I love having a spooky night on Halloween. By that I don't mean dressing up, or cosying up with a horror film. I mean a real old-fashioned spooky night; the way our ancestors did - with a candle and a ghost story. Sounds tame by today's standards right? yet this simple pastime can be far more terrifying than a mere film, because it involves the most terrifying tool of all ... our own imaginations. Back in the day families would gather around the fire to hear the same stories told and re-told year after year ... and it wasn't just because the story captured their imaginations, it was the crackle of a fire making them jump ..... the noises of the house ..... the shadows from the candlelight dancing on the wall catching their eye. So if you dare, read on for a few tips on setting the scene, as well as some skin-crawling ghost stories for you to print out and read ... scared yet??
The scariest, most terrifying thing that I fear? my imagination - Stephen King
Setting the scene ....
Turn off all music / phones / TV! nothing spoils a story like a text message.
Darkness is key - Turn off all lights. Light a small fire OR use candles - both will be too bright. You just want to light your faces not the room. So keep all candles in front of you / in the centre of your circle so behind your shoulder is pitch darkness ... trust me, darkness is key.
Tips for the storyteller ...
Bend the truth for effect - Now I'm usually a truthful person, but I'm happy to fib a little on Halloween. If you want to really get under their skin, whatever the story, say it's true. If you can, you could also try and relate it to your area ... (sneaky I know) My dad's the best storyteller of all time. Why? because even he believes his own lies, even after all these years he insists his ghost stories are true .... maybe they are?? :-/
Talk slowly, and don't rush - You're setting the scene, so while you may know how your story goes, your listeners do not. So speak slowly with expression, and give them time to 'imagine.' It's not always about what you say or see, it's more about what you don't. Suspense is scarier than gory details - so don't make obvious 'spooky' noises to frighten the kids ... create the right atmosphere and the noises of the house will do the work for you .... drip .... drip ..... drip.
Make sure you can read your story clearly - Print it out in a large font so you can read by candlelight without faffing. Nothing spoils a story like your mum going "Oh 'ang on a minute, I need me glasses, Ronald what does that bit say??"
A collection of short ghost stories
Here are some well-written ghost stories, and not the typical urban tale of 'psycho-banging-boyfriends-head-on-top-of-car' type of story. So they may appear long but go with it, you'll soon have your audience hanging off your every word. I'm all ears if you have any other recommendations!
The upper birth by F Marion Crawford
Lost hearts by M R James
On the brighton road Richard Middleton
A ghost story by Mark Twain
The haunted palace by Edgar allen Poe
The empty house by Algernon Blackwood
Good luck my pretties, and if you live to see morning, do tell me how it went ;-)
PS. You lot owe me one for this post. I had to sit and read these ghost stories before I recommended them - scared me witless! especially when Ralphy kept randomly barking at nothing. Nearly had a heart attack!