10 Books That Completely Terrified You As A Kid

by Amy Sachs

With Halloween just around the corner, there are plenty of books to read to get you in the spooky spirit. There are some old Halloween favorites — the ones your teachers read to you all October long when you were younger, like Room on the Broom, which is forever a Halloween classic. And then of course there's always Stephen King, the master of the horror genre, who has a seemingly endless supply of ways to terrify readers.

But really, while Pet Sematary or The Shining may scare you as an adult, we actually read tons of scary books as we were growing up. Honestly, if you've found something to match the pure terror of Scary Stories to Read in the Dark, please never let me know, because I won't sleep for a week. Alvin Schwartz had a way of terrifying us as we grew up that was almost unrivaled, until of course, we read R.L. Stine or Ray Bradbury as we got a little older.

If you're looking for a creepy Halloween read, there's really no need to look any further than the books sitting on your childhood bookshelf (you know you kept some of them)! From The Halloween Tree to Alvin Schwartz, here are 10 books that kept you awake all night when you were a kid!

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Set on Halloween night, eight friends set out for a night of fun, but when one of their friends is swept away and disappears, Halloween takes a turn for the terrifying. A book that definitely scared you, especially if you read it right before trick-or-treating yourself, The Halloween Tree was the stuff of nightmares.

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The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain

This one goes way back, but the Berenstain Bears were a childhood classic. The Berestain Bears sneak out of their house at night to investigate the spooky old tree outside: your childhood heart would race at this moment, wondering what will become of the three bears. This is one scary book that won't scare you as an adult, but will always bring back Halloween memories.

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz

You may not have realized this when you read it as a kid, but this was a very low-level reading book. There's an "I CAN READ!" label at the top! And while it might be Level 2 reading, it was level 100 terrifying. If you don't remember this one too clearly, allow me to remind you. One story involved a girl who wore a green ribbon around her neck, at all times. She would NEVER take it off, like, ever. Then, she's on her deathbed, dies, and someone unties the ribbon and her head falls off. This was a book for children learning to read?! I still can't handle this one.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Alvin really loved scaring kids, huh? He must have, because there was not just one. but three of these books, all available at your school book fair, where of course you had to buy them! It was all well and good to read them at recess with your friends and have a laugh about who was more scared. But then you'd remember them in bed that night, and all bets were off.

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The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine

We could not get enough of R.L. Stine or Goosebumps when we were growing up. He knew how to be just scary enough to keep you reading, but not so scary that you would have to stop. Until The Haunted Mask, obviously. A mask you could never take off? A mask that became you? NO, THANKS! And really, what kid wants to dress up for Halloween after something like that? Masks were definitely out. And, bonus, the movie was pure nightmare fuel.

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Bunnicula by James Howe

I'm just still really sorry for anyone who had a pet rabbit and read this book as a kid. A vampire rabbit? That's not at all scary. Not at all.

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Christina's Ghost by Betty Ren Wright

Creepy old mansion, little boy ghost, it was the perfect Halloween book when we were in elementary school! But it was also terrifying. A young girl, caught up in a decades old murder? Just what every ten year-old wants! We definitely went home and double checked every room, just to be sure, after reading this one.

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Bruce Coville's Book of Nightmares by Bruce Coville

Bruce Coville knew how to write a scary story. He made us doubt even our teachers in My Teacher is an Alien, and then came back for more with his Book of Nightmares. I mean, everything you need to know is in the title. They really did make us scream!

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The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

It was kind of the point of the series, but nothing about The Series of Unfortunate Events was happy. We devoured each and every book, but Count Olaf never stopped terrifying us. I mean, he wanted to marry Violet, who was only a kid, and at least forty years younger than him. Chills, even now.

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The Witches by Roald Dahl

All of Roald Dahl's books had a level of creepiness to them, but The Witches was one no one could resist once Halloween rolled around. Were the witches good, bad, something in the middle? Were there witches around you right as you were reading? One could never be sure, and that's what made this one both terrifying and fun.

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Image: David Goehring/Flickr; Giphy