The days grow short and a chill hangs in the air… There is no better way to pass the time than these scary stories to tell in the dark…
The Best Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
I can’t count how many nights I spent huddled around a campfire deep in the Piney Woods National Forest of east Texas, listening to the scary stories and urban legends that turned darker the lower the fire burned.
It always ended with my uncle telling us to “sleep tight…” which of course, I was never able to.
Fall is an incredible time to be outdoors and the perfect time to tell ghost stories. The night grows dark, the flames lay low and begin to smolder, uneven light flickers and shadows slither across otherwise familiar faces… there is no better way to pass the time.
I’ve put together a short list of my favorite urban legends and scary stories to tell in the dark for you to share with your own family. The trouble with urban legends is most of them are steeped in truth. But where does the truth end… and where does the story begin?
Can you separate fact from fiction? Can you “up” the scare factor and make them more believable…more terrifying? Below are just a few samples of some of the best ghost stories I’ve come across:
Drip Drip Drip
One night a young girl, Lily Foster, is left alone for the night, in her country house, while her parents drove out to town for a party. This was fine with Lily, especially since she had her faithful dog, Scout, protecting her throughout the night.
She made herself something to eat and sat down at the kitchen table. Turning on the radio to her favorite station, she was surprised to hear a news bulletin declaring that an avenged murderer was on the loose. It advised that people secure all windows and doors as a safety precaution. With her dog by her side, the young girl locked the front and back doors. She went from window to window and locked each of them one at a time.
Lily reassured herself that she would be fine with her trusty dog and that her parents would be home shortly, anyway.
So, Lily had a pleasant, peaceful evening, and finally decided around eleven o'clock that it was time for bed.
She climbed the stairs to her bedroom and slid under the big, warm blanket on her bed. Before closing her eyes she reached her hand down under the bed, and allowed her dog to lick it – she did this every night because it comforted her. A short while later she awoke to the sound of a scratching noise at her bedroom window. She eyed the window and reminded herself that the whole house was locked and she was safe.
She stuck her hand under her bed and felt her dog's slobbery tongue cross over the palm of her hand.
Sighing, she went back to sleep. An hour or so later she sat up in bed. She had heard footsteps in the hallway and crept out of bed to see if it was possibly just her parents returning from their party. Seeing nothing, she returned to bed. As she was about to stick her hand under the bed, she heard a drip, drip, drip, followed by some footsteps. She walked downstairs into the kitchen and secured the taps. That surely wasn't the source of the drip. She crept upstairs and climbed into bed.
“This is silly,” she told herself. “I'm probably just imagining things.”
She stuck her hand under the bed and felt the dog lick her hand. An hour later she awoke again. A little mad at this point, she jumped out of bed. The dripping wasn't coming from the kitchen so it must be from the bathroom.
She crept along the side of the hallway and walked into the bathroom. Groping along the side of the wall with her left hand, looking for the light switch, she flicked the light on and gasped.
There, hanging from the shower rod was Scout.
Skinned… and dangling lifeless, a pool of blood had formed on the bathroom tile with a continuous ‘drip, drip, drip' as the blood from the dog slowly spattered on the floor.
Something on the wall caught her eye. Written on the wall was a message in blood:
“Humans can lick too.”
Some Things Are Better Left Unseen…
She commandeered the room in the basement of her dorm as soon as she realized she would have to pull an all-nighter in order to prepare for tomorrow’s final exam. Her roommate, Jenna, liked to get to bed early, so she packed up everything she thought she would need and went downstairs to study . . . and study . . . and study some more.
It was two o’clock, when she realized that she’d left one of the textbooks upstairs on her bed. With a dramatic sigh, she rose and climbed the stairs slowly to her third-floor dorm room.
The lights were dim in the long hallway, and the old boards creaked under her weary tread.
She reached her room and turned the handle as softly as she could, pushing the door open just enough to slip inside, so that the hall lights wouldn’t wake her roommate.
The room was filled with a strange, metallic smell. She frowned a bit, her arms breaking out into chills. There was a strange feeling of malice in the room as if a malevolent gaze were fixed upon her. It was a mind trick; the all-nighter was catching up with her.
She could hear Jenna breathing on the far side of the room—a heavy sound, almost as if she had been running. Jenna must have picked up a cold during the last tense week before finals. She crept along the wall until she reached her bed, groping among the covers for the stray history textbook.
In the silence, she could hear a steady drip-drip-drip sound. She sighed silently.
Facilities would have to come to fix the sink in the bathroom…again. Her fingers closed on the textbook. She picked it up softly and withdrew from the room as silently as she could.
Relieved to be out of the room, she hurried back downstairs, collapsed into an overstuffed chair and studied until six o’clock. She finally decided that enough was enough. If she slipped upstairs now, she could get a couple hours’ sleep before her nine o’clock exam.
