How to Tell Tales from the Crypt
By Sara Naor
My scariest ghost story moment was in fifth grade. A few girls and I had recently heard about the “Bloody Mary” game. Upon hearing of it three other girls and I decided that we were brave enough to try it in the school bathroom.
One girl kept watch outside while the four of us stood in front of the bathroom mirror with the doors closed and the lights off. The version we heard entailed first flushing the toilet, spraying the mirror with water twice and chanting. “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, let us see your face” three times in unison.
As we chanted we grew more and more anxious. Our small voices wavered slightly, and by the time we finished the final chant any small noise would have set us off. And it did.
On the last “face” the boys came crashing into the bathroom yelling as loud as they could and us four girls (reacting like any ten-year-olds would) ran out of there like bats out of hell, screeching the whole way.
Since then I have only played Bloody Mary once at a sleepover and my friend, to this day, swears that she saw a ghostly woman dressed in white.
With Halloween coming up telling a good ghost story is key! For anyone who has ever been camping can vouch that the campfire is the best place to tell scary stories. Since it isn’t always practical to build a campfire in the middle of your living room, any type of fort will do the trick. If you have a flashlight to add to the mood that is even better.
Telling a ghost story is pretty simple but there are a few simple tips that can help make your ghost story come to life.
Set the Mood
Let’s face it, no one is going to get scared sitting around a kitchen table with textbooks in front of them. The best way to make your story scary is in a place you wouldn’t normally be. Around a campfire is best but just changing your location could do the trick, especially if you’re somewhere spooky (tunnels anyone?).
You also have to make sure that the way you tell your tale is spooky. Whispering, while cliché, adds some mystery and also forces your listeners to lean forward in order to hear you better, engaging them. Flashlights ,while eerie, are a bit overdone. Personally I think lighting candles adds enough mystery without making it cheesy.
Connect It to Reality
There is a reason that ghost stories in cheesy campy horror films start off with “On a dark night, just like tonight.” When telling a ghost story you want to make it as real as possible. That means playing off your surroundings and the people involved. If you are in a house, use that. In a forest or by a lake there are way too many ghost stories not to play off of that. For me this was best done at my sleep away camp when I was 14 years old.
The counselors would tell a story about a creepy mural that was painted on the side of the pool shack. They said that it was made after a young girl had drowned in the pool. When you looked at the painting the eyes of the girl seemed to follow you around wherever you went on campus and one of my friends claims she saw her blink once. The story gets in your head so well that the campers staying in the cabin next to the pool swear they heard splashing noises and a girl crying in the middle of the night.
Don’t Break Character!
While telling the story you will most likely be overcome by an urge to lose character or laugh. Fight it! If you slip up in your story halfway though then you will completely lose any hold you previously had over your audience. It is also a good idea to create different characters if your story requires it. You need to engage your audience in order to make the ghost story as real as possible and fully committing to the story is the best way to do that.
Have an Accomplice
While having an accomplice is optional, teaming up with another person is by far the best way to scare someone while telling a ghost story.
Before you tell your ghost story you should set up some type of signal word or movement with your partner so they know the perfect moment to act. Keep in mind your partner doesn’t necessarily have to be the one to do the scaring, they could just draw everyone’s attention to them while you prepare something truly terrifying. Or of course you can go for the classic scream at the end of the story to spook everyone and create the nervous laughter we all seek.
Whether you’re planning to have a scary movie marathon or simply going to a Halloween party ghost stories are always a Halloween favorite. So go ahead and look some up before your Halloween event and scare your friends witless. I may even try Bloody Mary again, though probably not.