13 Summer Camp Disasters & the Counselors Who Lived to Tell the Tales (PHOTOS)

Judy Dutton | Jun 26, 2015 Tweens & Teens

summer camp

Ah, summer camp -- a merry time when kids go canoeing, commune with nature, and end their days singing songs in front of a roaring fire. Every summer, an estimated 11 million kids attend more than 12,000 camps across the U.S., and most return home brimming with rolicking stories of their adventures.

That is, if they're lucky.

While most kids enjoy summer camp, there's nothing like getting a bunch of camp counselors together to hear just how bad things can go on your kid's big trip away from home. From "fake" poison ivy to bed-wetting, we asked counselors to let us in on just how horrible the horror stories can get. See if yours top them ... we doubt it!

Got any summer camp horror stories to share?


Image via Fotovika/shutterstock

  • One Plant Kids Shouldn't Learn About at Camp


    One summer, "one 17-year-old counselor thought it would be fun to introduce some campers to pot," admits one counselor. Which was bad enough … only things got worse when one kid wrote home about his "agricultural adventures." "He wrote that the counselors were teaching them to identify plants like poison ivy, honeysuckle, and pot!"

  • A Deep, Dark Secret


    What's worse than a kid who wets the bed? One who wets the bed ... Every. Single. Night. "For her sake, it had to be hidden," one counselor admits. "So I had to sneak plastic sheets onto her bed and clean up after her. Poor girl, but also poor me!"

  • Poisonous Personality


    One summer a "mean girl" gathered plants with five leaves, removed two to make them look like poison ivy, then placed them on the pillows of all the girls she didn't like. "The whole camp was crying until we got to the bottom of it," remembers her counselor. "Since only two girls didn't have plants on their pillows, it wasn't hard to figure out who did it."

  • On the Run


    During one counselor's first year on the job, "I got THAT kid who defied us at every turn and quickly earned the nickname 'Terror of Tuscarora,'" he says. "One day, he decided to hitchhike home, and I was responsible for tracking this demon spawn through the woods to find him and bring him back." He was successful, but paid for it dearly with a raging cases of poison sumac. Ouch!

    More from The Stir: What Summer Camp Is Really Like … For Moms

  • Whoops, Missed That Weather Warning


    In the days before cell phones blared up-to-the-minute inclement weather alerts, one counselor got blindsided. "We missed a tornado warning," she admits. "And we ended up nearly traumatizing our troops in the torrential rain and wind."

  • Diabetic Debacle


    Diabetes happens. But one kid's mom wanted her special snowflake to eat whatever he wanted, then have the camp counselors balance out his skyrocketing blood sugar with insulin. Well, that was easier said than done. "One day he snacked on cupcakes, cookies, candy ... then went unconscious and wouldn't wake up!" she recalls. They called 911 and the mom -- both of whom arrived right when the camper recovered. "The mom tried to leave without him," recalls one counselor. "But we were like, 'Um no, you need to take him home.'"

  • Bad Bug Infestation


    A few bug bites are par for the course at camp, but not this bug. "All 124 campers at my camp ended up with lice," recalls one counselor. "Nice."

  • A Bear in Where?!


    One night a camper bolted into one counselor's cabin shrieking there was a bear in the bathroom. "This kid was a constant liar -- the day before he claimed he saw Bigfoot -- so I was skeptical, but still required to check," the counselor recalls. So he grabbed his flashlight, grumbling … and was floored to find a bear in one bathroom stall. "We ran out and woke the director, who was even worse than the bear!" the counselor recalls. From that point on bathroom breaks required escorts each time.

  • What's That Smell?


    One camper got her period, and didn't know (or want to ask) what to do with her used panty liners … so she just stuffed them under her cot. "We were having 100-degree days, so the smell was insufferable," her counselor recalls. "We were checking under the tent for a dead animal before we finally tracked the smell to her bag."

    More from The Stir: 11 Outrageously Inappropriate Field Trips That Landed Schools in Hot Water

  • Ticked Off


    Ticks are a common camp hazard, but when they sneak into kids' ears that's a whole other story. "The tick had been there long enough that it was huge -- and blocking the ear," recalls one counselor.

  • No Toilet? No Problem


    Whenever the toilets were all occupied, campers resorted to an unsavory plan B at one camp. "The kids peed in the sink," recalls the grossed-out counselor. "And refused to stop."

    More from The Stir: 19 Disturbing Discoveries Moms Have Made in Their Kids' Bedrooms

  • Break an Arm!


    When one camper fell out of her bunk bed one night, everyone laughed -- including the girl herself. Later, when the girl said her arm was hurting and she wanted to go home, that laughter worked against her. "We all thought that she was simply homesick," admits one counselor, who told the girl to buck up. Only that night, she heard the girl whimpering in her sleep. "It turned out that she had actually fractured her arm," the counselor admits. "We felt so awful that we didn't believe her!"

  • Summer Fun With … Saliva?


    At one camp, the kids made up a game where they spit on fellow campers -- and counselors. "We did our best to control the behavior, but it spread like wildfire," admits one counselor. "The parents were outraged when they heard about it. Many received full refunds as a result. My hat is off to preschool teachers who deal with debauchery like that on a daily basis!"

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