The first of the sun’s rays were beaming through the windows as she slowly slid the door open, hoping not to awaken Jenna. Her nose was met by that same earthy, metallic smell a second before her eyes registered the scene in her dorm room. Jenna was spread-eagled on top of her bed against the far wall, her throat slashed from ear to ear and her nightdress stained with blood.
Two drops of blood fell from the saturated blanket with a drip-drip noise that sounded like a leaky faucet.
Scream after scream poured from her mouth, but she couldn’t stop herself any more than she could cease wringing her hands. All along the hallway, doors slammed and footsteps came running down the hall.
Within seconds the other students had gathered in her doorway, and one of her friends gripped her arm with a shaking hand and pointed a trembling finger toward the wall. Her eyes widened in shock at what she saw. Then she fainted into her friend’s arms.
On the wall above her bed, written in her roommate’s blood, were the words: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
A married couple was going out for the evening and called in a teenage babysitter to take care of their three children. When she arrived they told her they probably wouldn't be back until late, and that the kids were already asleep so she needn't disturb them. It should have been an easy night…
The babysitter starts doing her homework while awaiting a call from her boyfriend. After a while the phone rings. She answers it, but hears no one on the other end – just a slow…heavy…breathing.
After several moments the line goes dead.
Ten minutes later, the phone rings again.
She answers, and this time, there's a man on the line who says, in a chilling voice, “Have you checked on the children?”
At first, she thinks it might have been the father calling to check up and he got interrupted, so she decides to ignore it. She goes back to her homework, then the phone rings again.
“Have you checked on the children?” says the creepy voice on the other end.
“Mr. Murphy?” she asks, but the caller hangs up again.
She decides to phone the restaurant where the parents said they'd be dining, but when she asks for Mr. Murphy she is told that he and his wife had left the restaurant 45 minutes earlier.
So she calls the police and reports that a stranger has been calling her and hanging up. “Has he threatened you?” the dispatcher asks. No, she says. “Well, there's nothing we can really do about it. You could try reporting the prank caller to the phone company.”
A few minutes go by and she gets another call.
“Why haven't you checked the children?” the voice says.
“Who is this?” she asks, but he hangs up again. She dials 911 again and says, “I'm scared. I know he's out there, he's watching me.”
“Have you seen him?” the dispatcher asks. She says no. “Well, there isn't much we can do about it,” the dispatcher says. The babysitter goes into a panic and pleads with him to help her.
“Now, now, it'll be okay,” he says. “Give me your number and street address, and if you can keep this guy on the phone for at least a minute we'll try to trace the call. What was your name again?”
“Okay, Linda, if he calls back we'll do our best to trace the call, but just keep calm. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes,” she says, and hangs up. She decides to turn the lights down so she can see if anyone's outside, and that's when she gets another call.
“It's me,” the familiar voice says. “Why did you turn the lights down?”
“Can you see me?” she asks, panicking.
“Yes… that’s such a pretty dress you’re wearing Linda” he says after a long pause.
“Look, you've scared me,” she says. “I'm shaking. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted?”
“Then what do you want?” she asks.
Another long pause.
“To see what your insides look like, Linda,” he said with a low ominous chuckle.
She slams the phone down, terrified. Almost immediately it rings again.
“Leave me alone!” she screams, but it's the dispatcher calling back. His voice is urgent.
“Linda, we've traced that call. It's coming from inside the house. Get out of there! Now!!!”
She tears to the front door, attempting to unlock it and dash outside, only to find the chain at the top still latched. In the time it takes her to unhook it she sees a door open at the top of the stairs. Light streams from the children's bedroom, revealing the profile of a man standing just inside.
She finally gets the door open and bursts outside, only to find an officer standing on the doorstep with his gun drawn. The officer rushes in and up the stairs… They capture the man and as they drag him down the stairs linda notices the blood… but it’s not his own.
As he’s being lead to the car, the man screams:
“WHY DIDN’T YOU CHECK ON THE CHILDREN LINDA! IT’S ALL…YOUR…FAULT!”
These are just a couple of my favorite scary stories… but there are so many more floating around and so many variations that there’s no way to even make a dent in them.
If you want a great place to start looking for new scary stories to make your next campfire a real fright fest… Click here now!
One thing to keep in mind…not every scary story needs a long set up…sometimes even just two sentences can be enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck
Creepy Two-Sentence Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Bonus: This one would be a little long to commit to memory and tell around a campfire but it is by far one of the most unsettling stories I’ve ever read.
Caution: This one gave me nightmares….
The Russian Sleep Experiment
Russian researchers in the late 1940s kept five people awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas-based stimulant. They were kept in a sealed environment to carefully monitor their oxygen intake so the gas didn't kill them, since it was toxic in high concentrations.
