Summer camps are a perfect setting for a horror film. We’ve all seen one that takes place in the seemingly innocuous setting of a children’s summer retreat. But like many horror movies, these movies were based on actual events. That’s right, the idea of kids getting slain when they’re supposed to be having the most fun of their lives isn’t that crazy. It’s happened before. And you know what they say – truth is stranger than fiction. Or in this case, more bloody, more violent, and more disturbing. These real-life victims thought they were going to have a memorable experience at summer camp. But sadly, it turned out to be their last ever experience.
Is it really moral to turn these stories into movies? Is that respecting the victims? In some ways, it’s good that these people are getting their stories told. In other ways, it seems wrong to try to make a profit off these children’s deaths. Maybe you’ll think about that the next time you watch a summer camp slasher movie. But in another sense, it’s good to do some research into these bloody stories. After all, we need to learn from our mistakes if we want to stop them from happening again. Read on to find out how these children experienced a real life horror story while at summer camp…
15. Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders
One of the most famous summer camp murders involved three young girl scouts. Today, the incident is known as the “Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders.” Two months before the murders took place, a camp counselor returned to her cabin to find her belongings ransacked, and her donuts stolen. Inside the donut box, a handwritten note was left – vowing to kill 3 campers. The note was treated as a prank. Two months later, the bodies of 3 girls, aged 8 to 10, were found dead on the trail leading to the showers, just 150 meters away from their tent. Analysis showed that the girls had been raped, bludgeoned, and strangled. But the most disturbing fact is that the murderer was never found. Many suspects were arrested, but not enough evidence was put forth and they were all acquitted or found not guilty. Recent DNA analysis proved inconclusive.
14. The Lake Bodom Murders
The Lake Bodom Murders are another instance of children being brutally murdered while they were trying to enjoy the summer like any child would – by camping. The murders are named after the lake that they decided to camp around, and the murders have influenced media considerably. The heavy metal band Children Of Bodom is named after the murders. Also, a movie was made based on the events that took place. The incident took place on June 4, 1960, in Finland. Four teenagers were attacked by an unknown entity, which left three of them dead and one severely beaten. The attacker slashed at them with a knife and some kind of blunt instrument through the sides of the tent – he never actually entered the tent.
One teen girl was killed with the most brutality, as she was stabbed multiple times after she had already died. The sole survivor of the attack suffered a fractured jaw and a concussion, and cannot remember anything about what happened. He says he remembers bright red and black eyes coming towards the tent, but that’s it. He was actually arrested for the murders at one point, but was later released. They still don’t really know what or who attacked the teens.
13. The Anders Breivik Murders
This is probably the most brutal and deadly attack on a summer camp in recorded history. 77 people were killed as Anders Brievik attacked a summer camp in Norway, which proved to be the worst attack in Norway since World War 2, and one of the highest kill counts of any shooting in history. First he set off a bomb in Oslo, then he traveled by boat to Utoya, where a youth summer camp was located, containing about 600 teenagers. He then pretended to be a police officer who had come to check on people’s safety following the bombing in Oslo. He told everyone to gather round, and then started shooting at the crowd. He says that his goal was to send a message against Islamic immigration into Europe, and claims that the summer camp was meant to indoctrinate Norwegian children to be more accepting to Muslim refugees.
12. Antwerp Summer Camp Attack
The Antwerp Summer Camp attack was another incident where children found themselves at the center of a terrorist attack when all they wanted was to enjoy their summer. The incident happened in 1980 in Antwerp, and resulted in the death of one boy. The children were waiting for a school bus to take them to summer camp when a man threw grenades at them. 40 people were waiting for the bus, all of them Jewish. 15-year-old David Kuhan was the boy who was killed. 20 other people were injured, and eight had to be taken to hospital. One 13-year-old Belgian boy suffered critical brain injuries, and a pregnant woman was among those taken to hospital. The attacker was Said Al Nasr, a Syrian-born Palestinian. He was arrested after witnesses chased him down.
