We love a good ghost story, don't you? Well, OK, maybe you love a good ghost story until every single one of your kids is crammed into bed with you because they're afraid to sleep in their own rooms. Yes, Halloween is the perfect time to tell ghoulish tales — but those same tales that are meant for entertainment are also what nightmares are made of.
There are some fun stories, though, that successfully toe the line between frighteningly fun and over-the-top terrifying. We dug up some kid-friendly scary stories, so your whole family can feel Halloween-festive without too much drama.
1. The Hairy Toe
This spooky story is about an old woman who, for some reason, eats a hairy toe (there's the pun!) she finds in the woods behind her cottage. But what about the owner of the toe? An excerpt from the book Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser, this tale has enough fantasy to it that it’s not terribly scary for the younger ones.
2. Dem Bones
Is your little one crazy for pirates? This is the tale of Captain Kidd and his band of pirates who bury treasure on the New Jersey shore and then come back to haunt the area on reality TV (just kidding about the last part). Retold by S.E. Schlosser as part of his Spooky New Jersey book, this tale will remind you of ghost stories from days gone by.
3. White Dog
Who doesn’t love a good dog story? Take one loyal dog, an adventurous boy, danger, and a ghost, and you’ve got a not-that-scary story for younger kids. This is just one story available on the TLC website that the whole family can enjoy.
4. The Canterville Ghost
What if your house was haunted, but you could turn the tables on your ghost? In an adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde story, the tale of "The Canterville Ghost" shows how a whole family deals with a ghost in their new home — and eventually help him move on.
5. The Pleading Ghost
James M. Deem is an author of children’s books who has collected some of his favorite ghost stories and made them available in his "Haunted House" online. This story is from his book Ghost Hunters. Note: The pleading ghost in this story isn’t very scary, but it is a boy who died young, so make your own judgment call when reading to little ones.
Next Up: Looking for Dracula
Originally posted September 2015. Updated August 2017.
6. "Looking for Dracula"
This classic song by Charlotte Diamond is a story told within a song — you may even remember the lyrics from childhood. You can watch the video and sing along, or add the song to your collection. Kids love following the lyrics and acting out the story. A winner for the elementary or preschool crowd.
7. Shadows in the Mirror
Got tweens who can handle a bit more of a scare? The tale of Shadows in the Mirror has all the elements of a good ghostly mystery for older kids who won’t be too easily frightened by the idea of a ghost in their home.
8. The Vinder Viper
What sounds like a scary tale of snakes is actually a comic tale — best delivered in a dramatic manner. This is an old summer-camp favorite of many, and great for any younger kids who may be too scared by a story without a "happy" ending.
Haunted is a kid-friendly story about ghosts who love to party, written by Harris Tobias. Kids of all ages will follow this short story with rapt attention — and then be surprised by the delightful ending.
10. The Scarecrow
Do scarecrows keep evil spirits away, or can they be possessed by them? This first-person narrative has many elements of a perfect scary story and is great for the elementary school crowd.
11. Tell Me Another Scary Story... But Not TOO Scary!
What if kids could decide when a story gets too scary for them? In Tell Me Another Scary Story… But Not TOO Scary! by Carl Reiner, kids can decide whether to move forward as the story gets scarier — or end it there. This sequel to Tell Me a Scary Story… But Not TOO Scary! comes with a CD to listen along as the author himself reads the story. Perfect for ages 9 and up; even adults will love the creative illustrations and Reiner's wit.
12. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
This fun book by Adam Rex is a fun collection of silly, scary poems perfect for the 6- to 9-year-old crowd. The illustrations in Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich are just as entertaining as the poems are. Favorite characters like Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and Dracula all appear in this fun children’s book.
13. Happy Halloween! (Spooky Ghost Stories for Children)
Looking for spooky stories that are OK for the under-10-year-old crowd? Happy Halloween! (Spooky Ghost Stories for Children) by Uncle Amon is just right for a little fright that won’t keep them up all night. Grab the Kindle edition for only 99 cents, and you can start enjoying those hair-raising tales tonight. With stories like "The Haunting" and "The Shadowy Figure," your kids are bound to find a favorite.
14. The Scare: A Halloween Story
Perfect for kids ages 3 to 10, The Scare: A Halloween Story is a creative, fun way to share “spooks” with your kids. The illustrations are fun and this tale of two best friends — a pig named Simon and a mouse named Jim — will be a favorite in your house. This book has a creative story line and is a fun way for kids to enjoy a scary-ish story.
15. The Green Ribbon
There are various versions of this story floating around in which the color of the ribbon changes, but the chilling ending is the same in each of them. The story revolves around a girl who always wears a ribbon around her neck. When her husband finally removes it, he discovers the horrifying reason why. This one's a little on the scarier side.