How to Have Halloween at Home, Pt 4: Scary Story Circle

I’ve been on a mission to give people fun, spooky alternatives to going out on Halloween during COVID-19.

So far, I’ve given my suggestions for hosting a virtual horror bookclub, made recommendations for the best one-off horror podcast episodes, and rounded up all the tools you need to host an awesome horror D&D night online.

I saved my favourite suggestion for last: host an online spooky story circle with your friends!

I think it’s the best (and least contagious way) to recapture that feeling of sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories with ominous flashlight lighting. It’s always a little bit spooky, a little bit goofy, and a lot of fun.

spooky story gamer face, a photo by Peter Forster

Whether you encourage people to write their own scary stories, or you challenge everyone to find the scariest story they can and perform it, it’s a great way to see another side of your friends.

I love finding out what people’s favourite horror movies, books, and podcasts are, and what attracts them to those stories. I find a learn a lot about people, and about myself. Knowing what scares you more or less than others is one way of finding how you fit into the bigger picture of a shared human emotion: fear.

Horror is the genre that really explores fear, and the way it brings us together (or makes us turn on each other)!

But enough waxing philosophical. On with the show!

How to Host a Scary Storytelling Circle Online

There are a lot of different ways you could host a storytelling circle.

For the purposes of this write-up, I’m recommending you do the circle as a low-key video call with friends for spooks and giggles, but if you wanted to go next level with it, you could event turn it into:

  • A livestream performance event
  • A writing contest
  • A video contest

Otherwise, I think you’ll have a darn good time just getting together with friends online to try to spook each other out.

To set up a story circle, it's actually pretty simple:

  1. Write up a list of 4-6 people you’d like to participate
  2. Invite them to write the scariest story they can, or to find a story they think is truly chilling and which they'd like to read. (I’d recommend you limit everyone to a story they can read in 5 to 15 minutes.)
  3. Set a time on Halloween night when everyone can get together on Zoom or Skype to read their stories.
  4. Grab whatever props you think will add thematic flair: flaslights to hold under your chins on camera, marshmallows, candles—just don't burn your house down!

If anyone can’t join you, or if you want to host an asynchronous event, set up a Facebook group for people to upload prerecorded videos of them performing their stories.

If you do choose to read a story written by someone else, it's best to reach out and ask for permission first—especially if you plan to publish the recording.

Inspiration for Your Horror Stories

If you’re looking for scary stories to read, I recommend checking out the /r/nosleep or /r/libraryofshadows subreddits.

You also might find inspiration in my recent roundup of 12 postcard-sized horror stories, featuring some that are guest narrate by Cecil Baldwin and Jonathan Sims. There are even more on my microfiction website!

THE TOWN WITH NO NAME - a horror microfiction story

If you’re looking for inspiration for writing your own horror stories, my original deck of endless writing prompts includes a horror expansion, plus booster sets for eldritch horror and post-apocalyptic horror.

Preorders of the deck bundles include instant access to print-at-home PDF decks, so you can get started right away. 

I mixed the horror expansions and boosters together to create some custom prompts for you for Halloween inspiration. Feel free to use any of these for your writing!

Horror writing prompt: A gravedigger wants to expose the evil of a buried toy but something that should have stayed dead will rise again.

Horror writing prompt: A gravedigger wants to expose the evil of a buried toy but something that should have stayed dead will rise again.

Horror writing prompt: A maddening harvest.

Horror writing prompt: A maddening harvest.

Horror writing prompt: An exposed ghost hunter wants to win a bet for/with a cabin.

Horror writing prompt: An exposed ghost hunter wants to win a bet for/with a cabin.

That wraps up my blog series on hosting Halloween at home, but if you have any suggestions I missed, let me know in the comments.

Have a spooky (and safe) Halloween, everyone!

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