11. The Suicide Of William Shook
Another tragic story is that of William Shook, who tragically took his own life while camping with his group of boy scouts. The incident happened in 2014. The other scouts had just finished setting up their tent, when they heard a loud gunshot from inside another tent. They rushed over to find William Shook dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The boy had killed himself with a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun which belonged to the boy’s grandfather. No one had any idea that the boy had brought it with him, and he never showed it to anyone or told anyone he had it. The death has been ruled a suicide and no charges have been made.
10. The Murder Of Yoni Gottesman
The death of Yoni Gottesman was a death where the camp counselors definitely were to blame. Yoni was just four years old when he drowned at a summer camp run by Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club in California. The camp counselor was caught on tape dunking him about 12 times in the water. Then, the counselor turned his back on Yoni to interact with the other children. The footage then shows Yoni struggling to get the edge of the pool, before drowning. When the counselor turned back to look at Yoni, he saw him floating face down in the pool, dead. Yoni’s father would later learn that the summer camp had been operating without a license:
9. Camp Hell
Director George VanBuskirk revealed that his movie Camp Hell was based on his own nightmarish experiences at a Catholic Summer camp. VanBuskirk explained it best:
“Camp Hell is based on true events from my childhood. Kind of sad when you make something autobiographical and it is a horror film. My family joined this crazy, intense Catholic community in NJ called the People of Hope, there were over 2,000 people in this group. Girls had to wear skirts, men pants all the time, no rock music, no ‘youth culture’, you get the drift. Every year they would send all the kids to camp for two weeks in the middle of nowhere. It was called Camp Hope. So, you put guys and girls together with raging hormones and tell them that if you even masturbate you will go to hell and be tortured by demons for all eternity, that the devil is constantly attacking us and he is at the camp trying to block God’s love. Pretty soon you are going to start to believe that every little bump is a demon ready to rip out your heart for thinking some impure thoughts about the girl playing softball a few feet away. I saw some crazy sh*t happen during my years at that camp, stuff that all seemed very supernatural and very much demonic at the time. Things that make you want to run out of the place screaming. So, I put these events together into a narrative and now we have Camp Hell.”
8. The Murder Of Nicky Verstappen
Another boy who lost his life while at summer camp was Nicky Verstappen. This Dutch boy was only 13 when he disappeared from his summer camp. His body was found the next day 1200 meters away from the camp site. This incident is tragic because the perpetrator has never been found. He also may have been sexually assaulted. The police have been searching for the killer since 1998, when the incident occurred, but have so far come up empty-handed. But now the investigation is being reignited after advances in the fields of DNA identification. Hundreds of men who lived in the area when the murder took place have had their DNA taken, and now the police chief is calling on the killer to turn himself in, believing it to be a matter of time before they catch him.
7. The Jenner Beach Slayings
It’s not always the children who end up dying. Jason S. Allen and Lindsay Cutshall, both in their 20s, were found shot to death in 2004 in their sleeping bags on Fish Head Beach in California. These two individuals were both working as counselors at a Christian Summer Camp at the time of their deaths. They took a day off to drive a short distance to the beach together when they were murdered. The one piece of silver lining in this case is that police finally managed to locate the killer. They announced in a press conference in May 2017 that:
“The Sheriff’s Office has identified Shaun Gallon, a 38-year-old resident of Forestville, as Jason and Lindsay’s killer. Gallon was recently arrested for the murder of his brother in their Forestville home. Gallon is well known to Sheriff’s Office Investigators, and early on in the Jenner murder investigation Gallon was a person of interest who detectives never ruled out as a possible suspect.
Upon Gallon’s arrest for the murder of his brother, Sheriff’s Office Detectives took another opportunity to talk to him about the murders in Jenner. Gallon made statements to the detectives with new information and additional investigative leads into the case. He had information about the killings that no other person could have known and we have located evidence that corroborates his information. Based on what detectives have been able to learn, we feel confident that we have Jason and Lindsay’s killer in custody.”
