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Scarily Specific Story

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But a long time ago, two kids, who were... I don't know... maybe in middle school (looks straight at his middle-school aged brother and the brother's best friend) trick-or-treated at that house on Halloween Night. But the house was full of devil worshippers, and they put the kids in giant pizza ovens and they cooked them... and they ate them!
Rodrick Heffley, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A character, whether due to mean or mischievous personality, educational purposes, or a traditional occasion such as Halloween or a camp out, has decided to scare someone with a story. And to make it extra scary, they make one or more details hit eerily close to home.

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The most common approach is to make the character(s) in the story seem similar to the listener(s). Specifics such as hair colour, interests, number of people, job, etc will be the same as the listeners'. For added freakiness points, the storyteller might pretend to mull it over, then look directly at the listener (e.g. "There was a woman who had... I dunno... long, dark hair *looks directly at Alice*"). Making the monster a Picky People Eater who eats people that match the description of the listeners is also common.

Another common way is to make the weather or the place seem creepily similar to the current situation — for instance, starting the story on It Was a Dark and Stormy Night when the night is currently dark and stormy. However, when adding examples like this, please make sure that they have detail beyond "it happened right here" or "on a night like this", since that would include nearly every ghost story. For extra scary points, it also might have happened on this day, Exactly Exty Years Ago.

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When successful, this can invoke Paranoia Fuel, because if the situation is so similar, then what's preventing the ghost from coming back? On the other hand, a Genre Savvy character might see where the storyteller is coming from and not be scared.

Sub-trope of Ghost Story. Sometimes overlaps with But You Were There, and You, and You. May be told during a Halloween Episode or Camping Episode. If it's meant to be educational, they might be doing it out of Tough Love. Compare The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You. If it's meant to educate the listener, it may have a Space Whale Aesop or a Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life message. If it involves a disease, there's likely Induced Hypochondria involved, and it may (though it often doesn't) involve You Don't Want to Catch This. Contrast Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue" which is also taking something from reality and making a story similar to it but in a completely different way.

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Examples

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    Films — Animation 
  • Played with in The Lorax. The Once-ler is mad at Ted Wiggins for interrupting his story of the past, so he tries to intimidate him by claiming that the story will soon feature a musical number about "the kid who kept interrupting the story and was never heard from again".
  • Played for Drama in Paranorman. Norman was originally tasked with reading a generic bedtime story that had been used to keep the witch asleep for years, though it quickly ends up destroyed. When Norman finally confronts the witch, he decides to tell her a story about a little girl who could see ghosts but was killed because everyone was afraid of her, mirroring the witch's own tragic past. Ultimately, he succeeds in finally calming her down and allowing her to see she's not that different to the townspeople who tormented her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Addams Family Values, when the girls are telling a ghost story to one another in their bunks, they ask Wednesday to finish it. Wednesday does so by having the ghost return to the haunted cabin in order to prove his power to the campers he's haunting, and when the campers wake up, they find that all of their old noses had grown back. The rich, preppy girls around her start screaming their heads off.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick scares Greg and Rowley with a story he made up to explain how Devil Worshipper Woods got its name. He makes a big point of the two victims of the devil worshippers being middle school kids, just like Greg and Rowley.
  • In Ramona and Beezus, Ramona comes home from school with a bad report card. That night, Beezus scares her with a story about a monster who feeds on "pests with bad report cards".
  • Played with in Ringu and its American adaptation, The Ring. It begins with a girl telling a scary story about a cursed videotape that kills you seven days after watching. She's only trying to creep out her friend... then her friend reveals that she watched the tape. Seven days ago.

    Literature 
  • In the book Arthur Babysits, which is part of the Arthur series that the cartoon was based on, Arthur draws the misbehaving Tibble twins out of hiding by mentioning a swamp monster. He says the monster likes eating boys (especially twins) and describes it approaching an old mansion, like the Tibbles' house. When the door opens, they scream... only for it to be their grandmother returning home.
  • In Dirty Bertie, the story "Spooky" has Bertie tell a campfire story while camping with Darren and Eugene. He makes the campers in the story three boys, just like them.
  • Subverted. In the middle-grade novel In A Glass Grimmly the red-bearded man tells Jill and the other people at the tavern the story of the mermaid. He sets it in the same town as they are in and says the mermaid targets little girls (like Jill). However, this is because the story is actually true.

    Live-Action TV 

    Podcasts 
  • Played for Drama in episode 70 of The Magnus Archives, "Book of the Dead". The titular book describes the deaths of all its previous holders in gruesome detail... and the future death of its current owner. Making a conscious decision to avoid the location or circumstance described in the story causes the book to generate a new story, and moves the date of your death closer.

    Western Animation 
  • The The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Vacation" starts with the Watterson family on a road trip telling horror stories. After her children remarked her inability to be scary due to her age, Nicole tells a spooky story of a family driving through the desert in a car, emphasizing each detail to mirror their own road trip, even the family involved. Almost everything she narrated turned out to be coming true, from the car breaking down to meeting a strange old man who accurately matched her description.
  • In the Babar episode "A Tale of Two Siblings", Alexander, who is babysitting his little sister Isabelle but going through a phase of finding her annoying, tells her a scary story. He makes up a monster who only eats the younger sisters of families.
  • In the Betty Boop episode "Baby Be Good", Betty is babysitting a little boy who seems to be about two years old and is misbehaving. She scares him with a story about a boy "just like him" who also misbehaved and it nearly cost him his life when a lion escaped from the zoo (and in the illustrations, the boy in the story looks just like the real boy).
  • Parodied in Futurama where Fry starts his campfire horror story with "Once not long ago, four people set off on a trail ride", mirroring the four of them there, to which Bender interjects, "Robot gets bored and kills Fry with a hammer!"
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Graveyard Shift," Squidward makes up a ghost story to scare SpongeBob after they're stuck working the night shift at the Krusty Krab. The subject of his story, the "Hash-Slinging Slasher," used to be a fry cook at the Krusty Krab just like SpongeBob (only clumsier), and he returns every Tuesday night, which is the night they're working. Later in the episode, everything Squidward said starts happening, from the lights flickering to a shadowy figure believed to be the Hash-Slinging Slasher showing up by bus.

    Real Life 
  • M. R. James's ghost story "Wailing Well", about a troop of Boy Scouts on a camping trip on the Dorset coast, was originally written to be read to a troop of Boy Scouts on a camping trip on the Dorset coast; the place where one of the main characters supposedly died was apparently a real place within walking distance of the actual camp. It was later reported by those who remembered it that most of the Scouts slept very poorly that night.

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