Halloween horrors: Your guide for a ghoulish night in

The IoS presents 10 terrifying tales, and a storyteller advises how best to frighten your guests

Old faithful

There was an old lady, as there frequently is in these stories. Her husband had died and her only companion was her faithful old dog. Every night when she went to bed, the dog would lick her hand to let her know that he was there to protect her. One windy, autumn night, she had gone to bed and the dog had licked her hand, as he had done every night since her husband died. But this night was different: she woke up, startled by the sound of her beloved dog whimpering. She wanted to comfort him and let him know she was there, so she stuck her hand out by the bed and felt the dog gently lick her hand like always. She decided he was probably just cold. Reassured, she went back to sleep.

The dog's whimpering woke her again. She stuck her hand out, felt the rasp of a tongue and went back to sleep. This happened a third time; same routine.

In the morning, she was perplexed to hear the sound of dripping. She went into the bathroom and, turning towards the sound, she screamed. There, hanging from the light fitting by his tail, was her dog, slit open with his bloodied entrails dripping into the bath. She whirled around and saw, written in canine blood on the mirror, the words: "HUMANS CAN LICK TOO!"

Squeaky clean

A boy took his girlfriend out for a Halloween-night drive to the woods in his car. They parked deep in the woods so no one could see them. After a few minutes there, the young man felt the call of nature and stepped outside the car for a wee. The girl waited for what seemed like ages before, reluctantly, getting out to look for him. Suddenly, she spotted a large figure in the shadows near a tree. Scared, she fled back to the safety of the car and locked the doors. As she struggled to put the keys into the ignition, she heard a faint squeak... squeak... squeak. The noise continued until the terrified girl managed to start the car and hit the accelerator hard. The wheels spun uselessly, the car unmoving: a rope had been tied from the bumper to a nearby tree. She tried to accelerate again and almost jumped out of her skin at a blood-curdling scream. Almost petrified, she got out of the car to be greeted by the horrific sight of her boyfriend hanging from a tree above the car... the squeaky noises were his shoes slightly scraping across the top of the roof.

The writing on the wall

Late one night a girl went back to her university room to get her books before heading to her boyfriend's room to celebrate Halloween. She went into the dorm room but didn't turn on the light, knowing her roommate was sleeping. She stumbled around in the dark for a few minutes, gathering books, clothes and a toothbrush, before leaving.

The next day, she came back to her room to find it surrounded by police. They asked if she lived there and broke the news that her roommate had been murdered the night before. Then, gently, they led her back into her room. There, written in blood on the wall, were the words: "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?"

Coffin nails

Many years ago, an elderly woman, ill for quite some time, passed away after lying in a coma for several days. Her husband of 50 years was devastated. They had been married so long that it seemed to people who knew them as if they knew each other's innermost thoughts.

As was customary, she was given a simple burial in a backyard plot: no post mortem, no embalming. Even as they prepared the coffin, her husband protested she was still alive, so fiercely that he had to be sedated and put to bed. His wife was buried later that day, one week before Halloween.

That night he awoke to a horrific vision of his wife hysterically trying to scratch her way out of the coffin.

He phoned their doctor immediately and begged to have his wife's body exhumed. The doctor refused, but the man had this nightmare every night for a week, each time frantically begging to have his wife exhumed.

Finally the doctor gave in and together with local authorities, exhumed the body. The coffin was pried open. The woman was obviously dead. But her nails were bloodied and broken. And the inside of the coffin lid was scored with the marks of her desperate scrabbling.

Hooked up

A young couple out on a date stopped on an old country road, listening to music on the car radio and talking. Suddenly a news bulletin broke through. "A convicted murderer has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. The man was mutilated in a car wreck after a high-speed chase and is missing his right hand. A temporary hook has been attached to his right arm, which will make him easier to identify. The criminal's name is..." The boy turned the radio off. His girlfriend was not mollified. "I'm afraid," she said. "Let's get out of here." The boy, still hopeful of his chances, tried to convince her that they were in no danger, but she refused to listen. As she reached over and locked her door, he angrily started the car. At that moment, they heard a thud on the passenger side of the car. The boy slammed the car into gear, spun out on to the road, roared back towards town. As they came closer to her house, he decided to try to impress her. "I'll make sure it's safe first," he said, as they pulled up. He ran around to her side to open her door in a gentlemanly fashion. For a long time he just stood there, looking down at the door. Puzzled, she rolled down her window. Then she saw what the boy was looking at. Hanging from the door handle was a bloody, stainless steel hook...

Warm hospitality

A young man and his wife were on a trip to visit his mother. Usually they arrived in time for supper. They had got off to a late start, and it was getting dark. They decided to look for a place to stay overnight and go on in the morning. Just off the road, they saw a small house in the woods. "Maybe they rent rooms," the wife said. So they stopped to ask. An elderly man and woman came to the door. They didn't rent rooms, they said. But they would be glad to have the young couple stay overnight as their guests. They were taken to a room and said that they wanted to pay for it. The old man would have none of it.

Getting up before their hosts woke, the couple left an envelope on a table; some money for the room. Then they went on to the next town, stopping at a restaurant for breakfast. They got talking to the owner and told them about the generosity of the couple who had let them stay. "That can't be," he said. "That house burned to the ground 10 years ago, the old man and woman who lived there died in the fire." They couple raced back to the house. But there was no house: all they found was a burnt-out shell. They stood staring at the ruins trying to understand what had happened. Then the woman started screaming. In the rubble was a badly burned table. And on the table was the envelope they had left there that morning...

