We've been reading all of the scary middle grade books we can find to give you the list of the best and most scary books to enjoy!
I was such a scaredy cat when I was a kid. But even though I still needed to sleep with the hall light on when I was 13 years old, the fear factor never stopped me from checking out all the scary middle grade books from the school library. Every night I regretted my decision to read scary ghost books during the day, but not quite enough to stop torturing myself.
There's just something fun about being scared on purpose.
My own kids also love a great scary book. However, they're not nearly as wimpy as I used to be. They've read all of the scary middle grade books that once scared the pants off me and they didn't even bat an eye. In fact, they actually laughed at me. "Mom! That book's not even that scary."
So, to give you a list of all the scariest scary middle grade books for kids, I enlisted my brave little readers, ages 9, 11, and 13. For the last six weeks we've been reading every scary book we could get our hands on. We've included only the best of the scary middle grade books here, perfectly creepy reads for the darker Autumn days approaching.
Scroll down for a printable list of all of these Scary Middle Grade Books.
Scary Middle Grade Books for Kids Ages 10 to 14
The House on Hackman's Hill by Joan Lowery Nixon
I'm putting this creepy book from 1985 at the top of the list because it scared me so much as a kid. I remember getting up one night and taking this book out of my bedroom and locking it in a toy chest in the hall because I was convinced the book itself was haunting me.
Two cousins head into the house on Hackman's Hill, an old abandoned mansion, after hearing rumors about a $10,000 reward for a stolen Egyptian mummy. But when an unexpected blizzard rolls in, the kids finds themselves trapped. When night falls, terror sets in as they realize that they're not alone in the house.
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
I thoroughly enjoyed this ghost story! After a near death experience, Cass discovers that she has the ability to pull back the veil that separates the living from the dead. Luckily, the first ghost Cass meets is friendly and they become fast friends.
Cass's parents can't see ghosts like she can, but they've made telling stories about them their business. When they head to Edinburgh to film a show about the world's most haunted places, Cass realizes that the city is full of ghosts, but not all of them are friendly, and some are downright dangerous.
If you enjoy this one, there's a sequel called Tunnel of Bones, in which Cass travels with her parents to the catacombs in Paris. It's just as good as the first one.
The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner
Esme (my 13 year old) describes this as a creepy twist on the Frankenstein story. She gives it two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Irreelle is alive, but she isn't real. She was made from bone dust gathered from skeletons in the cemetery her house was built on. After she accidentally destroys one of her master's creations, she runs away with two other bone dust creations into the graveyard's underbelly to find a way back into her master's good graces.
This book is delightfully creepy. It reads like a dark Victorian tale, and the spooky world Kassner has created will pull you right in.
Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
Mary Downing Hahn is a master of spooky middle grade books. She has a large catalog of books which, if you have a lover of scary middle grade books, are all worth reading. This one, however, is the one my kids have declared her scariest book of all!
Thirteen year old Ali is headed to her Aunt's lake house to help out with her younger niece, Emma. Ali thinks its going to be a great vacation, but why is her mother so reluctant to let her go? There's a family secret about a friend that drowned long ago and Ali is about to find out about all of it.
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
This is my personal favorite by Hahn and another scary book that kept me awake at night as a kid.
When Molly and Michael's mother remarries, they move into an old refurbished church in Maryland with their new stepfather and stepsister, Heather. While Molly and Michael both try to initiate a friendship with Heather, she remains cold and unfriendly to them both. Things only get worse when Heather meets Helen, a spiteful ghost with anger issues of her own.
All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
One more from Hahn, because my little scary book readers insist this one can't be skipped!
Travis and his younger sister love cooking up a good prank. So, when they head to their Grandmother's Vermont Inn for the summer, they're excited to pull some great new pranks. What start out as pranks, however, take a turn for the dark and scary when they accidentally awaken the ghost of Ada Jaggs, an angry spirit who wants to do more than play tricks.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
I read this one just a few months ago, but grown up as I may be, it still scared the heck out of me.
On her way from school one day, eleven year old Ollie comes across a distraught women threatening to throw a book into the river. When Ollie takes the book from her, the crazed woman leaves her with one piece of advice: “Avoid large spaces at night. Keep to small.” It only gets creepier from there. Good luck!
If you enjoy this one, Arden wrote a sequel too. Dead Voices follows Ollie again, along with two of her friends from Small Spaces, to a remote ski resort that turns out to be anything but cozy. I didn't think this one was quite as scary as Small Spaces, but definitely a good page turner.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Kids will read this one because it’s creepy. Grown ups will appreciate all the wisdom and insight weaved into this eerie Victorian ghost story. I read this aloud with my kids and we all loved it!
Two abandoned Irish siblings are looking for work and are hired as servants in a spooky old manor house in England. But something isn’t right with the house or the supernatural tree in the front yard. It’s a gripping tale!
The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Stefan Bachmann and more
These are the kind of scary stories that just beg to be read by flashlight under the covers on a dark and stormy night. Esme LOVED these and says that if you really want to be scared, this is the book for you!
There are 4 authors, 8 drawers, and 36 tales. In this Cabinet of Curiosities, all of the creepy objects it contains have their own story to tell. They are dark, fascinating, and deliciously creepy.
The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs
This is a classic haunted house story from the 1970s that is definitely still worth reading. We read this aloud as a family last year and were sufficiently spooked. (If you saw the movie that came out last year, it wasn't much like the book)
After losing both of his parents, Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his eccentric uncle in his old haunted mansion. There's a mysterious ticking in the walls and a friendly witch who lives next door. But when Lewis accidentally calls on an evil dead wizard to impress a new friend on Halloween, he sets into motion a wicked plan that has been brewing for decades.
