September/October 2009 | Issue #4
During the last four weeks I have been on tour across the country and in Canada. I just finished a week of storytelling for The Haunting in the Hills at Big South Fork National Parks and Recreation Area in Tennessee. While in Canada, I was able to devote time to do research for a Chautauqua storytelling project I hope to develop. This is to explain why this issue is a bit late. I sincerely hope the information in this edition is of use as you prepare for the Halloween season.
WHY TELL GHOST AND SCARY STORIES?
As a parent and grandmother, I am naturally protective of children and often go out of my way to make certain they are not frightened or feel too distrustful of the world around them. There was a time when I was afraid that some of the classic stories in their original form were too scary for my children, so I sought modern versions of these traditional tales. I have since learned that these old stories serve an important role in helping youngsters learn through example, and they need to be heard.
According to the late Bruno Bettelheim, PhD, author of The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, ghost and scary stories help children safely deal with many unspoken fears that occur during key stages of development. This is why ancient tales with wicked stepmothers, mean siblings, scary witches and hungry wolves lurking in the woods have lasted so long. Scary stories allow youngsters to hear about bad situations and identify with the characters who manage to overcome problems. When talking about ghost and scary stories, Dr. Bettelheim stresses the word “safely,” and I believe this is a very important point. As long as there is a trusted adult to turn to, children can feel safe and scared at the same time. In this atmosphere, a child can independently discover the lesson to be learned from the story.
In my work as a storyteller, I have a responsibility to tell age-appropriate stories and not abuse the privilege of having an eager audience asking to be scarred silly. Scary stories have their place, but they need to be presented with a great deal of thought and care. I always pay attention to how an audience reacts to any story I tell, and am prepared to abandon a tale that is not working or seems inappropriate. I encourage you to do the same. This establishes trust and confidence between the storyteller and members of the audience, and helps set the stage for a great ghost and scary story session.
A JUMP STORY TO TELL
(This is my rendition of classic jump tale. Glenda Bonin © 2009)
Michael lived in Bisbee, an old mining town in Arizona.
His house was built on the side of a rock mountain, and people said his house was haunted.
Michael didn’t believe in ghosts, so he paid no attention to what folks said.
He had to climb 132 steps up a rickety staircase to reach the front door of his house.
Except for one closet, his house was made of wood. It was very odd to open the wood-framed closet door in the bedroom to find that the space was just a dark hole gouged into the side of the mountain.
Michael hung a light bulb inside the closet. The wire for the light hung down from the rock ceiling and snaked around to an electric outlet on the other side of the room.
He decided not to hang his clothes in that closet. He said it was creepy and cold and damp in there.
One day, Michael heard a strange noise coming from inside the closet.
He was sort of afraid to open the door, so he didn’t.
That night he heard a voice coming from the closet. The voice said, “Michael. Open the door, I need to get out.” He was almost asleep, so he ignored the voice, thinking it was just a dream.
In the morning, Michael noticed a small hole at the bottom of the closet door that had not been there before.
He didn’t want to open the door, so he got down on the floor and tried to look through the opening.
He couldn’t see anything.
So, Michael stuck his finger into the little, dark hole and wiggled it a bit.
Just then, he felt something brush by his finger.
Then he heard the voice again. It said . . .
“GOTCHA!!”HOW TO TELL A JUMP STORY
You may have noticed the written text of "Michael's Closet" is not in standard paragraph form. This is to highlight the necessity of building story tension by taking as much time as you need to share each thought and build suspense during the telling. This slow exposition helps draw listeners into the story to set the stage for effective delivery of the final line. Although most people in the audience realize that a jump will take place somewhere in the story, an artful presentation will still provide surprise and delight at the end. The audience's collective laughter of relief after the concluding gotcha! makes this type of story particularly enjoyable, and is usually well received by children as young as six. When I tell this story, I purposely make as much eye-contact as possible and always take my time with each descriptive line. By the time I get to the jump in the story, I am leaning forward and my voice is almost a whisper. By delivering the concluding line with contrasting power and volume, I am able to illicit the desired jump from my listeners. The most important thing for the storyteller to remember when telling a jump tale is to have FUN with the story. Do not be afraid to get into the story and suspend your own disbelief during the telling. You will be rewarded by the response from your audience. I promise. If you would like a quick list of what you need to know if you are asked to tell a ghost or scary story, just click here to see this page of hints.
A FUN SCIENCE PROJECT - GHOST WRITING
Kids love secrets, and nothing is better than a secret message.
For this project, you will need:
A small container
White typing paper
To make the message:
Squeeze the lemon into a small container and add a few drops of water. Stir the mixture well. Dip the cotton swab into the mixture and use the swab to write a message on a sheet of white typing paper. When the writing dries it will be invisible.
To read the message:
Heat the paper by holding it near the light bulb of a lamp and the message will be revealed.
How this works:
Compounds of carbon are in lemon juice and other fruits. These compounds are often colorless when dissolved in water. By writing with this liquid on white paper, allowing it to dry and then heating the paper, the carbon compounds break down and produce carbon, which is black.