver. These are all typical physical reactions from the psychological impact of fright.

Do you enjoy feeling scared? Believe it or not, many people like the excitement these feelings bring. That’s probably why horror movies and ghost stories remain popular.


34 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (29 votes, avg. 3.76 out of 5)
  1. Wow that was a very cute and scary story about a monster under the bed!! Once I saw a play of the Christmas Carol, and I think it should have been a Halloween Carol. It was sooo creepy, especially because the ghost of the future was the Grim Reaper. Oh, that part was horrifying. The ghost walked as quiet as a mouse up to Scrooge and he looked and then there was a creepy ghost right under his nose! Ghost stories are fun to tell but mine don’t end up very scary in the end.

    I think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about dogs. I have a dog who is a labercollie. (a border collie and a lab combined):)

    • Thanks for being a Wonder Camper and commenting today, Meredith! We agree, the story A Christmas Carol is pretty frightening with all of its ghosts! :-)

  2. We love stories like that here in GA. I remember being young and going out with friends that told me a rumor or story about an old bridge on a dirt road. We drove to the bridge and my friend told me how an old lady lived under the bridge and your car would turn off if you drove over it at night when she haunted the bridge. ( of course our car went off as we went over the bridge- ha ha ) She (old lady) was said to be there because she didnt want the bridge through her property- but the county did it anway, and now she haunts it. Fun as a teenager would not have been the same without stories like that! Gotta love it!

  3. I have a ghost story. (This event is based on a true story) There was this woman in her kitchen cutting tomatoes while her husband was asleep watching the Football game. Then she heard the TV shut off but her husband didn’t move from the couch. Then there was an faint echoing screech, and she heard water running from the bathroom she turned on the lights in the bathroom to find the water on full heat and hand prints all over the fogged window. Two years later the encounters got too serious and they moved out.

  4. Hey this is Ryan from Mrs. Caplin’s class, and as soon as I saw this wonder I knew this was what I was looking for. This wonder is SO cool! With some thought, I was able to generate my own story idea! The humarachnid is the result of a science experiment gone terribly wrong that turned a normal scientist into a half-man, half-spider monster. Witnesses of the terrible mistake say he spun an instant web and used it to escape the building and is currently on the run and destroying buildings and terrorizing cities. So will we catch this mutant monster? Where will he strike next? And if we catch him, will we be able to turn him back to his human state? These are only few of the reigning questions. You rock, Wonderopolis!

    • We think your story ROCKS, Ryan! You have quite an imagination, and your description of the “humarachnid” is awesome! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis today and sharing your story with everyone today! :-)

  5. I forgot to say that I picked this wonder because I have read a lot about ghosts and know many facts as background knowledge, such as ghosts are usually not dangerous except for few ghosts, and that some ghosts don’t mean to scare, they just want to revisit family or friends after death. That is also how I connect to it. Why do many ghosts scare people when usually not meaning to? I am going to remember this wonder very well and I may use it some times to generate creepy ghost story ideas. In the story of the Johnson family, you could have used context clues to find that speculate means think. Go, Wonderopolis!

    • Thank you for sharing how you connected to this Wonder in a personal way, and also for sharing how you used context clues to learn something new, Ryan! We think you are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  6. I have a cool funny/scary story.
    once there was 2 boys. they both played baseball. they desided that whoever died first would tell the other if there was baseball in heaven.
    well when they were older and one of them died the other waited patiently for the other. one day the dead guy came to the house. he told the guy there was good news and bad news. the good news was that there was baseball in heaven. the bad news was that the alive guy was scedueled to play tomorrow.
    hope you enjoy it!

    • That WAS a cool/funny/scary story, Team Wilch #4! Thank you for sharing it with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  7. I know a creepy ghost story
    Bloody Mary
    Legend is when nobody is in the house and you go into the in the bathroom say Bloody Mary
    Bloody Mary
    Bloody Mary
    She will come back to haunt you
    Do you believe in ghosts? I do.

    • Thanks for sharing that ghost story, “Love!” It was SPOOKY for sure! We also appreciate you sharing that you believe in ghosts. Lots of folks work and live here in Wonderopolis, so we’re sure there are some who believe in ghosts and some who don’t. We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We sure are glad you liked our ghostly Wonder, Phie! We don’t really enjoy being scared, but around Halloween it’s fun to get into the spirit and tell sPoOkY stories with Wonder Friends! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • We’re proud of you, Rose! Sometimes some of our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis get spooked easily! Often, around Halloween-time, there are ghostly stories and spooky images, but it’s important to remember they are only stories and pictures! Thanks for commenting today, Rose! :)

  8. Hi I love all the information you have done it’s really interesting and it’s been giving lots of information to share with the class as well, just not me I would like you to keep it up.

    Thanks :)

    • Hooray, we’re so happy that you’re WONDERing with us, Talia! Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment! We’ll see you soon! :)

  9. Check out my wonder it is called How Big Is Heaven? I think it is as big as the sky. Way bigger than Earth. Heaven is for real.

    • Hi Wonder Friend Ashton, we’re so glad you’ve been thinking of Wonders of your own! Keep up the SUPER work! :)

    • YIKES, those sound like some bone-chilling stories, Luna! We’ve got goosebumps thinking about those stories! Thanks for sharing your comment and being brave! :)

    • Hi Kynsley! Wow, we haven’t heard of that story! How does it go? Thanks for WONDERing with us and sharing WONDERful new stories with us! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s your favorite ghost story?
  • Who started the tradition of telling campfire stories?
  • How can you create your own family ghost story?

Wonder Gallery

kids dressed as ghosts_shutterstock_605991611377881169255Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to create your very own family ghost story? If you can make a fire in the backyard, perfect! Make sure you ask an adult for help and be safe.

If not, don’t worry about it. You can have just as much fun inside the house under a blanket or sitting in lawn chairs in a circle in your backyard! Grab a flashlight and get ready to be spooked!

Pick one person to start the story. That person gets to start the story however he or she wants. It can feature a familiar character, such as Bigfoot, or an entirely new character or creature no one knows about… yet.

Let each person build the story line by line. As soon as one person adds a line to the story, the next person adds on to the story with a line of his or her own.

As you go round and round in a circle, your own unique ghost story will take shape. But no one will know how it ends until the last person supplies the final line.

If you have trouble getting started, here are a few one-liners that you can use to get your story off the ground:

  • As John unzipped his tent, he came face to face with…
  • When Miranda closed her eyes, she heard a piercing scream from the nearby woods.
  • Who knew that camping out at the edge of a pioneer cemetery was such a bad idea?

As you tell your part of the story, look directly at your listeners. Make eye contact with them. Use hand gestures to build interest.

Keep listeners interested by changing your voice. Use different voices for different characters. Sometimes talk loud and other times talk soft. If you’re building up to a scary part, lower your voice and then… BOO!… raise your voice to add to the story’s excitement.

Use nearby sounds to increase the tension while telling your story. Pause for dramatic effect. Point out a sound and ask your listeners if they heard it. Suggest that one of the characters in your story might be lurking in the dark!

If you can, have a friend or family member videotape you telling your story. Upload your video online and email us the link to it. We’d love to hear your story!


Still Wondering

What story does your life tell? Find out when you explore Thinkfinity’s Stories All Around Us resource collection!


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