23 Scary Stories For Kids To Tell In The Dark

Scary Stories For Kids With Images

Image: iStock

Storytelling is one of the most effective tools to engage kids. Of all the genres out there, horror or thrillers are not as popular as fantasy fiction and adventure. But scary stories can be entertaining for children. But the question is how scary should the story be for children?

MomJunction tells you 23 scary stories for kids that you can narrate them, possibly with some sound effects and drama. We also give you tips on telling these stories. Read on.

Scary Stories For Kids To Tell:

Are Scary Stories For Children Of All Ages?

Scary stories are not always bad for kids. Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim believed that children should be allowed to deal with dark themes like abandonment, violence, and death for development.

That said, parents should exercise caution to prevent kids from being overly exposed to the horror or macabre genres early on, as that can have a profound effect later in their in their life (1).

Until they are of a mature age, it is best to prevent kids from reading horror stories or watching horror movies, because books and movies can be graphic and leave a traumatic image in children’s minds.

Scary stories are not for toddlers. These stories should not be considered for children who may have difficulty understanding the difference between reality and fiction.

[ Read: Storytelling For Kids ]

21 Short Scary Stories For Kids

Here is a collection of top scary and spooky stories you can tell your kids. What you are about to read are short, abridged versions and summaries of the actual stories. You can add dialogues of your own when you narrate the story to make it interesting.

Urban Legends for Kids

Urban Legends for Kids

Image: Shutterstock

Let’s begin with a few urban legends that fascinate kids. Urban legends are myths or folklore passed on from generation to generation.

1. The Hook

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

One evening, a teenage boy took his date to the secluded lovers lane for some alone time. That same day, his girlfriend had heard about an insane man who had escaped from an asylum. He was called ‘The Hook’ because his right hand was cut off and was replaced by what looked like a hook.

It was very dark that night. The teenagers were in the car and began cuddling up when the announcer on the radio repeated the warning about ‘The Hook’. On hearing it again, the girl got scared and insisted that they get out of the place immediately. Just then, the car shakes vehemently, as if someone has hit it or was pushing it.

Equally scared, the boy starts the engine and drives away from that place and back into the town. Once they were back on the road with some traffic and people, the kids decide to stop at a coffee shop for some food. When the girl gets out, she is shocked to see something hanging from the passenger door’s handle – it was a bloody hook!

Notes for telling: Create interest around how the girl gets frightened when the car moves and how they get out of the place quickly, giving an impression that the hook may have been caught in the door because they sped away.

[ Read: Princess Stories For Kids ]

2. Candyman

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

Once upon a time, there was a slave named Daniel. He worked at a candy factory in New Orleans. He was also a talented painter, who was hired to paint a portrait of the mill owner’s daughter Rose. Daniel and Rose fall in love, which makes her father angry. The townspeople also get upset with the fact that the slave fell in love with a wealthy man’s daughter. An angry mob chased Daniel out of the town with pitchforks and tortured and killed him for loving a woman who belonged to the aristocracy.

Daniel died in pain, but his spirit never left the world. It is said that even today, Daniel’s ghost comes to you if you say the word ‘Candyman’ five times. So remember, you can say the word Candyman once, twice, or even thrice but never five times. If you do, you’ll be sorry!

Notes for telling: Do not focus too much on how the Candyman was killed, as it can leave an impression on their minds. You could, however, emphasize on why they should not say the word five times.

3. The 13th floor

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

According to legend, there is a haunted house somewhere in Pennsylvania. A long time ago, people were asked to visit the house for a Halloween party, and no one knew it was haunted. Jack and Mary were among those who went to the party, and they even signed a waiver that they were there on their accord, and no one forced them to be there.

Both Jack and Mary were excited about the party and the little adventure that led them to the house. They had to pass through numerous identical hallways and staircases to reach the 13th floor. On each floor, there were people who were dressed in Halloween costumes to scare the guests and entertain them. A lot of people were scared to go to the 13th floor. They had left before they reached there. Jack and Mary did not. They went up to figure out what was on that floor.

