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Ghost Stories for Fourth Grade

spooky stories 4th grade

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Imagination Soup

26 Spooky, Scary Stories for Kids

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Creepy, spooky, and scary stories for kids are many children’s favorite kinds of books to read. If your readers love a good jolt of adrenaline, these scary stories will give readers a spooky and possibly frightful reading experience. That being said, most of these chapter books and middle grade books are only moderately scary instead of downright terrifying.

When I think of scary stories for kids, I think of authors Mary Downing Hahn and R.L. Stein because both have so many books in this genre. (Adults probably think of Stephen King — and I agree, his writing is terrifying.)

scary stories for kids

Classic scary stories aren’t just for Halloween, either. Many kids love horror stories about frightening terrors and thriller concepts, whether they’re reading about a hunted house or ghost stories , a vampire or Frankenstein, monstrous creatures, or other such creepy plots.

Remember, if you like a book, check to see if there are more books in the series or more books by the same author.

Here are the best scary stories for kids, chapter books and middle grade books , that might just keep your readers awake all night…

spooky stories 4th grade

Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive!   by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Sam Ricks (ages 6 – 10) Sam isn’t thrilled about becoming a hall monitor. Especially when he discovers that the school is ALIVE and trying to harm him and the other students. Sam has quite a wild adventure trying to save the students from the school. If your child loves spooky and scary, this is a great series for them.

scary stories for kids

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (ages 8 – 12) This book was the MOST tattered book in my classroom library. Kids LOVED it. The short scary stories for kids are very readable for most children. You can skip around or read it cover to cover. If you like creepy and scary, this is a great choice.

scary stories for kids

Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine (ages 7 – 10) If you like this scary book, you’ll have about 1,000 more to read in this series and other series. These are fast-paced, scary chapter books on the easier side that kids LOVE.

spooky stories 4th grade

Scarecrow’s Nightmare Maze Batman & Robin Adventures by J.E. Bright, illustrated by Luciano Vecchio (ages 7 – 10) This is an illustrated, action-packed, and slightly scary beginning chapter book. Scarecrow has taken over the corn maze where a group of terrified teenagers is trapped. It’s up to Batman and Robin to stop Scarecrow and rescue the teens. If you’re a fan of DC Comics , or even if you’re not, you’ll find this to be a great superhero adventure story.

spooky stories 4th grade

Frightmares 2: More Scary Stories for the Fearless Reader by Michael Dahl (ages 8 – 12) Great for creepy genre enthusiasts and reluctant readers, these scary stories for kids are sure to keep readers enthralled.

scary stories for kids

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny  (8 – 12 years old) Charlie’s dad has remarried and moved Charlie and his younger brother into the stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. There, Charlie begins to have horrible nightmares that become real. The nightmare witches enter the real world to steal Charlie’s brother. Charlie follows. He and his friends must learn to face their fears to save Charlie and the world.

spooky stories 4th grade

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn (9 – 12 years old) Well-written and scary! Molly and Michael’s new step-sister Heather befriend a sinister ghost-child named Helen, but Helen influences Heather to malevolent ends. Building in suspense little by little, readers will be freaked out by her creepy warnings that when Helen comes, they will get what they deserve…YIKES!

spooky stories 4th grade

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (9 – 12 years old) This book is super creepy! Serafina’s pa works at the large Biltmore Estate, where they also live in the basement. Serafina, used to blending into the shadows, watches the goings-on at the Estate and realizes something very sinister is happening. Children are going missing. And she thinks it has to do with the man in the black cloak wandering the hallways. She and her new friend, Braeden Vanderbilt, team up to discover what’s going on before more children disappear.

spooky stories 4th grade

A Tale of Dark and Grimm  by Adam Gidwitz  (8 – 12 years old) A Tale of Dark and Grimm  is dark and macabre. Gidwitz’s imaginative story weaves Hansel and Gretel’s story with eight more Grimm stories. In this story, Hansel and Gretel have cursed parents. The children flee their terrible parents to find better ones – ones that won’t try to kill them. The narrator, a strong, quirky voice, warns us of the bloody things to come. It’s scary with a big dose of dark humor and horror.

