When Books Go Bump In The Night: 5 children’s books that scared us silly

When Books Go Bump In The Night: 5 children’s books that scared us sil

When Books Go Bump In The Night: 5 children’s books that scared us silly
When Books Go Bump In The Night: 5 children’s books that scared us silly

A great read can inspire, delight and make us think but as any book lover will tell you, books aren’t always rainbows and unicorns. In fact, there’s evil lurking between the pages of our most beloved stories. With Halloween on the horizon we’re mustering the courage to dive back into books for children and young adults that brought to life characters so evil they had us cowering under the bed covers.

Here are 5 children’s books that had us sleeping with the lights on:


  1. The Witches by Roald Dahl Conjured to life by Roald Dahl back in 1983, The Witches, with their beguiling appearance, lack of toes and deep-seated hatred of children made reading strictly a daytime activity. Disguised as beautiful women, de-wigging to reveal their ‘ugliness’ only in private, one thing was clear—no one was safe. As we grew older we (thankfully) worried less about becoming a witch’s next victim but harder to shake was the idea that underneath great beauty is an evil core, and if you don’t measure up to society’s standards of beauty you must be a witch...

  2. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling If you’re anything like us you’ll remember exactly where you were when you first came face-to-page with Voldemort—boy wizard Harry Potters’ nemesis—and his cult of frightening Death Eaters. And don’t get us started on Aragog or Dolores Umbridge. 25 years on from the first release of The Philosopher’s Stone, however, and it’s the series’ author and her T.E.R.F. (trans exclusionary radical feminist) tweets that have us more on edge than any of the nightmarish characters from the Potterverse.

  3. Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury Speaking of psychological thrillers, if you were lucky enough to have the children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt read to you, you’ll have learned a hard truth that continues to ring true to this day. If you can’t go over it and you can’t go under it, you’ll have to go through it. Applicable to doing tax returns, getting your car serviced and most other facets of adulting, this was one of the books that best set us up to be able to face the wet-nosed, furry-eared, googly-eyed bear of life, while also being absolutely terrifying.

  4. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine It’d be remiss of us to leave Goosebumps off this roundup of scary children’s books. Aptly named, the Goosebumps series had us wide-eyed in terror as we turned the pages. We remember one story in particular The Haunted Mask about a girl named Carly Beth who buys a Halloween mask from a store which, when she puts it on, won’t come off again. The story affected us so deeply that when we tried to self-soothe with a plate of pancakes the next morning they just tasted like rubber. Urgh.

  5. The Rag & Bone Shop Man by Robert Cormier Taking place in an interrogation room, The Rag & Bone Shop Man focuses on a young teenager named Jason who’s being interrogated by the police after the murder of his 7-year-old neighbour. This was our first psychological thriller and we couldn’t even then, and we still can’t even today. While the tense read had us breaking out in nervous sweats it was the final sentence and the thoughts it provoked afterwards that proved to be the true terror and a twisted gift from Cormier that still haunts us some twenty years later.

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    - Words by Alice Rich

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