The original Celtic holiday of Samhain included spirits of the dead returning to walk among the living. Ghost stories have been a part of Halloween since the beginning.
Halloween ghost stories can be told around a bonfire, or in a darkened living room. It doesn’t matter where they are told, as long as the atmosphere is spooky and the stories are scary.
The most famous American ghost story told on Halloween is probably The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The ghost in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the terrifying Headless Horseman. The Headless Horseman is the ghost of a German soldier from the Revolutionary War who had his head blown off by a cannonball. The Headless Horseman is always seen riding around the isolated glen of Sleepy Hollow at midnight, looking for his missing head, and in the story, he might – or might not – have replaced his missing head with the head of Ichabod Crane and left a Jack O’Lantern behind in its place.
Another classic ghost story is The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Mr. and Mrs. White and their son Herbert inherit a monkey’s paw from India, which is said to grant three wishes. Mrs. White wishes for money, and within a few days, her son Herbert dies in an accident at work and she receives the money. Overcome with grief, Mrs. Herbert wishes for her son to come back from the grave, although her husband thinks it’s a bad idea.
Soon, someone is knocking at their door. Knock. Knock. Knock. Mr. White identified his son’s body, which has been buried for over a week. He knows that whatever is knocking on the door will look and be so terrifying that he can’t let him in. At the last minute, Mr. White grabs the monkey’s paw and wishes the gruesome dead Herbert back to the grave.
Some ghosts are in every culture. The mysterious “Girl in White” appears in American ghost tales as a barefoot hitchhiking girl. Whoever stops to pick her up on a lonely country road hears a sad tale of how she was abandoned on her wedding night, and just wants to get home. But by the time the driver reaches the place the girl calls home, he finds an abandoned house, and when he turns to ask if it’s the right place, the girl has vanished. In Mexico, the “Girl in White” is a beautiful girl named Consuela who dances with an eager young man at a dance. The young man rushes to tell his friends about the beautiful girl he has danced with, and they tell him that he was dancing alone. When he returns to Consuela, she vanishes into mist and he realizes that he has been dancing with a ghost.
Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story The Tell-Tale Heart is always scary, especially to those who hear it for the first time. A poor young man moves in with an older man, who is very kind and generous, but whose appearance has been ruined by illness. The young man begins to fear and hate the old man’s ugly “vulture” eye. Every night for eight nights, the young man creeps in the old man’s bedroom with thoughts of murder, in order to get rid of the old man’s ugly, scary eye. Each time, he is stopped because the old man’s horrible eye is closed. On the eighth night, a beam of moonlight falls on the old man’s face, and the eye is open!
The young man smothers the old man, to silence his cries and his extremely loud beating heart, racing in terror. The young man buries the old man under the floorboards in the kitchen.
When police come to question the young man, he is pleasant and reasonable at first, answering all of their questions. As the officers stay, the young man hears a heart beating under the floorboards. It grows louder and louder until the young man can’t take it any longer and leaps up, confessing to the murder and asking how they can’t hear the old man’s heart beating as loudly as it is.