Scary stories aren’t the stuff of campfires and sleepovers anymore. For adults who still enjoy a good spook, the internet is the place to turn for tales of horror and the supernatural.
Specifically, scary story fans us r/nosleep on Reddit to post their original horror stories and creepypastas — the legendary internet tall tales that bred iconic horror figures like the Slenderman. From quick, frightening anecdotal stories that you can read in under five minutes to lengthy series that will keep you up all night scrolling, the following are the 40 best-written, most iconic tales of horror you can find in the online depths.
40. Jeff the Killer
To kick things off, we’ll start with a classic entry: “Jeff the Killer.” What this story lacks in nuance, it makes up for in middle school fright value. “Jeff the Killer” is a real delight for droves of high schoolers, but the chilling image that comes along with it is enough to give a reader of any age a fright.
It’s sickly sweet how simple this short story is. A couple clearly crafted images. The feeling of helplessness. Here’s the first irrational fear to add to the r/nosleep shopping cart: looking outside at night.
This legendary creepypasta has inspired a legion of copycat stories that all hinge on the theme of medically-induced inability to fall asleep. Sleep in and of is itself a horror hallmark, and it’s true that scientists don’t know why we sleep. So, I guess the horrifying conclusions at the end of this pasta are… somewhat in the realm of possibility.
If you like Welcome to Night Vale, the creepy, yet somehow heartwarming, fictional podcast series, you’ll love “Tales from the Gas Station.” In the same vein of a number of surrealistic small town stories narrated by an amiable public servant, this series is a fantastical delight.
For anyone who has spent a day in a darkened room, scrolling through social media and diving into deep corners of the internet, this story will resonate with the inkling feeling that you should probably go outside. A word to the wise: don’t read this after you’ve already spent hours trawling through other creepypasta, or else face the nagging fear that something about this story could come true.
Any story involving children and their parents’ worst fear is bound to incite shivers in anyone who has a kid, knows a kid, or just knows what a kid is. That’s why horror movies like The Babadook are so popular, and why this classic tale of woe from r/nosleep makes the cut.
34. Smile Dog
Similar to “Jeff the Killer,” this pasta hinges on the visual. Unwanted chain mail is scary enough, but this story recalls the kind of internet tall tale that certain attachments can lay on curse on whoever dares to click them. A more refined creepypasta reader might roll their eyes at these kind of clickbait-y attempts, but “Smile Dog” is inarguably a staple.
Here’s the thing: a woman holding an orange shouldn’t be scary. There’s nothing inherently alarming about some citrus and a run-of-the-mill grocery shopper, even if she’s suspiciously far from the produce aisle. But this story takes some real twists, turns, and dramatic leaps. It’s a classic that long-time r/nosleep readers may have forgotten.
32. Feed the Pig
The whole pretense of r/nosleep is that posts are supposed to be written as though the user is actually living the events. Unlike communities like r/writingprompts, the creepy quality behind r/nosleep is elevated by the assumption that everything is real. So in this case, describing a trip through literal hell kind of discards that mission. And yet, it’s a good enough piece of writing that we’re willing to forgive.
31. The Rake
This legendary monster conjured up by a twisted mind on the internet is perfect fodder for those late-night horror story swaps. Most iconic supernatural beings, from the wendigo to Bigfoot to the Mothman, are local cryptids. The beauty of the Rake is that he can strike anywhere, at any time, throughout history.
Oh, the joy, and in this case, the subsequent horror, of wordplay. All short horror stories (sidenote: check out r/shortscarystories for the treasure trove) rely on a delicious, delightful, or disturbing twist. The delivery here is one twisted twist.
What could be more horrific than the ritualistic forced marriages between young girls and opportunistic older men held covertly in the US? This story. This story is more horrific than that.
28. Infected Town
This series deserves serious credit for a few reasons. One, it’s excellent. Two, it’s long — but the ending delivers. And three, it’s totally unique in that the author wrote three series by three separate Reddit accounts that are all interconnected by one moldy plot line. There’s a guide to all three separate series here, thankfully.