This was before closed circuit cameras so they had only microphones and five-inch thick glass porthole sized windows into the chamber to monitor them. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep on but no bedding, running water and toilet, and enough dried food to last all five for over a month.
The test subjects were political prisoners deemed enemies of the state during World War II.
Everything was fine for the first five days…
The subjects hardly complained having been promised (falsely) that they would be freed if they submitted to the test and did not sleep for 30 days. Their conversations and activities were monitored and it was noted that they continued to talk about increasingly traumatic incidents in their past, and the general tone of their conversations took on a darker aspect after the four day mark.
After five days they started to complain about the circumstances and events that lead them to where they were and started to demonstrate severe paranoia. They stopped talking to each other and began alternately whispering to the microphones and one way mirrored portholes. Oddly they all seemed to think they could win the trust of the experimenters by turning over their comrades, the other subjects in captivity with them.
At first the researchers suspected this was an effect of the gas itself…
After nine days the first of them started screaming. He ran the length of the chamber repeatedly yelling at the top of his lungs for three hours straight, he continued attempting to scream but was only able to produce occasional squeaks. The researchers postulated that he had physically torn his vocal cords. The most surprising thing about this behavior is how the other captives reacted to it… or rather didn't react to it.
They continued whispering to the microphones until the second of the captives started to scream. The non-screaming captives took the books apart, smeared page after page with their own feces and pasted them calmly over the glass portholes. The screaming promptly stopped.
So did the whispering to the microphones.
After three more days passed. The researchers checked the microphones hourly to make sure they were working, since they thought it impossible that no sound could be coming with five people inside. The oxygen consumption in the chamber indicated that all five must still be alive.
In fact it was the amount of oxygen five people would consume at a very heavy level of strenuous exercise. On the morning of the 14th day, the researchers did something they said they would not do to get a reaction from the captives, they used the intercom inside the chamber, hoping to provoke any response from the captives they were afraid were either dead or vegetables.
They announced: “We are opening the chamber to test the microphones; step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will be shot. Compliance will earn one of you immediate freedom.”
To their surprise, they heard a single phrase in a calm voice response:
“We no longer want to be freed.”
Debate quickly broke out among the researchers and the military forces funding the research. Unable to provoke any more response using the intercom it was finally decided to open the chamber at midnight on the fifteenth day.
The chamber was flushed of the stimulant gas and filled with fresh air and immediately voices from the microphones began to object. 3 different voices began begging as if pleading for the life of loved ones to turn the gas back on. The chamber was opened and soldiers sent in to retrieve the test subjects. They began to scream louder than ever, and so did the soldiers when they saw what was inside. Four of the five subjects were still alive, although no one could rightly call the state that any of them were in ‘life.'
The food rations past day five had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject's thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber, blocking the drain and allowing four inches of water to accumulate on the floor.
Precisely how much of the water on the floor was actually blood was never determined…
All four ‘surviving' test subjects also had large portions of muscle and skin torn away from their bodies. The destruction of flesh and exposed bone on their finger tips indicated that the wounds were inflicted by hand, not with teeth as the researchers initially thought. Closer examination of the position and angles of the wounds indicated that most if not all of them were self-inflicted.
The abdominal organs below the ribcage of all four test subjects had been removed…
While the heart, lungs, and diaphragm remained in place, the skin and most of the muscles attached to the ribs had been ripped off, exposing the lungs through the ribcage.
All the blood vessels and organs remained intact, they had just been taken out and laid on the floor, fanning out around the eviscerated but still living bodies of the subjects. The digestive tract of all four could be seen to be working, digesting food. It quickly became apparent that what they were digesting was their own flesh that they had ripped off and eaten over the course of days.
Most of the soldiers were Russian special operatives at the facility, but still many refused to return to the chamber to remove the test subjects. They continued to scream to be left in the chamber and alternately begged and demanded that the gas be turned back on, lest they fall asleep…
To everyone's surprise…
The test subjects put up a fierce fight in the process of being removed from the chamber. One of the Russian soldiers died from having his throat ripped out, another was gravely injured by having his testicles ripped off and an artery in his leg severed by one of the subject's teeth. Another 5 of the soldiers lost their lives if you count ones that committed suicide in the weeks following the incident.
In the struggle, one of the four living subjects had his spleen ruptured and he bled out almost immediately.
The medical researchers attempted to sedate him but this proved impossible. He was injected with more than ten times the human dose of a morphine derivative and still fought like a cornered animal, breaking the ribs and arm of one doctor.
When his heart was seen to beat for a full two minutes after he had bled out to the point there was more air in his vascular system than blood. Even after it stopped he continued to scream and flail for another three minutes, struggling to attack anyone in reach and just repeating the word “MORE” over and over, weaker and weaker, until he finally fell silent.
