Five Terrifying Children’s Books That Will Scare Adults, Too

Published February 25, 2016
Updated June 22, 2020

Coraline (2002)

Scary Children's Books

Image Source: Oh The Books

Neil Gaiman is known for his dark fantasies, and Coraline is certainly one of them. The wonderfully disturbing story — which was adapted into a stop-motion film in 2009 — begins innocently enough: a young girl moves to a new town and feels alone, ignored by her parents and virtually friendless. The girl, Coraline, discovers a small doorway in the house that transports her to a parallel universe — which at first seems perfect, but soon Coraline finds that not all is as it seems.

As her trips between the universes increase, things in the wonderful otherworld become increasingly creepy, until the Other Mother insists that she must sew buttons over Coraline’s eye sockets so that she can stay there forever.

Coraline is horrified and tries to escape, but the Other Mother — who turns out to be a witch who’s done this to several children before — traps her.

Things get darker from there, and with an ending that involves a giant spider, a severed hand, ghost children and a trip to an old well in the dark woods, it’s a wonder any child who read this ever slept again.

The moral of the story seems to be, be careful what you wish for, which is certainly true of children who wished for a scary story and got this.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England, currently writing a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Seventeen, Romper, Bustle, and Quartz.