6. John Smyth – The Demon Camp Counselor
John Smyth QC was a camp counselor who has gone down in history as one of the worst of all time. First of all, he ran Christian Summer Camps in a place called Winchester College, where he abused boys by beating them so hard some tried to commit suicide rather than submit to another one. One boy later revealed: “I locked myself into the toilet and I cut my wrists and I swallowed all of the tablets… I felt relieved that it was all going to be over.” Another revealed “He made me strip off my clothes and he got out a cane and started to beat me. He said, ‘This is the discipline God likes, this is what’s going to help you become holy’.” He then set up similar summer camps in Zimbabwe, where one 16-year-old boy was found dead, floating naked in a pool. He is suspected by many to be the killer, but was never found guilty.
5. The Death Of Seth Oyola
Another boy who tragically died at summer camp was Seth Oyola. This one was just one of those freak accidents, and that’s what possibly makes it more scary than the others – no one saw it coming. The 9-year-old boy was happily swimming at Camp Ray Bird when he suddenly died. Medical examination later determined that he had an undiagnosed heart problem – specifically an enlarged heart. His family had no idea that their son even had heart issues – until it was too late. The camp was not to blame for this incident, and was cleared of all charges. The mother of the boy says she’s glad that the camp was not punished. His death happened immediately after he went down a water slide, and emerged clutching his side. He died soon afterwards.
4. The Death Of Olivia Constants
Drowning seems to be a common theme at summer camps, whether it’s accidental or not. One such drowning death was the case of Olivia Constants, who died while she was sailing at her summer camp. The 14-year-old girl died during the course of her sailing lessons with Severn Sailing Association Junior Sailing Program in Annapolis. Her death was nothing more than a freak accident. Her boat capsized, and she became entangled with the rigging under the water. She was held underwater for several minutes, until she finally drowned. Investigators have called it a death that was probably less likely than being struck by lightning… And speaking of lightning strikes…
3. Killed By A Freak Lightning Strike
In June of 2016, an 11-year-old girl was killed in a bizarre freak accident while she was at Camp Livingston in Indiana. Not only did lightning strike near her cabin, but it also caused a tree to fall over – straight onto her cabin. She died instantly. Camp Livingston released the following statement to its Facebook page: “On behalf of Camp Livingston, we share with the heaviest of hearts that an 11 year-old female camper was seriously injured around 3 a.m. when a healthy tree was struck by lightning and fell on a cabin at camp during a severe storm. Emergency services arrived shortly after the accident, but she did not survive her injuries.”
2. Murder Of Caroline Dickinson
Summer trips are supposed to be fun. But a girl named Caroline Dickinson got the exact opposite experience when she was raped and murdered during a school trip to France. She was just 13-years-old. A man later admitted to creeping into the hostel where she was sleeping, and holding her mouth shut while he sexually abused her in her bed. He was on drugs at the time. Amazingly, her murderer, Francisco Arce Montes, denied actually killing her, but admitted to sexually abusing her. This man had a history of sexually abusing other female tourists in the area.
1. The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway
Another female tourist whose school trip ended in death was Natalee Holloway. She was on a graduation trip with her classmates on the Dutch Island of Aruba when she went missing. It was later discovered that she had last been seen with a young man of a similar age at a popular hangout spot for local youths. This young man was Joran van der Sloot. A widespread search was undertaken for Natalee, but she was never found. To this day, her remains have not been found, and she has been pronounced legally dead. Joran van der Sloot has been arrested twice for the crime, but was found not guilty both times due to lack of evidence.
Still, he was caught on camera saying that he had killed her and disposed of the body. But because this tape was taken without his permission, it cannot be used as evidence. Joran van der Sloot has since dismissed this story as a fabrication. Later, Joran van der Sloot was filmed again, this time saying that he sold Natalee into slavery for 100,000 Euros. Again, this evidence could not be used in court. Joran van der Sloot’s changing story has been a constant feature of this unsolved murder.