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3330+ Horror Short Stories to read

Submitted by writers on Reedsy Prompts to our weekly writing contest . From hauntings and murderers to terrifying creatures from the deep, our collection of horror stories will have you breaking out in cold sweats. Take a look… if you dare.

🏆 Winning stories

“ maniacal, manipulative, psychotic ” by lindsay flo.

The storm had felt like a rumor all day, but now, the sky was delivering. For a second, like a knife catching a glint of light and refracting it in multitude, everything gleamed white. The lightning split the whole sky in half, and in that moment, it was brighter than daylight. The tops of the gravestones seemed to pulse like strobe lights in a night club before blackness settled them down again.She was kneeling in front of her sister’s grave. She came here often—after all, that’s what a mourning sister did—but she felt ...

“ Adelaide's Cemetery ” by Lucy Joyce

Death was accompanied by the patter of nurses’ rubber-soled shoes marching briskly along linoleum floors. The smell of antiseptic solution. A gurney wheel, in need of oil, squeaking rhythmically as another patient was rushed past. Starchy white sheets, and the sharp and angular shapes of nurses headdresses.  My body revolted against the crisp order in violent expulsions of browns, greens, and yellows ...

“ Someone Has Died ” by Lonnie Russo

TW: This story contains several depictions and descriptions of death. Someone has died. Of this, I am certain. I know it because I always know it. As I lie here alone in this big, empty bed and listen to the rain, I remember it as it returns to me, this feeling, this dread, skittering up and down my throat with a thousand little legs. It settles in my stomach like a great stone, a solid, sickening weight. It is rancid in its heaviness and unmistakable in its familiarity. Someone has died. I do not know who.<...

⭐️ Recommended stories

“ felinious ” by dan coglianese.

Ben took the same path to and from work every day. From the door to his trailer, he walked on the loose gravel parking lot to the bike path through Mechant Lake Forest Preserve. The path was a four mile loop, but Ben only used a mile long stretch along the east side. Once he got as far south on the path as he could, he trudged through some wild grass and low shrubs for about fifty feet until he emerged on the back lot...

“ Pests ” by Kat Moreno

I have a black cat. I picked her up from the parking lot of my local Dairy Queen as a kitten, and I had to quickly get used to the sound and commotion she made in the night. I laugh at myself when I think back to when I first got my cat and I used to get up several times a night because I thought I someone had broken into the apartment. I would sneak down my hallway my hand would cover my heart as icy dread spre...

“ The Long Goodbye ” by Sophia Jowers

CW: Death, grief I couldn’t even bring myself to throw out your mug. It wasn’t even a nice mug. The rim was chipped. The ceramic was lumpy—I was almost positive you’d made it yourself—and for some reason, you’d painted it the color of pea soup. Out of all of your things, this should have been the easiest to get rid of. And instead I stood in the kitchen for fifteen minutes, like a...

short written horror stories

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“ the eyes of nameless ” by nicholas travis-beck.

To my dear daughter, No one pets Nameless; in fact, they hardly take a single glance at the creature with the twitching tail, which symbolizes some anticipatory agitation. Its eyes are not green, but a foggy gray, not from blindness, but a strange pigment mutation I can’t seem to find through any research. I, myself, can’t even stare at the cat for very long, nor have I ever touched that unsettling thing. I do fe...

“ The Orange Tabby ” by Elizabeth Clark

Henry doesn’t remember how he ended up here, walking in a forest at night, without a phone or anything. Being led by an orange tabby cat, with the sense he should follow it. He was going somewhere; he knew that much. Where or why, he has no clue only that he needs to get there, urgently. He scans his surroundings, pine trees stretching over him menacing, their branches giving off shadows that resemble ...

“ Cats! ” by Jack Kimball

“I know you think I’m crazy, but I’ve found myself.”He’d gone over and was in real trouble; I mean Jack Nicholson Shining trouble. And when he said crazy I heard a whisper in my ear—you are NOT a trained psychologist. Yes, beyond my capability to help, way beyond.Yet, I grew up with my kid brother; I took care of him all the way through high school. Our dad worked at the mill double time, and Mom passed when we were both kids. So it was up to me, Dad said, when he wasn’t around, which ...

