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12 Not-Too-Spooky Halloween Movies for the Whole Family
Halloween is always a night of creative costumes, delicious candy and fun frights. Of course, kids love the opportunity to challenge their courage by entering haunted houses, swapping spine-chilling stories and watching scary movies . That’s a lot of spookiness for one day, though, and with the wrong film, they may be too frightened to fall asleep at bedtime. (And of course, getting them to bed in time for you to enjoy a proper horror film , like a Stephen King adaptation or classic vampire flick might be an important part of your grown-up Halloween experience!)
Fortunately, there are lots of wonderfully fun — and only slightly creepy — movies out there that kids will enjoy this year. From oldies like Hocus Pocus to newer films like a stellar remake of The Witches , this list has plenty of options that’ll delight much more than they’ll scare. Check out 12 of the best kid-friendly Halloween flicks that make not-too-spooky treats for the entire family!
The Goosebumps book series by R.L. Stine has thrilled kids across the world since the 1990s. The series has been adapted for both TV and film, including a newer franchise for younger generations who aren’t familiar with these classics.
The 2015 flick, aptly titled Goosebumps , stars Jack Black as a fictionalized version of Stine alongside Dylan Minnette, who plays his teenage neighbor. The two team up to take down monsters from the Goosebumps series that have managed to escape from the books and cause chaos in the real world. The film is frightening fun for kids, and there’s enough action to keep parents entertained — especially if they’re former fans of the series.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
A trio of 300-year-old witches (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker) conjures up a little bit of hocus pocus in this Halloween classic. The 1993 film centers on what happens when the Sanderson sisters are accidentally brought back from the dead on All Hallow’s Eve.
Attempting to recapture their youth, the witches plan to steal the souls of the children of Salem, Massachusetts, so they can live for eternity. Three kids, a talking black cat and, eventually, a friendly zombie have to work together to stop the sinister sisters before it’s too late. Hocus Pocus is certain to put a spell on you this Halloween.
Spirited Away (2001)
If you’re new to the world of Miyazaki , Spirited Away is a great place to start. This classic film from Studio Ghibli follows our protagonist Chihiro, just as she and her parents move to a new town. As they explore, they find what appears to be an abandoned theme park, but Chihiro quickly realizes that she has somehow crossed into the realm of spirits. Oh, and her parents have been turned into pigs. As she learns to navigate the spirit world, and ultimately free herself and her parents, she meets many memorable characters along the way.
The film won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and became the top-grossing film in Japanese history. Don’t let the strange plot deter you. This film has won the hearts of many, and is a perfect addition to a Halloween lineup for the whole family.
These guys ain’t afraid of no ghosts, probably because the ghosts in this film aren’t too scary. This family-friendly comedy-horror was a smash at the box office in the 80s and has retained its appeal in the decades to follow. Sequels and remakes have attempted to capitalize on the success of the original, but have repeatedly fallen short.
Pop some popcorn and prepare to be entertained as a trio of paranormal exterminators face off against a gluttonous ghost, a pack of demonic dogs, and the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monsters, Inc . is a fun comedy about — what else? — two monsters, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman), who are the number-one scare team at the scream-processing factory in the town of Monstropolis. The film, released in 2001, follows their misadventures after a human girl named Boo makes her way into their world.
Together, the two have to figure out a way to get Boo home before anyone discovers this unimaginable mistake. Despite their best efforts, which include dressing Boo up as a baby monster, they run into plenty of roadblocks along the way. Kids will probably fall in love with the cuddly Sulley before they feel an ounce of fear during this film!
The Witches (2020)
The Witches (2020) is a fantasy-comedy film based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name. This reimagining of the original 1990 film follows an orphaned boy who goes to live with his grandmother in Alabama. After coming across a witch, the boy and his grandmother flee to a hotel to escape her evil clutches. However, the world’s Grand High Witch happens to be staying there — along with disguised, diabolical witches from all over the world who are helping her turn children into mice.
This remake of The Witches is an HBO Max original starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci — and it’s certainly a top choice for your family’s Halloween movie marathon.
The 2009 animated film Coraline is based on a dark fantasy novella of the same name. With Dakota Fanning voicing the titular character, the movie follows a young girl who discovers an alternate world that closely mirrors her own — but seemingly much happier. It’s complete with a parallel family that appears, at first sight, to be much better than the one she has.
However, when Coraline’s Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and the rest of this parallel family try to keep her in their new world forever, she has to fight to make it back home. Kids are sure to find the stop-motion animation and colorful sets of Coraline enchanting.
In the 1988 film, Beetlejuice , a couple dies in a car accident and finds themselves stuck in their former country home instead of a pleasant afterlife. When a new family moves in to the farmhouse, the dead couple tries to scare them away, but to no avail. They enlist the help of the troublemaking poltergeist Beetlejuice, who turns out to be a hazard to everyone involved.
The classic film has an all-star cast that includes Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder. Directed by Tim Burton, the movie offers a comedic twist on a supernatural tale that families will enjoy. Just don’t be surprised if the film’s soundtrack sparks an impromptu dance party.
Starring Kimberly J. Brown and the late, great Debbie Reynolds, Halloweentown is a Disney Channel original movie that premiered in 1998. Today, it’s revered as a classic Halloween film among the now-adults who grew up watching it every year decades ago.
On her 13th birthday, Marnie Cromwell discovers that she’s a witch, as is everyone else in her family. She and her younger siblings sneak off to Halloweentown, where her grandmother lives, to learn more about their family’s history and so Marnie can begin her witch training before it’s too late. The visit goes awry when they discover that an evil force is attempting to take over the town — but with a little magic, Marnie and her siblings can save the day.
The Addams Family (2019)
There have been several reimaginings of the original Addams Family over the years — did you know the first cartoons were created in 1938? — but this animated film from 2019 is an especially fun version for kids. In the movie, Gomez, Morticia and the rest of the Addams clan prepare to welcome relatives for a visit. But when a TV personality attempts to get rid of them, the family has to prove that their creepy and kooky ways are no threat to their idyllic neighborhood.
The Addams Family features the voiceover talents of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Alison Janney, Chloë Grace Moretz and others. If your family can’t get enough of this endearingly macabre group, you’ll be happy to know a sequel was just released — and it’s available to rent on streaming .
It’s time to pass this cornerstone of Halloween weirdness to a new generation! The 1986 film Labyrinth is a cult classic for so many reasons, from its fantastical setting to its magical plot to the fact that it stars the one and only David Bowie — and includes danceworthy original songs from the Starman himself.
The story follows teenager Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) as she travels through an otherworldly maze, solving riddles to rescue her baby brother from Bowie’s Jareth the Goblin King. Most of the film’s main characters are played by puppets from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which is sure to delight kids (and deliver you an enjoyable dose of nostalgia).
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
You can’t have a kid-approved Halloween movie fest without watching 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas . The story follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who’s grown bored with the same old scare routine of Halloween each year. When he stumbles upon a door to Christmas Town, he decides to put his own twist on the holiday, causing complete havoc in the process.
The spooky-but-fun Tim Burton film stars Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara and Ken Page. What’s even better about this classic is that it doubles as a Halloween and Christmas movie — and there’s no better time of year to get into the holiday spirit!
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5 Short Ghost Stories that Will Scare the Life Out of You
When I think about telling ghost stories, I think about sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, telling spooky tales with a torch under my chin before retiring to my tent for the night. Despite the fact that that isn’t an activity I’ve ever taken part in, ever , it just feels like the perfect way to share a scary story, especially with the sounds of the forest rustling around you and the stars overhead. Well, even if you’re not in the forest, telling short ghost stories is a brilliant way to pass the time, so we’ve rounded up some of the very best ghost stories for adults from around the internet that are sure to give you a fright. Pass the marshmallows!
