It’s time to ponder things that slink in the night or thud in broad daylight, raising goosebumps.
Gather ’round the campfire for spooky tales in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Time to Leave by Gloria McBreen
Kate liked when her family gathered together like this.
Her dad stared into the fire. Was he thinking about Mother? He broke when she went without warning ten years ago.
Kate’s husband sat at the window. He’s younger and stronger; he won’t break.
Then she heard her mother’s soft voice. She came. It was time. Kate wanted to stay longer, she had things to say to everyone, but they couldn’t hear her. They could only see her pale empty body lying in the satin lined box.
Kate held her mother’s hand as they drifted into the pink hazy tunnel.
Witching Wood by Kerry E.B. Black
Don’t leave the campfire’s glow this evening. This is a Witching Wood,
I’m warning you, don’t follow breadcrumbs. You won’t like where they lead. In woods just like these, Wolves charm, Bears make porridge of invaders, and witches’ candied houses grow legs and scratch out secrets. With haunting melodies, PIed Pipers and Washer Women lead the unwary on eternal dances beneath earthen mounds. Even the stars themselves conspire to pixie-lead astray.
See, the full moon hides behind grey veils.
Best shiver in the shadow of ancient, bent boughs beside the campfire until sunlight chases the boogies from our paths.
Coming Full by D. Avery
“No! He didn’t go on the mountain!”
“Don’t think I didn’t try to stop him.” The old man squinted through the plume of pipe smoke enshrouding his face. Fog engulfed the mountaintop.
“The moon is coming full.”
He pulled hard on his pipe. “I warned him.” Coals glowed round and red in the bowl. “Just laughed… wanted to prove us wrong.”
“At least tell me he’s not planning on hunting it. Not today.”
“He wouldn’t listen.”
They heard one shot, then more in quick succession, far up the mountain, muffled by shrieking wind.
His pipe sputtered and went out.
Spooky Tale by Jaye Marie
It was my turn to tell a Halloween story
as we sat around the campfire
The stories before mine had been tame
And most were ready to call it a night
I picked up my knitting and smiled
Thinking of my story and how boredom
Would be the least of their worries
With each row of knitting, the tension grew
Made unbearable by the mysterious sounds
Of rustling coming from the trees behind us
When the screaming began, my story lost listeners
I cut the yarn, leaving the old branch it was tied to
To rot in the woods…
Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus by Anne Goodwin
A branch cracks, spitting fireflies into the air above the logs.
“How’s this a prom? No dancing, nor even walking. Just staring into flames.”
“Tradition. Hailsham’s hot on tradition.”
“Wish my back was. It’s freezing, while my front roasts.”
“Stop moaning, she’s here!”
“Who cares? I won’t get a graduation prize.”
The students shiver as Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus looms the fire’s glow. Armless, legless, minus half a face.
“Tell me it’s a trick!”
“Prepare to meet your destiny!” says Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus. “Tonight you’ll learn the point of your education. Tonight you’ll learn why you were cloned.”
Doppelganger by Joanne Fisher
The group of friends built a bonfire. Jenny and Cass spent the evening in each other’s arms. Then Cass stood up.
“I’m going home.” Cass declared.
“Can’t you stay? We can sleep under the stars.” Jenny offered.
“I’ve got work.”
Only an hour later, Cass unexpectedly returned.
“You’ve come back?”
“Changed my mind.” Cass replied. She led Jenny away. Then Jenny’s phone rang. Tori answered.
“It’s Cass here, tell Jenny I’ve got safely home.” said the voice.
“But you came back!” Tori replied.
“No, I’m home.”
The group ran off looking for Jenny, but she was never seen again.
The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills
“Once, an Englishman bought Silver Mountain Mine.” Jeb’s bushy brows scowled at each buckaroo around the campfire.
Slim smirked. “I’m quivering in my boots.”
Jeb spoke quietly. “Laugh it up, but this is the story of the vaquero woman who butchered his bones.”
Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”
“She’s. Still. Here.”
