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Halloween is almost upon us. Soon there will be little spidermans, princesses, and a variety of monsters knocking on my door looking for whatever treat I decide to offer this year. Halloween is also the time for scary movies and stories. Like most Boy Scouts, the boys of Troop 68 love to hear a good horror or ghost story while sitting around the campfire. The story of the wolfen has been a troop favorite for nearly twenty years.

I began telling the Scouts about the wolfen soon after I read the novel by Whitley Streiber. I did not tell the tale like a typical campfire story. No, I told it more as a warning of a newly discovered creature that all campers need to be made aware of while camping in the wilderness. The story is usually told when new campers are attending the camping trip.

The story may begin with a warning about storing food in the tents overnight. I talk about the local animal pests, the skunks, raccoons, chipmunks, bears, and coyotes. Then I begin the description of a new animal that has been discovered within the last few years. When I notice the Scout’s flame-lit faces watching my every move then I know they will be listening to every word.

I tell the campers that at first appearance this creature looks like a large wolf. But if you get close enough to get a good look at its face, and hopefully you never will get that close, you will discover one of the ugliest animal faces that you will ever see. It will be a face to haunt your dreams for years to come.

I explain that this creature is as fast as a cheetah, can track scents better then a bloodhound, has acute hearing that rivals any other animal, and can see heat radiation, thus being able to see in the dark of dark. Instead of paws simular to a dog or wolf, this creature has longer digits that end in razor sharp claws. The powerful jaws latches onto its prey’s throat so quickly, and the claws kill so rapidly, that the scream of its prey is literally torn from its throat. This creature is nature’s best killing machine. (Of course, sitting around the campfire I will go into more detail then I will as I write this article.)

The most important and dangerous characteristic of this creature is its ability to to think and rationalize. It is intelligent. It can and does learn. It has a form of communication through which it can “speak” with others from its pack. It has been theorized that this creature know as the wolfen is the basis for the legend of the werewolf.

Of course, after I tell the campers about all these abilities of the wolfen, I end by telling them the most important thing of all, the one thing that will protect them as they go to bed, the one thing that will keep them from being attacked this night or any other. That is that they must realize that the wolfen is… a fictional story. They do not exist. They are not real. They are creatures from a fictional novel.

At least, I do not think they are real. I hope they are not real. (Insert nervous laughter and the howl of a distant wolf.)

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    In the previous blog entry I wrote about scary campfire stories. This time I would like to share with you a couple of experiences regarding the Wolfen story. The first time I told the Boy Scout about the wolfen was over 25 years ago. The troop was attending a camporee and we had a few Webelos Scouts staying with us. We were sitting around the campfire Saturday night when the boys first heard about these creatures.

    I must have done a very good job of telling the boys about the wolfen. Shortly after I got home from the camporee I received a phone call a parent of one of the Webelos Scouts. He was a little upset that I would tell such a story to young Scouts who would become so scared they could not sleep during the night.

    Okay, the lesson was learned. Do not send the boys to bed when they think there really is wolfen that could attack them during the dark night hours. So I changed the end of the story. Now, after I tell them all about the wolfen and how viscous they are, I look the new listeners in the eyes and tell them that the most important thing to remember about the creatures, the one things that will save them from being attacked during the night, is to remember that they are not real, that they are fictional creatures from a book I read.

    There always seems to be the sigh of relief and maybe a nervous chuckle, from the new boys after I tell them the wolfen do not exist.

    One winter, while we were at Parker Scout Reservation, we invited another troop that was also there that weekend, to join us for a campfire program at our building. We had a large fireplace so it would give us a little of that outdoor campfire feel to the skits and songs.

    The program ended with me telling the Scouts from the other troop about the wolfen. I also told them, at the end of the story, that the wolfen were not real creatures. The boys laughed and told me they knew all along that I was just telling them a story.

    But yet, when the other troop left us to return to there own building for the night, the boys were huddled together tightly around their scoutmaster. My troop giggled as we watched them from our windows.