“ Granny Reyna is Dying ” by Dana Hammer

The quality of service has decreased dramatically, ever since Granny Reyna moved into the guest room. Laurice used to wake up early in the morning to fix me my breakfast. This feeding would be followed by petting time on the table, me sprawling leisurely near her laptop, inhaling the rich, bitter scent of her coffee, as she stroked my fur worshipfully. It’s true that she was often distracted by the laptop, and I was forc...

“ Life in the Shadow of the Monster. ” by Elijah Rose

Aryeh was not a giant hunter like other cats that once roamed this place. Or at least that's what he thought as he passed the sun bleached skeleton of an ancient hunter. It's skull was large enough to fit Aryeh's whole body within it, and it had only recently been exposed by the winds sweeping waves of sand across the desert. Aryeh trudged on, the soft fur on his oversized paws being all that separated hi...

“ Superstition ” by Ralph Aldrich

“Why in the hell did I ever move to Chicago?” I mutter to myself as I cross the open-air parking lot. I’ve worked late, and it’s about five minutes before midnight. It’s Friday the thirteenth in February, and I can barely keep my eyes open because the wind is sandblasting snow into my face at about forty miles an hour! On top of that, I parked my car at the end of the lot. All the other cars are gone. Only shallow square...

“ Danger Keep Out ” by Patricia Merewether

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.T. S. EliotI stumbled upon the area while photographing and cataloging wild mushrooms of Michigan for MSU, a job I believe is the best in the world, at least ...

“ The Man Made of Broken Glass ” by Henry Corrigan

The Man Made of Broken Glass By Henry Corrigan “Hello, I would like a Red Eye and a blueberry scone, please.” “Don’t be so formal, child. You need to loosen up.” “Nine two eight two zero one three. Nine two eight two zero one three.” “Stop that. I raised you too well for you ...

“ Twenty-Three, Fifty-One ” by Olivia Lake

Age: 23/51 Because he was my physics teacher, I was now in grad school. I said so in my application - my love of physics was sparked and nurtured by Mr. Turner from the moment I stepped into his class. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I would have majored in undergrad, if I would have done research on semiconductors, if I would have pursued my PhD. When he was my physics teac...

“ Too Much Talk ” by Ralph Emery Barhydt

Note: this story is about random sexuality, with a twist.“Take off your clothes.”“What?”“You heard me, take off your clothes.”“Who in holy hell are you?”“I am your next lover.”“Oh my god. Are you crazy? Go back under the rock you slithered out from.”“Am I good looking?”“Who cares?”“Just ask yourself, ‘is this dude good looking.’”“Why should I do that”“It’s important. Just do it.”“OK. Jane is this piece of garbage good looking. Hmm. Well, yes, he...

“ In the belly of the beast ” by Elka Rae

In the belly of the beast I sat, being digested slowly. Every day I am here, I am rotting, rotting, and the calluses on my hands are losing the touch of a woodsman’s labor. I’m surrounded by soft flesh while above me every beautiful sound outside is muted by layers of fat and muscle. My ax is still beside me; the blade is growing dull from all the times I’ve swung into my meaty prison since I was swallowed. All it did wa...

“ Feeding Time ” by Phillip Norman

April 4, 2023, 11:13 PM Empty empty empty empty. Same word repeated for page after tear-stained page. Journal tucked beneath loose floorboard, begging to be found. Caked with dust. Covered in rodent bones. 1121 Lexington Avenue, Boise. Corner property. Quiet part of town. Five houses each side of block. Right side neighbors hear screams. Twice monthly, like clockw...

“ The Stalker ” by Meghin Lane

“So, you’re telling me you’ve killed someone?” “You don’t have to say it like that.” “How am I supposed to say it, Henry? You literally just told me you ended someone’s life! How can I feel safe around you now? I don’t even know who you are anymore!” “I did it for you, don’t you understand? I am not a cold-hearted killer, Mila. You are looking at me as if I’m just a psychopath. I had a reason!” <...

