There’s something uniquely thrilling about sharing spine-tingling tales in ELA class. As the leaves turn yellow, and the nights grow longer, what better way to ignite your students’ imaginations than with a collection of scary stories that send shivers down their spines? In this blog post, we’ve curated a selection of eight eerie and hair-raising stories that are sure to give your ELA class a spooky vibe they won’t soon forget.
Whether you’re looking to celebrate Halloween or simply want to infuse some excitement into your literature lessons, these tales will transport your students to a world of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe is a masterpiece of psychological horror that continues to captivate readers with its dark and chilling narrative. This short story, first published in 1843, delves into the disturbed mind of an unnamed narrator who insists on their sanity while recounting the meticulous planning and execution of a gruesome murder. The story is marked by its relentless and increasingly frenzied pace, as the narrator becomes haunted by the sound of the victim’s heart beating beneath the floorboards where the dismembered body is hidden.
The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs is a classic short story that has fascinated readers for generations with its eerie and thought-provoking narrative. Originally published in 1902, the story revolves around a seemingly innocuous but cursed monkey’s paw that grants its owner three wishes. However, as the tale unfolds, it becomes clear that these wishes come at a steep and horrifying cost. The story masterfully explores themes of fate, the consequences of one’s actions, and the dangers of tampering with the unknown.
The Landlady by Roald Dahl
“The Landlady” by Roald Dahl is a masterfully crafted and unsettling short story that showcases Dahl’s prowess in blending the ordinary with the macabre. Published in 1960, this tale introduces readers to Billy Weaver, a young man in search of lodging for the night who stumbles upon a charming and seemingly quaint bed and breakfast owned by the enigmatic landlady. However, as the story unfolds, an eerie sense of unease sets in as readers begin to suspect that there is something deeply sinister lurking beneath the surface.
The Outsider by H. P. Lovecraft
“The Outsider” by H.P. Lovecraft is a haunting and atmospheric short story that exemplifies Lovecraft’s mastery of cosmic horror. Written in 1921 and first published in 1926, this tale follows an unnamed narrator who describes their solitary existence within a decaying, ancient castle. The story takes a surreal and chilling turn when the narrator decides to climb a tower and discover the world beyond, only to encounter a shocking and horrifying revelation about their true nature.
The Hitch-Hiker by Roald Dahl
“The Hitch-Hiker” by Roald Dahl is a riveting short story that showcases Dahl’s talent for crafting tales of suspense and dark humor. Originally published in 1977 as part of his “Tales of the Unexpected” series, this story introduces readers to a man named James Harris, who picks up a hitchhiker on a deserted road during a thunderstorm. What begins as a simple act of kindness takes a sinister turn as James realizes that the hitchhiker seems to know far too much about his life and past.
The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving is a timeless and iconic tale that has left an indelible mark on American literature and folklore. Originally published in 1820 as part of Irving’s collection “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.,” this story is set in the quaint and eerie village of Sleepy Hollow, where the superstitious and impressionable schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, encounters the legendary ghostly figure known as the Headless Horseman.
Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl
“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl is a darkly humorous and suspenseful short story that showcases Dahl’s unique narrative style. Originally published in 1953, the story follows Mary Maloney, a seemingly ordinary housewife, who undergoes a startling transformation after her husband delivers shocking news. What unfolds is a tale of deception, murder, and a cleverly concealed weapon—the leg of lamb used as the murder weapon.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a chilling and thought-provoking short story that has left an indelible mark on American literature. Originally published in 1948, this tale is set in a seemingly idyllic small town on a sunny summer day, where the townspeople gather for an annual event known as “the lottery.” However, as the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that this lottery is not a benign game of chance but a disturbing tradition that culminates in a horrific ritualistic murder.
How to use scary stories in ELA class?
These eight scary stories are not just tales meant to send shivers down your spine—they are valuable tools for engaging your students in meaningful and exciting ways within your English Language Arts class. Whether you’re exploring themes of fear, suspense, or the supernatural, these stories provide a rich tapestry for literary analysis and discussion.
From in-depth one pagers, character studies and thematic explorations to creative writing exercises and dramatic readings, the possibilities for incorporating these scary stories into your curriculum are endless. If you do not know where to begin, you can check this pack of short stories activities that you can use with all the stories mentioned above.
So, dim the lights, gather your students close, and let the magic of these stories transport you all to a world of mystery, suspense, and literary exploration. Happy reading, and may your ELA class be filled with both chills and thrills during this October!