Lots of kids love a good, spooky story. Just nothing
too spooky. And you might not want your young child exposed to anything super scary. Because super scary will lead to nightmares, which will result in little hands shaking you awake at 3 a.m. because they are certain t he man with the golden arm is in the hallway closet. Fortunately, there are lots of kid-friendly ghost stories out there; short little tales that deliver just the right jolt of excitement, but which contain zero mentions of murderous clowns lurking in sewers or fathers with axes chasing their children through garden mazes.
Choosing spooky stories to share with little kids can be tricky. Your child may
claim they want a blood-curdling, terrifying tale, but they probably don’t. And personally, I think it’s best to err on the side of caution. Better to have your kid walk away thinking your anecdote of a haunted wind chime was lame, rather than tell them something that leaves them bug-eyed and afraid to go to the bathroom alone.
That said, it’s good to remember that just like us,
kids enjoy the thrill of being a little frightened. The haunted tales below strike a nice balance between creepy and silly. Obviously, they don’t work for all ages. No doubt your 15-year-old would blink at you wordlessly if you tried to regale them with a story of a haunted pair of smelly sneakers. But your 6-year-old? They will likely be in your lap, white-knuckling your hand, loving/hating every minute of it. 1 Magic Castle Gladiathor/E+/Getty Images
Part scary, part fairytale, this
fun spooky story will delight young kids but leave them laughing (instead of refusing to close their eyes). A young girl and her dog encounter a note in the woods that says: Do not go to the castle at midnight. So naturally they must go to the castle at midnight, but what they find inside a coffin at the castle is more sweet than scary. 2 Creak
This story makes onomotapoeia seem scary.
Creak is basically a series of creepy sounds that will get your child feeling a tiny bit spooked, but will also remind them that these everyday noises aren’t too scary after all. Most of the time, it’s just the wind. 3 The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a story on
YouTube about an old lady walking through the woods. As she walks, she encounters a pumpkin head and different articles of clothing floating through the air on their own. Each time she sees one in her path, she demands they move out of her way and says “I’m not afraid of you.” That night, they all show floating above her doorstep to scare her, but she’s not scared and they become worried that they’ve lost their scaring technique. The next day she turns them into a pumpkin-headed scarecrow so that they can scare without getting in anyone’s way. 4 The Ghostly Maid
ghost story for little kids is eerie without being gory or graphic. A son and a father are starting over in a new house together after losing their mother and wife. They don’t believe in ghosts, even though the house is old and creepy (you can really amp up the description of the house). You can probably imagine what happens to the duo who don’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but fortunately the ending is surprising without being too scary, and you could turn it into a friendly ghost. 5 Haunted Annie Otzen/DigitalVision/Getty Images
If your kid likes the idea of ghost stories more than they actually like being scared, this
sweet ghost story could be a hit. It tells the story of an abandoned house occupied by ghosts who like to bake bread and throw parties. When the house is bought by an unsuspecting owner, he finds that that ghosts go away when real parties and friendships form in the house. 6 Underpants
Just judging by the name of this story alone, you know it’s gonna be a hit among a certain type of kids (aka those obsessed with all things potty humor). This
not-so-spooky story is about a man who always wears two pairs of underpants, but when he dies he’s only buried in one. So naturally, he becomes a ghost until he gets his second pair. This one will make kids laugh and it’s short to read at the end of a long day. 7 Fifty-Cent Piece
You can’t go wrong with a
story about benevolent ghosts. This tale follows two weary travelers who are offered a room in a house for the night by a friendly couple... except they later learn that the couple’s house burned down years ago. You can amp up the suspense by really drawing this one out, and while it’s not scary-scary, it has eerie elements that ultimately highlight the importance of generosity and gratitude. 8 The Coffin
The title of this one might initially give parents pause, as it already sounds like it’s probably too scary. But rest assured, this
tale of a coffin chasing around a man is more goofball than gore, and even ends in some silly wordplay little ones are sure to find hilarious. 9 The Scarecrow
This is a really simple tale, but it’s different in that it’s fun to try and tell it in the first person, as if it’s something that really happened to you. It’s basically the story of someone
who builds a scarecrow, and then during a thunderstorm become convinced they see the scarecrow running away. In the morning, the scarecrow is nowhere to be found, and the person is never quite sure if the scarecrow just blew away in the storm, or if they really saw it running... 10 The Pink Jellybean
Yes, I know, what could possibly be spooky about this sweet Easter treat? Other than the cavities one gets from consuming too many?
Well, this story is all about anticipation, with a slow build up, and then a big silly reveal at the end. These types of stories tend to go over big with the very young and wide-eyed. 11 The Ghost of the Bloody Finger
The title alone may put young ones on the edge of their seats. This one is all about a man
who is haunted by a disembodied bloody finger. Which yes, is scary. But in the end when this fearsome ghost makes it known he’s only on the hunt for a bandage, kids will laugh with relief. Sure to be a hit with the “I’ve got a boo boo” crowd. 12 The Hairy Toe
Here’s another one featuring a lost appendage. It’s similar in structure to the Bloody Finger, but in this one
a woman is haunted after digging up a hairy toe in her garden. She puts it in a jar (or eats it, depending on how hardcore you want to go) and the owner of said toe comes a hauntin’, demanding to know where it is. It ends with the classic campfire jump scare of pointing to someone and shouting “You’ve got it!” 13 The Yellow Ribbon DEA / BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA/De Agostini/Getty Images
I remember hearing this one as a kid and absolutely loving it. It’s a very old folk tail, about a man who meets and marries a woman who always has a mysterious
ribbon tied around her neck. Throughout their life together he asks her again and again why she wears it, but it isn’t until she’s on her deathbed that she finally lets him untie it. Her head falls off of course. 14 Rap Rap Rap Another goofy tale that ends in a pun, this is the story of a woman who inherits an old house, and is then disturbed by a ghostly rapping sound. She wanders around the house, trying to find the source of the noise - rap rap rap - and discovers... a roll of wrapping paper! 15 The Ball Pit
While parents tend to fear ball pits for being the germ farms that they are, kids of course adore them. Which makes
this story perfectly geared to the younger set. This tale of a snake hidden in a ball pit comes with a surprise twist ending that will also bring some giggles.
Sure your kid says they want a scary story before bed, but you also want them to go to sleep. These spooky ghost stories for kids strike the perfect balance between eerie and fun, and no one will be up wide-eyed in the middle of the night — hopefully.
This article was originally published on
Sep. 29, 2021