Halloween Ideas

Halloween Ideas

All About the Spookiest Night of the Year!

Halloween Reading List

I was planning to do this eventually anyway, but with many Halloween events canceled and many people staying home for the holiday due to the coronavirus pandemic, I've begun setting up a Halloween reading list for people of all ages to help you keep the Halloween feeling going during quiet evenings in your own home. Turn down the lights, pull up the covers, grab a flashlight and some snacks, and curl up with some spooky stories!

Just a word about my categories. I have a nostalgic children's book blog (always under construction, like all of my projects) where I've created a master list of books about Halloween. Those books are sorted by genre. In this page, I've sorted them partly by genre and partly by the general mood of the story. I've also included some stories that aren't specifically for or about Halloween but would be appropriate for the holiday. There are a lot of kids' books here, but there are adult books further down the page and some links to other people's reading lists. I recommend kids' books even for adults because nostalgia can be very calming during uncertain times and also because these books are generally a lot of fun. It's also a good idea to read to kids, especially if they're not going to be going out trick-or-treating this year. Halloween stories can range from tame and non-scary, even for little kids, to truly terrifying. So, why not spend the afternoon making your favorite Halloween treats with your kids and follow it up with a family story night?

In the tables below, the links to from the book titls are to my reviews about the books, and the links from the format of the book are to copies that are available for you to borrow and read the books for free through Internet Archive, so there is no need for you to buy any of these, unless you really like them and would like to own a copy. I've used Internet Archive a lot, and they have a large selection of books. You do need to create an account to borrow books, but the account is free. Books simply disappear from your loan list when your alloted time is up, so there are no late fees involved. It's basically a virtual library, and you read the books directly in your browser, no need to download anything.

Children's Books

Non-Scary Stories for Kids

These are stories that you can safely read even to small children that give off a seasonal vibe but nothing that would give the children nightmares. They would be fine for bedtime reading. Of course, it's always a good idea to keep the individual child in mind and not read anything that might bother them personally. You can read my reviews of each of these books by clicking on the title before you decide. The link on the format will lead to a copy on Internet Archive.

Name of Book Author Format/Age Group Description
Halloween Treats Carolyn Haywood Short Story Collection Carolyn Haywood wrote a series of books about a group of neighborhood children, especially Betsy and Eddie and their friends. In this book, there are short stories that focus on how the children spend their Halloweens. There are Halloween parties, costumes, pranks, and some mild slice-of-life adventures.
The Best Halloween Ever Barbara Robinson Chapter Book This is a humorous story that's part of the same series as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The mayor has decided that he’s had enough of the chaos the Herdman kids cause on Halloween, so he’s just going to cancel trick-or-treating altogether this year. Instead, there will a safe, well-supervised (boring), school Halloween party. The kids are disappointed because, as every kid knows, running wild in the streets is really the heart of Halloween. They think there isn’t going to be anything surprising or magical or even really scary about Halloween at the school, where all the "monsters" are their own parents in costume. The only real benefit that they see to the event is that the Herdmans won’t be there because they say it sounds too boring. But, with the Herdmans, nothing is ever what anyone would expect, and they not only show up but find a way to turn the event into something that brings back some of the surprises and real Halloween spirit that were missing from a party that was too well-organized and predictable. In real life, kids like the Herdmans would be a total pain, but in their stories, they have a way of turning situations on their head and even helping the people they ordinarily pick on. In one weird Halloween, they help redeem themselves from past pranks and return at least some of the candy that they'd stolen from others.
The Blue-Nosed Witch Margaret Embry Short Chapter Book Blanche, a young witch with a glowing blue nose, is always late to her meetings with the other witches, but when both she and her best friend set her clock ahead to give her extra time on Halloween, she wakes up unexpectedly early. She meets up with a group of trick-or-treaters, who teach her about Halloween treats and fun and play a prank on the meanest man in town. The book was originally written in the 1950s, so the kids get the kind of homemade treats that most people don't hand out anymore, like apples and donuts.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything Linda Williams Picture Book This is a cute picture book based on word and sound repetition. A brave lady ventures out into the woods one day, and as she makes her way home again when it gets dark, she begins to encounter some strange things. Cute ending!

