Spooky stories in Redbridge

cvtnkikwyaeyapSo for the past 3 months I have been trying to prepare a spooky story session for an old mansion house in East London.  Great, you might think but its never as simple as that.

Over the years I have told a variety of stories in a plethora of settings but I rarely tell scary stories because a) nobody ever asks b) I personally dislike being scared c) its a minefield.  I used to tell Dracula and The Unlucky Mummy which were about ghosts but weren’t scary and many moons ago we made a gothic horror beach hut – those were the days!

tomb-robberTo prepare the session I spent a bit of time reading through potential material.  To make the task slightly more tricky the brief was that the stories should in some way feature a house.  Now, if you look on paranormal websites and read through folklore there are hundreds of ghostly goings on said to be happening up and down the country in stately homes and houses but many tend to be unexplained.  “A blue lady haunts the top corridor” needs the how or why to become a great story.  I also pondered the ghost story’s relationship with the ghost.  Is it enough to say “this place is haunted because…” or do we need to encounter the ghost during the story and learn how it makes things go bump in the night?  I plumped for the latter because it’s more frightening.

DraculaThen there is the thorny question of how suitable ghost stories are for young children.  I have used this blog to talk about suitability and innocence in the past but in my view a truly scary, spooky or unnerving story must risk something and I didn’t want to shy away from death, murder, ghosts and evil too much for the sake of being overly sensitive.  In the end what’s scary is subjective and what one person finds traumatic may barely register with another.  As one parent said to me, her children would struggle to sleep if they watched “Horrid Henry”!

So the challenge was set – a session for 4+ containing spooky stories set around houses.  This is how I dealt with it.  I’ll happily confess to telling stories I find in books or hear and love; none of the ideas below are original.

The Tale of the Skull House – a story about a woman who haunts a new house after her family refuse to move her skull in with them.

The Ghost Hotel – a short tale about some tourists who visit a hotel and its owner only to discover it was demolished years before.

cvh7blbwcaagudu-1The Seven Swans – a folk tale about a hunter who wounds and captures a swan princess before meeting his grizzly end in a lake.

The Talking Skull – a personal favourite because of its macabre humour, this story deals with the peasant who ignores a talking skull’s advice to stay quiet.

The Boy Who Vanished – a family lose their child when a fateful prophecy is fulfilled.  This one has a happy ending!

The Monster and the School Teacher  a variation of a Devil Tale in which the School Master outwits Satan.

The White Doe – again a personal favourite about love, witchcraft and the Lancashire moors.

I also told a story The Son Returned but scrapped it because it dealt with murder a little too directly and whilst I could disguise the death in The Seven Swans and The Talking Skull with metaphors and talking around them, this proved more difficult in a story where a man returns to his family home hours after being killed.

So there it is, a set for Halloween.  It was a lot of fun to do and the response from parents on the sessions was positive.  This was a lovely opportunity for me to do something different and I always like a challenge but I doubt that I’d be asked to tell Spooky Stories in a school setting!  I hope this project becomes something I can hone year on year but it may also be something that is never repeated (like a gothic horror beach hut).  Bizarrely I hope that I failed to scare anybody significantly and that dressed as I was in my cape, I provided enough atmosphere for to be suitably chilling without any real nightmares!