The Haunting of Scout Hollow
By Cathleen Ann Steg
A Pennsylvania council creates the perfect October treat by turning its camp into a Halloween fantasyland that attracts 650 Cub Scouts and parents.
"You must have fun; that's a requirement!" With this command, co-chair Jeanette Bowers opened "The Haunting of Scout Hollow: Cub Scout Halloween Day '99."
Bowers and her partner in planning, Robin Crowl"Queen" for the day in a purple sat-in medieval gownhad worked for months to transform the York-Adams Area Council Camp Tuckahoe into a Halloween fantasyland. The 650 Cub Scouts and parents who came to Dillsburg, Pa., to help haunt Tuckahoe on Oct. 16 (and again on Oct. 23) found funand an occasional ghoulbehind every tree.
Harvest fun and a haunted trail
The previous year, Bowers and Crowl had organized the camp's first haunting. Each woman has a Boy Scout son in Troop 215 of Airville, Pa., and both women hold leadership jobs in the council's Mason-Dixon District. Council Scout Executive Ron Gardner suggested the Halloween Days idea.
Distinctively decked out in their specially designed blue and gold sweatshirts, Cub Scouts from Pack 102 in Hanover, Pa., began their Scout Hollow adventures in the harvest area, where they created jack-o'-lanterns.
"Each pack brought its own pumpkins for carving," explained Cubmaster Dean Stahl. "We decided to deal with them first, because they are the heaviest things to carry around."
"Most of the boys look forward to the shooting range most of all," observed Todd Boller, assistant Webelos den leader for Pack 102. BB guns are the only shooting sport Cub Scouting permits, and they may be used only at council-approved Cub Scout day camps, resident camps, or family camps. During the school year, opportunities like the Halloween camp are rare.
Younger Cub Scouts, in particular, enjoy the chance to shoot a BB gun at a target, said Jim Slaugh, range officer for the Halloween Days and a committee member in Pack 40, chartered to the Bethlehem United Methodist Church of Dallastown, Pa.
"Some of these boys are Tiger Cubs who just joined Scouting a month ago, and this might be their first Scouting activity," he noted. "Believe me, when they hear that 'ping!' on the target after aiming just right, they're thrilled!" Because of the young age and limited experience of the boys, Slaugh emphasized the need for thorough staff training and parental support. "You can see why we need a parent with every boy."
A flexible schedule
Pack 102 was able to begin the day where it wanted because the program that Bowers and Crowl created allowed that option. Some events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies, costume judging, haunted trail, and dinner, occurred at specific times. How the boys and parents spent the rest of the day was left up to each pack.
Stations as varied as first aid, the obstacle course, crafts, games, and scarecrow-stuffing ran continuously. If a station was too full when a pack chose to visit, the boys could move on to another event and return later.
Faced with open programming and large crowds, some packs adopted creative ways to make sure no one got separated from the group. Wendy Wright, a leader with Pack 148 of Dover, Pa., sported a hat with a black bat perched atop, drawing attention to her striking red hair. Her crimson locks were that shade only temporarily, however. "We [leaders] all dyed our hair this color today," she said, "to make it easier to keep track of our pack."
A scavenger hunt encouraged packs to visit different parts of camp. In order to complete a series of tasks, such as "tie a square knot and any other knot of your choice," the boys had to scour the grounds of Camp Tuckahoe, seeking different activity areas.
One task, for example, read: "At Shipley Lodge, learn the proper way to apply a Band-Aid." Cub Scouts were subjected to more than advice on adhesive strips, though, especially the one lucky boy selected to be the "victim." He lay flat on his back on a picnic table while first-aid instructor Katrina Faushacht, a registered nurse at Memorial Hospital, York, Pa., splinted his leg with a towel.
"It's actually quite comfy up here," commented the smiling victim.
One of the best features of this event, of course, was the opportunity it provided for Cub Scouts and their parents to have fun together. Scout Executive Ron Gardner noted that individual packs needed to do little planning or organizing to attend, which was especially good for the families of new Cub Scouts.
"It gives the kids who just joined and their parents something to get involved in right away," Gardner explained. "And since it's just a one-day event, most parents are able to accompany their sons. This is a very friendly first step for new Cub Scout families."
Costume selection also offered a way to stimulate parent-child bonding. Bill Schoonover and his son, Garrett, of Pack 69chartered to Salem United Church of Christ of Jacobus, Pa.dressed as "Flintstones" characters Barney Rubble and his club-toting son, Bamm Bamm.
