Telling scary stories is a middle school rite of passage. Whether it’s swapping creepy tales in the playground or taking it in turns to share horror stories around a campfire, kids have always loved scaring each other with short stories of ghosts and monsters. Everyone has heard some variant of the hitchhiker with a hook for a hand, or the drip-drip-drip coming from the bathroom in the middle of the night.
While frightening tales and the accompanying group scares are an important part of oral storytelling, it’s also deliciously creepy fun to read them alone. Any time of year is the perfect time of year for curling up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate and reading a short, spooky story – and that’s true whatever your age.
There are plenty of brilliantly creepy middle grade horror novels out there, but what about shorter stories? Adult anthologies of ghost stories and scary tales are plentiful, but middle grade horror anthologies are less common. Here are some of the best collections of scary short stories for middle grade readers, ranging from the genuinely frightening to the goofy and funny. There are tales of ghouls, monsters and ghosts for all kinds of horror fans in the following collections – read on if you dare…
The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman
A collection of short stories held together by a terrifying overarching plot, The Stuff of Nightmares is one of the scariest books by veteran children’s author Malorie Blackman. Protagonist Kyle has to face his own fears, and those of his classmates and teachers, as he walks with Death through his companions’ dreams on a school trip that takes a very dark turn.
Don’t Turn Out the Lights Edited by Jonathan Maberry
This collection of several short horror stories by a variety of different writers – including the legendary R. L. Stine – is the perfect out-loud read for Halloween sleepovers (or any sleepover!). The stories play on a whole host of different fears, from spiders and ghouls to inescapable haunted houses. A tribute to the famous Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Don’t Turn Out the Lights is a perfect update for the new generation.
Horowitz Horror by Anthony Horowitz
Readers who love psychological horror as much as jump scares will adore Horowitz Horror. A collection of several creepy tales by the author of the Alex Rider series, Horowitz Horror builds the suspense to terrifying levels, each story ending with a twist that young readers will never see coming. You’ll never look at a bath the same way again…
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
A classic children’s horror anthology, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is full of chills, thrills and suspense. The collection features stories such as ‘The Hook’, the well-known urban legend about a hook-handed man attacking a couple in a car, and ‘The Babysitter’, a much-told story about a babysitter getting creepy phone calls that, it turns out, are coming from inside the house.
Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani
Behind the spectacular cover, Beasts and Beauty contains retellings of fairytales with a dark twist from the author of The School for Good and Evil. Combining horror and fantasy, Beasts and Beauty doesn’t shy away from the dark cores of well-known fairy stories, making it the perfect read for folklore fans at Halloween.
On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming
A collection of stories tied together by a shared location – White Cemetery in Chicago – On the Day I Died tells the tales of ten teenage ghosts and the last days of their lives. Beginning in the 1860s and running through to the present day, each story is a creepy, supernatural read.
Dare to Be Scared: Thirteen Stories to Chill and Thrill by Robert D. San Souci
Thirteen is lucky for some in this anthology, the first installment in a series of four. With tales of vampires, aliens, haunted houses and wolf-men, Dare to Be Scared is a classic collection of horror stories suitable for middle grade readers who want a little bit of a scare.
The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
Another classic children’s horror, this anthology by husband and wife team Patricia and Fredrick McKissack tells scary stories focused around enslaved people and people fighting for civil rights, exploring the horror of racism as well as of supernatural monsters.
Hide and Don’t Seek: And Other Very Scary Stories by Anica Mrose Rissi
A chilling collection of children’s horror stories, Hide and Don’t Seek will delight and terrify young readers. Tales in this collection include the story of a horrifying haunted doll, a zombie-infested summer camp, and, as the title suggest, a game of hide-and-seek that goes terribly wrong.
Whether the young readers in your life love being scared or are looking for a less frightening but just as thrilling Halloween story, these middle grade horror anthologies will fill a niche and be a perfect read for spooky autumn nights. Just make sure to read them with the lights on.
For more scary stories for middle graders, check out our article on Truly Terrifying Books for Fearless Middle Grade Readers. If your middle grade reader prefers a more low-key, comfortable horror, try 8 Cozy Middle Grade Ghost Stories.