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Thursday, October 23, 2008

13 Days of Halloween - Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I bet most of you can look at the picture above and know exactly what part of the story they have come to: "...and hanging from the car's door handle was a...BLOODY HOOK!"

What is it about campfires and late night slumber parties that naturally provokes people to start telling ghost stories? Why do we enjoy scaring each other? This is something I wonder about, and ponder often, since "scary stories" is my favorite genre when it comes to books and movies. I also love to study about the art of storytelling through the ages; how it reflects and shapes a culture, how it communicates and binds people together. These are ideas that really intrigue me, and I have many more blog posts planned for the future, discussing some of the answers to these very questions.

For now, let's talk about ghost stories. We've all done it: sat around in a circle, either around a crackling campfire or huddled in sleeping bags in the middle of the living room floor with our friends, and passed a flashlight around, held it up to our chin menacingly as we told a grim, bone-chilling tale, each person trying to outdo the last person's story. A good storyteller would know how to build the story with spooky voices and sound effects, and would know just when to whisper... then pause... then yell out, causing everyone in the room to jump and shriek. Then we would all fall into giggles over how we'd just been had. I suppose we tell ghost stories for the same reason we ride roller coasters - for the thrill of it, to feel alive.

There was a series of books I discovered in elementary school, that have been a favorite ever since. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell and the two that followed, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones are a collection of folk tales, ghost stories, and folk songs that chronicle the storytelling traditions of ghost stories and folklore.

If you are looking for some good tales to tell on your next camping trip, or a way to freak o
ut your friends at the next slumber party, then I highly recommend these books. Also, if you are looking for a game or activity to play on Halloween, this book contains one of my favorite games, called "The Dead Man's Brains." Everyone sits in a circle in the dark and the host recites a poem describing "dearly departed John" and some of his decrepit body parts. For example, you describe his intestines, then pass around a bowl of cold spaghetti and dare everyone to touch it, or describe his ear and send around a dried apricot, or describe his eyes and pass around two peeled grapes. It is amazing how your imagination kicks into overdrive, with these sensory items being passed in the dark, and with the spooky poem to set your mind in motion. Good clean spooky fun! I just searched Amazon and it looks like you can buy all three books in a box set for a steal at $15.

Which campfire tale still sticks in your mind, or still gives you goosebumps when you think about it... was it "The Hook", or "Lover's Lane" or the "Ghost Girl on the Bridge"? I invite you to leave me a comment and let me know.

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