The hotdogs have been roasted. The s’mores have been eaten. Everyone around the campfire is feeling content and relaxed. The sun has gone down and darkness has settled over the woods. That’s how you know it's the perfect time to tell your fellow campers a campsite horror story. But how do you tell a campsite horror story that's guaranteed to not allow much sleep that night? Well let me tell you, but don’t worry... the old flashlight under the face trick isn’t one of my tips.
Atmosphere is a huge part of any horror story. Luckily for you, a campfire in the woods at night offers an ideal atmosphere for spinning your scary tale. The flickering ring of light from the flames throws long shadows into the trees before the light is completely swallowed by the impenetrable darkness of the woods. People feel secure and comfortable within that ring of light, but it doesn’t take much to put them all on edge.
When you're ready to begin your campsite horror story, the first thing you need to do is get everyone’s attention. Clear your throat loudly and make sure all eyes are on you. Don’t announce that you're going to be telling a scary story. Instead, try to smoothly transition into the story. The name of the game here is to make things feel natural.
Try something like this: “I used to camp in these same woods years ago. This is my first time back in a long time and to be honest I’m still a little uneasy.” (Just use this as a frame of reference. You don’t want to sound like you're reading a script!)
Ideally, one of your listeners will ask you why you're still spooked, but don’t worry if they don’t. Try to act like you don’t even want to tell the story and begin it very reluctantly. You'll want to speak slowly at first and add in a few pauses. This will help to build more suspense.
As far as topics for your campsite horror story are concerned, try to choose something you are familiar enough with to tell a story with some detail. You can’t go wrong with a topic that takes place in the woods. A couple great ones are aliens that campers encountered while in the woods, Bigfoot, or even a vicious creature rumored to roam the very woods you are camping in.
Do a little research online before your camping trip if you want to find a story to turn into your own. There are a ton of great topics and stories out there that make for bone-chilling tales.
Try to integrate your surroundings into the story. If you hear a twig snap in the woods, mention how the people in the story heard something just like that. Talk about how the night you are telling the story is eerily similar to the night of the story. Anything that will make your listeners feel more engaged with the story is perfect.
It's important to maintain your serious demeanor throughout the telling of the story. Make some eye contact with people in the beginning, but as the story builds to the climax try to take on an almost possessed demeanor like it's troubling you to recount the events of the story. Staring into the fire with deep world-weariness is always a great tactic for this.
Gradually build up the tempo of your words and (if you're a good enough actor) try to even increase the pitch of your voice. Another good strategy is to just sort of drift off into the end of the story, as if even thinking of your memories of the events are disturbing to you. Leave the ending of the story ambiguous. Don’t allow it to be resolved so your listeners will be kept wondering and drawing their own creepy conclusions.
Don’t drag your story out for too long if people don’t seem overly interested and also consider the age of your fellow campers. If there are youngsters around the campfire, modify the fear factor of your story appropriately.
Telling a campfire horror story isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t one of those people, then just consider this article as a way to help you spot a scary story and avoid feeling uneasy yourself.
If you follow these tips, you'll have a solid chance of giving your fellow campers a good case of the chills. Just be careful -- if you tell too good of a story, then you might just become the designated storyteller whenever you go camping!