Top 10 Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, odds are these gruesomely illustrated and incredibly creepy stories played a role in your childhood.  These were the books that many parents attempted to ban outright, and the ones that were absolutely terrifying (especially to a child), but for some reason we kept coming back to them.

With the new film adaptation coming out this week, it got me feeling all nostalgic, so I took a look back all these infamous stories and came up with my top 10 favorite.  Disclaimer: this is just my own personal top 10, which will probably differ vastly from anyone else’s.  But I’d love to hear about all of yours too!

10. The Appointment
The opening story of the third entry in the series sees a young man attempting to flee death itself.  We discover that as he ran away to the city to avoid death, the city is where his “appointment” was all along.  The story works as almost a twisted punchline, and it serves to remind us of the inevitability of death itself.  We may try to evade it, or delay it, but it’s there waiting for each and every one of us…

9. The Bed by the WindowThis story is definitely more disturbing than it is scary.  We see an elderly man in a nursing home driven to murder someone else, just for the opportunity to get a view of the window.  But what makes this story so unsettling isn’t the murder itself, but rather the tragic fact that something as simple as getting to look out the window is what motivated him.

As if it was all he had left in his life.  Then, after it’s twist ending, we’re left wondering if there ever was a window at all, or if facing the brick wall is merely his punishment for what he did.

8. The Little Black Dog
Two things that most audiences love are animals, and revenge.  This story successfully combines both.  The idea of a “ghost dog” following someone is creepy enough, but we honestly don’t sympathize much with our main character Billy, as we’re disgusted that he killed the dog.

In fact, most are more upset about him killing the dog than killing its human owner!  So while the story filled with dread and foreboding, we can’t help but feel vindicated at the end when the dog gets its just revenge!

7. Cold as Clay
While simple and straightforward in its approach, “Cold as Clay” is just as sad and tragic as it is eerie.  Our character Jim returns from the dead, not to seek vengeance or elicit fear from anyone, but rather to see the woman he loved so dearly.  In a book series filled with frights, this story stands out as perhaps the most human.

6. A Man Who Lived in Leeds
Technically this is more of a weird little poem than a traditional story, but I’m still counting it.  It’s peculiar and creepy, and at the end of the day, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But there’s a mystique to it, as if at one point, hundreds of years ago, it meant something truly sinister.  It’s bizarre and fun, and it’s always been one of the most memorable from the entire series (for me at least).

5. The Trouble
Unlike most of the quite surreal stories found in these books, “The Trouble” reads more like an official chronicle of events that really happened (if you believe everything you read).  In it, we follow a family that’s experiencing some sort of paranormal activity, as objects fly across the room.

Some think it’s spiritual in nature, others believe there is an almost telekinetic cause.  But what makes the story feel all the more real is that it uses specific dates, and we never really get an answer in the end.  Just the people in the “true story” never did either…

4. Maybe You Will Remember
This one definitely wins in terms of screwing with your mind.  And the explanation in the Appendix of the book is far more disturbing than the story itself.  The ending of the story merely leaves an odd sense of mystery, as we’re not sure if the main character is crazy, hallucinating, or the world around her has truly changed.

But as we discover that it was in fact one giant cover-up, it fuels a feeling a paranoia that we can’t trust anyone.  By far the most unsettling implication is that there’s a teenage girl in Paris who will be convinced that her mother never existed.  And the long term ramifications will be extreme.

3. Such Things Happen
It may not be the scariest, most disturbing, but it some ways, “Such Things Happen” is the most fascinating from a philosophical standpoint.  What begins as something of a joke, turns into a man refusing to back down, even if it means indirectly committing murder.

It plays with the morality of conflict, and just how far people are willing to go.  And at the same time, it deals with a conflicting ideology between believing in the rational or the supernatural.  As the title suggests, do such things happen?

2. Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker
There more than a few stories in this series which deal with some malevolent force slowly approaching, thus filling the reader with a sense of impending doom.  Some of them seem pretty similar to the others, but none do it quite so well as “Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker”.

We still have no idea what these words even mean (or what the dog’s words mean either), but we get the sense that it’s some sort of ancient chant or ritual.  And it has such a weird title, that it’s always been one of the more memorable stories for me.

1. Harold
How could it not be “Harold”?!  He’s one the most iconic images associated with this series, and there’s a reason he’s been featured prominently in the marketing for the new film.  We all share that innate fear that something human-looking may in fact come to life, and “Harold” plays right into that.

At the same time, we can’t help but feel that the brothers had it coming after the way they mistreated him.  Either way, this story inspires us to treat even inanimate objects with respect.

Bonus: The Hearse Song
Technically not a story either, but I couldn’t not mention it.  It’s beautifully dark sense of humor mixed with its upbeat tone makes it truly entertaining.  And in a strange way, it makes death seem less frightening by making a fun song out of it!

Whichever stories are your favorites, we can all agree, that these books helped shape our collective childhood.  I’m sure that this list will differ vastly from everyone else’s and I’ve love to hear what they are in the comments below!




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