Mildly Spooky Books for Kids

These books may have some minor spookiness for young children, but nothing truly scary. They make it clear that all the spooky stuff is harmless or imaginary. Of course, it's always a good idea to keep the individual child in mind and not read anything that might bother them personally. You can read my reviews of each of these books by clicking on the title before you decide. The link on the format will lead to a copy on Internet Archive.

Name of Book Author Format/Age Group Description
Aunt Eater’s Mystery Halloween Doug Cushman Short Story Collection Aunt Eater encounters a series of spooky mysteries when she goes to a party on Halloween. These four short mystery stories are only slightly spooky, and nothing scary happens. The characters in the stories are all animals.
The Mummy 1932 Approved Archaeologists discover the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian high priest, Imhotep (played by Boris Karloff). An assistant at the dig accidentally brings the mummy back to life by reading from an old scroll, and the mummy goes in search of the woman who is the reincarnation of his former lover. There are many different versions of The Mummy and sequels to some of them, but the version with Boris Karloff is iconic.

Spooky Mystery Stories

Some of these are specifically set at Halloween, and others just have a kind of spooky or Halloween feel to them. Most are very mildly spooky. I've marked ones with more serious scares in the descriptions.

Name of Book Author Format/Age Group Description
Aunt Eater’s Mystery Halloween Doug Cushman Short Story Collection Aunt Eater encounters a series of spooky mysteries when she goes to a party on Halloween. These four short mystery stories are only slightly spooky, and nothing scary happens. The characters in the stories are all animals.
Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt Marjorie Weinman Sharmat Picture Book Nate the Great is spending Halloween helping to find Rosamond’s missing cat.
The Mystery on October Road Alison Cragin Herzig and Jane Lawrence Mali Short Chapter Book A girl and her friends investigate the mysterious man who moved in next door, who keeps to himself and whose face is always covered by a bandana. My favorite part of the book was always the descriptions of the fantastic jack o'lanterns at the end.
The Egypt Game Zilpha Keatley Snyder Middle School Level A young girl goes to live with her grandmother and starts a game of pretend with new friends that takes on a life of its own. In the process, she almost becomes the victim of a murderer. This book is not for young children!
The Spooky Halloween Party Annabelle Prager Picture Book Albert thinks that it will be easy to guess his friends’ identities at Nicky’s Halloween party, but it turns out to be harder than he thinks, and he’s in for a few scares and some big surprises before the night is over!

Serious Scares and Children's Horror

These are the scarier stories in children's literature. There are "real" supernatural events, ghosts, and monsters in these stories.

Name of Book Author Format/Age Group Description
The Halloween Tree Ray Bradbury Middle School/Young Adult A group of friends tries to save their friend’s life on Halloween by following his spirit through time and around the world and learns some of the secrets behind the holiday.
The Halloween Tree Ray Bradbury Middle School/Young Adult A group of friends tries to save their friend’s life on Halloween by following his spirit through time and around the world and learns some of the secrets behind the holiday.
The Halloween Tree Ray Bradbury Middle School/Young Adult A group of friends tries to save their friend’s life on Halloween by following his spirit through time and around the world and learns some of the secrets behind the holiday.
The Halloween Tree Ray Bradbury Middle School/Young Adult A group of friends tries to save their friend’s life on Halloween by following his spirit through time and around the world and learns some of the secrets behind the holiday.
The Halloween Tree Ray Bradbury Middle School/Young Adult A group of friends tries to save their friend’s life on Halloween by following his spirit through time and around the world and learns some of the secrets behind the holiday.

Adult Books

Mystery Books

These are movies that are specifically indented for children and families. Pretty much every Scooby-Doo movie as well as the episodes can be good for Halloween. There are too many of them to cover here, but they are very Halloween-appropriate.

