Before widespread literacy, stories passed from generation to generation through oral storytelling. The art of holding your listeners attention with your voice means choosing a story you enjoy and telling it with enthusiasm, including many descriptive details to build suspense and humor. Telling fun camp stories for kids around a campfire can create many hours of memories of family bonding and laughter.
Scary stories are a classic campfire favorite. The eerie, shifting light from the flames against the dark set just the right spooky atmosphere to create the aura of tension and suspense. Murder mysteries offer chilling conundrums to tease the heebie-jeebies out of your kids. In this example, an ending plot twist creates an ominous climax.
"Terror gripped the normally quiet town of Chesterville when dead animals began showing up on the steps of City Hall every morning with exactly ten bullet holes in their chests. Consternation turned to hysteria one morning when instead of an animal, Joe Morton, the local storekeeper was found with the same bullet pattern in his chest. Everyone was afraid to leave their homes except for two daring young men, named Peter and Henry who volunteered to patrol the streets at night. On their way out, that first night, they kissed their parents and grandmother, assuring them that their knives would be adequate defense. All seemed calm as they started their watch. After several hours, Peter ran down to the gas station to use the bathroom. Suddenly Henry heard footsteps and turned just in time to see a shadowy creature leap at him. He called out for Peter but his brother was too far away to help. He struggled with the creature in the dark but only managed to cut off the right thumb before his attacker broke free and ran away. Peter returned and was astonished to find his brother breathing heavily with many scrapes and bruises. He helped Henry home where they found their grandmother awake, sewing and rocking in her rocking chair. "Good morning, boys," she wheezed, eyeing Henry's state stoically, "Better clean up now." "Yes, Grandmother," the boys chorused, heading for the bathroom without noticing the blood dripping from the stub where her thumb should have been.
Sometimes the spookiest ending does not solve the mystery but elicits the thrill of scaring yourself with open-ended imaginations of what might have been or could be coming with the culprit still on the loose. One such tale tells the misfortune of two college roommates who go out together for the evening. One of them remembers she forgot her purse (or wallet) and runs back to retrieve it from their room without turning on the lights. They go on with their evening entertainment but the other roommate returns early to their room. When the first roommate returns to the dorm in early hours, she finds the police surrounding the building. Upon inquiring about what had happened, she learns that there has been a murder. She convinces the police to let her return to her room where she finds the medical examiner covering her roommate with a white sheet. Aghast, she looks around the room and sees that someone has scrawled on the mirror in red lipstick, "You're lucky you didn't turn on the light..."
I'll Never Tell
Word play can bring humor to your punchline as in the tale of the Count determined to protect his family during the French Revolution. Captured during the Reign of Terror, in the frenzy to drive out or kill all the nobility, this count refused to reveal the location of his family whom he had sent away to safety. He repeatedly stated, "I'll never tell!" no matter what threats or promises they made. Even when they dragged him to the guillotine, he would not reveal their location. When the blade began to drop, however, he suddenly called, "Wait! I'll te..." but it was too late and he took the secret to his grave. The moral of the story, according to Ultimate Camp Resource, is "don't hatchet your Count before he chickens!"
If you have sensitive young children prone to nightmares, and murder mysteries are not up your alley, try jazzing up the action in old folktales for a little bedtime entertainment while camping. Classic fairy tales and trickster stories are good storytelling material. One tale from Georgia spins the account of Brer Rabbit constantly raiding Brer Fox's peanut patch. Brer Fox gets fed up with the thievery and sets a trap to catch the thief. It leaves the culprit dangling in mid-air over the garden for all to see. Sure enough Brer Rabbit gets caught in the trap but manages to trick Brer Bear into thinking that Brer Fox is paying him a dollar a minute to play scarecrow for his garden and convinces Brer Bear to take his place before Brer Fox discovers the sprung trap. Brer Fox finds the innocent Brer Bear in the trap and he bears the blame for the thefts. Meanwhile Brer Rabbit disguises himself as a bullfrog to avoid the angry Brer Bear and the second trick works as well, leaving Brer Rabbit happily plotting his next peanut raid.
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- Ghosts and Stories: Short Campfire Ghost Stories
- American Folklore: Funny Campfire Stories
- Ultimate Camp Stories: Campfire Stories
- U.S. Scouting Service Project: MacScouter: Stories
- U.S. Scouting Service Project: MacScouter: A Collection of Stories
- "The Boy Scouts Book of Campfire Stories"; Franklin K. Matthews; 1933
Games to Play at Mystery Camps
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