15 festival horror stories guaranteed to give you glamping nightmares

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Kayleigh Dray
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Festival crowds at Glastonbury 2019

From (very) fleeting romances to portaloo nightmares, these festival horror stories are too good not to share…

Festival season is upon us, bringing with it plenty of fashion inspiration, eco-friendly beauty products and must-see performances from amazing women. It also, though, brings its fair share of dramas for all those merry campers in attendance. There’s the collapsing tents to contend with, not to mention the mud, the persistent cloud of dry shampoo, and the horrifying state of the portaloos – plus let’s not forget all those hours spent waiting for a communal iPhone charger to become free.

All of this is part and parcel of going to a festival, in our opinion. These festival stories, however, are something else entirely.

We spoke to 15 seasoned festival goers and asked them for their most unbelievable anecdotes – and, boy, did they deliver! From floods and disastrous one night stands, to an awkward run-in with a camp paramedic and a (literal) burning man, these festival horror stories are genuinely too good not to share.

Happy reading…

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The festival that never was

I paid £150 to a family ‘friend’ for a very last minute Leeds Festival ticket in a moment of FOMO desperation. I turned up on my own, hoping to join my then-boyfriend and friends on the other side, only to be told it was a fake ticket. I watched while they headed back in, sobbed all the way on the bus home and could hear the music from my back garden over the rest of the very lonely weekend. POOR ME. 

An unexpected guest

There’s no eloquent way to say this, but… I went to a music festival in Brussels once and a guy unzipped the door of my tent at 3am and peed in the corner. It lasted MINUTES but I didn’t want to interrupt him in case he got startled and caused an even bigger mess… definitely a low point.

A happy ever-after… for one

When festival romances go right, they result in magical memories that you end up regaling your friends with for years to come. When they go wrong… you end up snogging a tennis instructor from West London, who bores you with stories about how he’s been ‘finding himself’ in South America.

Unfortunately, I was gone enough on the festival spirit to drag him back to my tent before suddenly realising I’d made a horrible mistake and did not actually want to fornicate with this man. Sadly, he was still in the mood.

And that is how I ended up trying to sleep while my unlucky non-quest desperately masturbated into a condom beside my immobile form.

Yes, he continued to text me for the next eight months talking about our ‘connection’, before I accidentally forwarded a screenshot of his messages and a rude comment… to him. Oops!

Hundreds of tents on a music festival campsite
Festival horror stories: “Like any grown up, I decided to handle this little setback by bursting into hot noisy tears of frustration…” 

A series of unfortunate events

I went to Benicassim with my friends and had, quite possibly, the worst run of luck in my entire life. I was stung by an actual jellyfish when I took a dip in the sea (or a “jelly,” as the lifeguard haltingly informed me as he stared at my swollen leg), set up camp in an ant nest, took a glass of urine to the face (people do love tossing these things around, don’t they?), and got mugged by a festival-goer in football trainers – you know, the kind with the little studs on the bottom? He stamped on my jellyfish-addled foot, grabbed all my stuff and legged it. The next day, I lost my glasses to a rogue wave, which meant I had NO WAY OF SEEING THE NEXT BAD THING COMING (I’m extremely short-sighted). And then our flight home was delayed by many, many hours, so we had to sleep in an airport clutching our rucksacks to our chests in a bid to ward off pickpockets.

Worst. Festival. Ever.

“I get by with a little help from… Zoe Ball?”

At one of my first festivals I was standing in the portaloo queue next to Zoe Ball. We got talking about the disgusting state of the loos - seriously, the sewage was poking over the top of one loo seat - and she gave me tips on how to avoid the worst ones. I am forever in her debt.

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The DIY toilet

The queue for the toilet was so long, they were unbelievably dirty (as you would imagine) and I was bursting, so I decided to go back to my tent and wee into paper cups. However, there was way more wee than I had anticipated, so one after the other I filled up these cups, and lined them up on the floor. I turned around to find the toilet roll (crouching, as it wasn’t a stand-up tent) and bang! I knocked over ALL of the cups and sent the contents everywhere – eeeek!

What a prince

A friend of mine went to a five-day festival a few years back and spent majority of it drunk out of his mind. He’s normally an absolute gentleman but one night, after having one too many, he accidentally peed on a woman stood next to him. Well, I say accident – he purposefully turned around and did it, for no reason whatsoever. The poor girl was so shocked she didn’t even react for the first few seconds, and then promptly told him off. To make matters worse, I’m pretty sure they had slept together.

