Sunday, December 4, 2022


Readers speak out: Scary times at unsafe and creepy campsites


Last week we asked readers about creepy campsites with this question:

Have you ever left a campsite or campground because you felt unsafe or otherwise just creeped out? If so, why?

As usual, our readers had a lot to say. However, we were happy with the large number of respondents that had never had this unfortunate experience.

Some, like Bill F., believe it is because they are well prepared. Bill says, “My wife and I have never felt unsafe enough to leave a campsite, but I am a combat veteran and armed with awareness, among other things.”

A number of gun owners weighed in with similar sentiments.

Linda G. says she always feels secure because she travels with her German Shepherd.

But even without the extra security of firearms or guard dogs, a lot of the responders had never had an issue so severe that they needed to leave a creepy campsite.

However, enough of you did to merit this article.

As expected, some of the reasons came up over and over again, the most common being unsavory campsite neighbors and even more specifically alcohol-fueled aggressive campground neighbors. There was a lot of crossover potential with the “rudest neighbors” question we asked a few weeks back.

One commenter, Vicki F., left because of electrical difficulties at the campground. Vicki writes: “I stayed in a campground near Elkton, VA. A neighbor’s electrical box caught fire one foot from our bedroom We had paid for a month but left at end of week one. Good riddance!”

Some of the experiences were a little weird or uncomfortable, and some were downright creepy.

Here’s what else you said about having to leave unsafe or creepy campsites:

Creepy Campsites - Have you ever left a campsite because you felt unsafe?

Mother Nature made us leave

A few RVers who answered our survey attributed their unplanned departures to Mother Nature.

Robert J. wrote he once left a creepy campsite because of bears! Speaking of bears, Tim S. was taking no chances. He explained, “Returning home from a camping trip near Bandelier, NM, I started setting up my tent along a willow-lined stream. About the time I noticed a ‘bear advisory’ sign, I heard some rustling in the brush. I put everything back in the car and off I went to find another site!”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t bears that made Doug T. leave, but rather bugs. Doug shares: “We have been to a campground, that once we got all set up, we noticed bugs all over the place. Not just any bugs but, cockroaches!! They were everywhere, so we loaded up as fast as we could and hauled butt outta there!! It was a small campground out in the boonies. Needless to say, we haven’t been back to that campground.”

Jim K. didn’t have a problem with wildlife, but he did with wild weather. He writes: “We only left a campground once since 1980! We were camped down by the Bogue Chitto River in Bogue Chitto State Park near Franklinton, LA. I was watching the radar reports from up near Jackson, MS, indicating a very large amount of rain falling. It generally takes about three days for the river to rise and flood this part of the park, so we packed up and left on the second day before the floodwaters could make the roadways impassable. The river was rising already, but not over the campsites yet.”

Drunks and other unsavory campground neighbors

A lot of experiences that made RVers feel unsafe were fueled by alcohol. Other unsavory neighbors needed no help from substances.

Harry K. observed the benefits of a motorhome in this comment: “I was camped on USFS land and more campers came in and were loud, drunk, and getting worse. So I left. Now THAT is a benefit of a motorhome vs. a tent!”

Linda I. shared a hair-raising experience: “This was in the ’90s. We were camped ‘off-season’ in a state park in a tent trailer. Later that night, after we had gone to bed, the site next to us became occupied with drunks. They continued through the night running around and yelling at each other. I believe it was a family situation. I felt extremely unsafe. It was pitch dark out and we didn’t feel comfortable trying to move camp in the middle of the night. The next morning, we woke up to police escorting them out of the campground.”

Michael T.’s experience with drunks was augmented by theft: “I was traveling between Navy duty stations with my wife and three children. We stopped overnight in a KOA. After going to bed, we were awakened by a band of drunk teenagers stealing camping gear throughout the campground. State police were called but I thought it best to pack up and leave. As we were exiting, the police arrived. We continued driving through the night.”

It wasn’t always drunks. All kinds of other questionable neighbors prompted readers to pack up and move on. Rebecca N.’s encounter with an unruly dog and his rude owner turned threatening: “At an unstaffed county campground on Lake Michigan, I (nicely) asked a man to restrain his dog, which was jumping up on me. He ‘went off’ on me, and followed me to the parking lot. I called out to my husband, but he couldn’t hear me over the sound of the waves breaking. I locked myself in the car and laid on the horn, while the man encouraged his dog to jump on and scratch up our vehicle. When my husband finally appeared, we got out of there ASAP and decided we didn’t feel safe camping anywhere that night. It was a long drive home. Sad and scary.”

Teresa S. shared two frightening experiences: “Twice I have left campgrounds. The first time was camping in Idaho with my parents and their friends when several sheriff’s cars pulled up to another campsite with their rifles out. We left in a hurry. The next was when my husband and I were on our first camping trip with the kids. We stopped at a private campground and when my husband and boys were in the showers they overheard some men talking about breaking into our camper that night. We left quickly again.”

