For sleepaway camps, campfires are a quintessential part of the camper experience. Some of the most magical moments for campers of all ages happen under the stars around the campfire. There are plenty of activities that are crowd-pleasers: s’mores, sing-alongs, and stories. But nothing can compete with the thrills that come with a good campfire story.

Looking to tell a tale that’s spine-tingling but won’t result in comforting night terrors all night? Check out these tips to nail your next campfire tale.

Know your audience

Whether you’re writing your own tale or sourcing from the internet, keep your campers in mind before starting the spooks. If possible, run the story past some parents or caretakers you know and get their feedback on what age they think it would be appropriate for. There’s a delicate balance between a good twist and going just too far for those over-active imaginations.

Practice Your Telling

The most entrancing stories come when the teller knows the story like the back of their hand. While you don’t have to get each word exactly as written, practicing and memorizing the bones of the story will free your mind up to play with the delivery. And when you can look around in the faces of your audience as you tell your tale, they’ll be absolutely glued to your words.

Play with Delivery

Think of the best campfire stories you’ve heard. They build emotion, anticipation, and make the listener hang on to every word. Two big elements that really grab attention and pay off are volume and tempo. You might drag out every word of “but there…was no one…there” or speed up “and they ran faster and faster and faster –” to up the ante. And don’t forget the power of silence – “and then there was a great CRASH––…” will surely get a gasp from your crew. 

Consider Sound Effects

A simple tambourine or drum can really take a tale to the next level. Punctuating a tense moment with a badum-badum of a heart beat or shaking the bells of a tambourine while leading up to an exciting part takes a story from good to great. You can also incorporate your campers – think about areas that you could build up with stomping feet, slapping thighs, snapping, and vocalizations. 

Include a Cooldown 

Even if your story wasn’t outright scary but did get heart rates running, it’s a smart idea to help everyone shake it off before walking through the dark back to their bunks. Gather back around to sing a couple more songs, discuss the fun activities coming up the next day, and keep spirits high. 

Great stories are only one piece of running a great camp experience. We want you to be able to focus on creating these moments that campers will remember, which is why we make running a camp quicker and easier than ever.

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