spooky stories 4th grade

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase  by Jonathan Stroud (9 – 15 years old) Dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere in London, but only certain kids can see and eradicate them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood & Co., so they take a perilous job that, if the ghosts have their way, may just be their last. EXCELLENT writing & series.

spooky stories 4th grade

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier  (8 – 12 years old) A spooky tale set in Victorian times, this atmospheric scary story follows young orphans working as servants at a large, creepy manor with a strange, sickly family. Nightmares, muddy footsteps, a locked room, a curse, …all the elements of this book will enthrall (and scare) readers.

spooky stories 4th grade

Eerie Tales from the School of Screams by Graham Annable First of all, the artwork throughout this graphic novel is genius, with a black, gray, and red palette and expressive characters. I also loved the big type size with strong dialogue bubble lines! The students in this teacher’s classroom share eerie stories, the creepier, the better. The stories are spooky but not terrifying, and the entire book is mesmerizing from cover to cover. Loved it!

spooky stories 4th grade

Doll Bones by Holly Black (8 – 12 years old) Maybe one day I’ll work up to this creepy doll story, but I haven’t managed yet. The gist is that it is about three friends and a bone-china doll who is haunting one girl’s dreams. Yikes, right? (Of all the scary stories on this list, this one was too frightening for me!)

spooky stories 4th grade

The Griffins of Castle Cary by Heather Shumaker (8 – 12 years old) Siblings Meg, Will, and Ariel visit their aunt in England and end up on a ghost-hunting adventure. Meg and Will look for information on a famous ghostly mother searching eternally for her missing child. They’ll find her, but the bigger problem is with their little sister, Ariel. Because Ariel becomes enraptured with a real ghost child who has nefarious purposes. Well-written, action-packed, and spooky!

spooky stories 4th grade

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab (8 – 12 years old) A plot-driven, spooky story! Cass’s parents are ghost aficionados for their own TV show. After a terrible drowning accident, Cass actually sees ghosts and the Veil. In fact, Cass’s best friend is a ghost named Jacob who saved her life. When they all travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, Cass discovers that she is a ghost hunter. Just as she’s trying to figure out what that means, she’s terrorized by the Raven in Red, an old ghost who kills children. Creepy and compelling.

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spooky stories 4th grade

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke  (8 – 12 years old) In this ghost story about a pair of brave kids, Jon and Ella, they are stalked by a pack of ghosts who can actually do them harm –which is slightly scary. It’s very well written with excellent character development.

spooky stories 4th grade

Coraline  by Neil Gaiman  (8 – 12 years old) This book showcases Gaiman’s incredible storytelling ability. It’s about a girl, Coraline, who discovers an alternative reality identical to her own — same house, same mother and father — through a little door in her house. It’s a world that at first seems wonderful, yet it becomes frightening when Coraline realizes she might not get to leave. Very creepy. (With a real haunted house!)

spooky stories 4th grade

The Whispering House by Rebecca Wade  (8 – 12 years old) A slightly scary story about a girl haunting a fairy tale book in Hannah’s new home. Hannah must figure out why the ghost is haunting her and see if that will stop the haunting. A decent read.

scary stories for kids

Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn (ages 8 – 12) This author is writes the best scary stories for kids, so if you’re into ghosts and scary stuff, read Mary Downing Hahn. Took is a creepy tale of little girl kidnapping by an evil witch named “Old Auntie” who turns the girls into slaves. Daniel knows he can save his little sister and does with a little help from the witch’s descendant and new friends.

spooky stories 4th grade

Haunted Histories by J. H. Everett  (8 – 12 years old) Believe it or not, I sat down and read this book straight through – having intended to skim it. It was fascinating! It’s more about history than spookiness – I learned more about the Tower of London, tips for attacking a castle, the crazy King Ludwig II of Bavaria, The Bastille, and lots more. I highly recommend this can’t-put-it-down book!

