Telling famous ghost stories, either around a campfire or at a Halloween party, is a great way to have some scary fun together. Most people know a detail or two of the most popular ghost stories, but that shouldn't stop you from embellishing or adding your own plot twists.
Elements of a Ghost Story
English ghost stories are all based on the concept of truth; that is, the story doesn't necessarily involve supernatural elements. They are often tales of revenge or rivalry, where the haunting could be carried out by a minor character or simply imagined by the main character.
American writer Edgar Allen Poe drew heavily on the English tradition in his short stories. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a perfect example; in it, the narrator murders a man, then hides the body under the floorboards of a home. Over the course of the story, the narrator is driven mad by the sound of the victim's heart beating beneath the floor. The narrator eventually rips up the floorboards, revealing the still heart and the crime.
A Chinese ghost story, by contrast, doesn't need to be terrifying. In some elements ofChinese culture, ghosts are worshipped. Treating ghosts with respect can bring great fortune to the living. Hauntings sometimes occur because the spirit world wishes to see a living person achieve a goal.
The Ghost Train
One great famous American ghost story concerns Lincoln's Funeral Train. After his death, Lincoln's body was carried through New York on a train. The train slowed down, or came to a complete stop, at stations along the way. Legend has it that every April the train still makes the journey.
The train will make an appearance along the same railroad tracks, and on the same day, each April. The train has a blue light and is draped with funeral bunting. The coffin of the fallen president is also visible, draped in an American flag. Witnesses have described dozens of ghost soldiers saluting the train as it passes.
After the procession has passed by, clocks in the immediate area are found to be six minutes behind, mirroring the time the train spent at the local station.
Everyone has heard the myth that saying "Bloody Mary" three times in front of a mirror will cause a murderous ghost to appear. This urban myth is based on an old American legend.
Bloody Mary was a witch who lived deep in the forest. The townspeople left her alone, because they were afraid that if they crossed her she would curse their cows and ruin their crops.
Girls from the little town began to disappear, one by one. A group of locals went into the woods to visit Bloody Mary to see if the witch had anything to do with the disappearance of the girls. She denied taking the girls, but the townsfolk noticed that Bloody Mary was looking younger and more attractive.
One night the young daughter of the town's Mayor left her home in the middle of the night. The Mayor's wife was awake and saw her daughter slip out of the house into the forest. The wife awoke the Mayor, and they followed the girl into the forest. They trailed her to the home of Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary was enchanting the town's young girls and luring them to her home. She killed the young girls and used their blood to make a potion that made her young and beautiful.
The Mayor went back to town, rounded up a posse and returned to burn Bloody Mary in a huge bonfire. As she burned, Bloody Mary swore revenge on the town's people.
If anyone mentioned her name aloud before a mirror, she would send her spirit in revenge for her terrible death. From that day to this, anyone foolish enough to chant Bloody Mary's name three times before a darkened mirror will summon the vengeful spirit of the witch. It is said that she will tear their bodies to pieces and rip their souls from their mutilated bodies. The souls of these unfortunate ones will burn in torment as Bloody Mary once was burned, and they will be trapped forever in the mirror.
Telling scary ghost stories involves more than just memorizing a creepy tale. Adding personal touches and dramatic techniques will up the tension and the fun for your audience.
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