    A few years later, that scoutmaster told me just how much the boys in his troop were frightened by the wolfen story. As his boys prepared to go to bed that night one Scout needed to visit the latrine outside of their building. He did not want to go out there by himself so he asked a buddy to go out with him. His buddy did not want to be standing outside all alone so it was finally decided that the boys would go to the latrine in groups of three. No one wanted to be outside alone, just in case that the fictional wolfen were not truly fictional.

    It appears that even though I tell the Scouts that there is no such thing as the wolfen, their imaginations do not always get the message.

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      flint and steelCamp Watchamagumee was the place to be for the Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 during the weekend of May 17-19. The six Scouts, including four new members, and two adult leaders may have got a bit damp during the evening hours but they had a lot of fun during the day.

      Friday night was a pretty laid back schedule. The troop left Melrose about 6:30 pm. The boys spent the evening setting up camp, reviewing fire safety rules, and enjoyed sitting around the campfire until the first drops of rain send them running for the safety of their tents.

      The Scouts had a busy Saturday schedule. After breakfast they worked on their advancement and began building their primitive shelters that would would sleep in that night. It did not take long to discover that the boys did not bring along enough tarps and plastic sheets to build what they wished to build. After a lunch of baked beans and hot dogs roasted over an open fire the troop played a round of nine holes of disc golf.

      Saturday afternoon was time for the annual Egg Drop Competition. Each of the Scouts received a raw egg. Their challenge was to create a package for their egg using other natural materials found around the campsite. These packages would than be dropped from higher and higher distances until only one egg remained. Daniel Klassen was this year’s Egg Drop Competition winner. He took home a Boy Scout campfire cooking grille as his prize.

      The next event tested the Boy Scouts fire making skills. Each boy was to start a fire and keep it going long enough to burn through a string seven inches above the ground. Matches were not allowed for this contest. The Scouts needed to start their fires using flint and steel. A strong wind turned out to be the villain of this event. Even though the Scouts created hundreds of sparks, the wind blew out many of the flames the boys were hoping to use to start their fires. Alex Engelmeyer was the troop’s winner of this competition.

      The boys finished the afternoon by finishing their primitive shelters, playing a couple of games, and making a great supper of fried potatoes and spaghetti and meat sauce. There was not much food left over. The boys had worked up quite an appetite.

      A short chapel service was held at 7:30 that evening. This was followed with the boys moving their sleeping bags and pads into their primitive shelters for the night. As the Scouts gathered for the evening campfire they learned a troop song about Camp Watchamagumee, heard the story of the Purple Gorilla, and learned how to protect themselves from a wolfen attack.

      Half of the Scouts discovered that their primitive shelters did not do a sufficient job of keeping them dry once the rain showers moved in overnight, but a couple did stay in their shelter for the entire night. Important lessons were learned which will be used the next time they build a shelter, which could be as soon as their June weekend outing.

      Attending the Watchamagumee outing were Boy Scouts Alex, Daniel, Zack, Adrian, Sam, and Macoy. Adult leaders for the weekend were Scoutmaster Jim and assistant scoutmaster Eymard. Committee member Steve provided program assistance. The troop would also like to thank Melvin and Vern Klassen for allowing them to use their land for the outing.

      More pictures of this outing can be found on the troop’s website.
      http://melrosetroop68.org/yearlygalleries/yh13.html#Camp_Watchamagumee .

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        Two new boys joined us for their first Boy Scout camping trip at Camp Watchamagumee over the weekend of May 6-8, 2011. They had a great time on the outing but we did have an interesting and unexpected experience Friday night.

        The four boys attending the outing had joined us at the adult’s campsite to sit around the campfire. Eymard, my assistant scoutmaster, had made popcorn. One of the boys had brought marshmallows. The boys wanted me to tell them a story but I kept changing the subject, pushing it off a little longer, letting it get good and dark.

        Suddenly, we heard distant barking. I thought it was the dogs of a nearby home but the barking was coming from the wrong direction. When it turned to howling we realized it was coyotes, a pack of them from the sound of it. The mood around the campfire changed instantly. I could the younger boys become a bit anxious so we discussed the nature of coyotes and that those animals usually avoided human contact. They really did not need to be worried.

