What started out as a prank on one of their fellow campers turns into something much more sinister.
This week we're heading to a summer camp in Mississippi. Where a group of campers decide to pull a prank on their bunk mate and something goes wrong. Horribly wrong.
Welcome to Camp Monsters Summer Camp. Over the past few seasons of the show, we've gotten tons of suggestions on the monsters we should cover. We noticed that a lot of these take place at a summer camp. So we've collected the best of the stories you've sent — and researched a few of our own — to create our first series of legendary summer camp creatures. Hopefully you can take these episodes with you to summer camp or they'll bring you back to when you were a camper, scared of what might be lurking outside of your cabin.
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You stand at your cabin window, staring out into the forest as the last of the twilight fades. The trees have turned blue and black, and the final orange glow of day has died behind the branches– now the sky in the west is a disappearing gray. In this last, deep twilight the woods are so beautiful they’re like to break your heart. But… in a few more minutes… once the night truly falls… you know they become another place altogether.
Shadows-- impenetrable-- shift behind every tree. Finger-like branches catch at your clothes, scratch your face… slide through your hair. You make so much noise moving through the thick brush that you can never quite be sure that you hear those… other sounds… behind you-- the quiet snap of a bone-dry twig or the sound that leaves make as something brushes past them. When you stop and listen you… you do hear those sounds… but you can’t tell where they come from, whether they’re near or far, if they’re made by the wind or some small animal or… some large animal…
So you start to move again. Faster this time. And still faster. With the growing feeling that something is following you. Chasing you. Coming closer…
Luckily you’re just imagining all this… you aren’t out in those woods-- you’re standing safely at your cabin window. Still: you shudder. Because the darkness is almost complete, now… and it’s almost time to go… to go back into the woods. You know you have to. Because of what happened last night…
This is the Camp Monsters Podcast.
No matter how dark the night…
No matter how fast you run…
No matter what is chasing you…
You’ll be safe, if only you can get to the campfire.
…but will you make it?
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Welcome to Camp Monsters Summer Camp. I hope the bus ride out here wasn’t too hot and dusty. Over the past few seasons of the Camp Monsters podcast, so many of you have written reviews or sent emails with great monster stories of your own. We noticed that a lot of these tales took place at a summer camp… or in a wilderness nearby. So we’ve collected the best of the stories you’ve sent-- and researched a few of our own-- to create our first series of legendary summer camp creatures. We hope you take these stories with you into the bunkhouses and barracks and cabins of whatever summer camp you go to. Or if your summer camp years are behind you, listen to these and remember what it was like…
The story we’re about to tell originates right here, at a rustic little summer camp in northern Mississippi-- but we’ve heard of similar tales told at other camps in many other parts of the country. Really, it could take place anywhere. And it all starts on a night like this one but… darker. And later. And deeper in the woods. Far from the comfort of a campfire like ours...
It starts when Louie stops running through the thick undergrowth of the forest, and leans his back against a tree: panting, gasping, his chest heaving for air. Louie doesn’t notice that he’s weeping-- that tears of terror stream down his face to mix with the sweat; that little sobs and groans are wrung from his throat every time he struggles for breath. He doesn’t notice that he’s bleeding-- scratched and torn from the thorny bushes he’s been charging blindly through.
He does notice, suddenly, that he’s still holding his flashlight-- still reflexively flicking the switch on and off and on again, with no effect. Now he taps it against the tree behind him, to try to get it working. He doesn’t really expect that to help, though-- and it doesn’t. He stops as soon as he hears movement in the bushes where he’s run from… movement that grows louder and louder, closer and closer. Louie’s adrenaline peaks and his heart races. Unable to hold his heaving breath, he opens his mouth wide in an attempt to breathe as quietly as possible. It’s almost here, now. It’s almost found him.
Then the sounds of movement in the bushes stop, so close that even in the darkness Louie can sense the dying rustle of branches across the clearing, mere feet away. And in the new stillness he hears a fainter, far more terrifying sound: breathing? No… a snuffling… a smelling… something tasting the air… something inhuman… hunting for him.
