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Scaring kids is so much fun.

I work with children, ages 10 to 14, in a Fritids-klub1 in Denmark. I used to spend quite some time playing RPG with the kids, but since I have been elevated to boss-hood I haven't had as much time as I used to. One thing I still do, though, is participate in the annual summer camp. And during those four days I do my very best to scare the kids witless.

I have a range of little stories to tell them, modified to match the surroundings; never very bloody or supernatural, always close enough to reality to be really creepy. A couple of years ago we (some 36 kids and 6 pedagogues) went to Sweden, to Olufström in Blekinge. Lots of big trees, not very many houses; very dark at night and weird nature-sounds all around. There were rocky pastures lined with fences built of rocks and stones, and there was a large lake for swimming and canoeing. To our suburban kids this was a very alien experience. So, naturally, around the campfire at night, I told the following two tales:

The Ghosts in the Stones
When the Swedish farmers in these parts began farming the land, they cut down trees and dug up roots. The clearings they created were to be their fields, but when they started to plough the soil, big rocks surfaced. So they dragged and carried the rocks to the edges of the fields, and put them down. As more stones and rocks were ploughed up, dry stone walls rose around the fields.
Ploughing, sowing, and harvesting was hard work; dragging and heaving the rocks made it so much harder, and the farmers literally worked themselves to death. As they died, falling on top of the stones by the stone walls, their souls became trapped in the rocks. Hundreds of farmers died this way, and at night you can hear them tapping, always seeking to come back into the world of the living.


The Fishermen
Not all the people living in the woods were farmers. Along the system of lakes and streams lived fishermen, who earned their livelihood by going out on the lakes in rickety boats to catch fish. Even in the icy cold of winter they would venture out on the ice, risking their lives to feed their families. Ever so often the boats would sink, or the ice would give way, drowning the hapless men in the cold, deep lakes.
During summer, at night, the ghosts of the fishermen drag their ethereal bodies from the cold waters of the lakes, onto the cliffs still warm from the sun. There they will call softly to passers by, and if you go near them they will take you down with them, drowning you in the black water.


Now all I had to do was wait until the last night of our camp. By now the kids were too scared to leave the safety of the campsite at night, but on the last night they had to: we arranged a cosy walk in the woods - compulsory, of course - in small groups of four or five kids, and one adult. There was a well-trodden path around some large cliffs, not far from the camp, and the groups were supposed to stroll along the path in a leisurely manner. Flashlights were allowed, since all they really do, is make the darkness darker and more menacing.

A couple of the adults, who were alledgedly staying behind to warm cocoa for the returning heroes, were (you guessed it) in fact hiding out in the woods. There were splashes and soft voices calling from the lake, and there were repeated tapping on the stone walls which ran along the path. And pretty soon there were screaming and crying kids all over the place! Poor darlings.

Of course there was a downside to all this merriment: the kids refused to go to sleep in their own tents, and piled up in the big kitchen tent. Having so many giggling and half-scared kids in one place spells trouble, so we, the grown-ups, had to stay up very late to stop fights and arguments. It was totally worth it, though.

The kids talked about it for ages after we got home, and they were constantly begging for more stories. But there is a time and a place for everything. Come July we're off again...