Bonfires and scary tales - what autumn should be made of. It may be the start of Fall, but the heat has us beat. An easy and cheap way to usher in the season is a backyard bonfire. Let's escape for a moment into bonfires and nighttime rituals -
Banana dessert (I make this on every camping trip) Take a banana, slice it down the middle lengthwise. Spread peanut butter, put in miniature chocolate chips. Wrap in foil. Heat a few minutes. Eat with a spoon.
Classy smores Heat two marshmallows over fire until gooey. Lay out a cookie (any type), put some Hershey's candy bar rectangles on it, slide the marshmallows onto the chocolate, place another cookie over top.
Cones: Sugar cones filled with chocolate, fruits, nuts, pretzels, marshmallows, wrapped in tin foil and heated.
Building a Bonfire
Sturdy logs, kindling in between, seems like a no-brainer, but some folks have trouble starting their fires and keeping them growing. You can also use dried up bark or stripping from a pine tree to help get the initial flames going, but kindling (small twigs) and bigger logs help in the different phases of building a fire and making it roar.
Campfire Tales (from this site that has more). The key to good campfire tales is to play up the urban legends, escaped maniacs, killers, ghosts, and woodland monsters. Tell the story as if it were a true event that occurred in the past (think Blair Witch Project).
La Llorona: Once there was a widow who wished to marry a rich nobleman. However, the nobleman did not want to raise another man's children and he dismissed her. The widow was determined to have the nobleman for her own, so the widow drowned her children to be free of them. When she told the nobleman what she had done, he was horrified and would have nothing more to do with her. As she left him, the widow was overcome by the terrible crime she had committed and went to the river, looking for her children. But they were gone. She drowned herself and her spirit was condemned to wander the waterways, weeping and searching for her children until the end of time.
Ghost: The train rumbled around him as he adjusted the throttle. The night shift was always the toughest, in the engineer's mind. He had rumbled through Timpas a few minutes ago and was on his way to Thatcher. Not a bad stretch of road, and there was no better train in the entire Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
He stretched a bit and yawned, trying to stay alert. And then he gasped. The lights had picked up the figure of a beautiful woman with long red-gold hair and wonderful blue eyes standing near the tracks. Too near! He sounded his horn to warn her away and then he realized that the light was shining right through her. She was a ghost!
She stepped into the center of the track, laughing and beautiful. She disappeared seconds before the train rushed through her. And then she was there, in the engine cab next to him. The scent of roses filled the air. He stared at the ghostly vision, bewitched by her beauty. With an enticing smile, she wrapped ghostly arms about his neck and kissed him. And was gone.
Dazed (and disappointed!), the engineer finished the run to Thatcher in a trance, completely forgetting to stop at the station. The fireman had to pour water on his head to snap him out of it.
The engineer decided not to tell anyone about the ghost, fearing for his job. But he was plagued by curiousity. Finally, he confided the story to a close friend who was a fellow engineer. To his surprise, the friend had heard about the ghost before. The ghost's appearance on the train was by no means uncommon. No one knew who the woman had been in life. But she always appeared on that stretch of track after dark, beckoning to the men on the railroad crew with a bewitching smile. Sometimes, said his friend, sometimes she would come right onto the train!
"Better not tell your wife about it," his friend advised.
The engineer never did.
Maco Light On a night in 1867, at the small Brunswick County station of Maco fifteen miles west of Wilmington, a slow freight train was puffing down the track. In the caboose was Joe Baldwin, the flagman. A jerking noise startled him, and he was aware that his caboose had become uncoupled from the rest of the train, which went heedlessly on its way. As the caboose slackened speed, Joe looked up and saw the beaming light of a fast passenger train bearing down upon him. Grabbing his lantern, he waved it frantically to warn the oncoming engineer of the imminent danger. It was too late. At a trestle over the swamp, the passenger train plowed into the caboose. Joe was decapitated: his head flew into the swamp on one side of the track, his lantern on the other. It was days before the destruction caused by the wreck was cleared away. And when Joe's head could not be found, his body was buried without it.
Thereafter on misty nights, Joe's headless ghost appeared at Maco, a lantern in its hand. Anyone standing at the trestle first saw an indistinct flicker moving up and down, back and forth. Then the beam swiftly moved forward, growing brighter and brighter as it neared the trestle. About fifty feet away it burst into a brilliant, burning radiance. After that, it dimmed, backed away down the track, and disappeared.
It was Joe with his lantern, of course. But what was he doing? Was he looking for his head? Or was he trying to signal an approaching train?
In 1889 President Grover Cleveland, on a political campaign, saw the mysterious light, as have hundreds of people throughout the years. But in 1977 when the railroad tracks were removed and the swamp reclaimed his haunting grounds, Joe seems to have lost interest in Maco. At least, he has not been seen there lately.
Book of Spooky Campfire Tales
It may not be bonfire weather yet, but you might try a modified version - how about candlelight and a classic movie for those kind of nights -
How about the sentimental scent of a bonfire?
Bonfire Fragrance: Our version of Bonfire has a decidedly American, point of view. We remember a less complicated and less regulated time, when we would rake the fallen, dried maple leaves from the lawn into large piles, which our fathers would burn, making the bonfires of our youth. It is that smell of burning maple leaves that is the heart of our Bonfire cologne. What recollections does it raise for you?