Louie wants to run. He needs to run, but he… he can’t. He just can’t-- his lungs are burning, his heart will seize up-- he can’t run any farther. So he stands with his back to the tree and his eyes staring wide… as a pale form slips from the bushes in front of him. It’s so dark that he shouldn’t be able to see it, but… but the thing almost glows, its outline jumps from the blackness like white larvae under a rotten log. It walks on two legs, but it isn’t like a human at all-- so thin, such a long head, such huge black eyes and bared black teeth that glint wetly, even in the dark.
And as this creature turns its head toward him and takes a snorting breath of his air, Louie forgets everything. He forgets that his lungs are on fire, his heart fit to burst; forgets that his exhausted legs can’t carry him another step. He bolts again, running through the bushes, tripping over roots and rocks, slamming into trees and reeling off of them, dragging his torn body up when he stumbles to the ground-- running, running. But as frantic as his body is, fear has cleared his mind. Through it, only one thought runs-- over and over, looping to a rhythm that matches his desperate pace: “I deserve this. I deserve this. I deserve this.” After all: hadn’t the snipe hunt been his own idea?
Yes. Yes it had. And more than that: the thing, the impossible creature that was chasing him now… Louie had created it. That takes a little explaining… but he had no idea where to begin. Because, you see– the whole point of a snipe hunt is that the snipe isn’t real. It’s just a made-up creature you pretend to be looking for as an excuse to lead someone into the middle of the woods outside of camp, so you can ditch them. That’s what Louie had done… or– what he thought he’d done. Just taken the traditional name of the imaginary creature– the Snipe– and let his imagination run wild. Late at night, after lights out, he’d regaled the whole cabin with whispered tales of how “The Snipe” haunted the woods outside. Louie had dreamed up its pale glow, its thin frame, its black eyes and teeth and long, pale fingers. He’d made up the bit about the snuffling sound it made while it hunted its prey– all of it, all of it had been a product of Louie’s imagination.
All the half-dozen other campers in the cabin had been in on it… everyone except Angel. See, Angel was nice-- really nice, way too nice for his own good. Everybody in the cabin gave Angel a hard time about how he made his bed every morning, or how polite and quiet he was-- they hardly ever saw him talk to anyone but his cabin-mates. He was so trusting, too, so gullible… when Louie had brought up the idea of taking Angel on a snipe hunt everyone else had eagerly agreed…
So then Louie had dreamed up those tales of the Snipe– made the whole thing up out of thin air. And last night– the night before Louie’s panicked run through the woods– last night the whole cabin had talked Angel into going with them on a “snipe hunt”... And that’s when everything had started to go so wrong.
Last night he, Louie, had been the last one to leave Angel out in this forest. Of course he hadn’t know then that there was really anything out here. Even so: at the last minute, he had second thoughts. Out in all that darkness, with the night sounds of the forest so mysterious all around, the real cruelty of the prank finally dawned on Louie, and he’d almost called the whole thing off: told Angel about it and took him back to camp. But he didn’t have the guts to do it and face the teasing of the other campers. So he stuck to the plan and made his excuse, and started to leave Angel behind… but then lamely mentioned that “just in case he got lost” and didn’t come back soon, Angel should remember that the trail back to the cabin ran along the top of the ridge behind them, and that if he got scared…
Angel interrupted him with a trusting smile that shone in the reflected light of Louie’s flashlight. “I’m not scared,” Angel said. “You’ll come back. And anyway: I know there’s no such thing as a snipe.”
So Louie had left Angel there… but when he met up with his cabin-mates and started the dark walk back to camp, Louie couldn’t join the others in laughing and cracking jokes about Angel’s gullibility. Louie was thinking about that trusting smile on Angel’s face as he’d left him– he couldn’t get it out of his mind. And once they got back to the cabin, the cruel laughter of the others slowly ebbed as the hours passed… and Angel still didn’t return. By the time the first light of dawn broke, and shone down on Angel’s empty bed, all of the boys had fallen as silent as Louie was… they were worried about Angel… they were worried about themselves, and how much trouble they were about to be in. All of them were alone with their own anxious feelings.