spooky stories 4th grade

Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustrated by Junyi Wu (8 – 12 years old) The creepy storyteller in the sinister Bog Cavern tells short, interconnected SCARY stories for kids to a litter of seven foxes with a warning: the stories might just scare them (and you) half to death. As the horrifying tales are told, we see how they connect. But how will they end? I love that the stories are all about animals and that there are tender and funny moments of love and family, along with the scary. But beware of the rest…

spooky stories 4th grade

Olive and the Backstage Ghost by Michelle Schusterman  (8 – 12 years old) If you like suspenseful mysteries with ghosts that aren’t too scary, this book is for you! Olive, an aspiring actress with a domineering mother, discovers she fits in perfectly at Maudeville, a gorgeous old theater she’s run away to. Not only that, she’s been cast as the lead in the newest production. But there is something weird going on — her friend’s brother lives outside the theater in the alley and continues to warn her that things aren’t what they seem. What is really going on? Is it good or bad?

spooky stories 4th grade

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie  (8 – 12 years old) Readers love this story about Tessa who moves to a new house in Florida, which seems to be haunted. Her brother’s ventriloquist dummy is crying real tears (because what’s more creepy than dolls!?), and she discovers that the house has a mystery that may be connected to her.

spooky stories 4th grade

Undertakers: The Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago (ages 10 – 13) A great kids-must-save-the-world book with a unique zombie/alien twist. Aliens are taking over corpses and reanimating them. Only some kids can see the real zombie beneath the alien “masks” — our hero gets the zombie sight and is rescued by a group of zombie fighters called Undertakers. He convinces the Undertakers group to stop being defensive and to be more aggressive and determine how to kill the corpses.

spooky stories 4th grade

Rot & Ruin    by Jonathan Mayberry (YA/teen ages 13+) This is a creepy, scary, and also somewhat bittersweet world where humanity must survive in enclaves while the hoards of zombies roam the rest of the land — zombies who used to be family and friends. At age 15, Benny must either fight zombies like his brother Tom or find a different job, or else his rations will be halved.  Many of the “zoms” are people he once knew and loved and soon Benny learns that there are people in the world who are worse than the zombies.

spooky stories 4th grade

The Passage by Justin Cronin  (SERIES) (ages 17+) This is an adult chapter book that scared the cr*p out of me– but it was such a page-turner and would work for young adults. The twist is the scary dudes aren’t really zombies but are killing with their intelligent hive-mind after an infection the government gave the prisoners goes very wrong. It’s so well written that I kept reading. ONLY read at your own risk. Seriously. Freaky. Horror novel.

Creepy, spooky, and scary stories are many kids' favorite kinds of books to read. If your readers love a good jolt of adrenaline, these scary stories will give readers a spooky or frightful reading experience. Luckily, most of these book choices are only moderately scary instead of downright terrifying.


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Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, former teacher & literacy trainer, and freelance education writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Penguin Random House's Brightly website, USA Today Health, Adobe Education, Colorado Parent, and Parenting. She is passionate about hooking kids on books.

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Scary Fiction (Grades 4-6)

Beatty, Robert.  Serafina and the Black Cloak.  J FIC Beatty In 1899, a twelve-year-old rat catcher on North Carolina’s Biltmore estate teams up with the estate owner’s young nephew to battle a great evil and, in the process, unlocks the puzzle of her past.

Carman, Patrick.  Skeleton Creek .  J FIC Carman  (SERIES) Although housebound following an eerie accident, teenaged Ryan continues to investigate the strange occurences in his hometown of Skeleton Creek, recording his findings in a journal and viewing email video clips sent by fellow detective Sarah.  SEQUELS : Ghost in the Machine (2009), The Crossbones (2010), & The Raven (2011).

Chabert, Jack.  The School is Alive!   JPB C  (Eerie Elementary SERIES) Sam Graves discovers that his elementary school is alive and plotting against the students, and, as hall monitor, it is his job to protect them–but he will need some help from his friends.  SEQUELS: The Locker Ate Lucky! (2014) & Recess is a Jungle (2016).

Cohen, Marina.  The Inn Between .  Y FIC Cohen During a long car trip, best friends Quinn and Kara explore the strange and creepy goings-on at a remote Nevada inn when Kara’s family stops for the night.

Cummings, Troy.  Rise of the Balloon Goons .  J FIC Cummings  (Notebook of Doom SERIES) Alexander has just moved into Stermont, but the elementary school is being torn down, his new classroom is located in the hospital morgue, a notebook he finds is full of information about monsters–and everywhere he turns there are spooky balloon men determined to attack him.  SEQUELS : Day of the Night Crawlers (2013), Attack of the Shadow Smashers (2013) & Chomp of the Meat-Eating Vegetables (2014).

