13 Ghost Stories in English

Being scared by a story, movie, or anything else you know is not real can be fun and exciting.

There are many different ghost stories, urban legends and horror tales in the English language.

Have a look at our favorite spooky stories.

Some of the older stories might be a challenge, but since many are available to read for free, you can at least give them a try.


1. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Written by: Washington Irving

Skill level: This story is old, so it uses some old language which may be difficult for beginners.

On his way home from a party, a schoolteacher meets with a terrifying headless horseman. This famous story is a favorite on Halloween nights, especially since the head of the horseman is often shown as a jack-o’-lantern (a carved pumpkin face with a light inside). This story has also been turned into a movie.

Find the book here or read it free here.

2. “The Monkey’s Paw”

The Monkey's Paw The Lady of the Barge and Others, Part 2.

Written by: W. W. Jacobs

Skill level: Another old story, this one is easier to understand, although you may need to look up some words that are not commonly used anymore.

A man gets a monkey’s paw that will grant him three wishes—but these wishes have terrible consequences (results). More creepy than scary, “The Monkey’s Paw” has been used many times in other stories, movies, TV shows, and many other places. It message is “be careful what you wish for!”

Find the book here or read it free here.

3. “The Diary of Mr. Poynter”

The Haunted Doll's House and Other Ghost Stories (The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James, Vol. 2)

Written by: M. R. James

Skill level: This is an older story, though it’s accessible to intermediate-level learners.

This story has given birth to a creepy urban legend that is retold many times: You stroke the head of your dog while your attention is on something else… then suddenly remember you don’t have a dog. M. R. James is a great author of short ghost and horror stories that might not have any blood or violence, but will still make you scared to turn off the lights in the dark.

Find the book of short stories here.

4. “The Tell-tale Heart”

Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings (Bantam Classics)

Written by: Edgar Allan Poe

Skill level: Poe’s writings are simple and clear, and should be understandable for early intermediate learners.

A man is haunted by the beating of a dead man’s heart. Edgar Allan Poe is very well known for his horror stories, many of which are about the darkness inside humans and not actual monsters. Horror story lovers should read at least one of his stories!

Find the book here or read it free here.

5. “The Haunting of Hill House”

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)

Written by: Shirley Jackson

Skill level: This is a full book, not a short story. The language is not too difficult but the writing style can be a little tough to get used to.

Four people come to Hill House hoping to get evidence that the house is haunted. But the house is not only haunted, it’s looking for its next victim, and it has chosen one of the four to make its own.

Find the book here or read it free here.

6. “The Shining”

The Shining

Written by: Stephen King

Skill level: Modern, clear writing makes this a good book for learners of any skill. Watch out for some obscenities (offensive/vulgar words or behaviors).

A man is left in charge of a hotel during winter months when it’s closed, along with his wife and his son. Something is strange about the hotel, though, and it begins to affect the minds of everyone—with some terrible results. Stephen King is a modern master of the horror genre, and this book is a great read even if you’ve watched the classic movie.

Find the book here.

7. “The Screaming Skull”

The Complete Wandering Ghosts

Written by: F. Marion Crawford

Skill level: The language and writing style can be tough to follow, but Crawford’s writing is varied. So if you don’t like or understand one story, try a different one.

A man finds a skull in his house, which screams every time he tries to remove it. He learns to live with it, until a visitor comes to the house, and even stranger things start to happen. Crawford’s other stories are just as weird and scary.

Find the book here or read free it here.

8. “The Woman in Black”

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

Written by: Susan Hill

Skill level: Hill loves long sentences, which might be difficult to follow. The writing is not too advanced, though.

A lawyer is sent to handle the affairs of an old house, but the house is more that it seems and hides many secrets and ghosts. You can also watch the movie version of this book, starring Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter).

Find the book here.

9. “The Bone Key”

The Bone Key

Written by: Sarah Monette

Skill level: Clear and simple writing makes this a good choice for any level, though it does contain plenty of vocabulary words.

A stuttering museum archivist wants nothing to do with the supernatural, but for some reason ghosts and ghouls just keep coming to him. In a series of connected short stories, Monette creates a strange world not too far from our own, and a very likeable character.

Find the book here.

