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How to Tell the Absolute Best Campfire Scary Stories

Photo by Joris Voeten

October is here and it’s time for chilling nights and scary stories told over glowing fires.

There are a lot of scary stories out there to be told. But the delivery, the way that it’s told, can make the difference between your audience rolling their eyes in boredom and shaking with fright.

Bring back the lost art of storytelling and leave your listeners with a lingering sense of dread with these terrifying tips.

Practice Makes Petrifying Perfection

Nothing’s worse than someone that stalls out in the middle of the story because they forgot the next part. Or getting to the end and realizing a crucial detail was left out.

Practice speaking your ghost stories out loud on your own before the bonfire starts.

When you want to build suspense, speak lower and softer. This will make your audience have to lean in and builds tension as they strain to hear you. When the action starts, speak faster and more sharply.

Get louder as the bad guy gains momentum. Then drop off suddenly leaving your listeners a moment to let their imaginations work.

Practicing beforehand gives you a change to hear how it sounds out loud and help you find your groove.

Photo by Mike Erskine

Commitment (A scary word all on its own)

Whether you choose to go with a classic monster story or try and sneak in a chilling “might be true” urban legend, commit to the role you choose. If you’re going classic and everyone knows it’s time to tell spooky stories, then don’t be afraid to get a little over the top.

Most people would rather see someone that’s a little too into it then someone that doesn’t seem interested in their own story. If you’re going for a more low key approach where no one realizes they’ve been drawn in until the last minute, then base your story in real events and places.

Be casual in your mannerisms but act like you don’t really want to talk about it. Whatever approach you decide to take, dedicate yourself fully to it or your listeners will see right through you.

Photo by Simon Wijers

All Eyes on Me

You could tell the best story ever, but if no one was listening what’s the point?

It’s good to be able to start telling your story seamlessly with the night’s festivities, but people should get a sense of presence from the moment you start speaking. Try a dark room at a party, or someplace outside. Of course, scary stories for the campfire are always best.

Picking a story that gets people’s attention right from the beginning will make it easier to hold them in suspense. If you keep getting interrupted try waiting until the mood is better or be casual about setting it yourself. Maybe volunteer to go get more firewood, and take a little too long. Come back with your clothes disheveled mumbling about how you weren’t sure what you saw out there.

Photo by Thomas Roberts

Have a Man on the Inside

Having a partner in cahoots with you opens up a world of options. They could pop out of the woods in a scary mask at just the right moment, go missing from the group early on, or collaborate your story to make it more realistic.

Sometimes it’s the subtle details that make people the most nervous. So having someone that can provide that while you’re telling the horror stories can make all the difference. Magicians, psychics, and actors all do it!

Take a page from them and partner up with a buddy to make it a really memorable experience.

My personal favorite? Have them dress in all black and move around outside the campfire light with a spooky sounding call (like a barn owl screech) and just rustle some branches every now and then to make your guests unsure about what’s out there.

If they keep looking over their shoulders, you know you’ve got them.

Photo by Chris Rhoads

Spine Tingling Special Effects

Special effects can add an unexpected twist to your story and catch your listeners off guard. Try putting a virtual sound board on your phone for sound effects, or playing a little creepy music to set the mood.

Fake blood capsules can be purchased from most Halloween stores and used in a lot of sneaky ways. Imagine slipping one of these capsules into your mouth in the middle of your story and popping it with your teeth. Then spit “blood” while you start crying that “I knew I shouldn’t have been talking about this!”

For a less gory effect, try tossing these Ultimate Flames color-changing packs into the campfire for a mystical otherworldly feel.

NEXT: HERE ARE THE 16 BEST BEERS TO DRINK BY A CAMPFIRE

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How to Tell the Absolute Best Campfire Scary Stories