Did they find out what was in the haunted house? We will never know because they never made it back. (You could use a low voice here to make the ending dramatic)

Notes for telling: Use voice modulations to emphasize how the couple was feeling through the journey.

4. The Flying Dutchman

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

In 1961, a Dutch ship called the Flying Dutchman was traveling the seas, approaching the Cape of Good Hope. The captain saw black clouds looming and realized that they were going straight into a storm. The crew tried hard to stay afloat and at one point they thought they were safe. But luck wasn’t with them. The ship was sinking when the captain screamed –“I will round the cape if it means I have to keep sailing until the end of time”. To this day, if you travel in a storm near the Cape of Good Hope, you’ll find the Flying Dutchman sailing into the storm, along with its captain and the entire crew.

Notes for telling: Try to create drama when talking like the captain and in the end narrate slowly about how one can find the ghost ship sailing across the Pacific.

5. The Clown Statue

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

A family with two little boys lived in a huge house. A few days after they moved in, the kids started complaining about a clown who kept coming into their room. The father dismissed their claims as imagination.

One day, a young girl came to babysit the kids. The parents tell the girl that she can watch TV after the kids go to bed, but asked her to use the basement and not the living room. After putting the kids to bed, the girl went to the basement to watch TV. But she started feeling uncomfortable because of the clown statue in the corner. She called the father and told him about it, and asked if she can watch TV in the hall instead.

The father said, “Stay calm. Take the kids and go to the neighbors. Call me from there. We’re coming home.” The girl did as the father asked and wnt to the neighbors. She called him back from there and asked, “What’s going on?” The father replied, “We don’t have a clown statue.”

Notes for telling: Create a little eeriness when mentioning the statue. You could even show how the girl would see the statue from the corner of the eye. Towards the end, emphasize on the urgency that the girl displays on getting the kids out of the house.

6. The Stare

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

It was late one night, and a young girl was traveling by subway. Across her sat two old men and between them was an old woman. The old lady was staring at the girl. The girl looked away, but the woman kept staring at her. At the next stop, a man in a trench coat got on the train. He sat next to the girl. The woman was still staring at her, while the two old men weren’t bothered at all. When the train stopped at the next station, the man in the trench coat got up and grabbed the girl’s arm suddenly. He dragged her out of the train, just as the doors closed.

She found herself alone on the platform with the man in the trench coat and began screaming. The man held her arms and said– “Calm down lady! I just saved your life. The woman sitting across you was dead. The two old guys were just propping her up!”

Notes for telling: Build up suspense and thrill towards the end, when the lady is taken out by the man in the trench coat. Get a little dramatic when delivering the man’s dialogue in the end.

Scary Ghost Stories for Kids

Ghosts are not real. But your kids can surely enjoy a tale or two about these non-existent creatures.

Scary Ghost Stories for Kids

Image: Shutterstock

7. The Army Of The Dead

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

After the civil war, a laundress and her husband moved to the city of Charleston. They lived in a house at the end of a street. Every night, the woman would hear footsteps outside the window. She told her husband of the same, but he just told her not to look out. She discussed this with her neighbor, who told her that the footsteps are of the Confederate soldiers who died in a hospital nearby. They did not know they are dead and march to fight the Southern soldiers every night.

The next night, the woman heard the noise and without heeding her husband’s advice, peered out of the window. What she saw horrified her. The sound was indeed made by the army of the dead – dead soldiers walking like zombies, grumbling, and marching to the war, followed by horses, ambulances, and cannons dragged by them.

Notes for telling: Emphasize on the description of the army of what the laundress sees. You could even make it a little funny by trying to walk like a zombie soldier.

[ Read: Short Animal Stories For Kids ]

8. The Maid

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

A long time ago, a widowed man and his little boy moved to a new town. They bought a big house, which the locals said was haunted. The man did not believe in rumors. On the first day in the house, the kid wandered around the house and went into the kitchen as he was hungry. There he met the maid, a young woman, who was kind enough to give him a glass of milk and a piece of fresh fruit. They began talking, and she told him that there could be ghosts in the house.