A ghostly figure emerged from the pines carrying a knife. Buckaroos scattered, hollering.
Myrtle, the camp-cook, wondered what got into her crew. First, the flour sack dumped over her head, then she found a rusty butcher-knife on the trail, now everyone vanished.
“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.
Out of Time by Norah Colvin
Darkness fell as Martin hastened home. He hated passing the cemetery, especially at Halloween. Sometimes he crossed the road, but this night he was out of time. Hairs on his arms prickled and shudders crept up his spine as he passed the open gate. A light flickered inside. He tried to not look, to not be drawn by the group gathered around a campfire, beckoning, ‘Join us.’ Martin hunched further into his jacket. ‘Next year then?’ Their ghoulish laughter chased him down the street into the path of a speeding car.
‘Back so soon. Couldn’t wait? Mwahaha!’ they chorused.
Kurdaitcha Man by Doug Jacquier
This was the first cattle drive for the Arrente boy the whitefellas called Jimmy. The whitefellas couldn’t care less for blackfella names. They paid themselves with money but paid the blackfellas with tea, flour and tobacco and their campfires were separate. Jimmy sat silently with the older boys and men. A rogue willy-willy suddenly blew out and then re-lit their fire. Old Tarpot said ‘Kurdaitcha man point that bone. Bin come for him tonight.’ All eyes turned to Jackie, who had been sick for days. Jimmy watched Jackie’s eyes glass over and then returned his own to the fire.
Spooky Tale by Christine Bialczak
We sat close to the flames. With each pop a cinder would be released; we would hold our breath to see where it landed. My grandpa had told me that when a cinder pops and lands on the skin, it is landing on the skin of a vampire. No one believed me. With each pop we jumped a little, hoping the cinder didn’t land on our own leg.
The bright, burning cinder popped up into the air, made an arc and started coming straight back down, ready to land on….
All I could do was hold my breath…
The ‘eadless Ratt’ler’s Back by Chel Owens
Fire black and smoke all red, the sun shone ‘gainst the West.
Glint in eye an’ tale in head, Old Jack sized up his guests.
There warn’t much to impress ‘im ’bout the two who stared ‘im back:
City-boys, all barn and raised, with city-boy rucksacks.
“Ah’m tellin’ yuh, an’ ah don’ lie,” Jack told ’em, face a-stern,
“You’d best watch out when sunset’s red, when sand feels like to burn.
“The ‘eadless ratt’ler’s comin’ out -Look! Thar! Behind yuh now!”
An’ shore enough, those tenderfoots, yelped like they’d jus’ learned how.
An’ Jack, jus’ laughed.
“Ah gotcha now!”
Spooky Tale by Ruchira Khanna
“And then what happens?” inquired my three-year-old with wide eyes and a mouth wide open.
I quickly put a spoonful of rice in his mouth while thinking of what would happen next if a bear would come.
Just then, we heard a loud thud. An eerie silence followed that as even the crickets had gone silent. Only the bonfire was crackling and popping.
I held my son in my firm grip while the other hand had the Pepper spray; I let my instincts work as soon as something came near me. “Aaaaah!”
The yell sounded familiar, “‘Twas, my husband.”
Spooky Tale by FloridaBorne
“I am with you always,” a voice whispered, smooth as silk, soft as velvet.
Mary stopped knitting to look at her companion of 13 years.
As usual, Roger, the grey cat she’d found at her doorstep the day her husband had died, slept soundly on the chair that had once belonged to the bastard.
“I could swear you were talking to me, little one,” Mary said.
She returned to her knitting until papers in the corner rustled. With a murderous screech, Roger leapt at the invisible intruder.
He’d served his purpose once again. Her husband always did hate cats.
Mirror Mirror On the Wall! by Simon
He watched the mirror all day.
Looked at every reflection and saw his face.
Old man by the park showed him a mirror. He didn’t hesitate and watched his face and adjusted his hair.
