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A paranormal performance requires more than a campfire to gather ’round. These tips from Dave Hooley and Wynn Montgomery, two storytellers with Spellbinders, a Carbondale nonprofit dedicated to keeping the oral tradition alive, will have your audience screaming loud enough to wake the dead this scary season.
1. To keep your listeners engaged choose a spooky spiel (americanfolklore.net has plenty) that’s five to seven minutes long. Telling it in first person will give it more credibility.
2. Memorizing each line will create a stilted performance. Instead, only practice the beginning and end and have a clear idea of how you’ll get from one to the other. Repeating key words or phrases—such as footsteps coming ever closer—will produce a hypnotic effect.
3. Waiting until it’s dark won’t just set the mood; it will limit distractions and help your audience’s imagination run wild.
4. Increase the tension by tweaking the setting so the tale takes place nearby. “If it’s a Colorado story,” Hooley says, “then the audience is thinking, I should know something about this. You’ve brought the ‘facts’ a little closer to home.”
5. End with a jump scare, where you lunge at the audience or scream suddenly, or both, usually while revealing that someone (or something) was inside the house the whole time!