It's officially FALL, my most favorite time of year for camping! Crisp days and cozy blankets, gold Aspens and warm cider makes this girl a giddy happier than normal camper. I think we can all agree there’s nothing like sitting around a campfire, making s’mores and sharing stories with family and friends. After all, isn’t that the best part of camping? Ok, maybe the s’mores are the main reason (ok, ok, they are the number one reason!) but stargazing at night with a crackling fire and loads of sugar is fall heaven.
The laughter, smiles and storytelling of camping are right up there with creating crazy ingredient s’mores but there’s always at least one member of the group who can’t resist telling a scary story. They just love the attention and watching the young one’s eyes grow big and wide over the flames of the fire. And hey, we’ve all been there at one time and well, payback is hell. Nothing like having your younger sibling scare the heebie jeebies out of your kids on a camping trip and yes, let’s just say what goes around, went around. Still, it was in all good fun and those young kids are now adults and still remember those campfire stories so job well done while the family tradition continues.
Righhtt.....it's all about the S'MORES!
Before we go into our scary favorite resources remember while we all love a good scary story as an adult, be aware of your audience. If you have little ones just learning that being outdoors and camping is AMAZING, keep it light, more cartoony. Think Snoopy scary, not Jack Nichol's Shinning crazy eye scary. I think that goes without saying but we all have those friends or uncles that think running into the woods screaming is knee slapping funny. We want our children to camp with us again right? To love the outdoors like we do, why yes, yes we do.
So here is USA Adventure Gear's 11 tips on scary storytelling. Again, remember your audience!
Halloween is just around the corner and a perfect time to hone campfire boo and scream tricks.
1. The stories should be funny spooky, no way possible creepy or shake in your boots I’m outta here packing my tent and leaving terrifying. Don't make it lame by hemming and hawing and stumbling over words. Yea right and rolling eyes is not the response you want. It’s how you deliver the story that makes it funny or scary.
2. Consider having a twilight campfire story for little ones so it’s fun, less bug eyes and tiny closed mouths. Remember they need to know they’re safe and the outdoors is full of exciting adventures. As they grow older, the stories can become scarier. Pre-teens are perfect for a loud “BOO” behind them. So is Granny. Just be careful she’s in a place where she won’t fall out of her camping chair.
3. Make sure you have everyone’s attention before starting. Get the first s’mores over the fire or eaten. You don’t want to lose your audience to the picnic table for more chocolate or marshmallows.
4. Practice your story if it’s a new one or the first story of the camping season. You can embellish or change the story to make it more about that particular campground or area. You’ll have everyone looking over their shoulders or thinking twice before using that campground restroom. Like they aren’t they scary enough? Just kidding! Well, sorta of.
5. Dramatic effects are more powerful than the story itself. When you get to a scary point, stop and either slowly move behind everyone or stay seated and while in the circle, glance dramatically from one person to another. Pause and whisper all while maintaining eye contact as you continue your story.
6. Body language and asking questions are key. Point and wave your hands and arms. Engage your listeners with “Do you know where or why or what do you think happened next?” type of questions. Stay quiet and then wait…for…it…let their imaginations run amok and when you’re ready, with a booming voice and then a whisper, move the story forward.
7. Enlist a co-conspirator before the campfire who knows the story or at your signal, throws a rock or stick out into the woods. Timing is very important here. Now if you hear a loud growling noise, you might want to slowly walk backwards to your camper or car. Leave the s’mores.
8. Lightly touch the person next to you with a stick when you raise your voice at a hair raising point. Use that co-conspirator again so more than one person jumps or is startled.
9. Use props. Make a fake bloody finger with gauze and ketchup. Leave a few old rags stained to look like old blood and hide them around the camp. These can be pulled up while gathering wood or kindling. This is a perfect time to set the story and get those imaginations running. Got old dog bones laying around? Bring them, (sorry Spot) and again using hot sauce (really sorry Spot!) or ketchup, dirty them up and half bury them to look like human remains. Remember to take them with you!
10. Right round dusk, grab your favorite nieces or nephews or young friends and a flashlight and head out to gather kindling or wood for the fire. Setup the story for that night’s campfire gathering. Something like, “You know about the story of Hermit Hollow right? About the lost gold/murder/missing toe?” Flash the light around like you heard something. You get the idea. Anticipation can build and when it’s story time, they’ll be begging and slightly shaking to hear the entire story.
11. Have your IPhone loaded and queued up with a few spooky songs ready to play softly in the background.
So with those story tips, you will become the favorite story teller and never have to make your own s’mores again.
Here’s our favorite resources for great campfire stories. Remember, use these websites as a basis and weave your own stories around your surroundings. They’ll be remembered and shared by future generations of campers.
Happy Fall Camping everyone!