Around the Campfire

By Robert Smyth



love fall. I love the colors, the cool weather, and the layers that hide what summer vacation did to our waistlines. I love the smell of a good wood fire and sitting around one talking about whatever comes up. My kids love to make s’mores, a long time campfire tradition.

Another favorite campfire past time is the ever popular telling of ghost stories. We are familiar with the classics: the young couple on lover’s lane and the crazed escaped convict with a hook; or my favorite, the home invader that calls the baby sitter from the phone upstairs. Babysitters appear in a lot of scary stories. I think I would give up that line of work and start slinging burgers; it seems safer. I was tasked by my editor to come up with my own campfire ghost story. My first thought was to write a tale about an IRS agent showing up at the house for an audit or the doctor telling a couple they were having twins. Those were way too scary for me, so I came up with the following. Hope you like it.

(Please read in spooky voice) One chilly, fall night a brother and sister were walking home from a fall festival. Their house was several fields away and darkness had descended quickly. The brother explained to his little sister that they could be home much quicker if they cut through the woods and across the yard of the old Johnson house.

The little sister started to whimper and said, “But everyone says there are strange lights and it’s haunted. I even heard one kid disappeared when he went exploring.”

The big brother scoffed, “Those are just scary stories. Besides, you have me to protect you.”

The little sister still did not want to go. She told her brother, “I’m scared. Let’s just take the long way down the road.”

The brother chuckled, “Come on! It will be an adventure and when we get home I will make you hot chocolate with little marshmallows.”

The little girl smiled, she did like hot chocolate. She said, “Ok, but hold my hand and don’t you run off and try to scare me.”

The brother smiled softly, “Deal.”

The boy took his sister’s hand and they left the road for the dark shadowy wood. As they got deeper into the trees, they heard what sounded like footsteps following them. They stopped and so did the steps. They proceeded and the steps would echo theirs. The little sister began to whimper again, “Did you hear that? It sounds like someone is following us.”

The brother replied nervously, “It’s nothing, probably just a squirrel.”

Then out of thin air, an old women dressed in black lace appeared in front of them. In a raspy voice she said, “It isn’t safe children. Run back to the road as quick as you can. Go now!”

As she lifted her head, they saw her glowing yellow eyes. The children screamed and ran hand in hand as fast as they could back to the road and all the way home. They told their mom and dad what they had seen and slept in their parents’ room that night. The next morning the front page story in the local paper was about the old Johnson house being swallowed by a huge sinkhole into an abandoned mine shaft. If the old specter hadn’t warned them, the chil­dren would have been swallowed up and never heard from again(You may add a creepy laugh here.)

Please feel free to use this story around your next campfire. However, if you really want to scare them, you can go with the IRS agent. I just gave myself chills again.

I remember my Momma Nell’s carport that we all sat in at night and the stories our relatives told. I remember the meals she prepared and her wonderful biscuits, gravy, and fried pies. There was a little store and diner down the street called The Wigwam where Momma Nell used to send me for the best chocolate doughnuts. I remember my great aunt Ruth in Tampa playing her Hammond Organ and the drive over to Clearwater to spend the day on the beach. I remember her fish dinners and the fact that they would not run the A/C at night, even though it was 1,000° in her house. The list of memories goes on. That’s what vacations are for, the memories. I hope my children have fond memories of their vacations with us when they grow up, even if they were full of amenities.

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