1. The Puppy in the Basement
This short ghost story, found on Reddit, is super creepy:
“Mommy told me never to go in the basement, but I wanted to see what was making that noise. It kind of sounded like a puppy, and I wanted to see the puppy, so I opened the basement door and tiptoed down a bit. I didn’t see a puppy, and then Mommy yanked me out of the basement and yelled at me. Mommy had never yelled at me before, and it made me sad and I cried. Then Mommy told me never to go into the basement again, and she gave me a cookie. That made me feel better, so I didn’t ask her why the boy in the basement was making noises like a puppy, or why he had no hands or feet.”
2. Nun Chucks
Michelle Froelick Young had a strange experience with her two year old daughter, submitted to Movie Pilot:
“When my daughter was 2, I found her twirling paper towel tubes, tied with twine, in the air. I asked her what she was doing. She said she was practicing her “nun chucks”. I was very confused as she’d have no way of knowing what they were. I asked her what she meant and she said that Adam had told her how to make them and showed her each night how to use them. She went on to say that Adam told her to practice because she may need to know how to defend herself someday. I almost freaked out, but asked her what Adam looked like. She said he was tall, blond, and had blue eyes. She said,”Mommy, you KNOW how he looks – you know him! He died of a headache.” I had to leave the room.You see, 4 months before she was born, my tall, blonde, blue eyed, martial arts-pro friend had died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 27. She has not spoken of him since that day, so I’m not sure if I scared her with my reaction or if she had completed her lessons.”
3. There's Someone Under the Bed
Sometimes the very short ghost stories are the best, and this tale, from Reddit via Buzzfeed , tells the story of a father putting his young son to bed:
“I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy, check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy, there’s somebody on my bed.””
4. The Chair
This short tale starts benignly enough, with a friendly-seeming ghost playing with children, but when you learn the origins of the ghost – and just why the ghost is moving the object around the room, it quickly gets a lot creepier. Submitted via Reddit by Scoopwhoop :
“When my sister Betsy and I were kids, our family lived for awhile in a charming old farmhouse. We loved exploring its dusty corners and climbing the apple tree in the backyard. But our favorite thing was the ghost. We called her Mother, because she seemed so kind and nurturing. Some mornings Betsy and I would wake up, and on each of our nightstands, we’d find a cup that hadn’t been there the night before. Mother had left them there, worried that we’d get thirsty during the night. She just wanted to take care of us. Among the homes’ original furnishings was an antique wooden chair which we kept against the back wall of the living room. Whenever we were preoccupied, watching TV or playing a game, Mother would inch that chair forward, across the room, toward us. Sometimes she’d manage to move it all the way to the centre of the room. We always felt sad putting it back against the wall. Mother just wanted to be near us. Years later, long after we’d moved out, I found an old newspaper article about the farmhouse’s original occupant, a widow. She’d murdered her two children by giving them each a cup of poisoned milk before bed. Then she hung herself. The article included a photo of the farmhouse’s living room, with a woman’s body hanging from a beam. Beneath her, knocked over, was that old wooden chair, placed exactly in the center of the room.”
…Did it get colder in here, or is it just me?
5. The Ghost at Home
In one of my favourite short ghost stories, a man thinks that he loses his phone and someone is playing a trick on him. Turns out, there is someone playing with him, but it’s a ghoul rather than a person. Submitted via Reddit by Buzzfeed :
“Last night a friend rushed me out of the house to catch the opening act at a local bar’s music night. After a few drinks I realized my phone wasn’t in my pocket. I checked the table we were sitting at, the bar, the bathrooms, and after no luck I used my friend’s phone to call mine. After two rings someone answered, gave out a low raspy giggle, and hung up. They didn’t answer again. I eventually gave it up as a lost cause and headed home. I found my phone laying on my nightstand, right where I left it.”
6. Super, Super Short Ghost Stories
Finally, something a little different. The Metro wanted to put together something spooky and came up with these one or two sentence ghost stories that are designed to get you thinking – so here are my favourites.
Sometimes the very best short ghost stories are those that include a sense of creeping dread, or that tingling sensation where you’re not quite sure where the story is going to go or where it is going to end. Filling in the blanks of a story with your own thoughts from your own experiences is what can make these ambiguous stories even creepier… so where will these stories take you?
Find how far down the rabbit hole you can go, as we list the 12 scariest books ever written !
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6 Short & Scary Halloween Stories for Spooky Fun
Send chills up everyone’s spines with these spooky and short Halloween stories you’ll want to tell again and again.
Sally is a prolific non-fiction and fiction writer, who has appeared in multiple print and digital publications.
Learn about our Editorial Policy .
Scary stories are fun any time of year, but there’s just something about sharing them around All Hallows' Eve that makes the tales that much more frightening. If you’re looking for a quick fix of terror that’ll get your pulse racing, these Halloween short stories are sure to send a chill down your spine.
You can read each one in less than 2 minutes, making them perfect for sharing at Halloween parties, around the campfire, or any time you need some horror in your life. Proceed if you dare.
The Peace and Plenty Inn
by Sally Painter
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The Peace and Plenty Inn was once a tavern and stagecoach stop before the Revolutionary War. Centuries passed, and it was converted into a private residence. The sprawling red-clapboard home had welcomed many families in its almost 400 years until one night just before Halloween.
The Armstrong family now owned the home. That night, the Armstrongs went out to dinner. The babysitter, Ann, got the girls ready for bed. By nine o'clock, all three girls were tucked in safely, and Ann settled in front of the television to watch a movie.
About 15 minutes later, Ann suddenly felt chilled to the bone. She got up to check the thermostat, but the room temperature was set at 70°F, and she could hear the oil burner chugging along in the basement.
"Hmm, that's strange," she thought. "It's freezing in here." She found an afghan on the back of the couch and settled back to watch television. But a few minutes later, she heard footsteps on the stairs leading from the kitchen to the second floor.
"Katie? Elizabeth? Laurel?" She called out the three children's names. The footsteps seemed to come closer. "Are you girls playing a trick on me?" Abruptly, the light on the end table flickered, flared, and went out.
Ann checked the hallway and kitchen for the prankster girls, but no one was there. She shivered. It was even colder in the kitchen. She shook her head and went upstairs and found the three girls sound asleep. Feeling confused, she convinced herself that it was her imagination and returned to the living room.
"Hmm, that's funny," she said as she looked at the television. "I thought I left it on Channel 2. It's on Channel 4 now." These were the days before remote controls, so she walked over to the television and put it back on Channel 2. She sat back in the chair.
Suddenly, the knob began to turn on its own, switching to channel 4, 7… and then static.
A voice whispered through the TV, "Get out." With a shriek, Ann pulled the plug from the television.
Mrs. Armstrong found Ann upstairs, curled in her afghan, asleep at the foot of the girls' beds.
"Ann, are you all right?" she asked.
"T-t-take me home," Ann cried. "This place is haunted!"
The Face on the Tree
Gloria and her friends Sarah and Megan enjoyed riding their horses through the woods next to the riding stable. Many of the old timers at the stable warned them not to pass Black Woods at night on horseback. The haunted woods often spooked the horses — as well as the riders. One particularly beautiful afternoon close to Halloween, the girls rode out farther than they intended.
Crisp leaves crunched under the horses' hooves, and the girls spent more time than usual exploring an unused trail. The sunset faded, and they suddenly realized they had to pass Black Woods in pitch darkness. The horses knew the path and picked their way carefully through the woodland trail.
They came to a fork in the trail. If they took the shortcut, they would go past Black Woods toward the stables. The horses balked and refused to turn left onto the shortcut.
"Let's dismount and walk them the last little bit. We're almost home," Gloria said.
"You go." Sarah shivered. "I want to take the long way home and ride to the road."
"We're going to get in trouble if we walk the horses on the road at night. It's too dangerous. Besides, we're almost at the stables. We just have to get through Black Woods." Gloria persisted.
Sarah and Meg had already turned their horses towards the road.
"We could get hit by a car being on the road in the dark," Gloria warned.
"Fine," Sarah fumed. "I'll go by the forest."
