10 Scary Stories to Share with Your Students This Halloween

I used to like entering English class in October and learning that our teacher had assigned a spooky short story for us to read. Sometimes, they’d dim the lights and play eerie music in the background. We’d all jump in, anxious to discover if it was as terrifying as we had thought. I carried on that custom when I started teaching English. I’m now constantly searching for new, scary short stories. This year, I came across a few I’d never heard of before and some old favorites that I can’t wait to share with my students. Here are the ten spooky tales I was most eager to find, along with suggestions for how a teacher may include them in a lesson.

  1. Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

This terrifying short story is set in Nigeria. The three primary characters are all strong, independent women from Nigeria. Your kids will undoubtedly notice some parallels to Frankenstein and other well-known horror stories as the main character urgently try to repair the effects of her awful scientific experiment/invention gone wrong.

In Class:

Lessons on mood/tone, character development, and themes like the results of scientific experimentation. It’s simple to draw comparisons to other horror or science fiction works. It would be a fantastic addition to a unit on Frankenstein.

  1. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson

The narrator in this eerie, atmospheric piece questions whether the things he sees are genuine or if he is insane. His home appears to be evolving, also as does his family. He eventually concludes that he cannot trust anything or anyone. We conclude that perhaps we shouldn’t trust him either.

In Class:

This story is heavy on a sense of impending doom and little on standard jump scares. This makes it more appropriate for high school students. It would be a great introduction to or extension of a lesson on unreliable narrators and how authors create mood and tone. The Tell-Tale Heart or “A Cask of Amontillado” would make fantastic modern companion pieces if you had a terrifying short tale unit.

  1. The Flowers by Alice Walker

Another short narrative that would work well with older students is this one. It takes a lot of planning to distribute Alice Walker’s coming-of-age tale about a young Black girl named Myop who finds the horrifying proof of a long-ago lynching. Considering that the story is barely two pages long, it is pretty moving. Sharing Walker’s use of setting to demonstrate how Myop’s perspective shifts with your students is unquestionably worthwhile. Just be ready for some intense discussion regarding the evolution of racially motivated violence and its impact on young people.

In Class:

Students should focus on how Walker changes her descriptions of the surroundings as the plot develops and why she makes those decisions. Describe the irony Walker employs in writing such a sad narrative and having it take place on a beautiful, sunny summer. Ask students to identify the key themes they feel this story is addressing.

  1. His Face All Red by E.M. Carroll

Sharing an excellent graphic novel with your students is always beneficial. I was thrilled to discover this work by the horror story author and graphic novelist E.M. Carroll. This spooky short story is a perfect find because not all of his writing is suited for school. A young boy at the center of the tale is sure that his brother is not who he claims to be. He is aware of this because he killed his sibling earlier in the week.

In Class:

Perfect for examining how authors depict literary aspects like characterization, setting, suspense, or dialogue in graphic novel form or for discussions about how graphic novels differ from “normal” novels. This story could be used as a companion piece for discussions about unreliable narrators or any unit with a suspenseful aspect.

  1. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

This one is undoubtedly a classic, though. The conclusion of this spooky short story always elicits an immediate response in everyone I’ve ever met. Something about what Jackson omits from this story about a small community and its most peculiar tradition is nearly enraging. This narrative is ideal for middle grades because there isn’t much violence; instead, there is more suggested violence. Fair warning, though—also, it will cause the story to elicit such a strong reaction from the pupils. Be ready for kids who adore the open-ended conclusion and those who detest it to the hilt.

In Class:

A fundamental text for a Socratic seminar like this one would be fantastic. The story and its characters will elicit at least a few questions from each student. The intensity of the conversation would increase with more challenging questions concerning traditions, mob mentality, and peer pressure. Students could be asked to create a prequel that explains the lottery’s history as part of a creative writing exercise, or they could be asked to come up with an original, open-ended short story.

  1. Lacrimosa by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a Mexican-Canadian author, is perhaps better known for her long novel Mexican Gothic. She can, however, also write a mean terrifying short story. Readers will follow a Mexican man who lives in Vancouver in this novel. Despite his relative success, he is dissatisfied. He starts to feel like an evil spirit is stalking him because he feels guilty for not doing more to help his family in Mexico.

In Class:

The obvious connection to the horror film La Llorona makes it likely that students will love this fresh take on a tale they are already familiar with. A deeper discussion regarding the main character’s motives will undoubtedly result from the debate about whether or not he is actually haunted or whether the experience is merely a metaphor for his guilt. This would be a fantastic item to utilize when conversing about mood or tone.

  1. The Landlady by Roald Dahl

Although it is a classic, many of your kids won’t be familiar with it. They’ll enjoy finding out how genuinely macabre the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was. This is an excellent addition to your collection of terrifying short stories even though there isn’t any overt violence because of the concept that the danger comes from the person you least expect.

In Class:

Finding a story that kids will want to read again after they’ve already read it can be challenging. But I’ve never had any issues with this one. Students enjoy rereading this story to discover the first instances when Dahl suggests that everything is not as it seems. It can also be used in classes on how dialogue helps writers create characters. If you know where to look, the landlady reveals herself multiple times during the narrative.

  1. Haunted by Harris Tobias

For your younger students, are you looking for a new Halloween story? This haunted home tale is ideal for pupils who can withstand a bit of horror but not too much. It’s not the message your pupils might anticipate from a traditional horror story, but the haunted mansion in this tale is trying to get the attention of its new owner.

In Class:

Reading this story in class could spark several exciting discussions. Younger readers would do well to focus on the dangers of jumping to conclusions and the proper way to ask for assistance when feeling anxious. A wonderful Halloween lesson might be to have the students design their versions of terrifying creatures who are misunderstood.

  1. Cow’s Head retold by S.E. Schlosser

Another excellent option for younger children, this retelling of a Ukrainian folktale has just the right amount of spookiness to be appropriate for a Halloween lesson without going overboard with the frights. It resembles Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel combined with a cow’s head in specific ways.

In Class:

This can be an good addition to a folklore or fairy tales course. Encourage your students to create their spooky folktales using pieces from the original. The teacher might also utilize this story as an extended thinking exercise when asking students to find the parallels between this narrative and other folktales from a different culture.

  1. Patient Zero by Tananarive Due

Patient Zero is the tale of Jay, and it’s just disturbing enough for middle or high school children without going overboard with the “deadly virus” images. His teacher spends most of his days lecturing him on the Constitution and various edible plants, and the doctors who draw his blood seem a little frightened of him. The reader must use the fragments of Jay’s journal entries concerning his life.

In Class:

A scientific teacher might utilize this bizarre short fiction to introduce lectures on viruses and asymptomatic carriers. It can also serve as the basis for a fishbowl debate or Socratic session on morality in emergencies. What ought to be done about Jay? It may be helpful to demonstrate to your students that unreliable narrators can be unreliable for reasons other than madness, such as because they are young children who don’t fully comprehend what is happening to them if you have already introduced the idea of unreliable narrators to your class through stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

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