The surviving three test subjects…
They were heavily restrained and moved to a medical facility, the two with intact vocal cords continuously begging for the gas demanding to be kept awake…
The most injured of the three was taken to the only surgical operating room that the facility had. In the process of preparing him to have his organs placed back within his body it was found that he was effectively immune to the sedative they had given him. He fought furiously against his restraints when the anesthetic gas was brought out to put him under.
The subject managed to tear most of the way through a four inch wide leather strap on one wrist, even through the weight of a 200 pound soldier was holding that wrist as well. It took only a little more anesthetic than normal to put him under, and the instant his eyelids fluttered shut, his heart stopped.
In the autopsy of the test subject that died on the operating table…
It was found that his blood had triple the normal level of oxygen. His muscles that were still attached to his skeleton were badly torn and he had broken 9 bones in his struggle to not be subdued. Most of them were from the force his own muscles had exerted on them.
The second survivor had been the first of the group of five to start screaming. His vocal cords destroyed, he was unable to beg or object to surgery, and he only reacted by shaking his head violently in disapproval when the anesthetic gas was brought near him.
He shook his head yes when someone suggested, reluctantly, they try the surgery without anesthetic and did not react for the entire six hour procedure of replacing his abdominal organs and attempting to cover them with what remained of his skin.
The surgeon presiding stated repeatedly that it should be medically possible for the patient to still be alive…
One terrified nurse assisting the surgery stated that she had seen the patient's mouth curl into a smile several times, whenever his eyes met hers.
When the surgery ended the subject looked at the surgeon and began to wheeze loudly, attempting to talk while struggling. Assuming this must be something of drastic importance the surgeon had a pen and pad fetched so the patient could write his message.
It was simple. “Keep cutting.”
The other two test subjects were given the same surgery, both without anesthetic as well. Although they had to be injected with a paralytic for the duration of the operation. The surgeon found it impossible to perform the operation while the patients laughed continuously. Once paralyzed the subjects could only follow the attending researchers with their eyes.
The paralytic cleared their system in an abnormally short period of time and they were soon trying to escape their bonds. The moment they could speak they were again asking for the stimulant gas. The researchers tried asking why they had injured themselves, why they had ripped out their own guts and why they wanted to be given the gas again.
Only one response was given: “I must remain awake.”
All three subject's restraints were reinforced and they were placed back into the chamber awaiting determination as to what should be done with them. The researchers, facing the wrath of their military ‘benefactors' for having failed the stated goals of their project considered euthanizing the surviving subjects. The commanding officer, an ex-KGB instead saw potential, and wanted to see what would happen if they were put back on the gas. The researchers strongly objected, but were overruled.
In preparation for being sealed in the chamber again the subjects were connected to an EEG monitor and had their restraints padded for long term confinement.
To everyone's surprise, all three of the subjects stopped struggling the moment it was known that they were going back in the gas chamber. It was obvious that at this point all three were putting up a great struggle to stay awake. One of the subjects that could speak was humming loudly and continuously; the mute subject was straining his legs against the leather bonds with all his might, first left, then right, then left again for something to focus on.
The remaining subject was holding his head off his pillow and blinking rapidly.
Having been the first to be wired for EEG most of the researchers were monitoring his brain waves in surprise.
They were normal most of the time but then, sometimes they would flat line inexplicably. It looked as if he were repeatedly suffering brain death, before returning to normal. As they focused on paper scrolling out of the brainwave monitor only one nurse saw his eyes slip shut at the same moment his head hit the pillow. His brainwaves immediately changed to that of deep sleep, then flat lined for the last time as his heart simultaneously stopped.
The only remaining subject that could speak started screaming to be sealed in now.
His brainwaves showed the same flat lines as one who had just died from falling asleep. The commander gave the order to seal the chamber with both subjects inside, as well as three researchers. One of the named three immediately drew his gun and shot the commander point blank between the eyes, then turned the gun on the mute subject and blew his brains out as well.
He pointed his gun at the remaining subject, still restrained to a bed as the remaining members of the medical and research team fled the room. “I won't be locked in here with these things! Not with you!” he screamed at the man strapped to the table. “WHAT ARE YOU?” he demanded. “I must know!”
The subject smiled.
“Have you forgotten so easily?” the subject asked. “We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread.”
The researcher paused. Then aimed at the subject's heart and fired. The EEG flatlined as the subject weakly choked out,
“So… nearly… free…”
Need a little more inspiration? Check out these 30 urban legends that turned out to be true…
What’s your favorite scary story to tell around the campfire? Think you can give us a fright?
Share it in the comments below… I’d love to read.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Oct 21, 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
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