Rick Carson – Telling scary stories to children

Rick Carson Miami Valley Storyteller

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Working with Fear and Children.

Written by Rick Carson….
Rick has been a professional storyteller for almost 25 years. He specializes in mountain and tall tales, ghost and humorous stories for all ages. Rick is experienced in telling at schools, libraries, organizational meetings and festivals and in giving workshops and residencies. He’s a member of the National Storytelling Network, the International Order of EARS, the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling and a charter member of Miami Valley Storytellers.

It has been my experience that the scary story is one of the most popular genres. Children begin liking scary stories from about the age of 8 or 10, although the exact age varies with each individual child. Some children never like them. Scary stories seem to hold a fascination for adults as well as children. This is true for a variety of reasons and such stories have been written and told for a variety of reasons as well.

The scary story is like a roller coaster ride. It is an easy way to get a thrill with very little actual danger. We love to raise our adrenaline and hear our heart pounding in our ears and feel the blood rushing through our veins and still know that in just a short time we will return to safety.

We also love to question what is possible and what is real. Does a part of us live on after death? Are there really such things as ghosts, vampires and werewolves? How come some people are able to see ghosts and others aren’t? Will I ever see a ghost? Do I want to see a ghost?!

Scary stories are told to entertain. They also hold wisdom and warnings concerning the evil that exists in our world. Some are morality tales where good triumphs over evil. Others caution us to always keep a check on our baser natures so we are not lured out of the light and into darkness.

When telling scary stories, I believe the teller always needs to be aware of the audience, more so than in any other type of story. Whenever possible, a number of criteria need to be in place to make sure the audience gets as much as possible out of the experience. An atmosphere of a campfire, with darkness lurking on the periphery, will add to the mood. When telling to children, the teller should be aware of the eyes of the listeners, as the eyes convey the amount of fear that the mind and heart are feeling. Keeping in mind the roller coaster analogy, it is important to remember that children need to know that at the end of the story, they are going to be safe again. Whenever possible, scary stories should be told in a family setting where the kids can feel safe next to Mom and Dad. Since parents know their children best, they can always remove the children if the stories are getting too scary.

Roller coasters are not for everyone. Neither are scary stories. But when the mood is right, the teller in top form, and the audience receptive, everyone is in for the ride of their lives!

Learn more about Rick Carson on the Miami Valley Storytellers Website

2 Comments

  • By Gary, September 5, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

    I’m a homeroom teacher at a kindergarten in Shanghai.

    I love telling my children scary stories, and they love to hear them. My students are 3-4 years old.

    They love any story with a wolf, witch, giant, troll or some other kind of monster. But the story that scares them most is the story of the Hairy Toe. They have to use their imaginations to picture the thing that wants its toe back. They never actually see it.

    They also love the Three Billy Goats Gruff story. But, they never want me to show the picture of the troll from the storybook – which, again, makes it more scary for them (though they don’t know this, of course).

    If they get too scared, some children will go and sit with the other teacher while I tell the story, but most of them want to prove how brave they are.

  • By LillyMarge Hill, Storyteller, March 23, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

    Hi, Rick!

    I heard you were trying to meet up with me! My sister and brother in law saw you telling at a storytelling gig (Minges).

    Love to meet up with ya! I’m just a hoot and a hollar away from ya, up north, about an hour away!

    Love to come south and have a chat! How’s Jenny?

    LOVE your page!! Awesome…

    Email me, and I’ll send ya my phone number, or you can get mine. Call anytime

    (Started up storytelling again. Started a new group, the NW Ohio Storytelling Association, recently had our first meeting). It was great.

    Hugs LillyMarge

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