Except Louie. By morning, Louie had managed to stop himself from feeling anything at all. As happens to many sensitive people, Louie had been harshly taught, over and over, that the depth of his feelings was an embarrassing weakness. So instead of letting himself feel, he had learned to translate those impulses into sudden, instinctive action.
Now Louie sprang quietly from his bunk, clutching his pillow. He collected pillows from a few other campers, then went over to Angel’s empty, carefully-made bed and pulled the sheets up, twisted them around, shoved the pillows down under the blankets and shaped it all into something that looked roughly like a sleeping form.
“Everyone lay down-- pretend to sleep,” Louie muttered, and jumped back into his bunk. No sooner had they all settled down then the door of the cabin slammed open, and the counselor stuck his head in. “Rise and shine!” he intoned, just like he did every morning. The boys peered at him from their bunks and tried to make their faces look surprised and bleary. They all watched as the counselor’s eyes lingered on Angel’s bunk for a moment… a moment too long, it seemed. Was that a twitch of suspicion on his brow? If he came into the cabin… if he stepped any closer he couldn’t help but notice… But instead, the counselor turned and knocked a few ringing blows with his stick on the metal trash can by the door. Saying something about “Breakfast in fifteen!” he went away on his rounds.
In hurried whispers as they got ready for the day, the campers agreed that if Angel hadn’t come back by that night, they would all go and look for him. But really– how likely was that? Any minute now, a counselor was going to notice… Then they’d all be in for it…
All day long Louie sweated, trying to act normal… waiting for some counselor or administrator to come over to him with a stern look on their face, asking pointed questions. It was hard to believe they hadn’t noticed Angel’s absence yet. It was so lucky-- or was it? Once or twice Louie thought he saw a counselor looking at him funny. Were those two whispering together?… Talking about him? As the day wore on, Louie became more and more convinced: that the counselors already knew. They already knew what had happened to Angel. Maybe Angel had come back last night-- gone straight to the administration and told them everything, and this whole day was a trap to see how long it would take before one of Angel’s fellow campers would come clean… maybe every minute that passed they were digging themselves deeper and deeper into trouble.
Then it was dinner, and still nothing had been said. Three-quarters of the way through the meal, Louie realized he was so nervous that he hadn’t eaten a thing-- and the thought of how suspicious that must look made him force down twice his normal helping in a rush. He felt sick afterwards, and spent the last part of the evening in the bathroom. But that didn’t really help, and as he staggered back to the cabin just before lights-out he was so green with nerves that his mouth kept filling with spit and every step caused a burning avalanche in his guts.
He was certain, now. Sure that Angel had come back and told on them, or that someone else from the cabin had blabbed, or… Louie was about to walk through the door of the cabin and the administrator and the head counselor were already going to be in there, listening to the others pinning the whole thing on Louie. He was sure of it…
But instead, the first thing Louie saw when his eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the cabin… was Angel, curled up, asleep in his bunk. Louie let out a strangled cry of anxiety released-- something like “nnng-HA-uh!!”-- then raced over to Angel to… to embrace him, he guessed, or… or to grab him, anyway, to feel that he was real, and back, and to tell him how worried they’d been.
But… when Louie got to the bunk and fell on his knees, he… somehow he lost Angel all over again… from the doorway he’d been so sure Angel was there-- thought he’d seen his sleeping face, even. But now he’d lost him… under all these twisted blankets and pillows.
One of the other campers had to jump down from his bunk and throw Louie halfway across the room to get him back to his senses. “What are you doing?!” Louie heard someone hiss at him, quiet and dangerous. “It’s your own trick! You’ll wreck it! Get in your bunk! The counselor’s coming!” And Louie was just scrambling into his own bunk when they heard the screen creak open, and the counselor opened the cabin door and poked his face in.