Fairy Queen of the Festival

I was at a festival where you couldn’t take bottles into the grounds from standard camping, but you could from guest camping where I was staying with a music industry friend. I suddenly found myself overcome with benevolence and generosity and love for my fellow humans, fetched a litre bottle of Jack Daniels from my tent and stood in the woods, waist high in the ferns, in a silver dress with a self-made crown of ferns on my head, offering every passer by shots. I was at it for at least an hour, I think.

Festival legs sticking out of tent at music festival
Festival horror stories: “One night, a couple outside started having sex while leaning up against my tent…”

The truth about glamping

Watching the first band at my first ever festival – obviously it was Goldie Lookin’ Chain at Leeds in 2006 – I got covered in fresh wee. A DELIGHT. At that same festival there were storms of biblical proportions on the last night, so much so that our tent flooded and we had to leave it there, along with all of our stuff, and sleep in the car. ALSO A DELIGHT.

A modern twist on the Good Samaritan

It was at one of the muddy Glastonburys – I’d lost my friends and I was cold, hungry and desperately trying to see Radiohead. I was climbing a hill in the pitch black for a better view when there was a massive suction pull on my foot and my beloved Converse disappeared in the mud. I managed to hop around for a while squealing when an old hippie appeared out of the dark, reached down into the mud, pulled out my trainer and handed it to me. “Radiohead are shit,” he said then walked away.

That very literal fire festival

Very late on the final night of Glastonbury – after it had chucked it down for pretty much the entire weekend – me and a couple of friends were crowding round an impromptu campfire up by the stone circle to try and get warm. We were huddled so close that it took us a couple of seconds to realise that my friend’s frayed baggy jeans (it was the Noughties) had caught fire. Cue lots of random people urgently stamping on his foot to put out the flames. 

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A very strange diet

My frugal friend was in charge of supplies when we went to a festival, which was admittedly a terrible decision on our behalf – he hates hates hates spending money. But he truly outdid himself on this occasion: all he packed for us to eat was a sack of peanuts and a seemingly endless supply of tinned sild. As in, yeah, the oily fish hardly anyone has heard of.

Nobody came near our tent that weekend, let me tell you…

The self-inflicted injury

I was at All Tomorrow’s Parties and, after everything had finished, we had a chalet party. I was dancing on a chair, in my socks, slipped and fell off and cut my head on the kitchen door. I had to go to the camp medic, who shone a torch in my eyes, promptly determined I had brain damage and told me I must go to the local hospital.

“Why do you think that?” I said.

“Because your pupils are extremely dilated,” he said.

My friend Jack – equally wide-eyed – and I looked at each other.

“Yeah, there’s another reason for that,” I said.

Still, we had to go to the hospital. Jack, sweetly I thought, accompanied me. I felt terrible about wasting hospital time with an injury that was, essentially, a product of my own stupidity. I kept telling them I was “a nice person” and that “I worked for a charity” (which I did, at that point). Jack meanwhile settled in and, just as the A&E doctor started to stitch up my head, said: “So, you’re a doctor. Great. Do you do GP shit as well as hospital stuff? Because, since I’m here I might as well ask. I’ve had this rash…” 

Festival horror stories: “Since I’m here I might as well ask. I’ve had this rash…” 

Simpler times

I was attending a festival in the desert and, to save money, I walked there with my friends. But, when I arrived, I was told that the digital copy of my ticket (presented proudly on my phone) wasn’t valid. “You need a printout,” they told me flatly. I dumped my bag with my friends, promised I’d be back, and trekked off in search of a working internet connection and a printer.

Eventually, after two hours of walking, I found an internet café (so retro) and managed to persuade them to print my ticket. But, before I set back off to the campsite, I decided it would be smart to take some water along – so I bought 16 litres of the stuff.

Big mistake. Huge. I lugged the bottles for ages down the dusty road and eventually staggered back to the front of the festival queue. There, I dumped the water on the floor to pull out my precious paper slip, but the condensation had seeped onto the ticket and weakened it. All it took was that tiny movement to rip the damn thing wetly in half.

Like any grown up, I decided to handle this little setback by bursting into hot noisy tears of frustration. Thankfully, the entry staff took pity on me and waved me – and my weekend’s supply of water – into the camp. Gah.

The cave-in

I was 17 and I was at Reading Festival. One night, a couple outside started having sex while leaning up against my tent. My £30 Tesco pop-up was not structurally sound enough to lean on, however, and they came crashing in on me with only paper-thin tent material between myself and the guy’s bare ass. I’m so awkwardly British I just said “sorry” and made my escape!

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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