The Best Horror Short Stories

Horror stories. What is it that you think of first? Maybe it’s malevolent, otherworldly spirits. Or perhaps it’s psychopaths, serial killers, and struggling writers driven mad by a deserted hotel? Whatever it is, there’s one thing that unites you and every other horror lover out there — adrenaline. You know the feeling: your skin crawls, your heart pounds, a shiver runs down your spine. And, as all the best horror story writers will tell you, the cause of this feeling isn’t just the presence of a monster, but the creation of suspense. 

That’s where short stories come in. Think Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, H. P. Lovecraft: some of their best horrors take the form of a short story. Tales that climb steadily towards a dark and horrific denouement. The kind of thing that, if you’re brave enough, you’d tell your friends around a campfire — a torch casting spooky shadows on your face. 

Looking for some spine-chilling horror stories?

If you’re into creepy stories that keep you awake at night, then look no further than our collection of short horror stories, compiled from submissions to our weekly writing contest. Here we’ve gathered together all the scary stories that made us want to lock our laptops in a cupboard and hide under the blankets. And at the top of the page, is the cream of the crop: horror stories that have either won our competition or been shortlisted. 

Lots of promising new writers have emerged from this collection, deftly creating atmosphere and building that all-important suspense. So who knows? You might just discover the next Stephen King. And if you enjoy this collection of horror stories, then why not try your hand at writing your own? You could join this week’s short story contest , and walk away with the cash prize — and a shot at publication in Prompted , our new literary magazine!

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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 !

 Stephen King at home in Maine, US.

Top 10 horror short stories

With Halloween looming, these tales by authors from Shirley Jackson to Stephen King are guaranteed to keep you awake as the nights close in

I n the foreword to his anthology Skeleton Crew, Stephen King launched a memorable defence of the horror short story. No, they weren’t failed novels. Neither were they ideas he couldn’t bring himself to bin. Comparing a novel to a long affair, he saw the short story as a “quick kiss in the dark with a stranger … but those kisses can be sweet”.

He is right, of course. Some of literature’s most enduring nightmares are short-form. MR James never wrote a novel. Neither did HP Lovecraft . I would argue that their enduring appeal is also ingrained in our childhood: they’re the bedtime story, the vicious Grimms’ fairytale, the ghost story shared around a crackling campfire.

Along with the Pan horror anthologies I inhaled as a kid, it was those memories I tried to recapture when I wrote my own collection, Silverweed Road . Set on a cursed suburban street, the horrors lurking behind each door unlock tales of were-foxes, predatory swimming pools, vengeful urns and a darts player’s pact with the devil.

While all of the stories interlink to form a weird horror ecosystem, I was never chasing a sustained chill. What I was after was that brief, pleasing trickle of fear only a short story can deliver: what I like to call the pleasure shiver. As the sun sinks, the nights close in and spooky season creeps ever closer, what better time to experience a pleasure shiver or 10?

Horror is a many-tentacled beast. From phantom staircases to sinister taxidermists, here are some favourites – but I readily admit to some painful omissions (no Poe, no Kafka, no Blackwood, I could go on) so I eagerly await your comments.

1. The Tower by Marghanita Laski 
 On a stifling tour of Florence, newlywed Caroline breaks free from her controlling husband to explore the Italian countryside. Beyond a dusty track, on a distant hill, a stone tower beckons … As Caroline journeys up its spiral staircase – counting each step, relishing her freedom – the walls close in on her impossible ascent. Or is it descent? While the phallic tower as a patriarchal totem feels a little obvious, what Laski recounts in sparse prose is anything but: the horror is abstract, the fear suffocating, and Caroline’s fate lurks long in the mind. By the end, you’ll be gripping the page like a rusty handrail. Laski was best known as a vinegary literary critic. The Tower was a rare foray into horror. I wish she had written more.

In the Bag by Ramsey Campbell “The boy’s faced struggled within the plastic bag … His eyes were grey blank holes, full of fog beneath the plastic.” So begins the haunting of Clarke – a militant headmaster who feels no guilt for suffocating his playmate during a childhood prank, long ago yet not forgotten … There is something distinctly, darkly Nabokovian about Campbell’s fiction: a shared obsession with the enigma of memory, and how we cope with it. In the Bag is a masterful example: his blurring of past trauma with the supernatural is the literary equivalent of knitting fog. Clarke’s cruel fate is exceptionally nasty. Like all great horror stories, it ends with a gasp.