After a while, the boy goes back to his father’s study and asked him, “Father, do you think there are ghosts in the house?” “Nonsense,” the father replied, “who has been telling you all this?” The boy told him about his encounter with the maid. As soon as he heard that, the man said “Son, pack your bags. We have to leave.” “Why?” asked the kid. To which the dad replied, “We don’t have a maid, son.”

Notes for telling: Slow down at the ending, give a dramatic pause before the father tells the son that they do not have a maid.

9. Mr. Sullivan

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

One day, John Sullivan found himself walking along the road. He had no idea where he was, and how he had come there. He approached a woman nearby to ask her the time and where he was. As he neared, the woman let out a scream and ran away. John was surprised but he kept walking. Everyone he approached seemed to be scared of him, which confused him. He finally decided to go home and called a taxi. The taxi driver took one look at him and sped away.

Frustrated, the man found a phone booth and called his wife. A man answered his wife’s phone and said –“I’m sorry, but Mrs. Sullivan is at her husband’s funeral. He died in a car accident last night.” Horrified, John looked at his reflection in the booth’s glass and saw a bloodied face with bruises everywhere. And then he screamed – “Aaaargh!”

Notes for telling: Narrate it with expressions to portray what John is feeling. Drag the ending right from the phone call until you scream out loud.

10. Who’s In The Bedroom?

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

Betty came home late one night and went into her bedroom, one that she shared with her sister. Before switching on the light, she asks her sister “Are you awake?” Her sister replied, “Almost. Stop being noisy and get to bed. Now!” Betty was a little taken aback by her sister’s manner but ignored her and went to the bathroom for a quick shower. She waited outside the bathroom, which was occupied. Her mother came out of her room and asked her why she was standing there. Betty said that she is waiting for her dad to come out so she could take a shower.

“But dad is fast asleep in the room,” said her mom. Betty was confused, but before she could say anything, the bathroom door opened, and her sister came out. Betty was shocked to see her sister, and rushed back to their room and switched the light on. Her sister’s bed was empty.

Notes for telling: Make the ending a little dramatic – pause before you say “Her sister’s bed is empty.”

11. White Dog

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

An old woman lived alone in a house by the woods. She wasn’t away from civilization but her house was at least a block away from the others’. She had no friends, except for a little white dog that followed her everywhere. The dog loved sleeping near the fireplace when it was cold but never climbed her bed. It would crawl under the bed at times and lick the old woman’s hands every time she petted it.

One cold night the woman fell asleep reading the newspaper. She woke up with a start in the middle of the night when she felt her dog licking her hand from under the bed. She smiled when she realized it was the dog. She set the newspaper aside and got up to switch off the light when she saw the dog lying next to the warm fireplace in the living room.

Notes for telling: Towards the end, drag the scenes a little and narrate slowly just before you talk about the part where the dog is found near the fireplace.

Spooky Campfire Stories For Kids

Campfire stories are some of the best scary stories there are for kids.

Spooky Campfire Stories For Kids

Image: Shutterstock / iStock

[ Read: Adventure Stories For Kids ]

12. The Hairy Toe

Age Recommendation: 7 years and up

The hairy toe is not very scary and can be funny for some, depending on how it is narrated.

One day, a woman was planting some saplings in her garden when she found a big hairy toe in the dirt. Fascinated, she took the toe and put it in a jar inside the house. Later that night, when she went to bed, she heard the wind howling “Where is my hairy toe?” The woman was startled and thought it was her imagination. She heard the same thing again. She went under the covers as she was very scared, but still, hears the wind howling.

Notes for telling: You can continue asking the question a few more times and finally, ask it in a quiet whisper and scream out “You got it!” Be careful not to overdo it or increase the suspense so high that your kid gets shocked.

