“When I used to be a counselor at a boys camp, we would always do this prank near the end of the week. I would get all the boys in my troop together and say ‘I’m not supposed to tell you guys this, but I think you’re old and mature enough to know. There used to be an old insane asylum in this area. Some say the ghosts of the people who died there still haunt these campgrounds.’ A lot of them would get spooked, and for the next hour or so some of the other counselors would make creepy wailing noises, or stand out near the edge of our campground in a hood. Eventually we would tell them the truth, but not after we had scared the hell out of them.”
Like most pranks, this seems to have some liminal-shifting purpose behind it. Even the statement within the prank itself, where the informant tells the kids that they are “old enough to know” seems to hint at the coming transition to adulthood. My own memories of camp are filled with similar pranks, and a multitude of other varieties which all, in their own way, smooth out that transition into adulthood. With this particular kind of prank, it seems that the point may be to force young campers to learn about confronting fear.