A grave situation

John was driving home late one night when he saw a young lady waiting by a bus stop. He stopped and offered her a ride. The night air was getting chilly, so he took off his jacket and gave it to her. She told him her name was Mary and she was on her way home. After an hour's drive, they arrived and he dropped her off at her front door. The next day he remembered Mary still had his jacket. He drove to her house and knocked. A old woman answered. John told her he had picked up Mary, and had come back to get the jacket he had lent her. The woman simply looked confused. Then he noticed a picture of Mary on the mantelpiece. He told the old woman that that was the girl he had given a ride to. Her voice shaking, the woman told John her daughter had been dead for many years and was buried in a cemetery about an hour's drive away. John ran to his car and drove to the cemetery, tyres screeching. He found his jacket, neatly folded on top of a grave. The name on the gravestone was "Mary".

Road rage

A woman drove out of a supermarket car park, Halloween pumpkin on the passenger seat, and felt a chill run up her spine. Suddenly a maniac driver swerved by, almost running her off the road. He drove alongside, waving and pointing at her. She eventually managed to leave her tormentor behind.

Later, she saw the same car in her rear-view mirror, driven by the same dangerous lunatic. She ignored him, focusing on the road as he flashed his headlights. She used her mobile phone to call the police. They agreed to meet her at her home.As the frightened women leaped from her car, engine still running, the police confronted the motorist who had followed her. When asked why he had harassed the woman, he replied: "I was simply trying to save her life, but she wouldn't let me help her. If you'd check in her car, you'll find him." The policemen ran over, guns drawn, and threw open the back door of the woman's car. A vicious looking knife swiped out at the first policeman. The second policeman fired immediately. Within seconds, the police had pulled the body of a man from the back seat. His hand was still clutching the knife he'd planned to use to kill her.

Room inside

Many years ago, a young woman on her way to town decided to break her journey and stay with friends at an old manor house. They gave her a room overlooking the carriage drive which swept up to the front door. The brightness of the moon made it difficult for her to sleep. So she was still awake when the clock outside her room struck midnight. As if that weren't bad enough, she heard horses' hooves and the sound of carriage wheels clattering up the drive.She looked out to see who could be arriving at that time of night. In the moonlight she saw a hearse. But there was no coffin; instead it was crowded with people. The coachman sat high up on the box, and as he drew up below her window, he turned toward her and said: "There's room for one more." She drew the curtain, terrified, and cowered under the bedclothes. She was glad to leave the old house behind her.

She soon forgot about that previous night and was happily shopping in a big store that had a lift in it – a newfangled device back then. She finished browsing on the top floor, and went to the lift to go down. It was almost full. Worse, sickening she made to enter, the operator turned to her and said: "There's room for one more." The words were the same; so was the face. She backed away. "I'll walk down," she said. The doors clanged shut and almost immediately, plummeted down, its passengers screaming and shouting. The clamour ended with a sickening thud. There were no survivors.

Haunted places -

A mother's plea

A couple were driving on Halloween night when in the headlights they saw a woman in the middle of the road trying to flag them down. The wife urged her husband to keep on driving, fearing what might happen if they stopped. The man slowed, just to be sure they weren't callously ignoring someone who genuinely needed help. As they got closer, they saw the woman had cuts and bruises on her face and arms. They decided to stop and see if they could help. She said she had been in a car crash, and her husband and newborn baby were still inside the car, which had careered into a ditch. She feared her husband was dead but the tiny boy seemed still to be alive.

The driver got out to see what was wrong, telling the injured woman to stay with his wife. He found the car with two people slumped over, apparently beyond help, in the front seats. There in the back was the tiny, still-breathing, infant. As quickly as he could without terrifying the child, he snatched it out of the wreckage. He returned to where he had left his wife and the baby's mother. Only his wife was there. He asked her where the woman was. Baffled, she told him the woman had followed him when he left to rescue the baby. Concerned, he went to look for the missing woman. Once back at the car, he checked on the two front-seat passengers, both already stiff with rigor mortis. The man he didn't recognise. The woman, though long dead, had only minutes before been standing in the road, begging him to save her child.

Top tips for creepy storytelling

Val Parsley is a storyteller, writer and actor. She has been telling stories in Burns Cottage, Alloway, for nearly a decade. Her are her tips for a fearsome night.

1. Pick somewhere dark and quiet for storytelling.

2. Avoid distractions – these will destroy the atmosphere. Worst offenders are car noise, music or simply people passing by.

3. Create a creepy atmosphere. Candles are best, especially in a darkened room, with unexpected flickers causing strange shadows.

4. Get everyone to dress up as frighteningly as possible and make themselves unrecognisable.

5. Get an accomplice to provide strange effects. Objects falling down or moving unexpectedly in the room at the right moment can add thrills.

6. The dramatic pause is the easiest and most effective way to hold everyone's attention. Try to hold it as long as possible and at the same time look round at your audience or fix your gaze on one person.

7. Keep the audience's attention by varying your voice as much as possible from friendly to scary, loud to quiet. Also, if there is more than one character in the story, give each a different voice.

8. Don't be afraid to move! Use your hands to describe a character, especially if he is horrible to look at, and for better effect use your whole body by getting up from your seat.

9. Introduce something unexpected – walk away from the table or play scary music. Just because you are a storyteller doesn't mean you can't be an actor.

10. Finish with a comforting tale from Viking lore or a funny story, and your audience will have a happy ending to a scary night.

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