by Gordon Porter “Port” Miller, Owner and Moosilauke story teller/yarn spinner since 1952
Over the years it never ceases to amaze me how powerful a good old ghost story is for Moosilauke campers. Whether it’s Doc Benton’s search for everlasting life, the Orford Butcher, or the attack of the great white ape, the listeners are quiet and very still. In a word, mesmerized! Some campers have heard the same story many times, others are puzzling over the validity of what’s being told, and some are showing signs of nervousness as they try to peer into the darkness beyond the flames of the campfire.
So what is the charm of a good story that pulls campers of all ages together once a week around the traditional campfire at the edge of the lake? Remember, there is no surround sound, no 3D, or no sophisticated special effects! Actually, it’s become pretty clear to me as I look into the eyes of these kids, listening intently, as they gaze into the glow of the fire. They are thinking, they are imagining, and they are bringing their individual mind pictures to enlarge, color, clarify, and grasp the elements of the story. In short, they are creating a personalized version for themselves. The important point is that they are doing the creating; it’s not special effects doing the imagining for them! For me, it’s similar to listening to a baseball game being broadcast on the radio. The announcer tells me there is a high fly hit deep to right field. In short, he is following the ball. I, on the other hand, am providing my own picture of that tiny white ball hurtling across a vast sea of grass toward the wall as the fielder races to intercept it. In addition, I’m seeing the runners, poised to advance, as they try to estimate whether or not the ball will stay in the park. No radio or television coverage can match the scope of the picture I’ve created.
Of course, the camper audience always has the opportunity to verify the pictures they have created? What did Doc Benton look like at over 100 years old? What is a meat cleaver? How could an ape open a locked door? Who could have done it other than the main suspect? And, always, is the story really true? And so, with these answers, their individual thoughts may be revised.
Over the years, the positive power of the story has been confirmed again and again. Surround sound? 3D? Special effects? Absolutely no competition for what a young mind will create when given the chance! At Moosilauke, we’ll continue to give our campers that chance. I recommend continuing this effort at home.