Gloria urged the horse forward. As they rounded the last turn into Black Woods, an eerie glow suddenly lit the path in front of Gloria. She urged her trembling horse forward. As she turned towards the riding stable, the glow became stronger and centered on a huge, lightning-struck oak tree. On the trunk of the tree, a woman's face appeared. She glowed with a white light as her lips moved.
"Tell them…," she whispered. "Tell them I'm innocent."
Gloria kicked her horse, but the horse needed no urging. He flew through the woods and stopped at the stable door, trembling in fear.
The next day, one of the stable owners, Tommy, stopped by while Gloria groomed her horse. Tommy had heard that Gloria had ridden through Black Woods after dark and so close to Halloween. As she groomed her horse, Gloria worked up her courage and asked, "Tommy, why do people say we shouldn't go into Black Woods at night?"
"Because of the Hanging Tree," Tommy said.
"The big oak." It was a statement from Gloria, not a question.
"The very one," said Tommy.
The apparition's words echoed in Gloria's mind. "Tell them I'm innocent." She shivered.
She never rode anywhere near Black Woods or the old Hanging Tree ever again.
These stories are great to tell during parties, or you can simply curl up by candlelight and enjoy a spooky tale on your own.
Riding Home From the Party
Fifteen-year-old Jacob went into the garage to retrieve his bike to ride to a Halloween party , but he discovered the front tire was flat. Running late, he hopped on his sister's bicycle and pedaled toward his friend's house.
As he turned down the lonely side street, skirting the woods that he and his friends used as a shortcut through town, Jacob shrugged off the creepy feeling that someone was watching him as he neared the darkest part of the street and sped through as fast as he could. He arrived at the party and stayed until 10 p.m.
On the way home, Jacob considered not using the shortcut. But he needed to study for a math test and wanted to get home as fast as possible. He started down the narrow lane when he noticed someone was in the middle of the street. It must be some kid from the party taking the shortcut home.
Jacob slowed down as he drew closer. The figure turned around. An ugly, twisted, gnarly face glowered at him. Jacob slammed on brakes, intent on turning around, when a heavy chain rattled through the air. He turned just as the chain slammed into his head, wrapping around his neck.
"Got you!" the wicked voice boomed as Jacob felt himself falling to the ground. The macabre being stood over him with blood dripping from its lips.
"Thought you'd never come back this way, boy. Glad you decided to take the shortcut home!"
Jacob's sister's bicycle was found in the middle of the side street. Authorities determined that the killer dragged Jacob's body off the road, leaving two parallel lines that led straight to Jacob's body. The police discovered Jacob's body drained of all its blood only a few feet from the street.
His killer was dubbed The Halloween Vampire. To this day, no one travels down that side street, especially at night.
- Short Campfire Ghost Stories to Make You Scared of the Dark
Moss Man and the Bully
One Halloween, a group of teenage boys decided to play a prank on the school bully. They invited him to a secret initiation into the Society of the Forest, where the most popular high schoolers would be in attendance. They chose a spot where the ground was completely covered in moss.
One of the boys dressed in a camouflage ghillie suit and hid in the thicket, while the others, dressed in black robes with hoods, gathered around a makeshift altar underneath the tree canopy. The bully arrived, and the ceremony began with unintelligible chants. The bully looked about and decided he'd been punked.
He shouted threats at the hoaxers. But just then, the boy in hiding sprung up from the moss-covered ground and grabbed the bully, dragging him deep underground. The other boys assumed their friend had discovered a cave or underground opening, so they laughed and cheered him on as the bully cried out in terror.
Their laughter broke off when the boy dressed in the ghillie suit came walking out of the forest. Confused, the boys turned in the direction where the Moss Man had dragged the bully away. The boys screamed, and, stumbling over each other, ran out of the woods.
The bully was never seen again, and the Halloween story of the Moss Man was born.
Three middle school boys decided to toiler paper an old woman's house. Rumored to be a witch, the woman lived on the outskirts of the small town, and no one ever saw her. Her yard was overgrown, and the house was in a state of disrepair.
They waited until it was late at night to sneak out of their houses and met at the edge of town, where they walked to the witch's house. It was dark and cold. The boys couldn't see any light or warmth inside or outside the house. The only thing resembling Halloween was an orange helium-filled balloon tied to the front door.
With muffled chuckles, the boys went to work tossing rolls of toilet paper up into the trees, overgrown shrubbery, and onto the roof of the house. They were nearly finished when a black cat mewed by the front door. Startled, the kids stopped like frozen statues.
A puff of black smoke emerged from the house. Two of the boys sprinted across the yard, but the third one tripped and fell in front of the smoke and was quickly engulfed. Screaming and crying, he found himself lifted from the ground and being drawn toward the front door.
He panicked and cried out for his friends, but they were long gone. He sobbed for his mommy when he found himself inside the orange balloon. Struggling against the mylar prison, he pounded his fists against the elastic walls.
"Happy Halloween, my mischievous imp," said the crackling voice as the cat shape-shifted into the witch. She reached up and untied the balloon. She stood laughing as the screaming boy drifted up higher and higher over the sleeping town, never to be seen again.
The story of the Balloon Boy spread through the town. But it was considered an urban legend created to explain the mysterious disappearance of the unfortunate missing boy.
Beware of Shapeshifters
by Saleema Ishq
The vibrating bass of the sound system is a little too much for Asher, who decides to retreat upstairs for some quiet. No one at the party will miss me, he reasons with an eye roll. He was barely invited to the Senior's Spooky Halloween Bash, anyway. He wouldn't be here if he hadn't scored a last-minute invitation from his lab partner and crush, Trisha.
Asher doesn't really care about the party itself. He just wants to spend some time outside of school with Trisha. As a bonus, he'll have a chance to see the inside of the haunted Shapeshifters Tavern where the party is being thrown.
Unfortunately, most of the rooms are locked and blocked off with caution tape, so there isn't much to see. Asher still tries every door as he strolls down the hallway on the second floor. To his surprise, one creaks open. It's an old bedroom complete with a dresser, chest, vanity, and four-poster bed frame.
And there, lying in the center of the bed, is Trisha. Her face is pale, and she's clutching her stomach. Asher drops to his knees at the side of the bed and reaches for her. "What's wrong? What happened?" he asks eagerly.
Her response is so quiet it's barely audible. "I didn't feel good, so I came up here to lie down." Asher's blood runs cold as Trisha begins violently coughing and produces handfuls of bright red liquid. Blood. He has to do something.
Asher scoops up her limp body and rushes out of the room to find help, but as soon as he reaches the hallway, the weight of her body vanishes. Trisha is gone. Through the tears, Asher looks down at his arms in disbelief. But he can't ponder for too long, because he hears a sound to his left that makes his jaw drop.
"Hey Ash, you OK?" Trisha asks as she walks up the stairs with a small smile.
"You look like you've just seen a ghost."
Scary Halloween Short Stories for Everyone
Short, scary Halloween stories are a great way to get into the spooky spirit. Make sure you set the mood with a fun Halloween beverage , creepy music , and low lighting. And if you’re feeling inspired, you could even write your own stories!
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Home • Teen • Education
15 Short Horror Stories For Teenagers
No sleepover or Halloween party is complete without sharing horror stories.
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Teens’ sleepovers and camping trips are incomplete without some spooky stories. Horror stories for teenagers can offer them pleasure like no other, whether they have gathered together for a study night out or just a casual get-together with friends.
This post has the finest compilation of terrifying short horror stories to make a teens’ night out thrilling and fun. Prepare yourself for a spooky time with these ghost stories.
15 Short Scary Stories For Teens
1. humans can lick too.