The boys all lay in their bunks, with their eyes fixed on the counselor, waiting for the usual, silly good-night patter… but it didn’t come. Instead he stood, looking suspiciously around at all of them. “In bed already, huh?” he said, then stepped into the cabin and let the screen door shut behind him. “Awful quiet in here tonight.” The boys all mumbled some reply as their hearts nearly stopped inside them. The counselor was staring at Angel’s bunk, wasn’t he? He took another step into the room, then looked at each of them in turn. “What’s the idea?” the counselor asked. Grunts and murmurs, closed eyes and turned-away faces were all he got in answer. Louie rolled against the wall while his stomach made a rush into his mouth. This was it-- the game was up, he was sure of it.
At last, the counselor broke the tension. “OK,” he said, moving back to the door, “have it your way.” He switched off the light and left. They listened to his footsteps crunching away on the gravel walk. He hadn’t noticed. The trick had worked again.
No one said anything for a long time. Louie lay with his back to the room, peeking around the window blind, willing the daylight to fade more quickly. As soon as the last light of day paled from the western sky he got quietly up and began putting on his shoes.
Someone whispered that it wasn’t late enough yet. Someone else complained that the counselors were still up… but after a pause, everyone began to slip out of their bunks and get ready. Inside of five minutes they were trying to keep the screen door quiet as they all slipped through it, and across the well-lit path into the darkness of the woods.
The night was hot. The cicadas screamed in the trees and the sleepy-voiced birds were just settling in their hidden nests. With Louie in the lead the little group stepped through the high grass and felt their way carefully through the brush and branches and small clinging trees at the edge of the wood. They didn’t risk their flashlights until they were well back in the timber, out of sight of the cabins. Louie couldn’t speak for the others, but-- with the lights on, the night seemed to change in a way he didn’t like. A sort of hush settled on the forest-- a quiet like expectation. The noise they all made moving through the undergrowth seemed incredibly loud, drowning out and covering other faint, unfamiliar, unsettling sounds from the woods around-- sounds that kept their heads and flashlights swiveling-- first one direction, then another. Their lights let them see the area around them bright and clear, but... blinded them to the night beyond, and cast black shadows that slipped from tree to tree like living things.
Louie made the others jump when he tested his voice against the quiet night. “Angel! Hey, Angel!” They all stopped to listen, but heard no reply. So they moved on, calling quietly every once in awhile as they got closer and closer to the place where they’d left Angel the night before.
Finally they were standing on the very spot. The very spot where Louie had left him… but he wasn’t there. “Angel!... Angel!” they called, a little louder than they had dared to before… but nothing. They searched the ground for any sign of where Angel might have gone, which direction he might have headed… they found marks in the dirt, and a broken branch nearby, but other than that…
Louie pointed his flashlight down an alley through the trees… He’d… thought he’d seen something… something moving out in the trees ahead of them. The thought crossed his mind that if Angel decided to sneak up on them now, to frighten them, they certainly deserved it. He squinted as he thought he saw the movement again… out there, way out there, almost beyond the range of the beam. Something… different than the shifting shadows… something… pale… moving in between the trees…
“HEY! Hey! What-- what is that?!” someone cried. Louie turned his head and saw some of his cabin-mates following their flashlights in another direction, well off to the left of where Louie was staring. The crashing of their passage through the undergrowth shattered the quiet night, and there was nothing to do but follow them. In the bouncing beams of half a dozen flashlights, Louie thought he saw a figure up ahead… and as they drew closer, there became no doubt: a figure, a small human figure, seated, huddled with its head resting on the arms it had crossed over its raised knees. It was dressed in dark colors, with what looked like a hooded sweatshirt covering its head and body. Had Angel been wearing something like that last night? Louie tested his memory, and was surprised to find he couldn’t quite recall.