Old man commented that he was possessed by a mirror, so stop looking until he see a full moon. He ignored the old man and continued watching it. Next day when he woke up at midnight to drink water he looked in the mirror and he kept watching it. When he realised he should get back to bed, he was stuck, inside the mirror, Forever!
True Story: Honest! Well, Maybe by Bill Engleson
“I was much younger, then.”
“Had my teeth.”
“I’m sure you did, sir.”
“Well I did.”
“It was an evil place.”
“Devils Lake. Evil.”
“Where was it?”
“Where was what.”
“The one you mentioned. Devil’s Lake.”
“Oh, don’t go there. A Terrible place.”
“We’d pitched out tent by the shore.”
“My three friends. Every year we went camping.”
“Always at Devil’s Lake?”
“First time. And last. A fierce storm came up. The lake became a demon. Swallowed my friends.”
“No! The lake ate them.”
Spooky Swamp by Frank Hubeny
This woods is gorgeous, but it has a peculiar swamp.
Those who’ve found it became wealthy from unethical dealings. Envious of their wealth others found it. They became wealthy, too, but at similar costs. If the swamp knew you might pay, it would appear to you.
Decades later their bodies putrefied. Neighbors heard the screams. They prayed for a miracle that the curse of putrefaction be removed.
A traveling preacher advised them, “Accept Jesus, repent and turn from your immorality.” They hissed back, “We’ll repent to any stupid God you like, but that money, our money, belongs to us.”
Lawson’s Tales by Saifun Hassam
Rita was a popular wilderness guide. Her grandfather Lawson had been a mountaineer, and his tales sparked her own journey.
Lawson was camped near Elk Pass, planning to climb Elk Spirit Peak in LeGrand Range. He woke up at dawn to find himself at rifle point. The outlaws took his rifle and jacket and tied him up.
Someone on the trail. Whistling. The outlaws shot at the rider. The cowboy kept whistling. The outlaws fled.
Untying Lawson, the cowboy vanished!
Rita paused. A horse. Spurs jangling. A shadowy silhouette sang a haunting cowboy lament into the clear starlit night.
Stalking by Ann Edall-Robson
The soft sound of breathing and muffled footsteps on moss penetrated through the canvas.
Beyond the tent flap, remnants of moisture wisps hung nearby in the darkness. It would be hours before daybreak showed itself.
The feeling of tingling needles started to transcend down his body. It wasn’t the first time his sleep had been interrupted on this backcountry trip. Thoughts of what might be stalking him careened around the canyons of his brain cavity.
Tossing pitch knots onto last night’s dying embers, he watched them hiss themselves to life. He was convinced keeping a fire going meant survival.
Tales Untold, and Best Forgotten? by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“Come on Alice, tell the tale.”
“We won’t be shocked, dearest.”
“There’s nothing to tell. He was a shy man, bit of a stutterer, and very good at storytelling and maths.”
Effie, the eldest, drew her shawl tighter, poking the bonfire with a glowing stick.
Sophia, years younger, as yet unmarried, leaned forward, eyes gleaming. “Yes, do tell, before the husbands come!”
“I don’t want to. Leave off, Sophia, please.”
The fire popped, a gunshot.
“I’ll tell you this, though!” Alice leapt to her feet, laughing.
“’Twas brilliag, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe*…’”
*Lewis Carroll (you know the poem, you know the book, 1871)
Damned Family? by JulesPaige
One campfire group at the shore was setting off fireworks. Jesse watched halfheartedly from the balcony of the condo she was sharing with a cousin Jen and her young family.
Jesse made her own reservations. However, Jesse found a dead body in the bathtub of her room. This wasn’t the family reunion that she signed up for!
Jen offered Jesse the pullout couch of her place. Jesse swore to herself, she was leaving in the morning – unless she listened to her intuition and left after dinner, frayed nerves be damned. Jesse really wasn’t a fan of little monsters either…
You Asked by Donna Matthews
Alice, turning off the television and in a hushed voice asked her Pops, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“I do,” he replied in a whisper.
