Horror is often thought of as a genre written for adults who can process the often graphic events on the page, but horror has surprisingly become more popular in children’s literature. The uptick in the number of horror publications directed at children offers a new way of exploring the genre and relating it to the real world, a tactic that could help developing minds understand the world around them. Charmette Kendrick notes that horror stories have been “handed down from one generation to the next … ‘[f]or there is something in the human mind that loves to scare itself to death!'”
Fairy tales like those of the Brothers Grimm and their countless adaptations also often serve as a child’s introduction to the horror genre. While the original tales are much darker and more twisted than the more lighthearted versions we know today, they offer a mix of cautionary tales and horror elements that warn readers of potential danger.
Going back to the Victorian era when scary stories were told to children orally, any exposure children had to horror came as a way to teach morals of the times and expose superstitions as foolish beliefs. Scary stories of this time often concluded with a discovery that any spooky entities in question were not supernatural at all. Ghosts were revealed to be animals, inanimate objects, and people all along and encouraged children to separate fiction from reality.
Horror in children’s literature has been on the rise since the early nineties with the release of the original Goosebumps series, which has since spawned multiple spin-off series that are still being produced today. Neil Gaiman has also established himself as a whimsical horror writer with one of his most well-known works, Coraline, being marketed as a children’s book that has terrified readers since its publication in 2002. A quick Google search will bring up countless lists of children’s horror books. “50 Must-Read Scary Books for Kids of All Ages,” “Best Sellers in Children’s Spine-Chilling Horror,” and “25 Terrifying Horror Novels for Kids and Teens” are just a few of the results that come up, showcasing the proliferation of horror in children’s literature.