How To

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From Xplor: September/October 2019

The s’mores are gone and the fire has burned down to coals. Night creeps in from the pitch-black woods. Now is the perfect time to send your buddies off to bed with the perfect spooky story. Here’s how to spin a tale of terror that will raise goosebumps on their arms — in a good way.

Here’s How You Tell It:

Ease Into It

Don’t announce that you’re about to tell a spooky story. Poke the campfire coals with a stick and send some embers into the sky. When all eyes have turned your way, begin talking quietly, as if you’re remembering something. Something that you would rather not talk about. But something that your fellow campers simply must hear.

I was camping beside this very creek about a year ago when something strange happened. I don’t like to talk about it. But since we’re here, I think you should know.

Set the Stage

Make sure your story takes place in the same location where you’re camping. If a twig snaps or an owl hoots, mention how the people in your story heard the exact same thing. If lightning flickers, be sure to work a brewing storm into your tale. And if one of your buddies found a strange footprint near your campsite, the same print better find a way into your story.

We were sitting around a campfire just like this when we heard something rustle in the woods. We didn’t think much about it and went to bed. But the next morning we found half of our juice boxes empty. And here’s the weird thing: They hadn’t been opened. Each box had two holes in it, as if it had been stabbed with tiny straws — or fangs.

Act It Out

Channel your inner actor. Use facial expressions, hand gestures, and sound effects to act out the exciting parts. Whisper slowly to build suspense. Belt out words quickly when the action is rolling. Don’t recite your story as if you’re reading from a textbook.

We saw it, standing on a stump, right over there. It looked like a normal chipmunk at first. But then it yawned, like it was tired from being up all night. And inside its cute little mouth, instead of buck teeth like a normal chipmunk, this one had fangs.

It scurried away when it saw us. We knew we had to save the woods from this vampire chipmunk. So we re-filled one of the empty juice boxes with kerosene from our stove. Then we sealed it up and left it on the picnic table.

Read Your Audience

If your buddies begin covering up yawns, they may be losing interest. Pick up the pace and add some more action. If they scoot closer to the campfire, maybe your story is getting too scary. Time to tone down the spooky parts.

That night we hid in our tents with our flashlights ready. Just after sunset we heard: Pop! Hiss! Gulp, gulp, gulp. We flicked on our flashlights just in time to see the chipmunk drain the last drop of kerosene from the juice box. His beady eyes glowed blood-red.

Finish Big

Don’t reveal the outcome of your story until the end. In fact, wait until the very last sentence if you can manage. When you’re done, and everyone is still pondering your tale, turn toward your tent, pause dramatically, and say, “Sleep tight.”

Suddenly, the chipmunk jumped off the table and began racing around it. Round he went, maybe a dozen times. Then he just flopped over and lay very still.

Was he dead?

No. He’d just run out of gas.

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This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White