This is a frightening story of a girl who was alone at home one night, for the first time. She has a dog to keep her company. The girl listens on the news about a serial killer on the loose. She goes to sleep after locking all the doors and windows but for one, which doesn’t close. Suddenly she is awakened by a dripping sound. Scared thoroughly, she tries to go back to sleep and puts her hand down the bed for a reassuring lick from her dog. As the dripping sound continues, she goes to check on the taps in the kitchen, bathroom and everywhere else but finds nothing. She returns to her bedroom and puts the hand down again for the dog to lick. The dripping sound continues and the girl is too frightened to fall asleep. But as her hand gets licked from under the bed, she slowly falls asleep. In the morning, when she opens the closet, she finds her dog killed and hanged upside down. The dripping sound was from the dog’s blood. On the closet doors, she sees a message – “Humans can lick, too”.
2. Aren’t You Glad, You Didn’t Turn On The Lights?
Two best friends Meg and Samantha, live in the same room of the college dormitory. Samantha goes out for a party with her date while Meg stays back to study for the upcoming mid-term exams. When Samantha returns from the party, lights are all turned off. She does not switch on the lights as her friend is asleep.
Early in the morning, Sam tries to wake Meg up to discuss the exams. As Meg doesn’t respond, Sam hesitantly uncovers her face to wake her up. She gets horrified to discover Meg’s face turned black and blue, and falls on the floor in a state of shock. She observes that Meg’s study table was all messed up and finds a creepy note on the wall, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?” The murderer must have very much been in the room when Sam came the previous night.
[ Read: Vampire Books For Teens ]
3. Spiders In The Hairdo
Author: David Holt
This spine-chilling tale is about Dolores, a teenage girl, who is living on her own for the first time after graduation. She does not have enough money but makes sure to save some bucks to maintain her giant beehive hairdo. She does everything to maintain the hairdo as instructed by the hairstylist, but one day she wakes up with a terrible itch in the scalp.
Dolores tries some cures but realizes that a spider bite is causing the itch. So she calls an exterminator to kill all the spiders and insects in her room. But her pain does not reduce and visits a doctor. The medication given by the doctor fails.
Frustrated, she rushes to her stylist. The salon is full and the hairstylist asks Dolores to wait. She pushes a lady out of the salon chair and asks for immediate attention.
When the stylist begins to unwrap the beehive hairdo, black widow spiders start crawling down her face and soon the salon is filled with the spiders moving slowly in every corner. Everyone in the salon starts rushing out while Dolores is dead in her chair.
The stylist is horrified to see the beehive hairdo fall to the floor and tiny black widow spiders coming out of the hatched eggs in the scalp of Dolores. It was a macabre scene as the scalp of Dolores was half eaten by the black widow spiders.
4. The Vanishing Hitch-Hiker
Author: Jan Harold Brunvand
This next eerie story is about a man driving home late in the night when he spots a girl asking for a hitchhike. The pretty girl is dressed in a beautiful white dress. The man offers her a ride and they strike up an interesting conversation. He drops the girl at her home.
Next day, while driving for work he notices that the girl by accident has forgotten her sweater in his car. He drives towards her home to hand over the sweater. An old lady opens the door when he rings the bell. He narrates the incident which occurred last night and gives the sweater to the lady.
The lady refuses to accept it, saying he is mistaken. The man is surprised and questions the lady again. He is dumbstruck and left in an unsettling situation when the lady says her daughter died in a car accident a couple of years ago.
5. Far Far Away
Author: Tom McNeal
In a faraway village called Never Better lived a boy Jeremy Johnson Johnson. Since his childhood, he is haunted by a ghost and he becomes friends with it. But Jeremy is ridiculed by people as they assume that he is talking to himself.
Jeremy’s life changes when he meets Ginger, a beautiful girl, and they grow close to each other. She invites him to play a prank on the town baker and their bond is strengthened when the prank succeeds. The two children set out on an adventure to save the bookstore of Jeremy’s family. While saving the bookstore, Ginger and Jeremy unfold the mystery of disappearing children in the village with the help of the ghost. Would Ginger and Jeremy go missing too?
[ Read: Mystery Books For Teens ]
6. Lover’s Lane
A teenage couple is in a deserted lover’s lane, making out in their car. After a short while, the radio stops to announce alarming news that a convicted serial killer just escaped from the asylum. People are asked to report to the police if they see a strange looking man with a hook on the hand.
The girl is frightened and requests the boy to rush home immediately. The boy initially disagrees and tries hard to convince his date to stay, but eventually, they both head back.
When they arrive at the girl’s house, she gets down and tries to close the car door but it won’t close. She freezes as she sees a hook suspending from the doorknob.
7. The Cats of Ulthar
Author: H.P. Lovecraft
An old couple in the town of Ulthar finds pleasure in mercilessly killing any cats that enter their property.The other residents of the town do not speak up against the evil acts but try to keep their felines away from the couple’s property.
One night, some travelers pass through this town and among them is an orphaned boy who has nobody but only a kitten. The kitten goes missing after a couple of days and he comes to know about the old couple.
The little boy focuses all his energies and unleashes a prayer which affects the sky and the movement of clouds. The travelers leave Ulthar and the people notice that all their cats have gone missing. People are worried but have no clue about the whereabouts of their cats.
The cats return on the following day and seem well-fed, but the old couple has vanished. When the people explore the property, they find the ghastly skeletons of two humans which have been picked clean.
8. The Monkey’s Paw
Author: W.W. Jacobs
Sergeant-Major Morris introduces a mummified monkey paw to Mr. and Mrs. White. He tells them that he found it while serving in India. The paw has the ability to grant three wishes but they always come with terrible consequences.
Mr.White ignores Morris’ warnings and asks the paw a wish for £200. Next day he receives the news that his son Herbert died in an accident at his workplace. The employer sends £200 as compensation for the family of the accident victim.
Mrs.White is anguished and wants her son back. After nearly 10 days of the funeral, the couple decides to ask for another wish. They rub the monkey’s paw and ask for his son to come back. They hear a knock on the door. The knock turns into banging and Mrs.White fumbles to open the door.
Terrified with the idea of seeing a mutilated and decomposed body of their son outside his house, Mr.White makes the third and final wish. The door knocks stop and when Mrs.White opens the door, she is shattered in pain and disappointment as there is nobody there.
[ Read: Fantasy Books For Teens ]
9. Children Of The Corn
Author: Stephen King
A quarrelsome couple is driving towards California to find a better paying job for Burt, the husband. While driving, they accidentally run over a boy who appeared out of nowhere. They blame each other for the accident and finally decide to check the body. While examining the boy, a shiver runs down their body as they discover that his throat was slit already and was bleeding to death. On further investigation, Vicky, the wife, finds a strange crucifix made of corn husks, in the boy’s bag.
The couple argues over where to take the body and decide to drive towards Gatlin which is just down the road. Gatlin is an isolated community in an abandoned ghost village. They drive further into the ghostly place and see that the calendar and gas prices are all outdated.
Burt stops the vehicle at a church to go and find someone. Vicky starts to scream for help when she sees many children dressed in Amish clothing heading toward the car. The children pull Vicky out of the car and start beating her mercilessly. When Burt intervenes, Vicky escapes and goes missing.
The sun sets and the ghostly place turns very dark. Burt goes and hides in a cornfield. As the daylight breaks, he sees Vicky tied to a cross with barbed wires and her eyes ripped out. There are no animals or weeds in the cornfield and nobody to take care of the corn fields. But the cornfield is still blooming.
Children of the corn find Burt, and a giant red-eyed monster emerging from the field ruthlessly kills Burt. The children belong to a cult that worships “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” the monster who killed Burt.
10. The Black Cat
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator and his wife live in a house with their pet cat named Pluto. The couple is very fond of their large black cat, and Pluto too loves the narrator. Their close friendship lasts many years until one day when the narrator hangs the cat under the influence of alcohol.
Soon after the cat’s death, their house catches fire and everything is destroyed. But one wall, which survives the mysterious fire, has an imprint of the large cat tied upside down with a rope.
Disturbed on seeing this, the narrator regrets his actions. One fine evening, he finds a similar cat in a bar and brings that home. The new cat is very similar to Pluto, except for minor differences. Whenever the man sees the new cat, he is reminded of Pluto and is filled with a feeling of guilt.
One day when the man and his wife are walking towards the cellar, the cat gets under the feet of his master and he trips down the stairs. In a fit of rage, he tries to kill the new cat too. But the wife stops him, and in this process gets killed accidentally.
He hides the body inside a wall in the house and when the police investigation begins he takes careful steps. On the day of closing the murder mystery, the police hear a disturbing loud crying sound from one of the walls. The police start breaking down the walls of that room and discover the rotting body of the dead wife.
Beside the dead body is a cat, grinning and meowing vehemently.
11. The Vampyre
Author: John William Polidori
Aubrey, an English gentleman, meets a mysterious man named Lord Ruthven. Aubrey goes to Rome with Ruthven but when he finds Ruthven doing wrongful acts with the daughter of a mutual acquaintance, he leaves him.
Aubrey is attracted to Lanthe, a pretty woman he meets in Greece. Lanthe shares stories about the legends of the bloodcurdling Vampires. Ruthven hears them talking and a couple of days later, Lanthe is found dead. Apparently, she is killed by a vampire.
Aubrey continues traveling with Ruthven. On their journey, they are attacked by bandits and Ruthven is gravely wounded. Ruthven takes a promise from Aubrey before dying, that he will not mention about this death to anyone for one year and a day. One day, Aubrey suddenly realizes that everyone who met Ruthven suffered horribly. He is in London now and is shocked to see Ruthven alive and healthy. Ruthven starts seeing Aubrey’s sister and proposes her for marriage. Aubrey wants to warn his sister about Ruthven but Ruthven reminds him of the oath.
Aubrey is bound by the oath and has a nervous breakdown. Still he writes a letter to his sister, but she gets married to Ruthven before the letter arrives. On the night of the wedding, Aubrey’s sister is discovered dead, fully drained of her blood. Ruthven has fled.
12. A Room In The Tower
Author: E.F. Benson
A young man repeatedly gets a nightmare that he is visiting a friend’s house, whose family is weird. The malevolent mother of his friend, Mrs.Stone, allots a dreadful room in a huge tower for him to retire.
His nightmare repeats but keeps varying every night and the characters in the dream keep growing over the years. In his dream one day, Mrs.Stone expires and she is buried, but she still keeps assigning the same room to him.
In the young man’s normal life, his friend Clinton invites him for dinner one day. He is surprised to see that everything matches with the nightmare. But the personalities and names are different and he has an enjoyable experience. Due to a thunderstorm warning, Clinton’s mother advises him to stay with the family that night and allots a room that is similar to the one he sees in his nightmares. He is shocked at the resemblance.
In the room, he finds a very old painting of Mrs.Stone. With the help of Clinton, he moves the painting to the hall. They are amazed to see their hands covered in blood even though neither of them is injured.
They go to bed but the young man is unable to fall asleep and wake up in horror to find Mrs.Stone standing on the top of his bed. She tells him that she is a vampire and is here to turn the young man also into a vampire. They get into a fight and he manages to escape. When he rushes out of the room, Clinton comes out hearing the commotion. They discover that the portrait is back on the wall in his room. They get scared and flee away.
An old newspaper carries the news that Mrs.Stone’s coffin keeps erupting every day and has to be reburied.
13. The Boarded Window
Author: Ambrose Bierce
Murlock, a villager, returns from the forest and finds his wife having severe fits, which eventually causes her death. He could not save her and sits alone with his dead wife. Tired and exhausted, Murlock falls asleep.
From an open window in his cabin, comes a loud, weeping sound which is similar to the crying of a lost child in the deep woods. Murlock doesn’t move. The sound starts again and gets louder and louder.
When Murlock wakes up, he feels some strange presence in his cabin. There is some weird movement in the dark. Murlock fires his rifle in the air and lights a candle. He witnesses a panther hauling his wife by the neck. When he examines the dead body of his wife, Murlock notices the earlobe of the panther stuck between her teeth.
14. The Monkey
Two young brothers Peter and Dennis find a clapping monkey toy in the basement of their great uncle’s home.
In the past, their father, Hal, had originally found the monkey in his father’s cupboard when he was a child. Hal’s father disappeared under strange circumstances and a weird connection between the monkey and the missing father is established. It is revealed that the monkey is cursed and whenever it claps, someone from Hal’s family dies.
As a child, Hal saw his relatives dying one after the other whenever the monkey clapped. Oppressed by the monkey’s devilish enchantment, Hal threw the clapping monkey into a deep well, which now resurfaces with his children. When Peter and Dennis find the monkey again, Hal shoves it deep down inside a lake. He hopes the problem is solved forever. A couple of days later, a news headline mentions about the mysterious death of all the fishes in the lake.
15. The Landlady
Author: Roald Dahl
A young man Billy Weaver is traveling in a cold winter night and seeks a place to stay. After searching a lot, he comes across a boarding house. He rings the bell and an old lady welcomes him inside.
He signs the guest book and gives all the required details. While filling up the guest book, he reads the names and details of other guests who previously stayed there and finds their names quite familiar.
The old lady offers some food and drinks to Billy but he refuses as he is tired and wants to go to bed. However, they have a conversation over some tea. Billy notices some peculiar things about the living room. The parrot is sitting quietly in the cage and a dog is lying near the fireplace.
While talking, Billy asks about the other guests and the lady starts saying strange things. She says that one of her guests, Mr. Mulholland, had nice, soft skin.
The situation gets ominous. Billy asks if the parrot is alive. The lady says neither the parrot nor the dog is alive. He panics and wants to get out immediately. He realizes that the names which appeared familiar were the names given in the newspaper about people who mysteriously disappeared. Finally, Billy asks if there have been any other guests, in the last three years, at the boarding house. The lady says none but him.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are horror stories appropriate for middle schoolers?
For middle schoolers, horror is often considered appropriate for intellectual development. The students are keen on understanding their fears and overcoming them. By experiencing them through gothic stories, they get a chance to be afraid while still feeling safe.
2. Why should schools teach horror stories?
Horror stories help children expand their imagination, experience courage, and look for solutions to the puzzle. These stories let them know that they are allowed to be afraid. By exploring scary suspenseful stories in a safe environment like a classroom, the students can also expand their sense of community. With the guidance of a teacher, middle schoolers may learn to face their fears.
3. Why do some teenagers love horror?
Horror stories can stimulate the senses and make teenagers feel the thrill and excitement along with fear. Jump scares, deformed faces, and the unavoidable suspense leads them to seek adventures without leaving the comfort of their safe surroundings. Besides, sharing horror stories brings people closer together, thus establishing a stronger bond between friends.
Night-outs, sleepovers, and camping excursions can be made more thrilling when you include some spooky, hair-raising horror stories for teenagers. You may narrate any classic horror story, such as “Spiders in the Hairdo,” “The Cats of Ulthar,” and “Monkey’s Paw,” to add some spookiness to the night. Horrors stories are most effective when narrated as if they are real-life stories and had happened to someone you know. Turn on a torch, wrap a blanket around you, and narrate the story in a spooky, mysterious voice for some extra effects.
Four terrifying true stories of teenagers that will give you chills. Hear about their experiences and be prepared to be scared!
Deepa Thomas MA (English)
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Scary stories for kids that are perfect for Halloween… ghost stories, monsters, witches, trick or treat, black cats, and things that go BUMP in the night!
A Skinny Pumpkin
When Izzy sees a sad, skinny pumpkin one Halloween, she quickly finds a new friend.
Midnight and the Spider
Midnight is a curious cat who meets a spider one Halloween... it becomes a very strange encounter!
The Twelve Days of Halloween
A fun storybook and memory game for Halloween nights with kids, sitting around a campfire. How many of the zombie gifts can you remember?
The Three Halloween Cats
Leah, Emmie and Tim are going trick-or-treating... but they don't count on encountering some spooky Halloween cats!
You’re My BOO!
A sweet and non-frightening bedtime story to celebrate Halloween with little ones!
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Four trick-or-treating kids visit an old house at the end of their street, and return with a basket of apples...
The Real Halloween
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A Treat for the Wee Folk
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High and Low
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Eight short horror stories to enjoy a scary Halloween at home under the blankets
These creepy tales should be read aloud on october 31 with the lights dimmed and a lit flashlight beneath your chin.
Whether you’re going out trick or treating or spooking friends at home, there’s nothing like a spot of storytelling on Halloween and we have prepared a selection of dark tales to make your hair stand on end.
Part of the fun is adapting the stories as you tell them to make them seem to have happened close to your own home – or the home of a member of your audience. We have left a blank space (like this: “[....]”) for you to insert your location of choice.
1. Head hunter
A family of four – two young children and their parents – were traveling on the road to [....] when their car broke down. The parents went out to look for help and left the radio on for the kids in case they got bored. By nightfall, the parents still hadn’t returned. Sat in the darkness, the children continued to listen to the radio and grew alarmed when they heard that a dangerous killer was on the loose, having escaped from a prison nearby. The newsreader warned listeners to take extreme care when going about their business.
Time passed and the children waited. The silence outside the car was absolute until, suddenly, they heard knocking on the car roof above them. “Clank, clank, clank.” The knocks grew louder and faster. “Douff, douff, douff.” Unable to bear it any longer, the children opened the car doors and fled in terror.
Only the eldest dared to turn to see the source of their fear. On top of the car was a large man, who was bouncing two objects on the top of the vehicle: the heads of the children’s parents.
[Compiled by camp monitors]
2. The madman under the bed
This is the story of a young girl from [....], called Sara. As a child, Sara was afraid of the dark and got a dog to keep her company. Subsequently, she slept peacefully knowing the dog was under her bed; if she was afraid, she only had to reach out her hand, and her dog would start licking it until she fell asleep.
Years went by like this and Sara grew up and the dog became old. One night, on the radio, she heard that a dangerous murderer was thought to be in the vicinity of [....]. With her dog at her side, Sara was not afraid: she got into bed, stretched out her hand and the dog, as was its wont, began to lick her.
She slept soundly and, when she woke up, she was surprised that the dog was still licking. Looking under the bed, she screamed. The dog lay dead and the tongue that was so tirelessly licking her belonged to a man.
[Compiled by camp monitors].
3. The graveyard challenge
Several teenage girls went for a sleepover at a friend’s house, taking advantage of the fact that the parents were away. When they turned out the lights, they started talking about an old man who had just been buried in a nearby cemetery. It was said that he had been buried alive and could be heard scratching at the coffin, trying to get out.
One of the girls scoffed at the idea, so the others dared her to go visit the grave right there and then. As proof that she had actually gone, she was to drive a wooden stake into the earth of the grave. The girl left and her friends lay waiting for her to return.
But the hours went by and their friend failed to materialize. They lay awake, increasingly terrified. Morning came and the girl still had not appeared. So, when the parents came back, they all went down to the cemetery. There they found the girl lying on the grave. Dead. When she had bent down to drive the stake into the ground, she had caught the hem of her skirt. Struggling to get up, she thought the buried man had grabbed her. It was concluded that she died of fright.
[From Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. The Book of Scary Urban Legends , by Jan Harold Brunvand].
4. “Have you been up to check the kids?”
A teenage girl was asked to babysit for a family that lived in a huge, luxurious house. It was her first evening on the job and, after she put the children to bed upstairs, she sat down in front of the TV. But no sooner had she settled there than the phone rang. The caller was a man. Gasping and laughing menacingly, he asked, “Have been up to check the children?”
The babysitter hung up, convinced that her friends were playing a joke on her, but the man called again, and again he asked, “Have you been up to check the children?” Again, she hung up, now frightened, but the man called a third time. This time, he said, “I’ve taken care of the kids, now I’m coming for you!”
By now, the babysitter was truly terrified. She called the police and reported the calls. The police told her to try to distract the man the next time he phoned to give them time to trace the call.
As expected, the man called back. The babysitter begged him to leave her alone, thus keeping him on the line for longer. Eventually he hung up. Immediately, the phone rang again. This time, it was the police: “Leave the house fast! The calls are coming from upstairs!”
[From Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid. The Book of Scary Urban Legends , by Jan Harold Brunvand].
5. The bony hand
A seven-year-old girl was left with her grandmother in her small apartment while her parents went to the movies. Grandmother and granddaughter had dinner together and chatted for a while. At ten o’clock, the grandmother picked up her sewing, and the little girl turned on the TV. They were sitting companionably together when the grandmother got a terrible thirst and asked her granddaughter to bring her a glass of water.
“It’s too dark,” said the girl.
“Don’t be scared. Follow the corridor. There’s a switch right next to the bathroom door.”
The girl got up and felt her way along the wall of the corridor, groping for the switch. As she reached the bathroom, she stopped and felt around, only to come into contact with a bony hand that tried to drag her into the bathroom. The girl managed to pull away and ran, screaming and crying, back to her grandmother. After the incident, the girl needed psychological treatment. What happened, has never been established, though no one but the grandmother and the girl were in the apartment at the time.
[From the Scary Stories for Camps section of the oral popular culture website Anecdonet].
6. Come play with me
Some time ago, a friend of mine and I decided to do the Ouija board for the first time, something we had never dared to do before. We called two other friends to come and do it with us as I had been told that it was more likely something would happen if there were more people. We had a hard time convincing the other two, but, in the end, they agreed to come along. We got everything ready and, feeling a bit nervous, got started.
During the session, one of the girls we had called to join us said: “This is nonsense. I’m out of here.” We got a little scared and decided to leave it for another time.
After a few days, the girl who had left called me, beside herself. She said that, as she was passing a derelict house near her home on the way back from the local library, a little girl dressed in white had asked to play with her. My friend told her that she couldn’t as she was in a hurry to get home, and immediately the girl began to cry tears of blood. My friend fled and when she got home, she called me. At first, I thought she was pulling my leg, but something told me that was not the case.
I began to think about the day we had done the Ouija board and how abrupt my friend had been when she had got up to leave. I didn’t give it much more thought and went to bed. The next day, my friend called me because she was going to be home alone studying and, as she was scared, she asked me to keep her company. I took a bus over to hers and we settled down with our books. After a while, we heard a scratching noise behind us. We both looked up and were horrified to find that the girl she had described to me was sitting on my friend’s bed, scratching the wall. We ran out of the room and when we got to the front door, I noticed that my friend was not there, but I was so terrified, I couldn’t make myself wait for her.
Shortly afterwards, the police called my house to tell me that my friend had died of an asthma attack. She had been found on the stairs of her house, with a terrified expression on her face. For several months after that, I was in treatment. I am now recovering, but the other day, a note appeared in my mailbox written in a little girl’s hand that read, “Your friend died because she wouldn’t play with me. I have a new doll...” I think it’s a joke, since our story has become famous in our town, but on the other hand I’m scared. I wonder, will she come for me?
[From the Scary Stories for Camps section of the Anecdonet oral popular culture website].
7. Room for one more
A man named Joseph Blackwell came to [....] on a business trip. He stayed at the large house some friends owned on the outskirts of the city. That night they had a pleasant evening chatting and reminiscing about the past. But when Blackwell went to bed, he began to toss and turn and was unable to sleep.
At one point during the night, he heard a car pull into the driveway. He went to the window to see who might be arriving at such a late hour. In the moonlight, he saw a black hearse full of people. The driver looked up at him. When Blackwell saw his strange face, he shuddered. The driver called to him, “There’s room for one more.” He then waited a minute or two before driving off.
In the morning, Blackwell told his friends what had happened. “You were dreaming,” they said. “That must have been it,” he replied, “but it didn’t seem like a dream.” After breakfast he left for town and spent the day in the offices of one of the new high-rise buildings in the city.
Late in the afternoon, he was ready to go back to the house and was waiting for the elevator to take him down to the ground floor . But when it stopped at his floor, it was very full. One of the people inside looked at him and said, “There’s room for one more.” It was the driver of the hearse. “No, thank you,” Blackwell said. “I’ll wait for the next one.”
The doors closed and the elevator began to descend. Moments later, there was a terrible crash and shouts and screams could be heard. The elevator had collapsed. All the people inside were killed.
[From Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark , by Alvin Schwartz].
8. Rings on her fingers
Daisy Clark had been in a coma for over a month when the doctor declared her dead. She was buried on a cool summer day in a small cemetery about a mile from her home.
“May she always rest in peace,” her husband said. But that was not how it turned out. Late that night, a grave robber armed with a shovel and a flashlight began to dig her up. As the earth was still loose, he quickly reached the coffin and opened it. His hunch was right. Daisy had been buried wearing two valuable rings: a diamond wedding ring and another studded with a brilliant ruby.
The thief knelt down and reached inside the coffin to take the rings, but they were completely stuck on Daisy’s fingers. He decided that the only way to get them was to cut off her fingers. But when he took out his knife and began to saw at the flesh, it began to bleed, and Daisy began to twitch. Suddenly, she sat up! Terrified, the thief scrambled to his feet, accidentally knocking his flashlight which went out.
In the dark, he could hear Daisy emerge from her grave. The thief stood frozen, clutching the knife in his hand. On seeing him there, Daisy covered herself with her shroud and asked, “Who are you?” Hearing the “corpse” speak, the grave robber ran. Daisy shrugged and kept walking, not bothering to look back.
Seized by fear and confusion, the thief fled in the wrong direction and fell headfirst into the open grave, onto his own knife. As Daisy walked home, the thief bled to death.
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Scary Short Stories To Teach Around Halloween
I absolutely adore teaching scary short stories in ELA . The suspense, the spooky twists and turns in the creepy plot lines, and the sinister characters always seem to draw students in. This is why I use Halloween as an excuse to spend Octobers studying my favorite scary short stories. Below you’ll find a list of my absolute favorite scary short stories that are great to teach around Halloween (or really at any time in the year) along with some teaching tips and assignment ideas to accompany each of them.
1. A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury follows Eckels, a hunter who pays to go back in time to hunt the most ferocious beast that ever lived, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The hunters are given strict instructions not to touch anything while visiting the past as any small interruption of the natural process could have an irreversible effect on the future. Unfortunately, when fear enters the equation, things don’t quite go as planned!
When I teach this story, I usually begin with a little pre-reading discussion on time travel. I have students imagine that they have access to a time machine and have the opportunity to go back to witness a historical event or meet a particular person from the past. You’ll be really surprised at the variety of choices from your students. I also have them consider whether the invention of time travel would be a positive or a negative thing.
The literary elements I focus on during this story are characterization (particularly the development of Eckels) foreshadowing, figurative comparisons (metaphor, simile, and personification are used throughout the text), and the theme that even small things can have a big impact (the butterfly effect).
I also love to show them the EC Comics adaptation of the story as it stays incredibly true to the plotline and hooks even your most reluctant readers.
Bradbury is known for his ability to create vivid images for his readers. Therefore, as a final assignment, I focus on improving students’ descriptive writing by having them examine Bradbury’s incredible description of the T-Rex.
2. Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
In Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl , Mary Maloney, a loving and devoted housewife receives the terrible and unexpected news that her husband is leaving her. Mary, in her incredible shock, enters a trance and commits an unspeakable act that no one sees coming.
I do a whole-class reading of this story and choose students to play the different roles. I bring in some basic costume props (and by bring in, I mean swipe from the school’s theatre costume room) and have students come to the front of the class to read their lines and act out the scene. They really get into the story this way, and of course, they love the part with the frozen lamb leg! A little tip: print out a script for each character and highlight each of their individual parts. It makes things go much more smoothly.
Here is a list of what you might want to have for costumes and props
- Yarn/thread and needle
- Something that looks like a leg of lamb (I just stuff a brown paper bag – see picture below)
- Potatoes, a can of beans, and cheesecake (you can also just print pictures of these things)
- A woman’s dress (for Mary)
- An apron (for the grocer)
- Dress shirts with police badges (print a badge) for Patrick, Noonan, and O’Malley
The literary element I focus most on with this story is dramatic irony. We also discuss the idea of guilt and whether or not Mary’s actions were justified. It always makes for an interesting ethical discussion.
As a final creative assignment, I have students write Mary Maloney’s Secret Diary. They write three entries from specific important moments in the plot.
3. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Enter the mind of a disturbed narrator attempting to convince the reader of his sanity while telling the story of how he came to commit a murder. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe focuses on the reasons for the man’s actions, the process he takes, and the guilt and paranoia he feels.
There are lots of new vocabulary terms in this story, so before we even begin reading, we do some pre-reading vocabulary work to prep students for this more challenging read. After reading, we also do some work with figurative language as Poe so skillfully uses alliteration, simile, and personification in this story as a tool to enhance description. I also have students examine the internal conflict (person vs. self) of the speaker and consider whether or not he is a reliable or unreliable narrator.
1. The first one has students create a detailed police report from one of the police officer’s perspective. Students will include a detailed account of the ‘suspect’, the crime scene, and the evidence.
2. The second assignment has students write a prequel or a sequel to the story. If students choose prequel, they explain how the narrator came to live with the old man and what came to make him so fearful of “the eye.” If students choose sequel, they will explain what happens after the speaker confesses his crime.
4. The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
In The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs , Sergeant-Major Morris arrives at the White family residence with a monkey’s paw that has the power to grant three wishes. He warns the family that the paw is cursed and attempts to burn it in the fire, but Mr. White snatches it up for himself. Through a series of unfortunate events, the family learns that perhaps it is true that you should be careful what you wish for!
The literary elements I focus on in this story are mood (shifts dramatically from the start of this story to the end), symbolism (the paw as a symbol for greed), and allusion (Arabian Nights & Aladdin).
I also have students complete an “It Says, I Say, And So” Character Analysis for each of the characters. This type of graphic organizer has students find a passage from the reading that reveals a character trait (It Says). In the second column, students explain the personality trait revealed (I Say), and in the final column, they explain why/how this character trait is revealed (And So).
As a final assignment, students imagine that Mr. White can’t locate the monkey’s paw when his wife unbolts the door. They have to write an alternate ending and describe what is on the other side of the door!
5. The Open Window by Saki
In The Open Window by Saki, trickster, Vera, tells a spooky ghost story to the unsuspecting and nervous Mr. Nuttel. He is the perfect victim for her plot, and she sets the story up to give him a rather shocking ending.
This is a typical Saki story with a light-hearted beginning and a macabre twist ending. The story is useful for examining situational irony and flashback. After some preliminary work with vocabulary and some reading comprehension questions, I use this story to help students examine the plot diagram. Although it does employ flashback, it is actually a fairly typical plot structure for students to examine and understand the story arc.
I end with a creative writing exercise where students take on the role of the nervous and anxious Mr. Nuttel at the end of the story and write a letter to his sister after he has bolted out of the Sappleton residence.
6. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
In The Lottery by Shirley Jackson , the villagers of a small town gather in the town square for the annual tradition of the town lottery. As the story progresses, the reader soon realizea that this is a lottery that one might not want to win.
I love to start this story off with a bit of discussion about strange traditions that we still follow today (trick or treating, the President pardoning the turkey for Thanksgiving, predicting the weather with a groundhog). Students discuss why we follow traditions, whether they are easy to change, and what superstitions they have.
Symbolism is so important in The Lottery, so we spend time discussing symbolism before we even begin reading. I tell them to pay attention to descriptions of setting, weather, character names, and objects in the story and consider what they might symbolize.
