If you are lucky enough to teach middle grade students, you understand the demand for scary stories. It is also a time when picking the correct chapter book is critical. We don’t want our students to become disinterested in reading due to poor book choices. Matching books to students is a skill that takes time to practice. You have to take into consideration personal interests, reading levels, and attention spans. In order to help you out, I cultivated a list of ten scary stories that will be hard for your students to put down, and, hopefully, keep them asking for more.
The Night Gardener guides readers into a deep and dark tale filled with supernatural suspense. Young orphans Molly and Kip find themselves living and working for the mysterious Windsor family at their crumbling English estate in the woods. Not long after their arrival, spooky and strange occurrences start happening all around them including haunting visits from the elusive Night Gardener. It is soon very clear to Molly and Kip that the house and its family are keeping a disturbing secret. In order to survive and save the Windsor family, Molly and Kip must get to the bottom of the nightmarish mystery. Will they survive? Can they save the Windsor family before it’s too late?
Known for his spine-tingling tales, R.L. Stine does not disappoint with The Haunting Hour: Chills in the Dead of Night. Filled with ten different scary stories, this book is perfect for readers in search of a quick scare. Stine is a master at crafting cliffhangers and this book is filled with ten of them. Readers are slowly drawn up to the climax, then catapulted into an unexpected and terrifying ending.
Set in England, The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney follows fifteen year old Billy as he begins his new job as a guard in an old castle prison. Several of the prison cells are rumored to be haunted, and Billy is warned to stay away. Will he listen to the cautionary warnings and get out alive? The spooky illustrations add to the ghostly suspense, making this book perfect for intermediate level readers.
This award-winning book by Neil Gaiman mixes masterful storytelling with chilling suspense. Young Coraline is drawn into a secret world that exists on the other side of an old door in her house. Intriguing at first, things quickly spiral downward when Coraline realizes everything is much worse than it seems. Forced to take matters into her own hands, Coraline devises a plan to outsmart her tormentors and save her family. Will her plan work, or will evil prevail? *This book is also available as a graphic novel.
The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright is a compact murder mystery that will hook young readers from the very beginning. Amy discovers a beautiful old dollhouse in the attic of her aunt’s home. Each time Amy climbs up into the dark attic, the dollhouse comes alive. Are the dolls trying to tell her something? Can they help Amy unravel the mystery of a murder that occurred decades ago?
A combination of historical fiction and supernatural fantasy, New York Times Best Seller, Serafina and the Black Cloak envelops readers in a puzzling mystery taking place at the magnificent Biltmore estate. When children at the mansion start to go missing, Serafina relies on an unlikely friendship to help her uncover the truth behind the disappearances. Explore the grounds of the majestic mansion with Serafina as she tries to uncover the mysterious identity of the man in the black cloak.
A Taste for Red is a fast-paced vampire thriller that keeps readers guessing until the very end. Svetlana Grimm is a strong-willed middle school student with extrasensory powers. When three girls go missing from her school, Svetlana is determined to help find them. Things get interesting when Svetlana uncovers the truth. Could her beautiful science teacher really be a source of evil? Follow along with Svetlana as she uncovers the secrets behind this middle school mystery!
An abandoned amusement park, an unsolved murder, and millions of dollars in missing money make this mystery too good to put down. Next-door neighbors Logan Forbes and Arthur Jenkins transform into thirteen-year-old detectives as they track down leads and follow clues in their quest to solve the murder mystery haunting their small Virginia town. Will they be able to solve a crime that has eluded police for years?
Winner of the John Newbery Medal in 2014, Doll Bones by Holly Black tells the story of three middle school children on a quest to bury a bone china doll and the ghost it embodies. Zach, Poppy, and Alice are growing up and getting too old to continue playing with their action figures and dolls. Before ending their childhood game forever, the trio of friends set out on a ghostly adventure to bury the Queen that has been reigning over their make-believe world for decades. Equal parts adventure and ghost story, Doll Bones take readers on a spooky journey filled with twists and turns.
Layered with ghostly suspense, School of the Dead is an engaging mystery set in a historic San Francisco school. Tony, a seventh grade student, is determined to figure out why some of his new friends and teachers are acting so mysterious. Keeping readers guessing until the very last page, School of the Dead is an excellent choice for those wanting a ghostly fast-paced mystery.
Some of the books above are part of a series. Also, if your students like a particular book, chances are good there are more selections they would enjoy by the same author.
Although I read over thirty books to curate this list, I’m sure there are books that didn’t make the cut, but should have. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. I’m always looking for more scary stories!