As I’ve said in the past, what better audience could there be for short stories than the teen audience? For every teen who loves hauling around gigantic tomes, there is another who prefers to consume reading material one small, satisfying, bite at a time. October is the season for short and scary stories, in my opinion– a fall campfire is the perfect occasion for the right tale, or a sleepover could involve tempting “Bloody Mary” out of the mirror. There are so many opportunities to fit a scary story in as we approach the day of the dead.
So here’s a short list of short story collections you (and by you I mean anyone, but especially teens) can check out if you’re seeking out a story to give you the shivers.
The Restless Dead: Ten Original Tales of the Supernatural, edited by Deborah Noyes. With authors like Kelly Link and Annette Curtis Klause contributing, you will surely find something here to give you the creeps.
Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror, edited by R.L. Stine. This collection has an interesting collection of writers, including F.Paul Wilson and Heather Graham, who write thrillers for adults, and Peg Kehret, who writes middle grade mysteries and suspense. So it’s not surprising that the collection is somewhat of a mixed bag– but there’s also quite a lot of variety!
All Hallows’ Eve: 13 Stories by Vivian Vande Velde. This is an individual collection, and again, these are stories of the supernatural and spooky rather than the gory. Vivian Vande Velde is a fantastic writer and this could be a good way to see if you like her stuff before trying out a longer work. And, of course, this collection is thematically about Halloween, so how could I leave it out?
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. One of the stories in this book, “The Wrong Grave”, is also in The Restless Dead, mentioned above. So if you tried that and liked it, definitely pick up Pretty Monsters. These are not typical scary stories, but they’ll definitely creep you out! Kelly Link is a favorite author of mine, and I really recommend this one.
Ghostly Gallery: Eleven Spooky Stories for Young People edited by Alfred Hitchcock. This is just one of a series of short story anthologies that Hitchcock published in the 1970’s and that were available in libraries and through Scholastic book orders in the 1980s as well. It’s really a tragedy that these volumes and others like them are no longer in print, as most of the early exposure I had to scary stories was through these types of books.
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories edited by Roald Dahl. You may think of Roald Dahl as a children’s author, but he also wrote for adults and really, even in his children’s books, proves that he is a master of the macabre. His choices here include many older, classic, ghost stories, from authors such as Sheridan Le Fanu, Edith Wharton, and Robert Aickman. These are literary horror stories, some quite frightening, so I’d recommend it for older teens.
The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. These stories have the eerie feeling of truth to them, possibly because of McKissack’s introduction, where she describes listening to the stories the adults around her told when she was a child. This is a Caldecott Award winner, and also a Coretta Scott King award winner, but beyond that, it’s just really good storytelling, made even better by the dramatic illustrations. I have this on Kindle, and I’ve got to say, this is one of the books that you really need to hold in your hands and see the artwork complementing the story across a double page spread, to truly appreciate. Don’t let the award for children’s book illustration fool you: this book is often used with and appreciated by middle school aged kids and older.
The Scary Stories Treasury: Three Books to Chill Your Bones, Collected From Folklore, edited by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Make sure you have the books illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I don’t care how old you are, these are still scary. And I’m definitely not the only one to think so– read this article and you’ll see what an impact these books make.
I really can’t follow that up with anything better, so I’ll stop now and give you a chance to track these down and give yourself a fright!