Gaiman, Neil.   Coraline.   JPB G Looking for excitement, Coraline ventures through a mysterious door into a world that is similar, yet disturbingly different from her own, where she must challenge a gruesome entity in order to save herself, her parents, and the souls of three others.

Goebel, Jenny.  Grave Images.   J FIC Goebel When a mysterious and sinister stranger called Abbot Stein walks into the family-owned Alpine Monuments and asks for a job etching portraits for the gravestones, thirteen-year-old Bernadette is impressed with his art, but disturbed by the man himself– and then people in her small town start dying.

Grabenstein. Chris.  The Crossroads .  J FIC Grabenstein  (Haunted Mysteries SERIES) When eleven-year-old Zack Jennings moves to Connecticut with his father and new stepmother, they must deal with the ghosts left behind by a terrible accident, as well as another kind of ghost from Zack’s past.   SEQUELS : The Hanging Hill (2009), The Smoky Corridor (2010), The Black Heart Crypt (2011).

Hayes, Christine.  Mothman’s Curse.  J FIC Hayes When Josie and her brother Fox discover the truth behind the legend of the Mothman, they must stop a disaster in order to break the curse that has been afflicting their town .

Jobling, Curtis.  Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse.   J FIC Jobling Max van Helsing and a group of friends try to save the world after he discovers he has been cursed by an evil warlock who intends to reclaim the earth for monsters.

Kerr, Phillip.  The Most Frightening Story Ever Told.  J FIC Kerr Loner and avid reader Billy Shivers is unexpectedly drawn into a competition that challenges daring readers to survive an entire night in a purportedly haunted bookstore while navigating creepy booby traps, avoiding the store’s ill-tempered owner and reading books with terrifying plots.

Preller, James.  Home Sweet Horror .  J FIC Preller  (Scary Tales SERIES) After the death of his mother, eight-year-old Liam and his father and sister move to a new house for a fresh start, but Liam soon discovers that the old house is haunted.  SEQUELS : I Scream, You Scream (2013) & Good Night, Zombie (2013).

Schwartz, Alan.  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark .  J 398.25 S (Juvenile Nonfiction Collection) Tapped from the oral traditions of American folklore, these ghost stories and tales of weird happenings, witches, and graveyards have startling, funny, or surprising endings.   SEQUEL : More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Segel, Jason & Miller, Kirsten.  Nightmares!   J FIC Segel Twelve-year-old Charlie and his friends must stop nightmares from taking over their town before it’s too late.

Stine. R.L.  Stay Out of the Basement.   JPB S   (Goosebumps SERIES) Dr. Brewer is doing a little plant-testing in his basement. Nothing to worry about. Harmless, really. But Margaret and Casey Brewer are worried about their father. Especially when they … meet … some of the plants he is growing down there. Then they notice that their father is developing plantlike tendencies. In fact, he is becoming distinctly weedy–and seedy. Is this just part of their father’s ‘harmless’ experiment? Or has the basement turned into another little shop of horrors? SEQUELS:  There are over 50 titles in this series!

Towell, Katy.  Charlie and the Grandmothers .  J FIC Towell When fearful twelve-year-old Charlie and his bolder younger sister are sent to visit a grandmother they never knew they had, they discover a dark secret.

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10 Scary Short Stories To Share With Your Students This October

You can’t get scared if you read them in the daylight, right?

Picture of a creepy nightime sky with a large full moon and three black bats flying in front of it

I always loved walking into English class in October and discovering my teacher had a scary short story for us to read. Sometimes, they’d dim the lights and have creepy music playing softly in the background. We’d all dive in, eager to see if it really was as scary as we hoped. When I became an English teacher, I continued that tradition. And now I’m always on the lookout for new, spooky short stories. This year, I found a few new ones I’d never heard of before, as well as rediscovered some classic, scary short stories I can’t wait to show my students. Here are the ten scary short stories I was most excited to find, as well as how a teacher might use them in a lesson.

1. Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

Three brightly colored wigs, one purple, one red, and one blue

This scary short story takes place in Nigeria. The three main characters are all Nigerian women with a powerful secret. As the main character desperately tries to undo the consequences of her terrible scientific experiment/invention gone wrong, your students will definitely pick up on some similarities to Frankenstein and other classic horror stories.

Lessons on characterization, mood/tone, and thematic ideas like the consequences of scientific experimentation. Comparisons to other horror or science-fiction stories are easily made as well. It would be an excellent companion piece to a unit studying Frankenstein .

2. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson

Brown and white horse lying down on a bed of hay

In this creepy, atmospheric piece, the narrator wonders if the things he sees are real or if he has lost his mind. His house seems to be changing. His family too. Eventually, he realizes there’s nothing and no one he can trust. And we realize that maybe we shouldn’t trust him either.

This tale is short on stereotypical scares and high on a slowly building sense of dread. Because of this, it’s better suited for high school students. It would be a perfect piece to begin or elaborate on a lesson about unreliable narrators as well as how authors develop mood and tone. If you had a scary short story unit, it would be excellent as a modern companion piece to “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “A Cask of Amontillado.”

3. The Flowers by Alice Walker

A field full of yellow flowers with one oak tree standing in the center

This is another short story better suited for older students. Alice Walker’s coming-of-age story about a young Black girl named Myop discovering the chilling evidence of a long-past lynching isn’t one to hand out without a lot of preparation. It is a surprisingly powerful story, especially when you consider it is only two pages long. Walker’s use of setting as a way to illustrate how Myop’s worldview changes is definitely worth sharing with your students. Just be prepared for some heavy conversation about the history of racially motivated violence and its effects on young people.

Have students pay close attention to how Walker’s descriptions of the setting change as the story progresses and why she makes those choices. Discuss how Walker uses irony by writing such a dark story and setting it during a bright, sunny summer day. Ask students to determine what they believe are important thematic statements for this story.

4. His Face All Red by E.M. Carroll

Screen shot from the scary short stories His Face All Red showing a man sitting in a tavern looking at his brother while he laughs with friends

It’s always beneficial to share a good graphic novel with your class. I was excited to find this one by E.M. Carroll, a graphic novelist who writes horror stories. Not all of his work is school-appropriate, so this scary short story is a perfect find. The story revolves around a young man who is convinced his brother isn’t who he says he is. He knows this because … wait for it … he murdered his brother earlier that week.

Perfect for discussions about how graphic novels differ from “regular” novels or for an examination of how authors show literary elements like characterization, setting, suspense, or dialogue in graphic novel form. Discussions of unreliable narrators or any unit with elements of suspense could also add this story as a companion piece.

5. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Picture of a rural town square

Ok, this one’s an oldie but a goodie. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have an immediate reaction to the end of this scary short story. There’s something about what Jackson leaves out of this tale of a small town and its strangest tradition that is almost infuriating. There’s no real violence in this story; it’s more implied, which makes it perfect for middle grades. Fair warning, though, it’s also what will make students respond so strongly to the story. Be prepared for students who love the open-ended ending and some who absolutely hate it.

This would be a wonderful text to assign as the core text for a Socratic seminar. All students will be able to come up with at least a few questions about the story and its characters. More complex questions about peer pressure, mob mentality, and traditions would add to the depth of the discussion. A fun creative-writing activity might have students write a prequel that explains the origins of the lottery or challenge students to write an open-ended short story of their own.

6. Lacrimosa by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Shadow of a man walking on a city street alone at night

Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia might be better known for her full-length novel,  Mexican Gothic . But she also can spin one heck of a scary short story. In this story, readers will follow a Mexican man living in Vancouver. Although he is relatively successful, he is unhappy. Guilt over not doing more to support his family in Mexico, he begins to believe he is being stalked by a vengeful spirit.

Because of its obvious connection to the horror movie La Llorona , students might enjoy this new look at a story they’re already somewhat familiar with. The question of whether or not the main character is truly being haunted or if it’s just a metaphor for his guilt will certainly lead to a higher-level discussion about his motivations. This also would be a great piece to use for discussions about mood/tone.

7. The Landlady by Roald Dahl

Blue townhouse door

This is another classic, but it will be new to many of your students. They’ll get a kick out of learning just how macabre the man who wrote  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  really was. While there’s no overt violence, the idea that the danger comes from the person you least suspect makes this a perfect addition to your collection of scary short stories.

