Ghost Story/Folk Legend
When I was a kid, and we were on camping trips for like cub scouts or some crap, the counselors would always tell some story about Hatchet Harry. It was a pretty long, involved story about this guy who would come out of the woods at night and terrorize campers and chop off their heads by throwing his hatchets at them. Then you’d go to bed and in the middle of the night the counselors would start throwing Frisbees around and hit the tents with them to scare us. Pretty lame.
My older brother told me this story about when he used to go to summer camp or go on brief camping trips when he was a boy. Chris grew up in Mountain Lakes, a suburb of New York in northern New Jersey. In this area, where I also grew up, a lot of kids go away for the summer to camps in the Northeast or go camping with their families in the woods, since there are a lot of those in New Jersey.
Something that is traditionally done at these camps is ghost storytelling. Groups of campers and counselors or parents would often sit around some sort of bonfire and tell legends that they had heard about people in the area in order to scare the younger kids. A lot of the stories had to do with outcasts or ghosts of people who had been murdered who still hang out in the woods in order to either terrorize or kill people who venture into that area. The legend of Hatchet Harry is a perfect example of these stories; it revolves around a man who seems to be an outcast of society and who throws hatches to kill anyone who comes near him, and most likely, to seek revenge (Chris didnt mention this, but most stories such as this have to do with killing in order to seek revenge of others, and it could probably be assumed that it is part of the back story of Hatchet Harry.)
Stories like this are most successful probably because of the settings in which they are told. As Chris described, they were told at camp, most likely at night and near a wooded area. This way, the story has a much greater effect and seems a lot scarier and more believable. Secondly, by putting the setting of the storytelling in the same type of place that the story is about, it scares the listeners into thinking that the subject of the story, Hatchet Harry, could be roaming the area. Lastly, when these effects are combined, it makes it much easier for the counselors to scare the kids by throwing Frisbees at their tents. Though Chris said this was pretty lame, it is likely that it did still scare kids who did choose to believe the story.
Stories like this are very common and provide entertainment on multiple levels. First of all, it gives the kids something to do at summer camp that keeps them excited and engaged before bed. Secondly, it gives the adults who tell the story a rise and a form of entertainment as they gauge the reactions of the listeners. Lastly, it provides stories that can be told and retold for ages to come as the kids grow older and then pass it down. Though almost everyone grows up to realize that there is very little truth to these tales, they are still a key part of entertaining kids and outdoor/camping culture in northeast America.