5 Top Tips for Telling Ghost Stories

Hallowe'en is lurching ever closer, and many children love nothing more than a good ghost story. If you want to bring the world of ghosts, ghouls and other ghastly creatures to life for children, storyteller Ruth Kirkpatrick's top five tips are the perfect place to start. Are you sitting (un)comfortably? Then let's begin...

  1. Consider the atmosphere in the room, especially the lighting. Don’t make the room too dark as it is then hard to see your facial expressions. If you are able to, use candles for added atmosphere. Organise the seating so you can have eye contact with everyone: I find a semi-circle is best.
  1. Choose a story that you can believe in. If you make it sound at all fake, or unconvincing, the kids will sense this and not take it seriously. It helps if you also like the story and present it to the children as a special treat.
  1. Think about varying the pace and volume of your voice when you tell the story. For scary stories it works well to begin in a slow, quiet way. Then you can build the tension as the story unfolds. It also means you can give them a real fright if your story has a loud climax.
  1. It can work well to set the story in local surroundings that will be familiar to the children, for example, “You know the big oak tree in Captain’s Wood,” or “I once walked down by the quarry.” This allows the children to picture the scene clearly, and helps the story seem credible.
  1. Tailor the story for the age and stage of your audience. Younger children will obviously be more easily scared. You don’t want someone bursting into tears as a result of your authentically frightening story! They enjoy stories that are not just scary, but perhaps have other moods in them too. For example, I tell them a story where there is a witch, who seems quite scary, but then she helps a ghost who is scared of the dark. In this way, the children are surprised, and find the story funny in the end. Some traditional scary stories have a refrain for everyone to join in with, e.g., “and the wind blew…oooooo ahhhhh…”This encourages the audience to feel they are ‘together’ in the story, rather than alone.

If you're looking for some good books about ghosts and other paranormal protagonists, check out our list of 10 spooky reads for 3-7. And if you're in search of a scare to read yourself, have a look at this blog of our top Hallowe'en reads!

Ruth Kirkpatrick

Ruth Kirkpatrick is an acclaimed storyteller and the owner of Stories Allways. She has performed at festivals from Iceland to Edinburgh and has a passion for working with vulnerable groups of children and young people.