At first, this post seems like it was submitted to the wrong subreddit. It reads more like a diet testimony than a horror story. And then, oh God. Oh no. You’ll just have to read it to find out.
This cleverly crafted tale is reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Stepford Wives, only it’s a little more mysterious, a bit sicker, and more likely to make you sleep with a nightlight.
Speaking of another irrational fear caused by r/nosleep and creepypastas, this one brings you… bunk beds! Seriously, you’ll never want to sleep in a bunk bed again. Or a bed, period. In fact, you might just skip this story if you ever think you’ll consider sleeping again.
The horrors of war are sometimes more devastating than anything an author could summon from the depths of their imagination. Unless, of course, the author is posting to r/nosleep, because those souls have dreamt up some crazy shit. This is one of those.
One of the best things about scary stories written for an internet audience is that they tend to revolve around Black Mirror-esque topics like technology and its role in our society. After all, r/nosleep is an online gathering for internet readership. And this submission is a subtle examination of how far people will go for internet clout.
22. NoEnd House
This little shop of horrors is so revered in the creepypasta community that an entire season of the pasta-inspired Channel Zero series used it as inspiration. Haunted houses are full of sticky fake blood and smoke machines and not much else, right? Well, don’t hold your breath.
21. Room 733
What college dorm isn’t haunted, you might ask. It seems like every university campus is filled to the brim with legends and spooky anecdotes ranging from suicide attempts to missing items and strange noises in the hallways at night. This is like those, only dipped in hellfire and with a heaping side of dread.
Cracking twigs, rustling leaves, eerie wind — being in the woods at night is super fun, right? Right? There’s no one behind you, right? Nothing unexplainable lurking around the trees past the campfire, right? Forest cryptids are a genre of their own, but the Goatman is the only one that will have you counting every group of strangers you’re ever in again.
19. Copper Canyon
There’s something in the air at Copper Canyon, it seems. Something that would cause a normal person to act very abnormally. But it’s not a disease, and it’s not a monster. It’s the human condition. What could be scarier than that?
Irrational fear number 3, here we come. There are plenty of creepypasta entries based on pop culture, from video games like Minecraft and Legend of Zelda to cartoons like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants. But how could someone make Squidward Tentacles into a nightmarish horror story? Believe me, once you read this pasta, you’ll never watch Nickelodeon the same way again.
17. Ted the Caver
This is the one internet horror story that isn’t found on a subreddit or a wiki entry. It’s an entire entity in itself. But “Ted the Caver” is more than just a flash landing page from the early 00’s. It’s one man’s diary of a caving exploration gone so wrong, you’ll be screaming at your computer screen.
16. The New Fish
Prison isn’t very fun. That should go without saying. But what’s even worse than prison is a not-quite-right prisoner. This story is chilling regardless, but the incredibly written dialogue and description almost makes it feel like you’re wearing a jumpsuit and drinking hooch, too.
Is it just me, or is the bottom of the ocean a really terrifying place? Giant jellyfish? Humongous squids the size of your house? Anglerfish, like in Finding Nemo? And if you think that’s bad, those are kindergarten stories compared to what’s floating in this dark, deep r/nosleep favorite.
14. A Shattered Life
This is the top-rated story of all time on r/nosleep right now, so of course, it deserves a place in this list. It would be higher, too, if it weren’t for the fact that u/m59gar has so many amazing, and dare I say better, stories out there. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call him the Stephen King of Reddit, and a lot of his stories are connected by the fictional worlds and creatures he’s created. There’s a suggested order of reading them here, so that you can recognize all the nuanced references.
Slenderman is perhaps the best-known product of creepypasta. There was that wildly popular Slenderman game that shot a bunch of “Let’s Play” YouTubers into the spotlight, the real-life Slenderman stabbings that claimed young lives, and now a Slenderman movie. The only reason good ole’ Slendy isn’t higher up is because the original tall tales leave more legend to be desired. But, alas, the cultural impact is undeniable.