All of them slowed as they got close to the figure, and when it failed to move at all– to do anything to acknowledge the avalanche of sound and light that was descending on it– they all stopped in a little group a couple of paces away. Clearly, whoever it was must see their lights shining, must have heard the crashing sounds of their approach. Must have… if… if they were alright… if they were still… conscious.
Louie slipped through to the front of the group, and stood just in front of the little figure, sitting there with its back to a tree. He looked so small, Louie thought. If this were Angel (and who else could it be?), he looked so small out here in this enormous night. And as Louie thought that, all the feelings he’d kept so violently at bay all day welled up into his throat, and he found he couldn’t say anything without breaking. He felt so bad… so bad for what they’d done… for what he’d done.
It was all Louie could do to quietly clear his throat, like he was trying to politely beg the figure’s attention. It was such a ridiculous, incongruous thing to do out here, in the middle of all this-- Louie would have laughed out loud at himself if the tension hadn’t been so high… As it was, no one made a sound… they were all staring, directing every strained ounce of attention at the figure, trying to discern the slightest movement… After another few moments of stillness, Louie gingerly reached out his hand to touch the figure’s shoulder when…
It happened so fast that a thousand reactions passed through Louie’s body at once, and left him frozen where he stood. The hooded head of the figure sprang up, and back, and the hood fell away from a face that was… a horrible face, thin and wasted and rotten with… with… no… no it wasn’t, it was… it was Angel’s face. Just Angel’s face, shining in anguish under the bright lights. He was… he looked… so much smaller than any of them had remembered, so small and frightened, so vulnerable. Tears were streaming down his face, but as soon as he saw them he smiled-- though not the smile Louie had left out here the night before. All the joy and the trust were gone and there was fear and desperation in their place. And something else… something indistinct around the edges, like Angel was looking at them from the far end of a long, dark hallway filled with horrors.
“You came back!” Angel said softly, and everyone in the group heard it like Angel had said it directly to each of them. “I knew you’d come back. I knew you’d come back.” The apologies and the choked-back tears of gratitude were welling in all their throats-- but before they could say a word, Angel’s eyes sprang wide with a look of terror. “Shhh!” he said, so urgent that all of them held their breaths. There was a sound… was there a sound? Like… something moving… slowly… on the slope of the hill behind and above them. Impossible to tell how far or near… so faint it was hard to say it was really there at all…
They were listening so hard that Angel’s tiny whisper sounded like rolling thunder. “It’s coming!” he said, just as Louie’s flashlight suddenly blinked out. Louie slapped it hurriedly on his palm while he tried to explain– about the Snipe– how he’d made it all up, it wasn’t real– they’d all gone along with it, but– it was all their fault– they’d tricked him…
Angel didn’t seem to hear what Louie was saying– he was listening hard, but to something else. As Louie continued speaking, stammering, trying to explain that the Snipe wasn’t real, Louie noticed that Angel’s face was growing dimmer and dimmer. At first he thought the others were getting nervous because of Angel’s demeanor, and directing their flashlights out into the woods around. But when the flashlight held by the camper next to Louie suddenly flickered out, he realized… the lights weren’t being pointed in other directions: they were going out. One after the other, just like his had done– all the lights were going out. It was… it was impossible. Louie stopped talking, looked down at his flashlight as he flicked the dead switch, and his mind raced for an explanation… that didn’t exist.
The little group around him murmured quiet surprise, anger, protest… and then they fell silent, because… because the creeping sounds in the brush were closer now-- they could all hear them. For a few moments they stood, listening. And they could just hear another sound, now-- a new sound. Like breathing or… or something sniffing the air for a scent. Something large.
“The snipe!” Angel whispered frantically, “It’s here!” One last light gripped so tightly in someone’s hand showed them all a glimpse of Angel’s strained, terror-stricken face, before a particularly loud twig-snap on the slope above them caused the light to pivot in that direction-- and illuminate that thin, pale, black-toothed terror. It was the Snipe, just as Louie had dreamed it up, just as he’d described it. It was impossible…
But, impossible or not, in the next moment it was invisible, as the last light in the group-- suddenly snuffed out.