13. The Wrapping Paper

Age Recommendation: 8 years and up

Judy and Henry lived in a neighborhood near the creek. There was an old, dilapidated house in the same area, which most people believed was haunted. The kids were careful not to venture anywhere near that house. One day, while playing ball, they accidentally threw the ball in the balcony of the haunted house. It was Henry’s favorite ball, one that his dad gave him before going to fight in the war.

Determined to get it, the kids went the house and opened the door. There was no one inside the house, so they decide to go upstairs and get the ball. They took one step and heard a rapping sound from above. The sound kept coming “rap, rap, rap”, as they moved upstairs towards the attic. They kept at it because Henry did not want to lose the ball. In the attic, they saw a large trunk from where the noise was coming. The sound lept growing louder, “rap, rap, rap” and almost felt like someone was knocking.

Curiosity got the better of the kids, and they decided to open the trunk. They were scared to their wits, and slowly opened the trunk door and jumped back. The rapping continued. They moved a step ahead to see what was in it.

Wrapping paper.

Notes for telling: Build suspense when narrating the part about the kids inside the house and as they open the trunk.

14. The Hitchhiker

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

The Hitchhiker is a story that can be shared around the campfire. But this is a slightly scary story and is not apt for younger kids.

One day, a man was driving alone on a highway. It was a night with no moon in sight. All he saw was the road ahead, as far as his car’s headlights went. Suddenly, he saw a figure appear a little ahead of the road. It was a young girl, hitchhiking her way to the next town. The man was surprised to see her so late at night, but asked no questions and let her into the car. The friendly hitchhiker and the man get into a conversation and talked about their lives. The man dropped off the girl at her home in the next town.

The next day, the man found the girl’s sweater in his car. He went back to her house to return it. He knocked on the door, and an old woman answered. He told the old lady that her daughter had forgotten her sweater in his car last night. The old woman stared at him and said calmly, “My daughter died five years ago.”

Notes for telling: Build up a little suspense in the beginning when you talk about the dark night and empty highway. And make the ending a little dramatic – change your voice to sound like an old woman when you say, “My daughter died five years ago.”

15. The Scarecrow

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

A farmer and his family lived on their farm in a village in Arizona. The farmer’s son and his friends decided to build a scarecrow one day. They built one of the ugliest scarecrows possible. That night, there was a storm and the wind was strong. Soon it began to rain with thunder and lightening. The boy woke up with a start and looked out of the window, for his scarecrow.

When the lightning flashed, he was able to see the scarecrow. But it seemed farther than where he had put it. He kept looking out for the scarecrow every time there were lightening and each time the scarecrow seemed to be at a different place, away from where it was in the first place. Thinking that he imagined things, the boy went back to bed only to be woken up by the thunder.

Worried about the scarecrow, he sneaked out into the field and searched for the scarecrow, thinking that the wind blew it away. As he ran to a tree in the field, he tripped over and fell to the ground. He got up clumsily and looked up at the tree – and lo! It was the scarecrow sitting on the branch, looking down at him with blazing red eyes!

Notes for telling: Use voice modulations to indicate the character’s emotions – surprise, fear, confusion – in the story to make ti more interesting.

[ Read: Best Story Books For Kids ]

16. The Girl With The Green Ribbon

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

There was once a little girl who always wore a green ribbon around her neck. She never took it off. In her class was a young boy named Jim, who liked her. Soon they became friends, and he asked her. “Why do you wear that ribbon?” She replies, “I’ll tell you when the time is right.” Years passed and the kids were in high school, and the boy asked her about the ribbon again. She just replied, “Maybe I’ll tell you one day after we are married.”

Years passed and Jim got married to the girl one day. He asked her about the ribbon again, and she said, “I’ll tell you about it when we have kids.” A few years later, they had children. Jim got busy in his work and family responsibilities, and did not ask his wife about the ribbon again. As time passed, Jim got old and sick. On his deathbed, he asked his wife, “Will you at least tell me now?” The woman nodded her head and asked him to remove the ribbon. As soon as he did that, her head fell to the ground and rolled to the door. She smiled and said, “Now you know why I didn’t tell you all these years?”