 3. Survivor Type by Stephen King 
 Of King’s 200-plus stories, I always come back to this one. Offering a day-by-day narrative drive, the diary is perfect for short stories. In Survivor Type, disgraced surgeon turned drug smuggler Richard Pine finds himself marooned on a barren island. As he awaits rescue, entries in his lifeboat logbook pass the time. Nobody comes. There’s nothing to eat. He sharpens a knife and looks at his leg … Oh boy. No ghosts, aliens, or killer clowns. Just auto-cannibalism and stark human horror. King at his most transgressive, and best consumed on an empty stomach.

4. The Landlady by Roald Dahl 
 Poor Billy Weaver. Just turned 17, sent to Bath on a work trip, lost, tired and with nowhere to stay. A cheap B&B and a smiling old landlady offer salvation. And she must be nice because she has pets … Dahl’s unflashy prose is his secret weapon. The simple style disarms you, only before Dahl plunges in the knife. I won’t ruin the twist but the foreshadowing is exquisitely devious. The silent dachshund by the fire. The guest book with only two names. The landlady praising Billy’s beautiful teeth. Dahl wrote The Landlady as a ghost story, scowled at it, then changed the ending. Wise move.

5. The Forbidden by Clive Barker 
 When Books of Blood was unleashed in 1984, Stephen King said: “I have seen the future of horror – and his name is Clive Barker .” With six volumes and 30 stories, what do I pick? The man-made giants of In the Hills, the Cities? The Body Politic’s army of skittering hands? The demonic slapstick of The Yattering and Jack? To hell with it: let’s go with The Forbidden. Candyman is a fine Hollywood adaptation, but in relocating it sacrifices the cold, wintry dread of Barker’s Spector Street Estate: a graffiti-ravaged brutalist pit of social-realist despair where its urban legend looms.

Michael Hordern in Whistle and I’ll Come to You, the 1968 film adaptation of MR James’s story.

6. Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, My Lad by MR James 
 Quintessential James. A callow academic unearths an artefact (a bronze whistle on a shingle beach). An ancient, unknowable force is unleashed (in a two-bed room at the Globe Inn). The subtly uncoiling doom is very Jamesian: a white figure glimpsed in a window, a freshly made bed, mysteriously twisted. Oh, Whistle’s final reveal of “a horrible, an intensely horrible, face of crumpled linen” left me petrified the first time I read it, and my battered copy of his Collected Ghost Stories suggests I’m a glutton for punishment.

7. The October Game by Ray Bradbury 
 Halloween. A suburban house. Mich shuts the gun back in the drawer. Too fast. Too neat. He wants his wife Louise to suffer … From The Veldt to Free Dirt, Bradbury was a master of creepy slow-burners, but he really reached into the abyss for this one. Gouged out in 1948, The October Game’s portrait of a sadistic spouse remains shocking. When Mich invites his wife, daughter and neighbours to play “the witch game” in their pitch-black cellar, Bradbury’s maxim of “hint, don’t show” hits full-force. Dread mingles with the sound of children’s laughter. You daren’t look. Then the cellar lights flash on. At which point, Bradbury abandons you, leaving you alone to your squirming imagination.

 8. The Dunwich Horror by HP Lovecraft To the domed hills of Arkham and an unseen entity, growing in a farmhouse fit to burst. Reducing mankind to an insignificant speck in a malignant universe of cosmic gods, Lovecraft is a sub-genre unto himself, and Dunwich is practically Lovecraft bingo: there are rituals, tentacles, summonings, the Necronomicon, ineffable evils and, in mutant Wilbur Whateley, his greatest character. No matter how many times I’ve read the description of his dog-mauled corpse, I still fan my armpits in feverish confusion (“The goatish, chinless face … coarse black fur … tentacles with red sucking mouths … on each of the hips, deep set in a pinkish ciliated orbit, was what seemed to be a rudimentary eye”). Some find Lovecraft’s decadent prose a turn-off. I’d say it’s key to the madness.

9. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson In The Haunting of Hill House, the incomparable Shirley Jackson delivered horror lit’s scariest line (“God! Whose hand was I holding?”). The Lottery is, for my money, her most terrifying vision of all. It’s a bright, blooming summer’s day in a bucolic village. Laughing children play with stones as the villagers gather around a box. Old Man Warner speaks: “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon …” There are no winners in Jackson’s chilling parable of blind faith. Every interpretation – be it organised religion, capital punishment, mob rule – remains both valid and depressingly timeless. Ironically, Jackson weathered a truly frightening aftermath post-publication: hate mail by the sack-load, as viciously unthinking as The Lottery’s villagers.

10. The Horla by Guy de Maupassant 
 Featuring a vaporous vampiric entity whose persistent, ever-watchful presence drives its genteel protagonist into madness, it was actually a Frenchman who popularised the malevolent, bump-in-the-night, kneel-on-your-chest ghost story. The climax is ruthless but The Horla’s lasting power is in its understanding that terror comes from the unknown and unglimpsed, and went on to inspire Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.

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My Favourite Short Scary Stories!

By: zoea marland, class 12.

There is nothing I love more than scary stories. The adrenaline! The rush of fear! If you know me then you would know how much I love telling creepy tales, especially during a sleepover with my friends. What I enjoyed the most were the short collections that I collected online as a kid, and I thought it might be fun to share these stories with everyone. Until this day, whenever I tell these stories it never fails to impress so here they are, five of some of my favourite short scary stories!

Who’s in my bed?

A father went to say good night to his seven year old son, very well knowing that if he didn’t his son would have trouble sleeping. It was a nightly routine between them. He entered the dimly lit room where his son waited under his blanket. With the first glance the father could tell there was something unusual about his son tonight, but couldn’t put his finger on it. He looked the same but had a grin that drew from ear to ear.

“You okay, buddy?” the father asked.

The son nodded, still with the grin, before saying, “Daddy, check for monsters under my bed.”

The father chuckled a bit before getting on his knees to check only to satisfy his son.

There, under the bed, pale and afraid, was his son. His real son. He whispered, “ Daddy, there someone on my bed ”.

A hiker decided to go on a hike by himself. Something he was not very used to. The whole day was normal. Trees and bushes engulfed his surroundings. He enjoyed being outdoors in the mountains. Nothing seemed strange to him, that was until he was making his way back to his car. He figured an eight hour hike was good enough. The sky was already getting dark and he needed to get back, fast. What was odd was how much he didn’t recognize the trail back. He began to panic.

Night had already taken over and all he had was a flashlight and no clue on how to get back. He knew it was already too late and too dangerous to keep going through the perilous forest. He began to worry that he would have no shelter for the night when almost luckily enough, he stumbled across a broken-down cabin. It was dark, and seemed like no one had visited it in years, but he knew it was the only place where he could rest until daylight, especially since his flashlight was running out of battery. He knocked on the door a few times but no one answered, so he let himself in where strangely enough, a perfect bed fitted for one person awaited him in the center. He knew that if the owner came back he could explain himself, he was sure that the owner wouldn’t mind, or was even probably dead. So he went ahead and got himself comfortable in bed. As he tried to sleep, he couldn’t ignore the collection of paintings around the room; portraits of strange looking people all peering at him, each wearing a smile that sent chills up his spine. Not too long after his  exhaustion from the hike got the best of him and he was able to ignore the faces.

The next morning he got up early and was shocked to see that there were no paintings around the room, but windows…

The Red Wristband

A doctor was working at a hospital, a hospital where the patients were tagged with coloured bands. Green: alive. Red: deceased.

One night, the doctor was instructed to get a few supplies from the basement of the hospital, and so he headed to the lift. The lift doors opened and there was a patient inside, minding her own business. Patients were allowed to roam around the hospital to stretch, especially those who have stayed long. The rule was to be back in their rooms before ten.

The doctor smiled at the patient before pressing the number for the basement. He found it unusual that the woman didn’t have a button already pressed. He wondered if she was heading to the basement too.

