Ah, Halloween — the perfect time to sit around a fire with the family and get into some good, old-fashioned spooky storytelling. Don't you love a good ghost story? OK, maybe you love a good ghost story until every single one of your kids is crammed into bed with you because they're suddenly afraid to sleep in their own rooms. Yes, Halloween is the perfect time to tell ghoulish tales — but some of the classics walk a fine line between frightfully fun and nightmarish.
There are a few notable tales, though, that successfully avoid over-the-top terrifying — and those tend to be the family favorites. Here, we've rounded up the best just-so-spooky stories so even the kids can feel festive this Halloween without too much drama.
1. "The Hairy Toe"
This spooky story is about an old woman who, for some reason, eats a hairy toe 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 ($5.49 at Amazon), 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 ($6.93 at Amazon), 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 were haunted but you could turn the tables on your ghost? In an adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde story, "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 a children’s book author 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 (out of print). 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 it to little ones.
Next: "Looking for Dracula"
A version of this article was originally posted in September 2015.