Does Mr. Schoonover usually dress up for Halloween?
"No, no, no," Schoonover quickly responded. "I'm usually the one who stays home and answers the door for the kids," he said with a laugh. '"This is definitely something different for me."
Few participants wore costumes during the day, however. To keep their Halloween outfits in good shape for trick-or-treating, most boys wore Cub Scout uniforms for the activities, then put on their costumes for the official judging.
Parents' costumes added to the day's color in a big way. Among a fine group of wizards, pirates, and other characters, the top attention-getter was "chicken man"also known as Pack 180 (of York, Pa.) Scouter Ron Peterson. He climbed into a borrowed chicken suit, added white socks and hiking boots, and found himself surrounded by curious Cub Scouts throughout the event.
Peterson's big moment came at the closing ceremony. As Robin Crowl mixed a cauldron full of "fun," symbolic of the day's activities, the audience began to call wildly, "Chicken in the pot!" A group of obliging Scouters quickly grabbed Peterson and stuffed the "chicken man" into the huge cauldron.
"I didn't mean to be the highlight of the ceremony," Peterson said afterward, "but the chicken legs do go over well."
Campers leave; ghostly fog arrives
After the closing ceremony, Jeanette Bowers told ghost stories at the campfire circle while packs took their turns braving the Haunted Trail. Finally, the program ended; the last car crunched the gravel as it headed out of camp. A solitary light glowed over the trading post, and the camp whippoorwill thought about working up to his first song.
Thick, creamy fog began to swirl in, blotting out the stars one by one. Its white fingers closed slowly, silently around the tents of the Boy Scouts who had so recently groaned ghoulishly along the trail in costume.
Did they sleep well?
What do you think?
Contributing editor Cathleen Ann Steg is an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 1533 of Fairfax, Va.
ScaryBut Not Too Scary
No matter how much the Cub Scouts enjoyed the harvest fun, the Haunted Trail and Haunted Cabin played on in everyone's minds throughout the day. Cub Scouts talked about them while they stuffed their scarecrows; Boy Scouts in charge of creating the trail added last- minute touches; parents tried to decide if their son should try the hauntingor go home after the official closing program and get a good night's sleep.
How much fright is too frightening?
"We tried to gear the Haunted Trail and Haunted Cabin to the first- to third-grade boys," said Jeanette Bowers, "and make it just scary enough so everyone would have some excitement and still be able to go to sleep at night!"
Area Boy Scouts, such as senior patrol leader Kevin Vaughn and patrol leader Shannon Trish from York, Pa., Troop 191, worked hard to make the trail an event to remember.
Skull-and-crossbones placards pointed the way, and costumed Scouts popped out from behind tombstones along the path, while other Boy Scouts banged on wood or groaned in the woods. A favorite special effect was the flying ghost, a silent sheet that streamed across the path along an almost invisible clothesline near the trail's end.
'Cute' skeletons lower the 'terror level'
The terror level seemed just right for most Cub Scouts, especially in the Haunted Cabin, which featured a frightfully cute grouping of plastic skeletons playing cards around a table. Cub Scouts could be heard shrieking as they emerged from the cabin and then telling their buddies, "That was not at all scary!" or "Only one thing scared mewhen that Darth Vader guy came toward me!"
Tiger Cub Erick Morrell of Spring Grove, Pa., Pack 30, chartered to St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, proved to be a sort of fright meter for measuring the cabin's scare level. As Erick walked through the cabin, according to his father, council field director Mike Morrell, "a costumed character jumped out, and Erick jumped from one side of the cabin to the otherI think he jumped through me! When we got out, he said: 'That was really scary! Let's go find another haunted house!'"
Of course, much of the fun of the Haunted Trail and Haunted Cabin was in the anticipation, the expectation of a big fright.
But anticipation was too much for some people, like first-year Webelos Scout Andrew Hilbert of Pack 31, Mount Wolf, Pa. When he refused to enter the cabin, leaders asked him what it would take to get him to try it.
"Nothing!" Andrew responded unequivocally. "I wouldn't even go in there if you gave me a candy bar!"
How to Hold a Haunting
Jeanette Bowers and her partner Robin Crowl have haunted York-Adams Area Cub Scouts for two years now. What are their secrets to a successful spooking?
October 2000 Table of Contents
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