Dictionary Staff Picks: Our Favorite Scary Book And Stories

staff picks

During the fall season, there’s nothing quite like finding a good book, curling up on a cozy couch, diving into the pages, and then… hurling said book across the room in terror! Halloween might be the climax of the spooky season, but scaring each other with ghost stories is something we can enjoy all throughout the year. But first, you’ll need to find something bone-chilling to read. 

Here at Dictionary.com, we love terrifying tales and fearsome fables. So, we thought we’d share some of our favorites. We asked our team for those favorite books and stories that kept us up at night as kids and still give us the creeps today. If you’re a brave soul looking for some spooky stories, then read on! 

If you need us, we’ll be hiding under the blankets…

Don’t miss the Haunting Hooks winner announcement on Oct. 31!

🎃 “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler
—Jean C., Editor, Lexicography 

Jean describes this story as “pretty darn creepy.” How creepy are we talking? Jean says: “The scene where a boy to be impregnated with the eggs of the alien species witnesses the horrifying birth he will undergo hasn’t left me (and it’s been years since I read this story).” 

Yeah, we’ll file that one under creepy and also earmark it for consideration for nope.

🎃 The Collector by John Fowles
—Allison T., Vice President, Product

Allison lists it as “one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.” Allison says: “I was terrified even reading it in broad daylight!”

🎃 “End of the Party” by Graham Greene
—John K., Vice President, Editorial

John says: “Here, what is most masterful is the way Greene develops a subtle but eerie language of light to illuminate the enveloping and ineffable terror of his story’s dark. The effect is a chilling chiaroscuro in words.”

For more scares, John also recommends King Lear by William Shakespeare, “Report on an Unidentified Space Station” by J.G. Ballard, and 2666 by Roberto Bolaño.

🎃 “The Witch” by Shirley Jackson
—George F., Vice President, Experience Design

George says: “The plot was simple yet it allows, demands even, the reader to fill in answers to questions. Is there really a witch or is this all the power of story? Why does the old man show up precisely after the boy mentions witches? Why is the boy’s mother seemingly unalarmed about this weird man telling violent stories to her son? And why were these the questions that entered my mind? Good stuff.” 

If you are in the mood for more good (and spooky) stuff, George also recommends “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, Slash Them All by Antoine Maillard, Black Hole by Charles Burns, and Idle Days by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau and Simon Leclerc.

🎃 “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
—John D., Staff Writer

John says: “It’s one of those stories where your imagination enhances the terror, and it is my favorite ‘be careful what you wish for’ story. It also inspired an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? so you know it is good and spooky.”

🎃 Michigan Chillers series by Johnathan Rand
—Jamie B., Senior Machine Learning Engineer

Jamie says: “As a kid, the Michigan Chillers series was so special because the spooky stories were local to me. I remember staying up late during a sleepover reading the Great Lakes Ghost Ship. Couldn’t fall asleep after that!”

🎃 “The Green Ribbon” from In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
—Erick T., Team Leader, Engineering

Erick says: “For me, it was the first time where I was lured into a false sense of security.” The story also introduced Erick to a shocking twist before M. Night Shyamalan made it popular. “It made me rewrite the hope that was presented in the story from the first paragraph.”

🎃 Singularity by William Sleator
—Aroline H., Content Editor

Aroline says: “I remember how unique to me the idea of entering a new time dimension was. As a kid, I usually read more lighthearted fiction, but this one was intriguing, and although scary, it drew me in. I recall thinking about it after finishing it, too, as if the awe stayed with me.”

🎃 The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
—Mariel J., Senior Research Editor

Mariel says: “One of the scariest books I read as a kid was The Dollhouse Murders, where the dolls pose themselves to re-enact a terrifying crime (no spoilers!) and deliver clues that help solve it. Still seems pretty creepy to me!” 

As an added bonus, Mariel says: “Every year, I read the poem ‘hist whist’ [by e.e. cummings] (usually with my daughter) to get in the right spooky feeling for the season.”


Mission accomplished. We are covered in goosebumps and at maximum spookiness levels. Try reading some of these stories and books yourself. You just might discover a new favorite scary story! 

What makes a tale terrifyingly good? Learn tips to master the craft of the scary campfire story.

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