“You do?” Alice couldn’t believe it. Her Pops seemed so…what was the word? Practical? Pragmatic? Adult!
“I do. I talk to your Gran every day.”
“Yeah, but isn’t that kind of like praying. I mean…do you ever see her? Is her ghost like here…with us?”
“You see that mirror there? That’s where we meet every morning and share a cup of coffee.”
“Stop it, Pops!” Alice exclaims.
“You asked,” Pops replied with a wink.
Nellis’ Vengeance by R. V. Mitchell
Did you know that in these very woods is the remains of a cemetery from the French and Indian War? There was a fort here, and a strange disease swept through the garrison, killing over a third of them. Only Captain Nellis was given a headstone, all the others had simple wooden markers. The exact location has been lost to memory, but occasionally some hunter or hiker will come upon the stone. But it’s never there when they return. But not only does move, but whoever discovers it seems to get a fever and an odd rash shortly afterwards.
Emma Won’t Tell by Sue Spitulnik
Tessa and Lexi were sitting on the far side of the bonfire so could see Michael cuddling Emma Blossom through the bay window. He laid his forehead against hers and his lips were moving. Had they been able to hear him…”My sweet baby girl who wants to hear a spooky story, I live one. I can feel feet I don’t have. My driver’s ghost keeps me company way too often and the tea kettle whistling or light flashes can cause me to drench my clothes with sweat in seconds. Your Grandma knows, and I don’t think you’ll tell anyone.”
The Ruined Refuge by Michelle Vongkaysone
Few discuss that world.
Fewer have left its grasp.
Its truth transformed them.
But they’re forced to speak.
They wish to warn others.
Their truth can protect them.
Their admissions are chilling.
They decry that tainted world.
People were lured into it.
They enjoyed the solitude.
That world was possibility.
They lived by its resources.
It offered endless scenarios.
They drank that world’s poison.
Such freedom would mock them.
It locked them within that world.
They gave themselves to it.
Corpses remained afterwards.
Their lives sustained that world.
Those who escaped were ruined.
The truth only punished their betrayal.
Swingin’ Along, Singin’ a Song (to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky) by D. Avery
I’ve hid the kids in a car that I found parked
They’re with Logan an’ Morgan, but this Kid’s lonesome in the dark
Thinkin’ I done got lost, tryin’ ta git back ta the Ranch all on my own
Pal an’ me’re on vacation- Pal’s left me all alone
Dang ya Pal, where ever ya are
Dang them goat riders- in that rental car
The trail I found but ev’ry sound strikes my ear as eerie
Dang that spooky prompt, fer the first time Carrot Ranch is skeery
Wish I was with them goats—
Ridin’ in that rental car.
Unimaginably Eerie (Part I) by D. Avery
With many dark miles yet between Turnip Farm and Carrot Ranch, Pal set up camp. A chill gust of wind made the flames of the campfire spark and leap. Suddenly there was a cowboy sitting just in the shadows across from Pal.
“Ya must be cold, pal, yer shiverin’.”
Pal couldn’t be sure if the stranger was laughing or if it was the wind in the cottonwoods. Pal squinted, for the smoke from the fire made it hard to make out the cowboy’s features.
“What’d ya say yer name was?” Pal quivered.
The cowboy’s eyes gleamed. “I didn’t say.”
Unimaginably Eerie (Part II) by D. Avery
The cowboy was wispy as smoke. Pal’s voice wavered. “This is phantasmic! Are ya… a ghost? A apparition thet haunts Carrot Ranch?”
“Nope, ain’t a ghost, but I do haunt the Ranch.”
“Did ya die some unimaginably horrible grisly death, mebbe in a flash, an’ thet’s why ya come back ta haunt the Ranch, a revenant thet spooks the Ranchers?”
“Not ‘xactly. A revenant returns from the dead. I ain’t never lived.”
“Ya mean— ?”
“Yep. I’m a character thet ain’t never been brought ta life. Jist flit beyond the veil a someone’s imagination, but keep goin’ unwrit.”