10. “The Graveyard Book”

The Graveyard Book

Written by: Neil Gaiman

Skill level: There are some challenging words, but it was written with young adult readers in mind, which means it is good for learners of any level.

A young boy is raised in a graveyard, where ghosts and apparitions are the normal, and the real monsters might just be the living humans. Neil Gaiman is a great storyteller who creates worlds of magic and reality, where something dark is around every corner.

Find the book here.

11. Real Ghost Stories

Written by: Many different people

Skill level: It depends on each story! Browse around and find something for you level.

Some books claim they’re based on real stories. On this website, you can find stories submitted by real people, about real strange things they’ve seen. Some are well written stories, and others are more like conversational blog posts. All are about real events—a great way to get spooked on Halloween night.

Find the stories free here.

12. Two-sentence Horror Stories

Written by: Reddit users

Skill level: The level varies a little, but since there are only two sentences to each story, they are mostly simple and easy to understand.

“What is the best horror story you can come up with in just two sentences?” This is the question someone asked on Reddit, an online commenting and sharing community. Many of the top-rated stories are truly creepy, and manage to create a terrifying story in less than a paragraph.

Find the stories free here, or if Reddit is too confusing, see a free collection of the best stories here.

13. “The Big Book of Ghost Stories”

The Big Book of Ghost Stories

Written by: Many different authors

Skill level: This collection is so huge, there’s something for everyone here!

If you just can’t make up your mind about which ghost story to read, you can always just get them all! This massive collection of ghost stories has almost 1,000 pages, including classics, old and new stories. There are plenty of creepy, spooky and scary stories for any kind of reader.

Find the book here.

Why Do We Love Ghost Stories?

Ghosts, ghouls, monsters and all sorts of supernatural beings have fascinated humans for many years. There have been countless horror stories written, or just told around a campfire to excite and scare. But why do we love scary stories so much?

Famous author Neil Gaiman puts it perfectly on Brain Pickings: “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.”

There is something comforting about knowing that what you’re reading or watching is not actually real. You can experience the physical and mental effects of fear, without being in any actual danger.

It’s like when you watch scary movies or shows on Netflix: You know they’re not real, but you can let yourself get lost in the stories.

Reading scary stories can be a bit like watching them on screen. But when you read, you rely (depend) completely on your imagination to picture the characters, the scenery and the events of the story.

You create the thrill of fear in your own mind.

Reading a ghost story lets you have fun with fear, instead of being afraid or stressed over the real things in your life.

In other words, scary stories are harmless but exciting, and that makes them fun!

How to Learn English from Scary Stories

You can always just read the stories below and enjoy them. But to really learn from them, there are a few tips you should follow.

  • Read with a notebook. We know it ruins the effect, but to learn from the story you’re reading, you should read with pen and paper nearby. Use these to write down any words or parts you don’t understand.
  • Read things twice. Read once for vocabulary, and a second time for understanding. This is a great way to read books and stories that are a bit higher than your current learning level. If you learn what a word means, you will understand the story better when you read it a second time, and be getting practice with the new words.
  • Learn the cultural impact. Many ghost stories use ideas that have been around for a long time, and some have been repeated or rewritten into modern culture—like the jack-o’-lantern from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which you’ll find on the list. Take the time to look up ways in which the stories you read have been reused in culture, or what the stories themselves can tell you about the culture it comes from. For instance, the American idea of a ghost is a bit different from the Chinese. Do you know how? Learning interesting things about the culture of the language you’re studying can help you understand it a lot better.
  • Ask questions. You already know that you should ask questions if you don’t understand something. But you should also ask questions to understand better. As you read, ask questions like “What’s going to happen next?” and “What made that story so scary?” Reading and discussing books helps you improve your English for everyday conversation.
  • Enjoy what you read. Once you learn enough about the words the story uses, you can get into the actual story. Don’t forget to enjoy what you’re reading!
  • Watch spooky videos too! Streaming services like Netflix or YouTube can be a great way to experience spooky stories and other exciting video content in English. This is useful for practicing your listening skills and pronunciation. A language learning program like FluentU lets you watch English clips about various subjects (including about Halloween and spooky topics).

    FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

    You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

    P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

      FluentU Ad


Light a candle and turn out all the lights, because it’s time for some spooky reading!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.


FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:


FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.


FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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