Tips for telling a scary ghost story


Scary ghost stories are a staple of Halloween and telling a good one can leave listeners feeling like they just watched a horror movie.

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

If you’re going to share a spooky ghost story that will make everyone in the room check under their beds before they go to sleep, there are a few key tactics you can implement into your tall tale. Be sure to follow these top storytelling tips so everyone listening to you will have to sleep with the lights on.

Pick a spooky place

Of course, the ultimate area to share scary stories is around a campfire since every rustle and twig snap in the woods makes people jump. If you are unable to gather around a fire this Halloween, try creating a spooky scene within your apartment or dorm room. Have your guests gather in a circle or sit on couches and dim the lighting. If you’re feeling especially brave, completely turn off the lights and use only a flashlight as your light source for the maximum level of spookiness.

Use the basis of a true story

You don’t have to follow a particular memory but be sure to keep your story grounded to reality so people believe it actually happened. Taking an experience and adding some creepy characters will make the story easier to remember and tell while also giving the tale a human/supernatural vibe. Maybe you remember a time you were home alone and you heard a noise upstairs; that noise could very well be the new ghost of your story.

Don’t rush the story

The worst thing you can do with a ghost story is tell it too quickly. Let the fear and suspense take over your listeners as they settle into their seats. While telling your tale, you should be able to play off your audience’s reactions to see if you need to quicken the pace or take it nice and slow. Make sure you leave them with goosebumps!

Tell the story like it just happened

When sharing your spooky lore, keep the story in the present tense. Using the present tense will make the story more pressing and immediate. People tend to be more scared of things that are in the present and not the past because the past creates this perception of being far away. As a result, your listeners will feel safe and out of the hands of a creepy mysterious being when really you want to be doing the opposite.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

If you want to pull off a good ghost story, you need to know what you’re going to say ahead of time. You’ve heard it in school, and you’re going to hear it again: practice! Use a mirror to rehearse your story so you don’t forget the key points. After you feel confident in your story, incorporate facial expressions and nuances to your voice that will help grab your audience’s attention. Additionally, acting anxious will keep your listeners on the edge of their seats, causing them to squirm with anticipation of what is about to come.

End with a cliffhanger

Leaving your listeners with a “what’s next?” thought will leave them thinking about your story long after it’s finished. A person’s imagination is full of creativity, so play into this by alluding to how your mysterious ghost or being is still prowling the Earth. People will naturally come up with the “what if I’m next?” thought, and if that’s the case, they will just be scaring themselves.