Not Just for Kids

 Vol. 10, No. 43

October 24-30, 2002

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Terrifying Tales
by Brent Seabrook

Not candy, not costumes, not carving pumpkins nor bobbing for apples — nothing goes with Halloween like a spooky story. Spooky stories can be told any time of year, of course, but the early darkness of late October is particularly conducive to having your socks scared off.

Use that darkness to your advantage. Turn out all the lights and sit in a circle. Pass a flashlight around to whoever’s doing the scaring.

When your turn comes, remember that every story must have three things: a beginning, a middle, and an end. You should begin every story by setting the scene and describing the characters; if your listeners don’t know anything about the people in the story, they won’t care what happens to them. Give your listeners a few key details — like the lines in a coloring book — and let them fill in the rest.

The middle is when things start heating up. Events go from good to bad or from bad to worse, dragging your characters along behind (or driving them in front). This happens a little differently, depending on what kind of story you’re telling. There are stories in which living people end up as ghosts, stories in which living people are haunted by ghosts, and stories in which living people are haunted by living people (who often have hooks for hands).

If your characters are being haunted, it’s vital that you not reveal too much too soon. Just throw a few mysterious details at your listeners, again letting them fill in the details. Remember that each of us knows what scares us best; your listeners are fully capable of scaring themselves silly, if you point in the right direction.

Slowly bring your story to a boil — a point of no return, for your characters and listeners alike. Your characters get their heads chopped off or find the corpses of their loved ones or hooks hanging from their door handles and throw themselves off cliffs or down a wells. This is the only time you can be overt and get away with it, and then only if want your audience to scream and leap out of their seats. You can jump or shout or clap your hands or grab a listener or whatever.

Or you can end your story as slowly and subtly as it began. Kill the flashlight and let your audience listen to the rustle of dead leaves in the dark.

The surprise ending lets your listeners release all the fear they’ve been building up inside; the quiet ending sends them to bed with it. It also keeps kids awake for hours, or gives them nightmares that last well into adulthood, so be prepared to reap what you sow.

Spooky Story Tips:

  • If your story doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, it won’t send one up anyone else’s. You have to believe every story you tell — at least a little bit.

  • Tell ghost stories in the dark, but if there has to be a light on, stand right beside it so that it casts eerie shadows across your face.

  • Be subtle, not overt. Begin the story like you would any other, like it was about a trip to the grocery store, then slow down as you near your climax. Let every word sink in. Give your listeners plenty of time to fill in all the details that make a story scary.

  • Stuck for an idea? The Maryland Ghost & Spirit Association’s website ( describes 228 hauntings in the state of Maryland, organized by county.

Kids Calander

Thursday, October 24
Monster Bash
Monsters, Inc. employees Sully and Mike scare because they care. Now it’s your turn to come out in your best costume and be scary or silly. Listen to a Monsters, Inc. story and take home a treat. 7pm @ Borders, Annapolis: 410/571-0923.

Friday, October 25
Teen Fright Night
Be frightened by a scary movie, eat some popcorn, maybe win a prize and have some fun at Teen Fright Night. Come in costume if you want. Fright Night begins at 6:30pm @ Calvert County Library, Prince Frederick. Free: 410/535-0291.

Saturday, October 26
Take your costumed pet to PETCO today for a dress-up contest. All contestants go home with a bag of goodies and one will win a $25 gift card. Children can also enter a coloring contest. Noon @ PETCO, Annapolis: 410/224-8323.

Celebrate laughter and fun with Chesapeake Music Theatre’s Children’s Theatre in A Halloween Spooktacular. Come in costume and enjoy the show & a lunch. Doors open 11:30am, show starts 12:30pm @ the Music Hall, Annapolis. $10: Rsvp; 410/626-7515.

Tuesday, October 29
Toddler Tales
Bring your little ghosts and goblins to a costume party, specially designed for 3- to 5-year-olds. Refreshments, crafts and games available. 10:30am @ Northeast Community Center, Chesapeake Beach. $3/child. Rsvp by Oct. 25: 410/257-2554.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly