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

A Halloween parade in Galway (Ireland) on October 28, 2018.
A Halloween parade in Galway (Ireland) on October 28, 2018.Clodagh Kilcoyne (REUTERS)
Pablo Cantó

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.

[From Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz].

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