Five Tips for Telling Truly Terrifying Ghost Stories

August 20, 2015

Come nightfall on every trip, when the stars come out, the nocturnal creatures emerge, and the campfire ignites, the time comes for an RV rite of passage: the ghost story. Whether a veteran RVer or novice camper, you likely have your own roster of scary tales. If not, just make one up. Whether you focus on escaped prisoners with hooks for hands, lovelorn spirits, or abandoned pioneers, a few simple things will make you the star of the ghastly show. Below you will find five tips for telling the best ghost stories:

Make it personal
No matter who you have gathered around the campfire or snuggled into the RV, your audience will quickly see through the ol’ ‘friend of a friend’ line. To heighten the intensity, tell it in the first person or stay as closely connected as you can. For instance, ‘my uncle’ or ‘my best friend’ works in a pinch if you don’t think the crowd will believe you were actually there.

Tie in your surroundings
Like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, take a few cues from your surroundings. Use the lake name or nearby terrain to add real-world chills (e.g. ‘The Legend of Gull Lake,’ ”just over the edge of that very hill,’ etc.).

Look to the past
When it comes to fear, nothing stokes the shivers like an old timey tale. Why’ Because of the unknown. The past is inherently unfamiliar and that, in and of itself, should enhance the shudders. As a bonus: stories of remote terror sound much more plausible when uninterrupted by a cell phone ringtone or impeded by a ubiquitous wireless network.

Dial down the gore, amp up the spookiness
While you are no doubt a compelling raconteur, the scariest stories depend on your audience’s imagination. Like Steven Spielberg not showing the shark in Jaws or the ill-fated heroes of The Blair Witch Project never encountering the witch, your story will benefit from a less-is-more approach. You create the atmosphere and outline the plot, but let others fill in the details in their heads. Trust me: their minds will betray them.

An accomplice makes a finale grand
A first-rate ghost story told by an expert storyteller shouldn’t need more than moonlight and confidence to make a frightening impact. Still, if you can build to a crescendo and end with a bang, feel free. How do you do that’ Enlist a pal and implant him or her in the audience. Say your story is about an old fireman who saves a village but perishes ‘ have your friend fire off an air horn unexpectedly. Or, if you don’t have tools, a well-timed yell of a petrifying phrase will hammer home the point.

Now that you know all of the basics for a bloodcurdling tale, get out your flashlight, put on your most menacing voice, and get scaring.

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