Halloween is here, which means it's time to retell all your favorite spooky stories.
There are stories that stick with us over the years, sending a chill down your spine even if it's been decades since you first heard the story told. I'm talking about the type of story which, if you heard it newly now, wouldn't scare you — but maybe the first time you heard it, a childhood friend whispered the words at a sleepover in the darkness of night, or a camp counselor pointed a flashlight at his chin and recited the story by the light of a fire.
Here are five of those stories, most of which have been retold so many times it's hard to even say where they originated.
The girl with the green ribbon
I first read this story in “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories,” one of several horror story collections I obsessed over as a child (in hindsight, I’m really concerned about how many of these ghost stories I read growing up).
As the story goes, a little boy noticed a little girl wearing a green ribbon around her neck on the first day of school. When he asked her why she wore it, she giggled and teased that maybe she’d tell him one day. Years passed, and the pair started dating as teenagers. He asked again why she wore the ribbon, and she once again teased that she may tell him eventually, if they ever got married. They got married, and he asked again. She said she'd tell him if they ever had kids. They had children, and he asked again. Frustrated, she promised to tell him someday. Years later, she became very sick. As she lay in her deathbed, her husband asked her one more time to tell him why she wore the green ribbon. She said, “OK, I’ll tell you. You can take it off.” Her husband removed the ribbon, and his wife’s head tumbled to the floor.This haunted house is so scary, you can get $20k just for getting through it
The man with a hook for a hand
Different regions of the United States have their own versions of this tale, but the core of the story is the same.
A woman is driving alone, listening to radio reports of a man who had escaped from a local mental institution. He could be identified, they said, because he’d lost one of his hands in an accident and replaced it with a hook.
Unconcerned about the radio reports, she went on a date to a drive-in theater later that night. Afterward, she and her boyfriend found a secluded area along Lover’s Lane for some alone time in the car. As they were parked, she heard a light scraping on the door but didn’t think much of it, assuming the tree branches were blowing in the wind, scraping the car. She got a little scared, wondering if it was the man with the hook, so she asked her boyfriend to take her home — and when they got out of the car, she found a bloody hook hanging from the handle of the passenger door.The science of fright: Why we love to be scared
The killer in the backseat
Yet another popular legend that changes regionally, in this story, a woman is driving alone at night and notices the vehicle behind her flashes his lights at her occasionally. In some versions of the story, the driver rides closely behind her and even hits her vehicle with theirs. The woman driver is terrified, racing home, and she realizes that the driver was just trying to warn her: there was a killer in her backseat the entire time, and every time the killer was poised to attack, the driver behind her scared the would-be murderer with their headlights, forcing him to hide and halt the attack.Halloween 2019: Food deals and freebies
The Bloody Mary game
If you grew up successfully avoiding playing the “Bloody Mary” game, you had a lucky childhood.
As the legend goes, if you repeat “Bloody Mary” a certain number of times in front of a mirror in a dark room, you’ll summon a cranky ghost. Some people say you must say her name 13 times (at my elementary school it was only three times, a bargain!) and the actual “Bloody Mary” who you’ll summon changes from story to story. But the most reliable source of the story is from Janet Langlois, who wrote an essay titled “‘Mary Whales, I Believe In You’: Myth and Ritual Subdued” in 1978.
According to a Wicca expert, sometimes the repeated mantra is “Bloody Mary,” other times it’s “Mary Worth,” “Mary Worthington,” “Mary Whales,” “I believe in Mary Whales” or “Mary Whales, I believe in you.”
Mary Whales was a young girl living in Indiana with a slave-owner father who pined after his dead wife, Mary’s mother. As Mary grew older, her father grew resentful of Mary’s similar appearance to her dead mother, so he murdered the young girl.
Mary Worth was said to be the name of a witch burnt alive in Salem, or perhaps a witch from old Illinois folklore. The name could also refer to an old woman disfigured by a car crash or even the ghost of an old woman, said to appear holding a knife.
Some legends say Bloody Mary was a murdered hitchhiker or even Queen Mary I herself, nicknamed Bloody Mary because she executed many people during her reign.
Regardless of who Bloody Mary is, how she appears or how you summon her, the “Bloody Mary” game is a surefire way to scare the pants off of your friends, if you happen to be an elementary school kid at a sleepover.Stephen King is turning his Maine home into a museum and writers' retreat
The wailing woman
A classic Mexican tale, La Llorona, the wailing woman, has terrified kids for centuries. As the story goes, the man she loved refused to be with her, so she drowned her children in the river. The man she loved denied her again, so she drowned herself, and now she wanders the earth, wailing constantly in her grief.
There’s even a “Bloody Mary”-esque legend about her. If you stand in a dark bathroom and splash water on the mirror, speaking “La Llorona” three times, you could summon the wailing woman yourself.13 creepy podcasts to get you in the Halloween spirit