Top Ten Genuinely Unsettling Children’s Stories

Sometimes children’s books are scary when we think about them (sometimes they’re scary even if we don’t think about them). So I decided to compile a list of books for children that are really quite terrifying and will make adults wonder if there isn’t a monster hiding at the back of their closet… In no particular order:

  1. The Witches – Roald Dahl

thewitchesTo be honest, it’s a Dahl book, nuff said. I could literally pick a whole selection of Roald Dahl’s books- but since this one legitimately gave me nightmares, I had to choose it.



  1. Hansel and Gretel – Grimm’s Brothers

Hansel-and-gretel-rackhamI remember learning Bettleheim’s theory of how children will avoid stories that they find too much for them, and man, I heard this story once and avoided it like the plague. I know a lot of the Grimm’s tales are much grimmer in the original form, but this one is terrifying no matter which way you spin it and will always be the scariest of any collection. Plus, it doesn’t help that as an adult, I’ve heard some even freakier psychoanalytic readings of this story.

  1. Goosebumps: Calling All Creeps! – R L Stine

calling all creepsAgain, a lot of Stine’s books are creepy, but this one takes the biscuit… or cake… Seriously this book will make you look at bake sales in an entirely different light… (spoiler alert: it’s also one of the few scary kids’ books where the bad guys are allowed to win)


  1. Tales of Terror – Pike

pike tales of terrorThough I read this as a child, this one is for slightly older teens… and there’s a reason! I know I scare easily- but these have got to be some of the freakiest stories I’ve ever read. Still, I reread them so many times (goodness knows why!) and they left me all tingly and terrified every time!


  1. The Doomspell – Cliff McNish

doomspellI read a couple of McNish’s actual scary books when I was older and they had me sleeping with the light on- ironically though, nothing beats how absolutely mind-blowingly scary the witches are in this book!! I mean, if you thought the witches are scary in the Witches try reading this!!


  1. Tales of the Peculiar – Ransom Riggs

tales of the peculiarI saw online that this was aimed a 12+… 12+? Seriously? I read this when I was double that age and it freaked me out!! Okay, excusing the fact that I am a scaredy cat, this is actually an awesome collection.


  1. Coraline – Neil Gaiman

coralineAhh so many of Gaiman’s books are creepilicious and even though this may be aimed at a younger audience, it’s actually the most unsettling one I’ve read so far.



  1. Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

through the woodsAnother one aimed at 12+… I get the reasoning, since it doesn’t have anything graphic (no pun intended) in it, but I still don’t know if this would have scarred me as a twelve year old or just made me mature faster (and probably left me with even darker appetites in literature)


  1. Another Me – Cathy Macphail

another me macphailWhile not my favourite of Macphail’s books, she is definitely underrated (although I believe this one’s getting turned into a film) and this one genuinely scared me, because it had me thinking “what if”- speaking of which…


  1. Brother’s in the Land – Robert Swindells

brothers in the landApparently books like these about the nuclear apocalypse were all the range in the sixties, so when I excitedly told my mum about this book, she shrugged her shoulders at me. I, however, have found these books have gone out of fashion, so for me this was exciting, fresh and terrifying. Also, this is another author I believe is *massively* overlooked- sure, his books may not be new, but if you’re looking for scary reads you can’t go wrong with books like Abomination or Stone Cold.

So agree with my list? Disagree? And do you have any unsettling children’s books that come to mind? Let me know in the comments!