Theft (and attempted theft)

There’s nothing like theft to cause a deep feeling of violation. That’s what caused Deborah M. to leave. She shares: “It wasn’t so much feeling unsafe as feeling violated that made me leave. I was with my brother and a friend. We set up the 8×10 canvas tent, rolled out our sleeping bags (with my nice backpacking tent on top of my sleeping bag – not sure why I had it along). We went out exploring for the day. As I was washing my hair my brother went into the tent, then came out saying ‘Your sleeping bag is gone.’ I thought it was a ruse to get me in the tent for a birthday surprise, only to find it was the ugly truth. My bag and my tent were gone. I just couldn’t stay there that night. We drove most of the night from Crater Lake over to the coast for the rest of our weekend trip.”

Sheri and Ken M. could not even understand why anyone would steal $2.00 items and then discard them. Here’s what happened: “We left immediately after finding out that an unknown THIEF decided to sneak onto our site to STEAL our two steel pins off our ladder. Why? Really? The next morning, we walked around and found the missing items. Again, why and really? A $2.00 item. Guess they needed it more.”

Just plain creepy campgrounds!

Some of the reasons people abandoned their creepy campsites are just odd. For instance, Norton M.’s family never figured out what caused those mysterious scratching noises. Norton shares: “We had gone camping up on Mt. Rose highway near Lake Tahoe and had the tent trailer set up. We had all climbed into bed when the kids heard a scratching noise near the trailer. I got up to check what the noise was and couldn’t find out what the problem was.  The dog didn’t even stir. We went back to bed and they heard it again. I went outside again and looked high and low and all around the trailer and nothing. We ended up taking the trailer down and then spent the rest of the night sleeping in a casino parking lot. To this day we have never been able to figure out the noise.”

Henry P. left because of bad vibes. He says: “My wife and I have left a campground. We were in Idaho and had a really weird vibe when we caught the owner staring at us through an upstairs window. It was a weird Norman Bates moment. Yes, we left the next morning.”

Margaret T. encountered a particularly creepy camper: “We saw another camper getting out of his vehicle to walk around rigs peeking in the windows! NOPE! We left and went to a lot with several semis overnighting it. Noisy, but we felt safer.”

Kathleen W. got creeped out by unexpected nighttime intruders. I would have too, yikes! She writes, “I left a small beach park along the Northern California coast in the middle of the night after a middle-aged couple came knocking at my door wanting gas money. I told them ‘Sorry, I don’t carry cash.’ I peeked out the window and just got a bad vibe, so I got dressed, jumped in my truck and drove down the highway to pull off for the rest of the night.”

Creepy campsites conclusion

A lot of our readers felt unsafe enough to occasionally leave their campsites.  Sometimes there was a solid reason for it, but oftentimes it was just a feeling that got their spidey senses tingling.

That’s OK. Being aware and attuned is a big part of staying safe. If your gut feeling is telling you something is not right, often the best thing you can do is to get the heck out of those creepy campsites as fast as you can. Better safe than sorry.


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Shop Rat 00
29 days ago

At least now most people have cellphones and can call 911 for help if needed. And best not to stay in sketchy places or areas with no cellular service.

29 days ago

We had an incident several years ago at Turtle River SP west of Grand Forks ND. We were awakened about 2:00 a.m. by the deepest growl our Dalmatian ever made – like really really mad! (Never barked once!). Getting up to investigate we noted several flood and flash lites going thru the wooded areas of the park. The next morning I inquired at the Ranger station – they advised someone had overheard another in a bar saying they were going to rob the campground that nite. The park was notified who in turn notified the Sheriff’s dept. and they combed the area. This was the day after Labor day and the park was technically closed so only we and one other Rv were there that nite. (…with the Rangers permission!) They didn’t find anyone and nothing further developed.

29 days ago

We went with friends to go tubing on a river that is not well known for that. Though the river was great, that was our second clue this would not be the idyllic weekend. When our friend brought up the idea, we thought hey, since it’s at a RV park and campground, we should stay there instead of driving all the way home that day.

We reserved the shadiest, largest site – part of a buddy site – that was said to have full hookups and 50amp. Great! Then we got there. We immediately decided to rent the buddy site to keep from having unsavory neighbors. Why would we think that? The first clue I mentioned that was concerning was the name – with Hillbilly in it, seemed a bit like The Hills Have Eyes, if you’ve seen that horror flick.

29 days ago
Reply to  Jewel

The previous occupants had left about a million cigarette butts all over, water shoes, sun hats, trash…not pretty. Tree limbs were overhung so we had to trim some. It was right off and under the highway.

Good thing we got the adjoining site – electric was only 30 amp and tripped as soon as we plugged in. Oh good, the other site was 50amp – mounted to a tree. Neither had a breaker but that one worked.
When it came time to dump, oh yes they had sewer but…

The pipes barely stuck out of the ground and were broken and jagged. Worse, it kept backing up and seemed to be full…no details necessary but at this point, we were just ready to leave.

If you saw a picture, you’d think it was nice and peaceful, right on the river. Well, it was right on the river – the only thing positive. I will drive 5 hours to the popular tubing spots any time before I ever would think of going back there.

29 days ago
Reply to  Jewel

I started camping when I was a teenager, now 70 and have a class A, I don’t remember ever feeling unsafe. We spend 1/2 the year traveling. I do travel with a firearm now and thankfully I’ve never had to use it.

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