Then the blind, terrified, senseless race began, for all of them-- and it lasted all night long. Though they ran in different directions-- afterward, each of them insisted that the Snipe had followed them: that they’d heard it, seen it, barely escaped its long clawed fingers as they fought exhaustion and sprained limbs into the small hours before dawn, miles and miles from where they’d started their flight.
The next day, when all of the terrified campers were eventually found-- miles apart from each other-- the first question that each of them asked their rescuers was about Angel. Their night of terror had filled each of them with so much remorse-- the idea that they’d left Angel out there alone in the clutches of that… Snipe, or whatever the thing was… the idea had preyed on them so terribly that Angel’s fate, his safety, was all they could think of once they themselves had been saved. Louie even made a half-hearted effort to go back into the woods, when he found his rescuers’ answers about Angel unsatisfactory.
But… it turns out that the campers’ attempts to hide Angel’s disappearance hadn’t been as successful as they’d thought. It turns out that the counselor who had come to check on them, in the morning and the evening of the day when Angel was missing-- that counselor had noticed the blankets and pillows balled up in Angel’s empty bunk. And he’d seen right away that there was no one nestled in them. He’d even asked the other campers about it-- he’d asked the whole cabin: “What’s the idea?”
The counselor had noticed the crude blanket-figure right away, because… because that bunk had always been empty. Neatly made and empty. They had no cabin-mate named Angel-- there was no one named Angel in the whole camp. Sure, there was that old fire-side story that had been told at the camp for generations, about a young camper long ago, lost forever on a snipe hunt who… sometimes came back, looking for revenge. But the counselors hadn’t even told that story to these campers yet…
Well… now that you’ve heard the story, I guess you won’t be fooled when someone invites you out on a snipe hunt. They’ll try to convince you-- they’ll insist that the Snipe is a real creature… and you won’t have to contradict them. You know the truth: the snipe certainly might be real, but a “snipe hunt”... well… sometimes they end up with the snipe doing the hunting…
And if the snipe is serious about hunting… or camping… or going to picnics… or just hanging out with friends in the backyard, then I’m sure the snipe must have a YETI cooler. The nights are hot in the summertime-- even a creature of the night appreciates the feeling of popping open a YETI cooler and dipping its hand… or… talons… into a bed of cool ice, and fishing for its favorite frosty drink. It’s in there somewhere! And it’s ice cold. Check out the full line of YETI products at YETI dot com, or at your local REI. Thanks, YETI!
Next week we’re going underground… into the tight, winding darkness of a cave. With the rocks close all around us-- watch your step! The ground falls away there, straight down into nothingness. But… what’s that old rope doing, stretched taut down into the abyss? And-- why is it moving like that? Like there’s something struggling on the end of it? Lean over the precipice and look, if you want to find out. Lean over and look down... and springing toward you out of the blackness you’ll see: next week’s episode of the Camp Monsters Podcast. See you then.
Camp Monsters is part of the REI Podcast network. If anyone sees our Senior Producer, Chelsea Davis, please tell her that the snipe hunt is over, and that she should come back to the cabin. Making s’mores around the campfire are Executive Producers Paolo Mottola, Joe Crosby and… wasn’t there another one? Angel something? My apologies to our fantastic Engineer, Nick Patri, for delaying our long-planned snipe hunt yet again in order to finish this episode. We’ll get out there someday, buddy: I promise. The Snipe Hunt was written and performed by yours truly, Weston Davis.
And as always: the stories you hear on Camp Monsters are just that: stories. Sure, some of them are based on things people claim to have seen or experienced, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe... and how to explain away what you don’t. If you like these stories, please remember to subscribe, share, review, and generally spread the word. Our Content & Media Strategist, Lucie Brooks, gets so happy every time you do. Thanks, and see you next week.