12. Fuck Oranges
This is the second story to feature oranges, another u/M59Gar piece with a pointed, underlying satirical nudge. At this point in the r/nosleep game, it’s clear that oranges are the most frightening fruit. Or are they? If the title of this one isn’t enough to reel you in, just know that the writing is enough to carry you through.
This r/nosleep post reigned supreme on the sub for a while. For many, including yours truly, it was the first introduction to the community. And because it’s backed up with screenshots, and the user profile is so unassuming, it’s easy to get caught up in the narrative that this is all really happening. And that’s perhaps the most terrifying aspect of it altogether.
10. The Smiling Man
We’ve entered the top 10. If you haven’t met, allow me to introduce you to the Smiling Man. The short film produced in honor of this truly nightmarish meet-up (whether it’s true or fabricated, we’ll never really know) is very well done, but do yourself a favor and read the story first. It’s the kind of encounter everyone can imagine experiencing on the street late at night. So just don’t take walks in the wee hours by yourself, alright?
The folks over at r/nosleep are divided over this one, I won’t lie. It has its mega-fans, and also it’s detractors. What I can say for certain is that the first half of the series will give you the shivers. The first chapter alone makes it a historical benchmark of the subreddit. There’s one dream job you can cross off your list forever.
8. Candle Cove
Here’s another creepypasta entry that made it onto a season of Channel Zero. This fake forum discussion about a childhood TV series is hauntingly well-written and surprisingly simple. Well, except for the nightmare fuel tucked in-between the memories of a shockingly grim show. I’ve read this story at least five separate times, and the ending still gives me goosebumps.
7. Third Parent
Your babysitter growing up may have been mean, or ignored you, or sent you to bed an hour early, but no one compares to Tommy Taffy. This series jumps from generation to generation, each with a little more bloodshed and a little more grim. It never gets easier for the families adopted by Tommy, but it’s very easy to read their gripping accounts.
The thing that’s so horrific about “Autopilot” is that it’s based on not one, not two, but tens of true stories that echo exactly what happens here. It’s a terrifying phenomenon, and it could happen to anyone. But maybe, after reading this, it won’t happen to you.
This is perhaps the most iconic r/nosleep series in recent memory. The tidbits from this alleged S&R officer will stick with you. Especially — wait for it — irrational fear number four: staircases. And not just any staircases. Staircases in the middle of the woods. Confused? Intrigued, even? This is one of the breeziest, easy-to-read, addicting series out there, so what are you waiting for?
The most recently-published entry on this list is actually in the top 5, too. Because it’s just that good. I can guarantee this quirky ritual, journalist heroine, and a conniving cast of characters will stand the Reddit test of time. Every bend in the road is darker than the last. And you never know what you’ll encounter on the median. But believe me, you’ll want to follow along in Alice’s footsteps.
Speaking of footsteps, the Penpal series is without a doubt the most critically-acclaimed scary story on the internet. Not only is it enshrouded in the Reddit Hall of Fame, but it was so popular that it’s being turned into a movie. It’s stuck in development hell, but to pass the time, why don’t you read the inspiration?
I never thought I’d say it, but I’m pretty sure this is peak self-awareness within a scary story. I won’t spoil anything, but this trip takes its reader from a local legend with bite to a devastating series of consequences to the kind of epiphany you find at the end of an Oscar award-winning film or dramatic memoir. Oh, and it’s really fucking scary. Enjoy.
You came here because you wanted something tangibly dark, distressing, and disturbing, right? Well, Borrasca is the tale of woe for you. Most quality NoSleep stories rely on the fear of the unknown to send chills up the reader’s spine. Borrasca takes the game further. The twisted reveal at the end is a stark reminder that there are scarier things than what goes bump in the night. And if the conclusion leaves you wanting more, you’re in luck — there’s a sequel.
If you’ve gotten to this point, congratulations! And I’m truly sorry. Perhaps we should have put this disclaimer at the top: reading through the 40 greatest r/nosleep and creepypasta classics is not advised for one sitting. But it’s okay. Just don’t go outside, or inside, or close your eyes, or open them, or be alive, or be dead. None of that, and you’ll avoid every monster and fright in this list! Happy sleeping!