Do you have reluctant readers who insist they’ve never enjoyed ANY books or stories they’ve read in school? Would you like a way to draw those haters in and prove them wrong? Dim the lights, dig deep for your best Bella Lugosi-voice and dive into a juicy, horrifying, tale of terror.
Even the most reluctant of readers LOVE scary stories.
Best yet, they engage in awesome discussions about that scary story when you’re finished! When it comes to scary short stories, middle school students will often, create their own extension assignments, such as rewriting an ending, or continuing a story, or writing their own scary story. If that happens, LET THEM!
Capitalize on their interest and use it as an opportunity to read a scary story for the sole purpose of enjoying it. Let kids write what they want to write because nothing is better than kids who are begging to write.
If you’re not sure how scary you can go before getting phone calls about Junior sitting up in a bed all night, wide-eyed and wielding a baseball bat, ask the kids what degree of “scary” they want to experience.
Here is the “Creep-O-Meter” barometer I use and the stories that match up with each level of creepiness.
The Middle School Creep-O-Meter
1- Mildly Scary:
Close one eye but peek.
2- Moderately Scary:
Close both eyes and turn on all the lights everywhere you go for a week.
3- Chuckie is Alive and I’m Sure He’s Living in My Basement Scary:
Eyes wide open because how else would you check under the bed and behind the shower curtain while yelling I need my blankie!
From what I see, these stories are readily available in library anthologies and even online. A quick search will put them in your grasp.
Mildly Scary Stories
– The Children of Noah by Richard Matheson
The protagonist is driving through a small town late at night, when a police officer pulls him over for speeding. It soon becomes apparent that a speeding ticket is the least of his problems.
–Royal Jelly by Roald Dahl
Albert Taylor and his wife have a newborn baby who isn’t eating. Albert, a beekeeper, starts sneaking royal jelly from his hives into her food. What happens next is seriously creepy.
– Letter to the Editor by Morris Herschman
A man is enjoying a day at the beach when he witnesses an accidental drowning. Or was it?
Moderately Scary Stories
-The Hitch-Hiker, a radio play by Lucille Fletcher
Ronald Adams is certain that he is being followed by a mysterious hitch-hiker as he drives across the country.
-The Landlady Roald Dahl
Billy Weaver is a young man in town for a new job. His thrift ends up getting him in a spot of trouble. The creep factor for this one actually kicks in after kids have finished reading and you are reflecting on the resolution. There are guaranteed to be a lot of “a-ha” moments.
Chuckie is Alive
– Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson
This story is told from the point of view of a young child chained in the basement by its parents. It quickly becomes apparent that the abuse is due to the fact that the child is not exactly human.
This one is really enthralling for kids. Most are completely empathetic toward the child, even after it accidentally harms the family’s pet cat when the cat scratches it. It makes for wonderful conversations about the responsibility parents have in caring for a child (think Frankenstein) and what makes someone…well, human.
-The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
A classic horror story about what happens when you want something so badly that you don’t think things through all the way before wishing on an enchanted monkey’s paw for it. Truly chilling. Heartbreaking too.
– It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby
Imagine a small child with god-like powers to make its every whim a reality. Then imagine that child can read a person’s mind, and if a person’s thoughts are unpleasant, the child angrily retaliates. Terrifying, right?
This is also a Twilight Zone episode of the same name and it is awesome.
Pick your poison and frighten the heck out of your kids. I promise it will ignite their creativity! And after it does, allow them to do some self-directed creative writing based on the story or based on a fun prompt like the prompts below.
If you need vocablary, reading comprehension questions, and a test, try this resource for The Landlady.