John Bellairs is another author with a large catalog worth exploring if you have a reader drawn to spooky stories and mysteries.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
The author grew up in Trinidad and created this spine tingling story from the Caribbean folk tales she heard as a child. My 11 year old declared this one a Must Read Book.
Corinne La Mer isn't afraid of anything, nor is she superstitious. So, even when she seems to see a pair of mysterious yellow eyes following her through the forbidden forest, she explains it away. When a beautiful stranger shows up the very next day, even Corrine can tell something extraordinary is happening. What she doesn't know is that dangerous, frightening ancient magic has been stirred up and everything is about to change.
Doll Bones by Holly Black
This Newbery Honor book is bone chillingly good. We've all read it here and it spooked us thoroughly.
Poppy, Zach, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long as they've been friends, they've been playing an imagination game with a bone-china doll that rules as queen over a world of pirates, mermaids, and warriors.
But now they're growing up and heading to middle school and Zach's father doesn't want his son playing those silly doll games anymore. When Zach quits the game it seems like it might be the end of the friend group too, until Poppy starts having strange and disturbing dreams about their bone-china doll. She claims there is a ghost that will not rest until the doll is in her grave and the kids have to help her.
Thornhill by Pam Smy
Warning: this one is horrifying and probably best for the 12 and up crowd. That being said, my kids devoured it. I haven't read it yet because I'm too scared.
This book is told in two parallel stories and terrifying pictures throughout the book. In 1982 Mary is an orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children. She's lonely, bullied, and tired of it all. She's ready for revenge. In 2017, Ella has just moved to town and her new bedroom has a perfect view of the old abandoned Thornhill Institute, where she keeps seeing the shadow of a girl in the window.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
This is classified as Middle Grade Horror, and I'd say it's pretty horrifying. Even Esme, who rarely admits that something is scary, says this one is pretty darn scary.
Stephen's baby brother was born with medical problems and the doctor is saying that he may not survive. Stephen is worried about his brother, he's worried about his parents who are always at the hospital, and he's worried about the wasp nest outside. He's so full of worries that when a wasp shows up in his dreams and tells him that it can fix the baby, he believes it.
Are the wasps really talking to Stephen? Is he losing his mind? Is there something evil at work here? You'll have to read to find out.
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey
Eila can't stop talking about this one! It's not just a scary story, it's also a wild adventure.
Lucy's father is a ghost hunter and joining him on his ghost hunting adventure in the remote Pacific Northwest sounds like a lot more fun than staying at the boarding school she hates. So, Lucy runs away. But when she arrives at her father's hunting ground, she discovers that he's gone missing.
Now, it's up to Lucy and a friend to find her father at the Devil's Thumb, the most dangerous place in Saarthe. It's an exciting ride!
Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
If you have a child who loves scary middle grade books, then you've probably already encountered R.L. Stine. I read ALL of the R.L. Stine books I could find when I was younger. This one in particular has stayed with me.
Josh and Amanda move into a new house, but it's the creepiest and oldest house on the block. They joke that the house is haunted, but it starts to feel like maybe it really is. In fact, the more they get to know the new neighborhood the more they become convinced that everyone there seems a little off. Dark Falls is place like no other!
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney
This is the first in a 13 book series. Esme says that these are the absolute scariest books she's ever read. I think she really means it.
Twelve year old Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son who has been apprenticed to "The Spook," whose job it is to ward off witches and ghosts from his domain in the English countryside. Tom tries to follow of the Spook's detailed instructions, but when he makes a terrible blunder, he unleashes the wrath of one of literature's scariest witches, Mother Malkin.
The Riverman by Aaron Starmer
That cover may look pretty, but this is the stuff my nightmares are made of.
When Alistair's neighbor Fiona asks him to help her by writing her life story for him, he doesn't realize quite what he's getting himself into. Fiona is telling stories of a portrait in her basement of "The Riverman" who is stealing the souls of children. It sounds like it's her imagination, but there are kids missing and Fiona really seems to believe what she is saying.
This is the first book in a trilogy, but we haven't read the other two yet.
Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky
This one has way too cute of a title on the cover for the creepy story inside!
Juniper's parents used to be struggling actors. Now they're famous movie stars, so shouldn't things be looking up for their family? Juniper just can't shake the feeling that something is off. And it has something to do with a very sinister tree in the dark words behind their house.
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
This is the first book in one of Esme's all time favorite book series. Ghost hunting in turn-of-the-century London - what could be more exciting than that?
There's a ghost epidemic in London and these ghosts are dangerous - just one touch and you're a goner. But when Lucy, gifted with the ability to see these ghosts, partners up with Anthony Lockwood, they set out to solve the ghost problem in one of the most haunted houses in all of England.
The audiobook of this one is fantastic - all those British accents!
What did we miss? Tell us your favorite Scary Middle Grade Books!
I love these book recommendations! You know I love Wait Till Helen Comes! I would love to read another one of these books on your list, but I don’t want my kids sleeping with me for the next 2 months! I may have to stick with your Halloween Picture book list!
Ryan | Dad Suggests says
What an awesome list! I’m going to save this for the future. I’m a huge fan of spooky things. We just finished Bunnicula and its sequels with our 7-year-old. And of course I grew up on Goosebumps. But the only other book I’ve read on this list is The Nest (which is really a terrifying concept). Thanks for all of these ideas!
Eli Houghton says
Thank you for the list. I've been trying to remember what THE HOUSE ON HACKMAN’S HILL was called for years. Now to find a copy!
Thank you for this list! I'm a new middle school librarian and my students are always asking for scary stories!