Notes for telling: You can make the story seem cute all through until the end when it becomes a little creepy. You can make a plopping sound to indicate the falling of the head and give a pause when narrating the climax.

Strange Stories You Can Tell Your Kids

These are not the stories you can tell your kids every day.

Strange Stories You Can Tell Your Kids

Image: iStock

17. The Old Television

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

Many years ago, a couple and their son lived in a city in Spain. The boy had an old television in his room. Every night, when he was tucked into bed by his parents, he would ask them to cover the TV with a cloth. One night, his father asked him why he wanted the TV to be covered. “Because that’s where they come from”, said the boy. The parents brush the boy’s statement, thinking that he imagined things.

One night, the parents go out for dinner and hire a babysitter to take care of the boy. They came back late, after midnight. They opened the door and found the babysitter on the steps, crying uncontrollably. Worried, the parents asked the babysitter what had happened. “They took him away!”, she replied. The parents rushed upstairs to find that cover was off the TV and the boy was gone.

Notes for telling: End the story with a slow pause. Especially when you say the “boy is gone.”

18. Who’s In The Closet?

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

Two young brothers were playing hide and seek one day. Their parents were away at work. The younger brother went to hide, and the older one was counting. After a minute, the older brother shouts “Ready or not, here I come!” He looked everywhere for his brother and finally looked into the closet. He did not find his brother there but moved the the clothes aside to see if his brother was hiding inside.

Suddenly, an icy cold hand grabbed the boy’s hand and began pulling him into the closet. Just then, his little brother said from behind “You were not able to find me!” Petrified, the older brother pulled his hand out of the closet, grabbed his little brother’s hand and ran out of the house. If his brother was outside, who was in the closet?

Notes for telling: Narrate the story with expressions until the end. You could make the last statement a little dramatic to scare the kids.

19. The Walk

Age Recommendation: 7 years and up

This is not a scary story, but can be made one by the way you narrate it.

One day, an old man named John was walking along a deserted road near his home. There was another man walking the same path and in the same direction as John’s. The men looked at each other – both seemed scared of the other. In spite of the fear, both men continued walking. It was getting darker, but the men continued to walk. John looked at the man and was very scared, as was the man who was looking at John.

They continued walking, and before they realized, both John and the man were deep in the woods. The man was scared of John, but John was scared of …

(Scream) Everything!

Notes for telling: Make a big deal about how the two men look at each other and use your own expressions to build their curiosity. Don’t forget to scream at the end – and don’t let them guess that you will.

[ Read: Bedtime Stories For Kids ]

20. The Choking Dog

Age Recommendation: 12 years and up

A couple stayed in a small neighborhood in the suburbs. They had a dog, a Doberman. One day, the couple come back from work to find the dog choking. Worried, they took the dog to the vet, who asked them to leave the dog with him for a procedure to remove whatever was choking it. The couple got back home, after leaving the dog in the vet’s care.

As they entered the home, the phone rang and the man answered it. On the other line was the vet, who sounded worried. “Get out of the house now and call 911.” Worried the couple did so and headed back to the vet’s clinic. The vet shows them what their dog was choking on – “a man’s finger.”

That evening, the police searched the couple’s house and found an intruder with a missing finger.

Notes for telling: Narrate the ending slowly to build suspense about what the dog was choking on.

21. Ten Pounds of Chocolate

Age Recommendation: 10 years and up

Judy and Sarah were standing in front of the house which everyone talked about. It looked haunted, but the lady in the house was giving away big candy bars, weighing at least ten pounds each. They couldn’t resist the temptation and walked down to the house. A small old woman opened the door and greeted them with a grin. She had no teeth. Behind her, in the dark hallway, was a black cat called Sebastian, who glared at them as they took their candy bars. The girls thanked the old lady for being generous and started walking uphill, back to their homes.

