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4 Classic horror stories that will keep you awake at night

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story "Don't Ball the Boss" (inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) was nominated for the Pus...

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Before I get into a car, I check the back seat. I've done it for years and have yet to find anyone hiding back there. But you just never know. That's the beauty of classic childhood scary stories: they stay with you forever.

Here are four of our favorites, retold for your Halloween pleasure. There are lessons to be learned in each, and if you pay close enough attention, those lessons might keep you alive. Boo!

1. The Hook

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Sarah knew she shouldn't be up at Lovers' Lane with her boyfriend, Daniel. Her father forbade it, yet there they were, the radio playing softly. Daniel leaned in and kissed the side of Sarah's neck, which made her happy and nervous all at once.

Then, suddenly, a news bulletin broke through the dulcet tones of smooth jazz. "Attention, attention!" shouted the newscaster. "A very dangerous prisoner has escaped the nearby prison. Be on the lookout for a man with a hook for a hand, and keep your distance!"

Daniel turned off the radio, but Sarah was nervous. She turned her head away when he leaned in for another kiss. "Wait," she said. "The prison is only a couple miles from here. Maybe we should go home."

"It's fine," he said, nuzzling her neck. "Relax."

Sarah tried to relax, but she couldn't. She thought she heard a noise — a strange scraping sound outside Daniel's car. "Wait." She pushed him away again. "Did you hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything." He smiled, hand on her knee.

Sarah kissed her boyfriend with her eyes open. She stared past his head into the dark woods outside, seemingly filled with ever-moving shadows and promises of doom.

Then, again, the scratching sound.

"Daniel, I swear I heard something."

He sighed. "Do you want me to go outside and check?"

Sarah looked out the window, inches from her face, and saw nothing but black. "No. I want to go home."

"Sarah—"

She crossed her arms. "Now."

They drove back to Sarah's parents' place in silence, Daniel obviously upset. Sarah felt cold. She wrapped herself in an embrace, but her own cold fingertips made her shiver. The drive seemed interminable, but when they finally arrived, Daniel got out of the car to open the door for her. When he reached her side of the car, he froze.

Sarah looked out the window at him, his handsome face curled into a grimace, his eyes wide. "Daniel?" She slowly opened the door and stepped out onto the curb.

Only then did she see the hook hanging from her door handle.

Lesson learned: Making out in the woods will get you killed.

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Photo credit: Mienny / Getty Images

 2. High Beams

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Amy lived with her family on a farm outside of town, but she was in town that night for her high school's big basketball game. Happily, her school won, and she left the gym in a cheerful mood. She climbed into her old blue sedan and started the long trek home.

As she pulled out of the parking lot, she noticed a red truck behind her, riding too close for comfort. She moved into traffic and drove above the speed limit, hoping the guy would leave her alone.

He didn't. The truck continued to follow. "What's his deal?" she asked herself.

Amy tried to ignore the feeling that something was seriously wrong, but just as she'd begun to relax, the red truck flashed its high beams. The reflection in her rearview mirror was blinding, and she blinked at the sudden glare.

Amy increased her speed again; the red truck stayed right on her tail. She called the police from her cell phone, gave them her home address, and focused on the road. She just needed to get home. At home, she would feel safe.

The guy in the red truck flashed his high beams again.

She drove on quickly, recklessly, until she pulled into her parents' driveway. Amy flew out of the car and ran into the house. She could see the lights from the red truck behind her as she slammed the door and told her father the police were on their way.

When they arrived, the officers found the man from the red truck circling Amy's blue sedan. As they struggled to cuff him, he shouted, "It's not me! It's the man in the back of her car!"

Amy would only realize later that the man in the red truck had saved her life. He said he saw someone climb into the back of her car just as she left the high school, which was why he followed her, afraid of what might happen.

Whenever the man in the back seat leaned up to overpower Amy, the man in the truck flashed his high beams to get her attention. The man in the back seat never got to use his big, shiny butcher knife.

Lesson learned: Check the back seat.

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Photo credit: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / Getty Images

 3. The Licked Hand

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Emma was a cheerful old woman who lived a happy, peaceful life with her loyal dog, Bucky. Together, they resided in a quaint house up on a hill. Every night, Bucky slept under Emma's bed, which made her feel safe. If Emma ever felt nervous, she just reached her hand down, and Bucky gave her a playful lick.

One night, before bed, she heard on the radio that a dangerous murderer had escaped police custody. The authorities suggested everyone lock all their doors and windows. Emma did just that, but she left one window cracked just a touch to get some cool night air into her room. Then, she went to bed.

In the middle of the night, she heard a dripping sound.

Drip, drip, drip.

She reached her hand down, and her trusty mutt gave her a comforting lick. Emma went back to sleep.

Again, later, she woke to the sound.

Drip, drip, drip.

She got up to check the tap in the kitchen, but she couldn't find a leak. She climbed back in bed, reached her hand down and Bucky gave her hand a loving lick. Emma fell back into a dreamless snooze.

Again, the sound.

Drip, drip, drip.

Emma got up, this time to investigate the bathroom faucet. She turned on the light, and there she found Bucky hanging from the shower head, cut open from stomach to throat. His blood dripped into the tub.

Drip, drip, drip.

And on the mirror, written in red: "Humans can lick too."

Lesson learned: Get a bigger dog.

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Photo credit: Ferran Traite Solar / Getty Images

 4. The Green Ribbon

Don't forget to check the back seat! Best horror stories remembered

Sam sat beside the new girl at school and thought himself lucky. What if she needed help with a math equation or dropped a pencil? Sam would be there.

Her name was Valerie, and she was different from the gum-chewing cheerleaders of his high school. She had long black hair and dark blue eyes. She wore form-fitting dresses and a silky green ribbon around her neck.

The two got to know each other. They shared common interests like history, classic films and long walks at night. During all their time together, even after their first kiss, Valerie never removed the green ribbon from around her neck.

One night, Sam got up the courage to ask, "Why do you always wear that green ribbon?"

Valerie replied, "Maybe I'll tell you. Someday."

Years passed. Sam and Valerie grew up and grew happier. They even got married. On their wedding night, Sam touched the skin on Valerie's pale neck.

He asked, "Why won’t you take off that green ribbon?"

Valerie said, "I'll tell you when we’re older."

Sam and Valerie did get older. They had a beautiful baby girl, then a baby boy. The kids grew up and had kids of their own.

Sitting on a moonlit porch one night, Sam said it again. "Why do you always wear that green ribbon?"

"The time will come for me to tell you," she said.

That night, Valerie fell asleep early. Sam found her resting in their marriage bed, and unable to control his curiosity any longer, he reached for the green ribbon around his wife's throat. He untied the carefully tied bow...

And her head fell off.

Lesson learned: Listen to your spouse.

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