Finding a narrative students are willing to reread after they’ve finished reading it a first time is a challenge. This one, however, is one I’ve never had trouble with. Students love returning to this story to find the first moments when Dahl foreshadows that everything is not what it seems. You can also use it in lessons about how authors develop characters through dialogue. The landlady gives herself away several times throughout the story if you know where to look.

8. Haunted by Harris Tobias

Spooky house at night with two lamps on the wall surrounding the house lighting the walkway to the front door

Looking for a new Halloween tale for your younger students? This haunted house story is perfect for students who can handle a little bit of scary, but not too much. In this story, the haunted house is trying to send a message to its new owner, but it’s not the message your students might expect from a typical scary story.

Several great conversations could come from a reading of this story in class. What can go wrong if we jump to conclusions and how we should ask for help when we’re afraid are two excellent topics for younger readers to tackle. Having students create their own versions of spooky creatures that are just misunderstood would make for a fun Halloween lesson as well.

9. Cow’s Head retold by S.E. Schlosser

Treasure chest with something gold glowing inside

Another great choice for younger students, this retelling of a Ukrainian folktale has just enough spooky elements to make it perfect for a Halloween lesson without crossing into truly scary territory. It feels a little bit like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel mashed together … with a cow’s head.

This would be an excellent addition to a unit on folklore or fairy tales. Students could be encouraged to make up their own creepy folktale using similar elements to those found in the story. The teacher could also use this story as an extended thinking activity, asking students to identify the similarities to folktales from other cultures.

10. Patient Zero by Tananarive Due

Glass wall with quarantine sticker on it and hand pressed up against the glass from the other side

Just creepy enough for middle or high school students without going too far with the “deadly virus” imagery, Patient Zero is the story of Jay. He spends most of his days being taught about the Constitution and edible plants by his teacher and having blood drawn by doctors who seem a little afraid of him. The reader is left to piece together what has happened from the snippets of life Jay writes about in his journal.

This would be an awesome scary short story for a science teacher to use as a launch for lessons about viruses and asymptomatic carriers. It could also be used as the source material for a Socratic seminar or fishbowl discussion about ethics in times of crisis. What should be done with Jay? If you’ve already introduced the concept of unreliable narrators to your class with stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” it could also be useful to show them that unreliable narrators can be unreliable for reasons other than madness, for example, because they’re children who don’t fully understand what’s happening to them.

Looking for even more short stories to share with your class?  51 Great Short Stories to Teach in Middle School

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10 Scary Short Stories To Share With Your Students This October

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17 Scary Books for 4th Graders

April 22, 2018 by Katrina 2 Comments

spooky stories 4th grade

Today, we’ll delve into scary books for kids! This isn’t every child’s cup of tea, but your future Stephen King fans will adore this list. 

Grimm Trilogy

spooky stories 4th grade

These three stories bring back all the goriness of the original Grimm Series. And yet, they’re funny. The author, Adam Gidwitz, leads his readers through this creepy land, often warning them that they might want to close the book. 

spooky stories 4th grade

A fun thing to do? Tell kids not to read the Grimm books because they’re too scary. They’ll be a waiting line for them.

spooky stories 4th grade

Time of the Fireflies

spooky stories 4th grade

Time of the Fireflies by Kimberly Griffiths Little is creepy but fun . Young Larissa is alone in her parents’ antique shop when one of the ancient, unplugged phones rings. When she picks up the receiver, there is a raspy voice on the other end. Fireflies appear and take her to an unexpected place close to home.

I had a student who read this twice as a fourth grader. Then in fifth grade she returned to borrow it. Three times.

The Luck Uglies

spooky stories 4th grade

Paul Durham has written three books in this Luck Uglies series. I’ve only read #1 so far, but it was unique. There is so much about this that defies a quick summary. So here are some phrases instead:

  • Village Drowning (that’s the actual name of the village)
  • Bog Noblins, thought extinct, may have returned (very creepy)
  • girls not allowed to read
  • books that describe community’s past are outlawed.
  • Luck Uglies — a sort of old-fashioned Hell’s Angels who defended the village — have long ago been exiled.