Suddenly, they heard a roar and stopped in their tracks. The girls looked at each other, decided it was the wind, and kept walking. They heard it again and this time, it was loud. The girls were terrified but couldn’t see any animal behind. They began running and dropped the candy bars in their hurry. They lost their candy but were relieved to be home safe.

A minute after they dropped the candy bar, a black panther picked them up and gently placed them on the old lady’s doorstep. She opened the door with the same toothless grin and said with an evil grin, “Good job Sebastian! Just in time too!”, as she saw two young boys walking towards the house.

Notes for telling: Make the escape of the two girls dramatic to build up the excitement.

Best Halloween Stories For Kids:

Here are three short and spooky Halloween stories for kids that will surely entertain. Read on!

22. The Legend of Bride’s Head Bridge:

There’s a bridge called ‘Der Kopf der Braut’ near Hanover in Germany. According to the legend, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, and his wife were riding on the bridge in their horse carriage when an elderly crone blocked their way. The Count (Reichsgraf) ordered the old woman to get off the bridge so that they could resume their journey. But it was dark and the old lady was finding it difficult to herd her sheep off the bridge.

The Count could not take it. He took out his whip and started giving her a sound thrashing. Bleeding and howling in pain, the old witch cursed the carriage. Consequently, as the carriage was crossing the bridge, one of the horses reared up. Gretchen, the wife of the count, fell from the carriage into the river and drowned.

People say that every year at the Halloween, you can see a headless bride standing on the rocks in the middle of the lake. Some say that she looks for her beloved count while others say that she looks for her lost head.

23. Night Ride:

One night, Tom was driving back home when he saw a girl waiting at the bus stop. Tom halted his car and proposed her a ride. The girl accepted and entered in the car. Since the night air was getting nippy, and the girl was feeling cold, Tom gave her his jacket. On the way, he found that the girl’s name was Sally, and she was going home. After a two-hour drive, Tom dropped Sally at her house.

The next day, Tom remembered that that he left his jacket with Sally. He drove to Sally’s house to get his jacket back. An old lady opened the door, and Tom told him about his ride with her daughter Sally. He said that he had come to take the jacket that he had given to Sally.

The old lady was stunned. Just then, Tom saw a photo of Sally on the mantelpiece. He pointed to the woman that she was the lady whom he drove last night. With a shaking voice, the old lady told Tom that it was the picture of her daughter and she died five years ago. She further told him that Sally was buried in a graveyard two hours from their house. Tom hurried down to the burial ground and found his jacket on top of a tomb. The name on the gravestone was Sally.

[ Read: Halloween Movies For Kids ]

8 Tips On How To Narrate Scary Stories For Kids

Narrating a spooky tale to little kids is an art, and should not be taken lightly. Remember that your aim of telling a scary story to a kid or kids is to entertain them, not to scare them. So before you tell a story, you should be prepared.

  1. Read the story thoroughly and see if you can tell the story as is, or it needs a modification to make it less scary for kids. Understand that the same story may be scary for one kid and not to the other.
  1. Horror stories for kids may be scarier than others. Try to make them funny by the way you narrate them.
  1. Be wary of the terms you use – avoid anything like ghosts or spirit or shapes etc., which can be conjured up by your kid’s imagination.
  1. Use different voice modulations to change the mood from interesting to scary and even funny.
  1. You can also include some sound effects to make the plot captivating and less scary.
  1. Never let them believe that the stories you are narrating true. Make it very clear before or after the narration that these stories are fictitious. Such things do not happen in real life.
  1. Stay close to your kid, or better, let them sit in your lap or cuddle up to you when they listen to this story. They’ll feel safer that way.
  1. Avoid telling these stories in the dark, unless it is around a campfire. Try telling these stories during the daytime – they seem less scary and unreal.

Do not dwell on the story for too long, as that can create a lasting impression on your little kid’s mind.

Use discretion to pick stories you think that your child will enjoy. Remember to narrate the story in an interesting way to make it less scary for younger children.

What kind of scary stories do your kids like? Tell us about it here.

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