Equipment: preferably a real fire. Torches. A knife. Or nothing.
This is a good game for a dark and stormy winters night. It is good to create an atmosphere by turning off all lights and using torchlight, preferably by shining small torches on players faces from below. However children are unlikely to hold this pose for long. Another asset for spooky stories is a real log fire, which our family has in the living room, although I appreciate many families do not. Set the atmosphere by turning of all main sources of light and reducing light source to a candle/firelight/torches if possible.
Normally spooky stories are best started by an adult and each player in turn is encouraged to tell a story of about 3-7 minutes duration (no need for timer). The best plan is to start with the classic ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin ..many years ago in this very house/building (although if you live in a new build then you will have to adapt accordingly) there was a family much like this one. A little boy called X and little girl called Y (insert similar characters to your children here). They lived with their parents and granny and they were very poor -every evening they used to come and sit in the very spot where we are sitting now and pray to God that there would be enough food for the next day…’ Well you get the picture- basically you make it up. My stories have often involved Victorian children crawling up chimneys, floods, monsters, strange knocks on doors and disappearing children. I always try and finish each story on a positive note if not a happy ever after. At least the monster will be never seen again. You don’t want to give them nightmares.
The reason I have listed a knife is so that you can either use it as a prop or spin it so you can select a character in the story- a person who enters the room (maybe the phantom knocker), or a person who is sent out to rescue someone. Another alternative is to use the spinning knife to select who will tell the next story. It doesn’t matter how rubbish or unfathomable peoples stories are, they should always be encouraged. Remind children to keep it short and gently ask them to finish if they go on too long.
I don’t think this game is suitable for children under seven. I am not a fan of parents who take five year olds to see 12A rated movies, and I’m certainly not a fan of parents who let under 8s watch Dr Who- our were allowed to see it aged 12 and 10!
However children love to be scared to a manageable extent- remember the tone should be light and fun, and if anything really does start to seriously scare them -stop at once.