It’s dark. It’s light. The characters are well-rounded and multilayered. It’s the kind of story that makes you feel out of sorts when you close the book and realize you aren’t in Village Drowning.

I listened to this an audiobook and it was atmospheric.

spooky stories 4th grade

The Night Gardener and Peter Nimble

spooky stories 4th grade

Oh. The Night Gardener . If you love scary books for kids — or scary books in general — this one should be at the top of your list.

Two children from Ireland ride thier horse-led cart towards Windsor House seeking employment. It’s an odd home with a foreboding tree next to it. Ignoring the neighbors’ warnings, the children gain positions there. In the morning, there are wet footsteps and leaves scattered throughout the house.

This is as close to child-appropriate horror as you’ll get. And, like the Victorian ghost stories of long ago, the writing is delicious! Kids will savor this one. They will need a nightlight.

Jonathan Auxier also wrote Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes , another incredible story.

spooky stories 4th grade

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

spooky stories 4th grade

Honestly? These books are not well written. But it doesn’t matter. Alvin Schwartz understands what kids fear. His Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was first published in 1981 and the series has lasted for a few reasons. First, they are truly creepy.  Yet each story is short enough so kids can scare themselves just a little and then gratefully close the book.

The pictures may be the scariest part. The illustrator, Stephen Gammell, knows what nightmares are made of. Below shows one of the pages, but  here’s a looksie at some pictures that pop up when you do a search for his name.  Wild, eh? As a child, I was much to terrified to keep this in my bedroom at night.

The Dead Gentleman

spooky stories 4th grade

Matthew Cody’s The Dead Gentleman has so much going for it. An old hotel turned into luxury apartments. A forbidden cellar. 1901. Kids communicating one-hundred years apart. And a really scary villain.

spooky stories 4th grade

Neil Gaiman is an author with hypnotic, fairytale language. In Coraline , a bored girl finds a door to another dimension with a separate version of her mother and father. And everything seems swimmingly wonderful. But the buttons, man. The buttons. 

spooky stories 4th grade

There is also a graphic novel edition .

And finally, an illustrated version by Chris Riddell , one of my favorite kids’ illustrators.

spooky stories 4th grade

The Graveyard

spooky stories 4th grade

Another Neil Gaiman tale for kids, The Graveyard is not a horror-tale per se, but has some terrifying moments. A baby escapes his family’s murder and crawls into a graveyard, where he is protected, adopted, and raised by its ghosts. The audiobook is excellent and its narrated voices made it easier to keep track of all the characters.

There is a graphic novel version as well .

spooky stories 4th grade

And like before, Chris Ridell has an illustrated copy.

spooky stories 4th grade

Holly Black is the mistress of dark tales . ( The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a thrilling young adult novel. And The Cruel Prince is supposed to be equally wonderful. But truly, she’s written SO many fabulous scary books for kids.)

spooky stories 4th grade

In  Doll Bones  three friends are divided by the things that so often divide young friends. But they pull back together when confronted by a bone-china doll that seems to move on its own. And the three friends make an odyssey with the aforementioned creepy doll. Quite good.

spooky stories 4th grade

Jason Segel — yes, the actor — and Kirsten Miller create juicy scary books for kids with this series . In the first Nightmares book, Charlie is stuck in a purple mansion with a stepmother he hates. His realistic nightmares about a witch keep him sleep-deprived.

spooky stories 4th grade

I’m not usually a fan of celebrity books, but this one was an unexpectedly fun ride.

spooky stories 4th grade

Now It’s Your Turn!

Tell us in the comments below:

  • Are any of these your favorites?
  • OR … Did we miss any scary books for kids? Tell us!

Know a teacher who works too late? Want to send them time-saving tips? Then share this article with them on social media using the links up top.

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spooky stories 4th grade


spooky stories 4th grade

April 22, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Hey this is Liam, I love the books on that list. I have read alot of those books and there all great. love your website it is so cool.

spooky stories 4th grade

April 23, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Liam! What a lovely surprise to hear from you! I’m looking at that lovely green glass ball you gave me. It’s hanging by my office window and sparkling in the sun. I think of you every time I look at it. 🙂

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spooky stories 4th grade


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