Name of Movie Year Rating Description
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 1966 Not Rated An iconic children's Halloween special that has remained popular for decades. Personally, I didn't like it much as a kid because it seemed a little too disjoined/episodic and difficult to follow, but it does have some funny moments. A group of neighborhood kids go trick-or-treating and have a Halloween party while one of their friends remains convinced that if he waits in a pumpkin patch all night, "The Great Pumpkin" will show up and give toys to all the good kids.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 1949 Approved A Disney short film paired with The Wind in the Willows in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Based on the classic story by Washington Irving. A nervous, superstitious school teacher in a small town along the Hudson River attempts to woo a beautiful, wealthy young woman, competing against a much bolder rival. Then, after a party at which the guests tell scary stories about a local legend of a headless horseman, the school teacher has a frightening encounter with the ghost.
Ernest Scared Stupid 1991 PG Part of the Ernest series of movies. Ernest is a good-natured but dim-witted man. In this movie, it's close to Halloween, and Ernest accidentally reawakens a legendary troll in his home town that abducts children and turns them into little wooden dolls in order to increase his powers.
Spaced Invaders 1990 PG A group of aliens attempts to invade Earth on Halloween, becoming confused when they overhear a broadcast of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds and thinking that their people have already started an invasion. Because the War of the Worlds ends with the destruction of the invaders, they also come to believe that the rest of their fleet has been destroyed. Most of the adults in the community where they landed think that the aliens are just kids in Halloween costumes, but they are befriended by human children, who later help them to leave Earth. Corny but fun! Sometimes, you can find it or clips of it, on YouTube.
The Goonies 1985 PG Not directly related to Halloween, this movie is sometimes recommended for Halloween because of its features children hunting for pirate treasure in a series of tunnels under their town, needing to avoid dangerous traps and solve puzzles. The children hope that, by finding a legendary treasure, they will be able to save their homes from a greedy developer. This is an iconic '80s movie! Sometimes, you can find it or clips of it, on YouTube.
Hotel Transylvania 2012 PG When Dracula's wife is killed by an angry mob, he goes into hiding with his baby daughter, Mavis. He builds a hotel for monsters which can be a safe haven for them from humans. However, over 100 years later, when Mavis is a "young" vampire woman, a human named Johnny finds his way to the hotel, and he and Mavis fall in love. Their romance complicates Dracula's safe haven for monsters as well as his relationship with his daughter. This movie was followed up by a couple of sequels.
Under Wraps 1997 G Three kids accidentally bring a mummy back to life but must return him to his resting place before Halloween is over.
The Worst Witch 1986 G Mildred Hubble is the worst witch at a school for young witches. She can't seem to do anything right, and other students make fun of her. However, when the school is in danger on Halloween, Mildred is in a unique position to save the day! This was a little like Harry Potter before Harry Potter existed. The movie is based on a series of books by Jill Murphy, and there was also a tv series based on the books. Sometimes, you can find this movie or clips of it on YouTube, and it is currently available through Internet Archive. Tim Curry's Halloween Song is a little trippy.
The Watcher in the Woods 1980 PG A family moves into a mysterious old house, where they feel like something is watching them from the nearby woods. The two daughters of the family learn that the woman who is renting the house to them lost her daughter under mysterious circumstances 30 years before. Some people think that the daughter, Karen, is dead, and some think that she just ran away from home, however, whoever or whatever is watching from the woods is trying to send the modern girls a message, asking them to do something. The teenager girl who now lives in the house, Jan, keeps seeing images of Karen in mirrors, blindfolded and pleading for help. Karen is trapped somewhere, and they have to hurry if they are going to free her! The movie is creepy, better for older children than younger, but with an odd twist near the end. The movie is based on a book, and if you read the book, you actually understand the ending even better because it turns out that the story was never really a ghost story but actually science fiction. Although, the movie is a lot more scary if you didn't know that. In 2017, there was a remake of this movie that turns the story actually into a real ghost story, having to do with the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. You can sometimes find the 1980 movie or clips of it on YouTube. Oddly, there are alternate endings to the movie because people found the first endings difficult to understand. You can see the alternate endings on YouTube, and this video explains the differences between the different endings, if you don't mind spoilers.
Child of Glass 1978 TV-G This live action Disney movie is based on the children's book The Ghost Belonged to Me. A family moves into a mysterious old Southern mansion, and the son of the family discovers that the barn is haunted by the ghost of a young girl and her dog. In the book, the girl wants him to return her bones to her family's crypt in New Orleans, but in the movie, she was murdered by a wicked relative who was seeking a hidden family treasure. The ghost girl gives the boy a riddle to solve with the help of a friend, and he must solve it before Halloween or the curse that keeps the girl from resting in peace will become permanent. Even though it's rated G, this movie gave me the creeps when I was a kid!