The lift finally reached the floor where the doors opened. In the distance a man was limping towards the elevator, and in a panic the doctor slammed the elevator button to close. It finally did and the lift began to ascend back up, the doctor’s heart pounding.

“Why did you do that? He was trying to use the lift.” The woman stated, annoyed.

“Did you see his wrist?” The doctor asked, “It was red. He died last night. I would know because I did his surgery.”

The woman lifted her wrist. He saw red. She smiled. “Like this one?”

White with RED

A man just moved into an apartment and heads to the receptionist to get his keys. The receptionist gave him the key with a smile but warns him not to disturb the door with no number on his floor. He wondered why but didn’t bother to ask, he was too busy with his new apartment to care. After he finished unpacking he began to get curious. He questioned why the receptionist would warn him of such things, and so he stepped out of his apartment to check the door with no number.

He tried the door knob first but it was locked, so instead he got onto his knees and peeked through the keyhole. The apartment he was looking into was empty. His eyes scanned the whole place before stopping at a woman, standing face against a wall, in the corner. He noticed her pale skin and long black hair before stepping back, suddenly feeling perverted in a way for invading someone else’s privacy. He brushed it off, assuming she was someone that did not want to be disturbed.

The next day he got more curious about the woman and eventually went back, straight away getting onto his knees. He peeked through the keyhole and saw all red. Red. He assumed that the pale woman must have caught him peeking the last time and covered the hole with something red.

He left the door alone and instead went down to the receptionist to ask her questions. The receptionist sighed and asked, “you looked through the keyhole, didn’t you?”

He admitted to it and so she felt obliged to tell him the story. She told him that a couple used to live in that apartment a long time ago, but the husband went crazy and killed his wife. However, this couple wasn’t normal.

They had pale skin, black hair and red eyes.

A mother’s call

A daughter was in her room upstairs, doing her homework, when suddenly she heard her mother call to come down for dinner. She jumped onto her feet and began making her way towards the stairs, but before even took a step, hands grabbed her and pulled her into the laundry room besides the staircase.

She panicked before realizing it was her mother, her real mother, eyes watery and bloodshot. “Don’t go down there honey, I heard it too.”

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20 Best Scary Short Stories to Tell in the Dark

The best part? You can read them all right now.

open book with mysterious smoke and rose petals teacup out of focus on a dark background spellbook and modern magic concept

'Tis the season for spooky tales told in the dark. While we never need an excuse to read, Halloween is the ideal time to dig into a ghastly ghost story or a chilling true crime book. So, to celebrate the season, we've gathered some of the best scary short stories available to read for free—featuring fixtures of Mexican folklore and feminist vampires. These horror stories are best enjoyed with a fall-themed cocktail in hand—to calm the nerves, of course. Much like's own Sunday Shorts fiction collection , you can read these instantly. From Angela Carter to Stephen King , these spine-tingling scary short stories are guaranteed to frighten you as much as the best Halloween movies out there. Finally, if you've got kids or squeamish teens, we've also included some family-friendly bedtime options, too.

an out of focus, blurred ghostly woman wearing a white dress, running away from the camera on a misty autumn day in a forest

La Llorona is a fixture of Mexican folklore. In this story, Silvia Moren0-Garcia—author of the horror novel Mexican Gothic —puts a modern twist on the age-old tale, by casting a homeless woman as the legendary La Llorona.

road amidst trees against sky during foggy weather

Now a podcast , "The Left Right Game's" first incarnation was as a post on "No Sleep" subreddit, where users submit fictional stories often framed as urban legends. " The Left Right Game" quickly garnered a reputation as one of most elaborate, unexpected, and downright terrifying entries ever. It's about a supposedly harmless game, which can be played on any old suburban road.

midsection of businessman using smart phone while standing on footbridge in city

If you're looking for a small story that packs a big scare, check out this imaginative riff of a fixture of the modern age: The cell phone. A girl buys a smartphone that happens to have pictures which foretell her own doom.

whitby abbey near sunset

Joe Hill comes from horror pedigree: His father is the Stephen King. With this short story (and all of his novels), Hill shows his own distinct, but equally chilling, style. "Abraham's Boys" is about the sons of the Dutch vampire hunter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing—the sons who have no idea who their father really was.