As a final assignment, students create a newspaper for the town in which The Lottery is set. They write a headline article explaining the results of this year’s lottery, a special interview with a character, an obituary for Mrs. Hutchinson, and a life and times article about a topic of their choice.
7. The Landlady by Roald Dahl
The Landlady by Roald Dahl tells the story of Billy Weaver, a successful businessman who travels to a small city called Bath. He finds a local bed and breakfast for lodging that is run by a landlady. Billy comes to learn that the only two other guests who have ever stayed at the B&B have names that he recognizes. The reader may soon learn that the landlady is not as innocent as she first appears.
There are lots of elements to discuss in The Landlady (characterization, mood, foreshadowing, setting). Because of this, I created an analysis booklet for students to complete after reading this story. It includes 6 analysis questions a graphic organizer to analyze character traits of either Billy or the landlady. It also includes a creative response where students write a headline article about what happens to Billy after the story.
These scary short stories are sure to engage your students and help them dig deeper into the elements of fiction. If you’re looking for other ways to bring the spirit of Halloween into your classroom, click here.
Get each of these scary short story units in a ready-to-use bundle by clicking here.
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10 Scary Short Stories To Share With Your Students This October
You can’t get scared if you read them in the daylight, right?
I always loved walking into English class in October and discovering my teacher had a scary short story for us to read. Sometimes, they’d dim the lights and have creepy music playing softly in the background. We’d all dive in, eager to see if it really was as scary as we hoped. When I became an English teacher, I continued that tradition. And now I’m always on the lookout for new, spooky short stories. This year, I found a few new ones I’d never heard of before, as well as rediscovered some classic, scary short stories I can’t wait to show my students. Here are the ten scary short stories I was most excited to find, as well as how a teacher might use them in a lesson.
1. Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor
This scary short story takes place in Nigeria. The three main characters are all Nigerian women with a powerful secret. As the main character desperately tries to undo the consequences of her terrible scientific experiment/invention gone wrong, your students will definitely pick up on some similarities to Frankenstein and other classic horror stories.
Lessons on characterization, mood/tone, and thematic ideas like the consequences of scientific experimentation. Comparisons to other horror or science-fiction stories are easily made as well. It would be an excellent companion piece to a unit studying Frankenstein .
2. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson
In this creepy, atmospheric piece, the narrator wonders if the things he sees are real or if he has lost his mind. His house seems to be changing. His family too. Eventually, he realizes there’s nothing and no one he can trust. And we realize that maybe we shouldn’t trust him either.
This tale is short on stereotypical scares and high on a slowly building sense of dread. Because of this, it’s better suited for high school students. It would be a perfect piece to begin or elaborate on a lesson about unreliable narrators as well as how authors develop mood and tone. If you had a scary short story unit, it would be excellent as a modern companion piece to “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “A Cask of Amontillado.”
3. The Flowers by Alice Walker
This is another short story better suited for older students. Alice Walker’s coming-of-age story about a young Black girl named Myop discovering the chilling evidence of a long-past lynching isn’t one to hand out without a lot of preparation. It is a surprisingly powerful story, especially when you consider it is only two pages long. Walker’s use of setting as a way to illustrate how Myop’s worldview changes is definitely worth sharing with your students. Just be prepared for some heavy conversation about the history of racially motivated violence and its effects on young people.
Have students pay close attention to how Walker’s descriptions of the setting change as the story progresses and why she makes those choices. Discuss how Walker uses irony by writing such a dark story and setting it during a bright, sunny summer day. Ask students to determine what they believe are important thematic statements for this story.
4. His Face All Red by E.M. Carroll
It’s always beneficial to share a good graphic novel with your class. I was excited to find this one by E.M. Carroll, a graphic novelist who writes horror stories. Not all of his work is school-appropriate, so this scary short story is a perfect find. The story revolves around a young man who is convinced his brother isn’t who he says he is. He knows this because … wait for it … he murdered his brother earlier that week.
Perfect for discussions about how graphic novels differ from “regular” novels or for an examination of how authors show literary elements like characterization, setting, suspense, or dialogue in graphic novel form. Discussions of unreliable narrators or any unit with elements of suspense could also add this story as a companion piece.
5. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Ok, this one’s an oldie but a goodie. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have an immediate reaction to the end of this scary short story. There’s something about what Jackson leaves out of this tale of a small town and its strangest tradition that is almost infuriating. There’s no real violence in this story; it’s more implied, which makes it perfect for middle grades. Fair warning, though, it’s also what will make students respond so strongly to the story. Be prepared for students who love the open-ended ending and some who absolutely hate it.
This would be a wonderful text to assign as the core text for a Socratic seminar. All students will be able to come up with at least a few questions about the story and its characters. More complex questions about peer pressure, mob mentality, and traditions would add to the depth of the discussion. A fun creative-writing activity might have students write a prequel that explains the origins of the lottery or challenge students to write an open-ended short story of their own.
6. Lacrimosa by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia might be better known for her full-length novel, Mexican Gothic . But she also can spin one heck of a scary short story. In this story, readers will follow a Mexican man living in Vancouver. Although he is relatively successful, he is unhappy. Guilt over not doing more to support his family in Mexico, he begins to believe he is being stalked by a vengeful spirit.
Because of its obvious connection to the horror movie La Llorona , students might enjoy this new look at a story they’re already somewhat familiar with. The question of whether or not the main character is truly being haunted or if it’s just a metaphor for his guilt will certainly lead to a higher-level discussion about his motivations. This also would be a great piece to use for discussions about mood/tone.
7. The Landlady by Roald Dahl
This is another classic, but it will be new to many of your students. They’ll get a kick out of learning just how macabre the man who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory really was. While there’s no overt violence, the idea that the danger comes from the person you least suspect makes this a perfect addition to your collection of scary short stories.
Finding a narrative students are willing to reread after they’ve finished reading it a first time is a challenge. This one, however, is one I’ve never had trouble with. Students love returning to this story to find the first moments when Dahl foreshadows that everything is not what it seems. You can also use it in lessons about how authors develop characters through dialogue. The landlady gives herself away several times throughout the story if you know where to look.
8. Haunted by Harris Tobias
Looking for a new Halloween tale for your younger students? This haunted house story is perfect for students who can handle a little bit of scary, but not too much. In this story, the haunted house is trying to send a message to its new owner, but it’s not the message your students might expect from a typical scary story.
Several great conversations could come from a reading of this story in class. What can go wrong if we jump to conclusions and how we should ask for help when we’re afraid are two excellent topics for younger readers to tackle. Having students create their own versions of spooky creatures that are just misunderstood would make for a fun Halloween lesson as well.
9. Cow’s Head retold by S.E. Schlosser
Another great choice for younger students, this retelling of a Ukrainian folktale has just enough spooky elements to make it perfect for a Halloween lesson without crossing into truly scary territory. It feels a little bit like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel mashed together … with a cow’s head.
This would be an excellent addition to a unit on folklore or fairy tales. Students could be encouraged to make up their own creepy folktale using similar elements to those found in the story. The teacher could also use this story as an extended thinking activity, asking students to identify the similarities to folktales from other cultures.
10. Patient Zero by Tananarive Due
Just creepy enough for middle or high school students without going too far with the “deadly virus” imagery, Patient Zero is the story of Jay. He spends most of his days being taught about the Constitution and edible plants by his teacher and having blood drawn by doctors who seem a little afraid of him. The reader is left to piece together what has happened from the snippets of life Jay writes about in his journal.
This would be an awesome scary short story for a science teacher to use as a launch for lessons about viruses and asymptomatic carriers. It could also be used as the source material for a Socratic seminar or fishbowl discussion about ethics in times of crisis. What should be done with Jay? If you’ve already introduced the concept of unreliable narrators to your class with stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” it could also be useful to show them that unreliable narrators can be unreliable for reasons other than madness, for example, because they’re children who don’t fully understand what’s happening to them.
Looking for even more short stories to share with your class? 51 Great Short Stories to Teach in Middle School
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