Hello readers and welcome back for another Scary Story Night! I’m not sure where I first encountered this story. I know I remember being entirely creeped out by it and that there was a campfire involved the night I heard it.
I’ve done some research and found some interesting variations on it, but this is the tale that I remember. So go outside, light a campfire, and settle in for a tale simply called “Head Count”.
***Writer’s Note: We here at iHorror are big proponents of responsible parenting. Some of the stories in this series may be too much for your little ones. Please read ahead and decide if your kids can handle this story! If not, find another story for tonight or simply come back to see us tomorrow. In other words, don’t blame me for your kids nightmares!***
Head Count as retold by Waylon Jordan
The Boy Scout troop had been hiking all day, and if the Troop Leader had been honest, he would have admitted he was lost over an hour ago. They were somewhere in the Smoky Mountains but their maps had failed them somewhere along the way.
“All right, troops, let’s take a breather,” he called over his shoulder. “Everyone settle down. Mr. Jones is going to take a head count while we rest up a bit. We aren’t far from the campsite, now.”
“You’ve been telling that lie for over an hour, now, Ralph,” Mr. Jones said as he brushed by the troop leader to go make the count.
It was just dark enough to need a flashlight as he stared down at the map.
“We have to be close,” he muttered. He’d led this trip many times before and he couldn’t say why he had suddenly lost his way this time.
He was still staring down at the map when Jones walked up behind him.
“Twenty kids. Just like there’s supposed to be, Ralph.”
Jones stared at him expectantly. “Well?”
“Won’t be long now,” the troop leader responded, not waiting for whatever comment Jones might have.
“All right, Scouts, let’s move out!”
The boys fell in behind their leader and he continued to lead the way. The scenery might have been familiar if it hadn’t gotten so dark. A couple of the boys pulled their flashlights out.
“Turn those lights out, now,” the leader barked. “You boys take turns pointing out the constellations. You can hardly see them in the city.”
It didn’t take long before the boys ran out of constellations and Jones was just running out of patience in general.
“Where are we, Ralph?”
“Almost there. I know I said it before, but we really are almost there,” Ralph replied. “Can you get a head count while we’re walking?”
“Sure…sure, Ralph…” Jones turned back to count the kids, but when he returned he had a spooked look on his face.
“What is it?” the troop leader asked.
“It’s…it’s nothing, Ralph…except that I counted 21 this time.”
“We only have 20 campers, Jones.”
“I know! But I swear it. I counted twice and there were 21.”
Ralph called a halt to the hike and stood staring over the group. He counted slowly to be sure, and there were indeed 21 head in the count this time.
Who was the extra? He didn’t want to start a panic among the campers.
“Well?” Jones asked.
“There’s 21 all right. Hold on.”
The troop leader pulled out his own flashlight and shined it through the group, counting once more. Though none of the faces seemed out of place, there was definitely one more boy than should have been there. The problem was, he couldn’t name which boy was out of place.
He turned back to Jones.
“Let’s keep going,” he said. “I’m sure it’s just a trick of the light or something…”
It wasn’t long before the troop leader found the trail he was supposed to be following all along and in less than half an hour they had arrived at their appointed campsite.
Grateful to be where they should be, the troop leader ordered the boys to start setting up their tents and asked Jones to do one last head count. The troop leader had finished setting up his own tent by the time Jones returned. The man was obviously agitated and his eyes were wide in terror.
“What’s wrong?” Ralph asked.
“…19…there’s only 19…”
The troop leader and his faithful chaperone ransacked the campsite and spent most of the next day looking but Matthew, the 20th camper, was never seen or heard from again.
Well, that’ll make you think twice about hiking in the mountains, won’t it? Makes me glad I was never a Boy Scout! Good night, readers. Join us again tomorrow evening as we continue our countdown to Halloween with another scary story!