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Blog | 31 October 2023

Superbly spooky storytelling at Scouts

Lauren Woodley, Creative Copywriter

It’s Halloween, so we’re looking at the classic campfire art of telling spooky stories. Stay until the end to read our very own tale about a haunted Scouts campfire…

The image shows three graphics. The left one is a red speech bubble with a white spider's web in the middle, the middle one is a green rectangular shaped speech bubble with a white ghost inside. Then the right speech bubble is square and orange, with a white skull and bones in the middle.

It’s that time of year again – the evenings are darker, there’s a chill in the air, and the glow of orange pumpkins line the streets.

There are lots of ways you can celebrate Halloween at Scouts. You could create your own tasty treats, go apple bobbing, or play some music and do the monster mash.

But, one of our favourite Halloween traditions is telling a good old-fashioned spooky story.

‘Where?’ you might ask. Well, there’s no better place to tell a spooky tale than around a campfire, with yummy s’mores in hand.

A timeless tradition

Naturally, Halloween is the perfect time for ghost stories. But, why are we drawn to telling spooky tales around a campfire? You may be surprised that telling ghost stories around a fire was once a Christmas tradition.

In the 1800s, spooky stories around a fire helped distract from cold and long winter nights. Storytelling gave people something to do during the dark evenings before electricity, as everyone huddled around the fire.

Victorian authors, such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant and Arthur Conan Doyle, delivered some of the classic original spooky stories. But there was one author who helped build excitement around ghost stories more than anyone - Charles Dickens.

Dickens wrote many different Christmas stories, some which involved ghosts. His most famous, A Christmas Carol, was written in 1843 and tells the tale of grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge who’s visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Now, the tradition’s moved to Halloween, and we’re still just as keen on giving each other goosebumps. The horror genre has grown in popularity - the fear of the unknown, supernatural and scary suspense just as thrilling today as it was back then. And, what day better sums up that feeling than 31 October?

So, by lighting a campfire on Halloween night, you’ve got the perfect atmosphere for a spooky story or two.

Decide what's best for you

The decision of whether a Scouts section should run a Halloween-themed meeting is left to local volunteers to decide.

We understand Halloween can raise issues for some young people, however we also recognise it's a tradition which many young people are used to celebrating. So, we trust our local volunteers to judge what’s most suitable for the young people in their groups.

The image shows three graphics. The left one is an orange square speech bubble with a white pumpkin in the middle, the middle graphic is a circle speech bubble with a white leaf in the middle, and the right graphic shows a rectangular purple speech bubble with a white cat with scary eyes and its back arched.

Make up your own spooky story

The great thing about telling your own spooky story around the campfire is that you can make it up as you go! There’s no rulebook. You can improvise, make it as interactive as you like and use your imagination.

Both adults and young people can have a go at this. Why not test your imagination and storytelling skills this Halloween by coming up with your very own spooky stories?

To get you started, we’ve come up with a few hints and tricks (or treats?), to help you tell the perfect story:

If everyone’s comfortable, make sure it's dark. People could bring torches with them.

Use a range of voices, movements, or actions. You could do a hushed, eerie whisper, or use a thunderous boom to engage listeners. It’ll keep them on the edge of their seats.

Don’t rush your story. You could try pausing, or purposefully gasping, to create a tense atmosphere.

Get your group involved. They could make sound effects, pass around objects to feel, or make certain actions when they hear different words.

Aim your story at the right age group. If you’re telling a spooky story to Squirrels or Beavers, make it very lighthearted, so they don’t get too frightened.

Before your session, let parents and carers know you’re planning on telling spooky stories. You might want to send the stories in advance for people to read beforehand or let people know the themes of the stories.

Arrange an alternative activity for people who don’t want to tell spooky stories. You could also give people an easy signal to make if they’re starting to feel uncomfortable or scared.

Some people may fear being close to fire and that’s OK. They might not like the smell, the smoke or the noise. If you do choose a real fire, keep everyone a safe distance away from the campfire and remind them of the things you’re doing to keep them safe. People may choose to wear ear defenders while near the campfire and that’s OK.

Now it’s time for our own Scouts spooky story

For some great inspiration, we’ve come up with a seriously spooky tale, which might just kickstart some ideas for your next campfire. Remember to check out our Activity finder for lots more spooky suggestions. 


From this point, we’d advise only reading on if you're Cubs age or above.

The Mystery of the Halloween Campfire, by Chris James

Not many have heard the story of 7th Hillsdon Scouts’ Halloween campfire. And for good reason. Only one Scout was brave enough to tell the tale.

The Scout leaders had planned to hold a campfire to celebrate Halloween. There’d be soup, s’mores and singing.

It all started so cheerfully. That night, the Scouts met at their usual meeting place on the edge of the woods. But they noticed it was a little cold. A thick mist had settled over the campfire circle.

‘No worries,’ they thought, ‘we’ll just wear our camp blankets to keep the chill off.’

The Scouts went into the woods, breaking and snapping branches off the trees to collect kindling and fuel for their fire. But as they did so, hey had a strange feeling that someone – or something – was watching them. Some said they heard strange creaking coming from the woods – even whispered words they couldn’t quite make out.

The Scout leaders told them it must be just the wind in the trees. They quickly finished collecting the wood and started building their campfire. Again, they heard strange sounds – including cries that seemed to come from the wood itself. They carefully checked the pile of branches again to make sure no small creature – a hedgehog or mouse had crept in. Once they were sure it was all clear, they lit the fire and soon it was blazing brightly.

However, as they began singing and laughing, it seemed other voices were joining in. They were ghostly voices. The Scouts looked around, but there wasn’t a thing to be seen.

‘Look!’ cried one of the Scouts suddenly. The smoke from the fire had  risen thickly above them, twisting into the shape of a giant oak tree. They saw a furious face in the trunk, which seemed to be calling to them. There was a deafening cry. Just as soon as it had appeared, the vision vanished into the night sky.

‘It’s just your imagination,’ the Scout leaders laughed nervously. They began singing again, but by now, their hearts weren’t in it. Something felt wrong. It grew colder still, and the wind howled around them, whipping up the fire. Huge shadows seemed to loom over them, getting closer all the time.

Suddenly, the fire went out.

With a single loud hiss, the Scouts were plunged into darkness.

The Scouts screamed.

In an instant, the fog lifted. A single Scout found themselves sitting alone in the campfire circle.

Every other Scout had disappeared.

In the gloom, the Scout looked around. She dared not breathe.

On the grass in front of her, were letters made from broken branches. They read: ‘LEAVE US BE.’

Then came a wild rustling sound from the wood. Suddenly, the noise died to nothing. Then, a voice hissed: ‘You’re next!’

The low autumn sun rose over the camp the following morning. The missing Scouts awoke in the wood with no memory of the campfire or what’d happened. Luckily, no one was harmed.

But, there’s a lesson here for all Scouts – never use living wood for your campfire and always leave nature as you found it… or else!

The image shows three graphics. The left one is a green rectangle speech bubble with a white ghost in the middle, the middle speech bubble is circle with a white bat hanging upside down in the middle, and the speech bubble on the right is a navy circle speech bubble with a carved white pumpkin in the middle.
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