Top 10 Scary Stories for Kids

Below are our Top 10 Scary Stories for Kids. You can find five of these creepy stories in our Free PDF: Best Short Stories for Middle School. Our PDF is designed for easy printing and reading in middle school classrooms or at home.

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Best Short Stories for Middle School

The scary stories for kids below are a mix of classics and hard-to-find gems, all of them a bit spooky, but none of them featuring graphic violence or gore. All of them are excellent choices for reluctant readers.

The Top 10 Scary Stories for Kids

The Scythe by Ray Bradbury

Where to Read It: The October Country
Included in Our Free PDF: No

A destitute family comes upon an old farm house and a dead man lying in his bed. A note beside him invites whoever finds him to inherit his property and work his fields with his scythe. But every bargain has a price, and the old man’s scythe is far more than it seems.

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Bradbury excels at creepy tales. Here he opens with things off-kilter but not truly horrifying: a lush farm at the end of an empty road, a dead man lying beside a strange will and testament, and a bargain too good to be true. Then he builds slowly but steadily toward the final revelation.

Kids respond well to Bradbury’s simple, straightforward style, his gothic sense of storytelling and his clever twist endings.

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

Where to Read It: Great Tales of Terror & the Supernatural
Included in Our Free PDF: Yes

Big game hunter Sanger Rainsford falls from a boat and washes ashore on a mysterious island owned by the renowned Count Zaroff, who also happens to be a hunter. But what he hunts is the most dangerous game of all…other men.

The world is made up of two classes – the hunters and the huntees.

— Richard Connell

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

While Connell’s tale poses some deep philosophical questions, kids appreciate that he wastes no time getting right into the action. The remote Ship-Trap Island and the horrific Count Zaroff are stereotypes of the genre now, but few stories have utilized them as well as Connell does here. Once the plot starts to turn, the showdown between Zaroff and Rainsford is swift and suspenseful.

Catching Cold by Neal Shusterman

Where to Read It: Darkness Creeping
Included in Our Free PDF: No

All Marty wanted was to catch the ice cream truck that sped through his neighborhood day after day. It never slowed down, and it was always just out of reach. So Marty hatches a plan to finally catch up. But he may not be so happy when he does.

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Every kid knows the familiar jingle of the ice cream truck passing by on the street. How many kids have rushed outside just a little too late and discovered the truck driving swiftly away? Shusterman builds from this common ground and weaves a tale both humorous and horrifying. Kids can relate to Marty’s motivation and frustration, cheering him on even as he finally realizes the price he has to pay for getting his wish.

The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs

Where to Read It: Great Tales of Terror & the Supernatural
Included in Our Free PDF: Yes

A man and wife come into possession of a fabled monkey’s paw which supposedly has the power to grant three wishes. At first they don’t believe, but they make a wish anyway. Their wish is granted, but at a terrible price. And two more wishes remain.

To show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.”

— WW Jacobs

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Few stories have captured the theme of tempting fate like Paw. Kids appreciate the eeriness that pervades the tale from the start and recognize the basic three-wish stereotype. Jacobs twists this scenario into a story of dread and doom, one that will keep kids captivated as they read on to see what will happen with the couple’s final wishes.

I’m Scared by Jack Finney

Where to Read It: About Time
Included in Our Free PDF: No

The narrator of this unsettling tale has begun to notice things that should not be happening, events that suggest the very fabric of reality is coming undone, and that the line between the past, present and future is beginning to blur.

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Finney writes simple, straightforward prose. He excels at taking seemingly odd but forgettable events and twisting them until they seem disorienting and terrifying. Kids appreciate the way Finney presents ideas about time travel and the breakdown between past, present and future. Like Shusterman’s Catching Cold, Finney demonstrates how horror can be found in most normal of environments.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Where to Read It: The Lottery & Other Stories
Included in Our Free PDF: Yes

In a tiny New England village a lottery is held every year, just as it has always been held for as long as anyone remembers. The whole town gathers, slips of paper are drawn, and the winner is declared. And then the terror begins.

Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.

— Shirley Jackson

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

It’s all about that ending. Kids will appreciate the strangeness of Jackson’s tale, the subtle setup of the townspeople gathering stones and partaking in this bizarre lottery. But it’s the ending that blows their minds and forces kids to reassess what had craftily appeared so normal and dull up the final moments of the story.

I’m Not Martin by RL Stine

Where to Read It: The Nightmare Hour
Included in Our Free PDF: No

A boy is scheduled for a simple surgery on Halloween, but he must share a hospital room with another boy, Martin, who appears deranged and unstable. They must pass the night together and go on to their separate surgeries. But not everything goes as planned.

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Another one that’s all about the ending. Many kids have visited the hospital and perhaps even had surgery. No one likes hospitals, and Stine does a fine job making readers uncomfortable with the environment. But his shocker of an ending slams home one of the great phobic fears of all kids and makes this tale utterly unforgettable.

The Hitchhiker by Lucille Fletcher

Where to Read It: Twilight Zone Radio Dramas (Audiobook)
Included in Our Free PDF: Yes

Ronald Adams is crossing the country by car when he notices a strange hitchhiker along the highway. He passes the man by, but farther on up the road he sees him again. And again. And again. Who is the mysterious hitchhiker, and what does he want from Adams?

“I know I’m at this moment — I’m perfectly sane, that it’s not me that’s gone mad — but something else, something utterly beyond my control.

— Lucille Fletcher

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

The novelty of reading a radio drama will likely be a bit distracting at first, but kids will swiftly be pulled into the tale by Fletcher’s superb storytelling. She hooks kids early and unspools a disturbing story that builds tension swiftly and then hits them with a classic twist ending. Another tale that has become a common stereotype in the genre, it has never been done better than Fletcher’s original.

I Am the Doorway by Stephen King

Where to Read It: Night Shift
Included in Our Free PDF: No

Now disabled, Arthur was once an astronaut on a special mission to Venus. After returning to Earth, he discovered that something alien had returned with him, something that is using his body as a doorway to peer into our world. And the doorway is opening wider every day.

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

King’s name alone is a serious draw for kids, and this early story from the master is a doozy. Kids appreciate King’s natural, easy-going style of storytelling and are sucked in by the mounting dread as Arthur realizes that he cannot rid himself of the alien presence inside himself. What appears to be a schlock sci-fi tale ultimately is a fine opener for discussing how outside influences can become apart of us in ways that we cannot remove even after we no longer want them in our lives.

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Where to Read It: The Tell-Tale Heart & Other Writings
Included in Our Free PDF: Yes

The narrator of Poe’s dark tale at first falls in love with and then comes to fear and despise a mangy black cat. In a fit of rage he kills it, only to discover another almost identical cat following him night and day. Is this cat a demon bent on revenge? Or is Poe’s narrator insane?

Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action for no other reason than because he knows he should not?

— Edgar Allan Poe

Why It’s a Great Scary Story for Kids

Poe’s morbid tale of a depraved mind coming unhinged is right up there with Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado. Kids connect with Poe’s willingness to take us right up to the line of decency and then shove us over it. Over 175 years after its first publication, Cat is still shocking. Kids appreciate how Poe walks the line between the supernatural hand of fate and the delusions of insanity, leaving plenty open for discussion when the final page is turned.

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