        I waited several minutes before I began the story of the Purple Gorilla. The story begins with a salesman traveling on night through a terrible thunderstorm and finally ends up spending the night at a farmhouse far away from any cities. During the story, the salesman must go through ten doors to find a suspense filled discovery. I was having fun building up the scenario but I was also keeping an eye on the new boys. As I described the opening of the third door we all heard movement in the woods near the boy’s campsite. It sounded like something large.

        Interest in the story evaporated as everyone’s thoughts turned to the coyotes we had heard earlier. The young boys were very nervous. I was a little nervous also, I have to admit. All four boys huddled close to me as we grabbed our flashlights and walked to their campsite to discover what had caused the noise. We walked around the site, shining our flashlights in all directions, but seeing nothing. The younger boys wanted me to check out the inside of their tent to be sure nothing had crawled into it. We found nothing in the tent or around the campsite. We heard nothing more. I told the boys it was probably a deer that was passing nearby.

        The boys were relieved that we did not find anything, but decided that it was time to go to turn in for the night. The new boys asked me to stay near their tent as they prepared to go to bed. Then I checked on the other boys and walked back to my own campsite.

        The story of the Purple Gorilla was all but forgotten. I will have to finish the story at a future outing. As I distinguished the fire I thought that it was a good thing I had not told the story of the Wolfen. If I had, the two new boys probably would not have gone back to their tents.

        (By the way, the picture shown was not from this outing but from a weekend in the 1980′s. I do not remember what story they were listening to when I took the picture.)

        100 Days Of Scouting: Day 96.

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          As Halloween approaches I cannot help but think of the “scary” stories told around the campfires during the last twenty five years of Boy Scouting. The first campfire “ghost” story I remember was from when I was a Boy Scout myself during summer camp at Parker Scout Reservation in central Minnesota. I made the mistake of sitting right in front of the storyteller, a staff member of the camp. He was quite good. When he screamed and lurched toward me at the end of the tale I literally jumped onto the Scout who was sitting behind me.

          It was a great story! I wish I could remember it.

          Now, I am the scoutmaster, the adult staffer. It has become my duty to tell the troop’s favorite stories at the campfires. I do not mind. When they are told well, a good story will hold a Scout’s attention as well as a television show or a video game. That is my goal while storytelling.

          Over the years there have been three stories that have become the favorites of the Boy Scouts of Troop 68. The “Purple Gorilla Story” is one we first heard at summer camp. It is a story about a traveling salesman who’s car breaks down during a bad thunderstorm in the “middle of nowhere”. The story takes place in the days before cell phones. An elderly farmer, who lives alone, befriends the salesman and invites him to spend the night, but the farmer warns the salesman not to go into the cellar.

          The story can be quite long as the farmer attempts to discover what the farmer is hiding in the cellar. It is a good story that can be very suspenseful, but not too scary or gory for the younger campers. In fact, the punchline of the story is really a…. Well, I would hate to ruin it for you.

          The “Black Forest”, on the other hand, is a graphic horror story that ends with a short poem. It tells the tale of a family that inherits a cabin located in the Black Forest. During their first trip to the cabin a violent thunderstorm hits the area. One by one, the four family members are killed in mysterious ways.

          The troop’s favorite campfire story is not really a story but more of a lengthy description of an animal that has been recently discovered by man. The creature is thought to have been around since before the dawn of mankind. This creature, the Wolfen, is thought to be the animal from which the legends of the werewolf evolved. The wolfen is nature’s ultimate fighting and killing machine, a natural hunter known to prey on mankind. Scouts usually do not want to go to the latrine by themselves during the night after hearing about the wolfen for the first time.

          Of course, the real fun comes with the telling of the stories. Even a bad story can be pumped up and made more frightening with a little creativity from the storyteller. The Scouts have the imagination to create the images better then any Hollywood moviemaker could ever put on film.

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