Here is a fun mystery to add to camp. This idea comes from a camp pro who goes by the alias Dr. VonShteubenstein.
The basic idea is that you have staff play a friendly camp monster/creature that is rarely seen, and only from a distance. It’s kind of a real-life mascot. The creature only comes on property to look for leftover spaghetti. (Of course, it doesn’t have to be spaghetti, you can pick a different food item.)
Before you go, “A monster? A camp creature? That would scare the kids!”, keep in mind that this is a friendly monster. Kids love friendly monsters. Movies like Monsters, Inc. and UglyDolls are two examples of our affinity for lovable monsters.
Keep reading to get a better idea of what a camp monster/creature is all about. If you decide that this may be a fun little program/tradition that your staff would enjoy pulling off and the campers would enjoy the experience of, then think about what sort of creature you would like to create. Let’s start with it’s name.
What’s the Creature’s Name?
First you need to give the creature a name. It could be Spaghetti Sue, Meatloaf Mike or Mac and Cheese Charlie. Whatever it is, make it fun and not “scary”.
It is important to note that the creature never speaks and is rarely seen (adding to the mystery and the ease of multiple people acting as the creature as staffing/time allows).
Who is This Creature?
The creature has to have a story, one that can be told to the campers.
Here’s the story that Dr. VonShteubenstein’s camp tells. “(The creature) found his home at our camp and lives in a hut on the other side of the lake (which isn’t camp property, and the young kids will conveniently never go, but they don’t know that). He has a dog and a girlfriend, but we’ve never seen them. We know “Steve” exists because we sometimes find bits of uncooked spaghetti along the trails and Steve’s droppings (melted tootsie rolls with bits of uncooked spaghetti in them. If you’ve never made fake monster poo in the microwave while sleep deprived on a Thursday at midnight, I highly recommend it).”
Interaction with the Campers
Campers may want to leave treats for the friendly creature in their cabin or in front of their cabin. If they do, the creature will leave candy in its place. Of course, Meatloaf Mike loves meatloaf treats and Spaghetti Sue loves spaghetti treats.
The creature will have many hiding spots throughout camp. While groups are walking from one activity to the next, they may see a hairy shadow in the distance running between the trees. It’s not Bigfoot and it’s not the Swamp Thing. It’s Noodle Nick – or whatever you call your monster. (The creature costume is a ghillie suit. They can be found online or at army surplus stores. Nothing makes a better “swamp monster” costume. Add a camp logo bucket hat, and the look is complete.)
From his/her hiding spots, the creature watches over the kids at camp and sometimes leaves notes for them with the candy, telling them how proud of them (s)he is at how well they did on the ropes course, in arts and crafts, or just that (s)he’s so glad they tried 3 bites of chicken for dinner. (The counselors, of course, help Steve write his notes).
The Older You Are the Harder It is to See It
Oddly enough, the counselors, even the ones that tell the story, rarely (if ever) seem to catch a glimpse of the friendly creature. They all know beyond a doubt that (s)he exists, but when the campers see the creature running in the woods, they point and scream, but the counselors often cannot see it (at least that’s how it plays out). The excitement can be contagious and it could be difficult to settle some of the kids down for a while. “An evening sighting on the way to the cabins before bedtime is NOT recommended”, Dr. VonShteubenstein says.
Dr. VonShteubenstein tells us, “The campers love the idea of a secret monster friend who watches over them while they are at camp and brings them candy at night. Some, however, are NOT ok with the idea of a monster in their cabin while they are sleeping. For this reason, we added a portion of the story where we have found (through scientific research) that “Steve” is afraid of children’s hands! Counselors can easily tell which kids are afraid of monsters (and offer some extra reassurance as necessary) and which kids want to meet him by the way hands immediately become hidden in pockets or become very prominent, waving around as if to scare off some unseen beast.”
The creature may decide to leave the notes and candy during breakfast instead of at night. It’s your camp monster. Do it how you like.
At some point late in the week, after gathering many stories and “facts” about the creature’s habits and whereabouts, your young campers can go on a sort of “snipe hunt” for the creature, tracking footprints and spaghetti or mac and cheese laden poo around camp, only to end up at the dining hall for dinner JUST as the creature is running out the back door towards his/her hut across the lake.
Just the Beginning
Adding a friendly camp monster to your camp can provide practically endless opportunities for activities, themes, sub themes stories and memories. To get things started, Dr. VonShteubenstein’s suggests that you might want to plant a few green jellybeans in the dirt at your opening campfire…see what kind of fun springs up from there!