Scary Story Starters that Will Unnerve You (Updated in 2024)

scary story starters

Looking for scary story starters? You’ve come to the right place! A psychiatric ward patient warning a nurse, “Whatever you do, don’t go home tonight.” Or a fortune teller telling a man that he’s been dead for ten years. Scroll down for more!

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What’s a Story Starter?

Story starter is anything that helps you start a story. Think of it like a fire starter helping to ignite the first spark that is to become a cozy bonfire. Story starters aim to do just that.

So what’s the difference between writing prompts and story starters, you ask?

Writing prompts and story ideas (which are abundant in this website, neatly tucked in our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts category) contain general ideas and/or themes for you to explore and expand into a full-blown story.

Story starters, on the other hand, set the first scene in the narrative, which you can use as a stepping stone to create a complete story!

Scary Story Starters

Without further ado, below are some starters that will get anyone started writing! From a mermaid scary story starter to a mysterious disease wiping 90% of Earth’s population, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Please note that the genders in these starters are just placeholders and are not meant to enforce any hurtful stereotypes nor offend anyone.

Urban Legend

Urban legends are hearsay stories that have endure years of retelling without losing their charisma and enigma, so it’s safe to say that urban legend inspired stories are always fascinating. Here are some ideas.

(The ideas below originally appeared in my post Chilling Urban Legend Writing Prompts.)

1. It’s a regular day in the office for Sally. The emails pile up in her inbox, but one particular one catches her eyes. The title reads like it was a chain letter, and amused that chain letters still exist in 2022, she opens it. Obviously, she ignores the letter’s plea to forward it to all the people in her contact list. Certainly, nothing bad would happen. Right?

2. A man answers a sleep clinic‘s advertisement for test subjects, which promises to pay handsomely in advance. No problem, he thinks. How bad could it be? Besides, for $5,000 he’ll do anything. But soon enough, he finds out that no amount of money is sufficient for what he’s about to go through…

3. It’s Hannah’s second day at her new job, cleaning the house of an affluent yet reclusive family in the area. The job pays really well, even if her mistress is a bit creepy. Yesterday, she thought she saw baby spiders coming out of her mistress’ ears, but clearly, that was just shadows playing trick on her, right?

4. Matt is a retiree and an aspiring author whose obsession with a ghost ship brings him to a sleepy town. He’s been staying at the town’s riverside inn for months, hoping to catch a sighting of the mysterious apparition. But when he did, who does he see waving her hand aboard the ship other than his long-deceased lover?


From mermaids to Eldritch creatures, the allure of fantasy stories never end and it’s partly because there’s no limit to what kind of fantastical world we could conjure up using our imagination. Here are some ideas.

1. It’s the night of June solstice, the only night in the year that the merpeople of the secluded Lake Nerissa comes alive. After a long year of slumber, all their senses have gone crazy, which might spell a demise for a pair of newlyweds who have gone night swimming in that lake… (Originally appeared in my post Deep Dark Fantasy Story Ideas.)

2. Matt had warned all his friends not to vandalize that funny looking statue they found on their hiking path last Sunday but none of them listened to him. And now it’s Saturday, and none of the people who went to the hike has slept yet ever since. Being awake for six consecutive days have driven some of them crazy, and one of them has even attempted suicide… (Originally appeared in my post Deep Dark Fantasy Story Ideas.)

3. It’s been a week since Debbie was saved by the locals of a tiny island in the middle of nowhere when her sailing boat went kaput. But she’s been itching to leave since she suspects that her saviors are cannibals. Except that she suddenly has this unnatural urge, which has caused her to look at the next person with an unexplainable craving to taste them. (Originally appeared in my post Decadently Surreal Writing Prompts.)

4. Storms are pirates’ best friends, but an especially vicious storm has brought a ragtag group of pirates into an uncharted territory. As the storm continues toying with their physical endurance and supplies begin to dwindle, hallucinations begin to set in. Or is that a real Eldritch creature they just witness coming out of the sea? (Originally appeared in my post Thrilling Pirate Writing Prompts.)

5. The year is 2030, and the zombie apocalypse has taken over the world. When it happens, the zombies are nothing like what they depicted in TVs and comics. They’re intelligent, and they’ve built clusters of human farms for ease of feeding. (Originally appeared in my post Unique Zombie Ideas.)

6. To celebrate their graduation, a group of friends go on a camping trip. As they set up their tents for the night, one of them accidentally cuts himself and spills blood onto the ground, which turns out to be a cursed patch of land. That night as they go to sleep, the drop of blood changes into seeds of nightmare that ensnare the group in their dreams. (Originally appeared in my post Enchanted Forest Story Ideas.)

7. Jane, an overworked nurse at a psychiatric ward, always tries to be compassionate to the patients under her care, even though there’s one particular patient who often gets on her nerves. One day, the patient warns her with a simple sentence, “Whatever you do, don’t go home tonight.”

Picture Prompts

Here are some picture-based starters, because, a picture speaks a thousand words! Below are some image prompts as well as some prompt ideas to accompany each.

(Please click on the image for more information.)

1. Tim, a clumsy teenager, has to walk across the local graveyard as part of a dare, but his friends have decided to make it more interesting by making noises and scaring him, only for them to stop and flee at the sight of something they see standing behind Tim…

2. The year is 2040 when a mysterious pandemic sweeps the Earth and claims 90% of the population. Cities are now scarcely populated and moreover, wildlife is slowly taking over the world. One day, you notice something strange: a raven casually perching atop a human corpse, behaving very much like a human…

(Please click on the image for more information.)

1. There’s a house on the outskirt of town that’s notorious because its inhabitants are a couple of husband and wife who never seem to get out of the house at all. One night, two teenagers decide to sneak into the house to prove their bravery, only to hear the woman says to them, “At last, our first guests in a century…”

2. A skeptic visits a traveling circus and has the fortune teller read his fate, only for her to gaze deep into her crystal ball before looking up to him with dread in her eyes, “You’ve been dead for ten years, haven’t you?”


For more story ideas and prompts, please browse our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts category!

Have any question or feedback? Feel free to contact me here. Until next time!

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