WASHINGTON—According to a new report released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services, 74 percent of all American children camping out in their backyards never, ever make it through the night.

The study, which surveyed hundreds of innocent children between the ages of 7 and 12, found that, in almost all cases, sleeping outdoors in a tent with a flashlight and comic books and who knows what else lurking around in the dark ended in horrible tragedy.

"We now have definitive proof that most children who camp out in their yards will die a horrific death," said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services. "Whether it's a sudden wolf attack, an escaped mental patient, or just Old Man Greenly, who lost his hand in a gruesome mill accident and now seeks his bloody revenge, young boys and girls rarely live to see their parents or friends again."

Secretary Sebelius concluded the press conference by telling children to sleep tight, throwing her head back and cackling wildly.

Conducted over the course of two months, the study documented nearly 18,345 ways in which children, who never suspected a thing until it was far too late, met their grisly demise.

In 29 percent of all recorded cases, young campers were chopped up into tiny pieces by fugitive axe murderers. While a shocking 32 percent of kids, snacking on potato chips and candy bars, awakened the ghost of a little baby boy named Jeremy.

According to the study, 100 percent of all children tried to scream and yell for help, but nothing came out.

"Though a terrifying scenario, kids should not worry too much about the prospect of being attacked by killer ghosts," said Dr. Howard Fredericks, the study's chief researcher and a professor of forensic biology at Columbia University. "Especially since our data suggests they're three times more likely to be kidnapped by the Very Lonely Woman Who Lives in the Woods."

"She's this horrible-looking woman with scabs all over her face who had her children taken away by the state," Fredericks continued. "She now roams across the suburbs at night, crying and wailing, and mistaking young kids playing inside their tents for her own."

Although Fredericks claimed that the odds of an unsuspecting child surviving until morning were slim, he did issue a list of warning signs to watch for. The sound of a nearby twig snapping, Fredericks said, almost always indicates that a half-man, half-lizard swamp creature, who feeds on the organs of schoolchildren while they're still alive, is on the prowl. In addition, the study found that turning off one's flashlight or closing one's eyes for "even a second" is an open invitation to all disfigured hitchhikers in the area to suddenly attack.

"Children should know, however, that if they hear scratching on the side of their tent, it's probably just their older brother trying to scare them," Fredericks said. "And if the scratching suddenly stops, it's most likely because their parents have gone insane and crept up from behind with this really demonic look in their eyes and slit his throat."

As dire as these findings may appear, Fredericks claimed there was one way for children camping outdoors to escape their fate.

"If they are able to avoid being bitten by poisonous spiders crawling around inside their sleeping bag, can keep all their fingers and toes crossed long enough to ward off Sister Mary, and manage to run back home without the inbred family of cannibal people seeing them first, they may actually stand a chance," said Fredericks, an eerie smile forming on his lips. "But even if they do, there's no telling what they'll find once they get inside."

"And I should know," he added, pulling out a gleaming butcher knife from behind his back. "I'm in there now."