boy holding a snakes

"Snakes are easy. It’s people that I don’t know how to charm," the narrator of this sneaky and unexpected story says, at one point—before the plot gets extremely gnarly (trust us, it will). "All the Fabulous Beasts" uses tropes of horror and metamorphosis to discuss trauma rooted in reality.

ghost on a rock, in the woods

Looking for a kid-friendly story to read around the campfire? We've got you covered with this charming short story about a house in Arkansas that's teeming with ghosts—but the friendly kind.

girl walking in forest

Dread. That's the word that best describes this early short story from the legendary Joyce Carol Oates. Connie is a teenage girl at odds with her family, so she turns to the world for companionship. What she finds may be even worse.

caucasian woman sitting on hill

Carmilla is a vampire novel first published in 1872, predating Dracula by two decades. In 2019, the acclaimed author Carmen Maria Machado edited a new edition of Carmilla . While promoting the book, Machado had quite an...unexpected interview with Electric Liter ature . It's best not to give away any details from the interview. Just be sure to read until the end—because frankly, this deliciously creepy Q&A; is better than any vampire movie.

close up of pebble stack

From The Haunting of Hill House to We Have Always Lived in the Castle , Shirley Jackson made a career out of forging terrifying, but thought-provoking, tales. "The Lottery" is her most famous short story and a staple on school curricula—for good reason. Read what happens when a community perpetuates a twisted tradition.

people exploring jungle cave with headlamp, okinawa, japan

If it's a Neil Gaiman story, you know you're in for an enchanting, magical, and yes—slightly creepy ride. This short story, in particular, begins with an extremely evocative opening; the kind that teases a story you'll read in one sitting. Follow along as our unnamed protagonist searches through dark caves to find what he's looking for, and encounter what he isn't.

outback shed

Published as part of's Sunday Shorts fiction collection , Kali Fajardo-Anstine's short story follows a 20-something year old woman living in a remote desert house, with a mind of its own—literally. While there are horrors in this story, they're not supernatural, but an all-too-common kind.

nocturnal destination

Rebecca author Daphne DuMaurier wrote "The Doll" when she was 20 years old. Then, it was lost for approximately 70 years, only resurfacing in 2010. The legend around "The Doll" is but an appetizer for the delightfully creepy story itself, which foreshadows DuMaurier's career as an author of unforgettable gothic fiction.

The Vampire II, 1895-1900

If you are looking for a great gothic story about vampirism, look no further than "The Lady of the House of Love." This short from renowned author Angela Carter follows a female vampire queen on her quest to find her next victim.

In the hospital.

In "Patient Zero" we meet Jay, a little boy who has been in the hospital for a long, long time. In fact, Jay is not allowed to leave. But why are the doctors and nurses going to such lengths to keep Jay locked away and who really is the danger? Tananarive Due asks these questions and more in this short, thrilling tale.

mannequins with brown haired and brunet style wigs on shelves

"Hello, Moto" is a short story about three best friends, each in possession of a magical wig. While the wearers planned to use their powers for good, the tone of the story takes a sudden and abrupt shift when the wigs possess them.

antique dark corridor

Emily Carroll is known for her creepy, horror comics and "His Face All Red" is one of her most popular pieces. The pacing is solid, atmosphere is chilling, and tale is top notch.

Toddler girl on couch in living room

From the very beginning of this haunting short story, one thing is clear: Momma is sick and her kids are suffering. But what is the cause of Momma's illness? The truth is terrifying.

Woods, Gloucestershire, UK

Summer camps are the perfect horror setting. After all, kids reside in these facilities alone, with no parents and little-to-no supervision. However, the camp in "How to Get Back to the Forest" is unlike any other, and we quickly learn, these children are never going home.

a silhouette of a blurred figure emerging from the light at the end of a dark sinister tunnel with a grunge, vintage, grainy edit

Brian Everson's "A Collapse of Horses"—for which an entire collection of stories was later named—isn't about gore or jump scares; instead, it follows an unreliable narrator through a confusing, post-traumatic time. A solid psychological thriller.

harry potter book covers

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.

More information

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