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It is no surprise that some of the very best scary movies are based on books. After all, ghosts, vampires, witches, and all sorts of spooks appear in writings as far back as the second century. The silent film Nosferatu, one of the first horror movies, was based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, and since then, countless other haunting tales have been reimagined for the screen.
We compiled some of our favorite book-to-movie recommendations for horror lovers of all ages! While we obviously suggest reading the books first (the book is always better than the movie), we also tell you where to stream the movie or tv adaptations, because sometimes, you just want to curl up in front of a scary movie with some caramel popcorn!
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
The witch and her cat are happily flying through the sky on a broomstick when the wind picks up and blows away the witch's hat, then her bow, and then her wand! Luckily, three helpful animals find the missing items, and all they want in return is a ride on the broom. But is there room on the broom for so many friends? And when disaster strikes, will they be able to save the witch from a hungry dragon?
- Room on the Broom
(2015) streaming on AppleTV
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle's Academy, and she's making an awful mess of it. She's always getting her spells wrong and she can't even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?
- The Worst Witch
(2017) streaming on Netflix, TV-G
Nightbooks by J.A. White
Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping the witch Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending—and a way out of this twisted place.
(2021) streaming on Netflix, TV-PG
The Witches by Roald Dahl
This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.
Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There's nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma's stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!
- The Witches
(1990) streaming on HBO Max, PG
- The Witches
(2020) streaming on HBO Max, PG
Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key
Some terrifying experience has blocked Tony and Tia's memory of the past. But because they have supernatural powers, they are sure that they come from another world—and that their people still exist somewhere.
Then Tony and Tia find that they must escape from men who want to use their special powers for evil. They begin a desperate search to find their true home—which leads them to the strange and mysterious Witch Mountain.
- Escape to Witch Mountain
(1975) streaming on Disney+, G
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher, came to TarryTown in the glen of Sleepy Hollow to ply his trade in educating young minds. He was a gullible and excitable fellow, often so terrified by locals' stories of ghosts that he would hurry through the woods on his way home, singing to keep from hysterics. Until late one night, he finds that maybe they're not just stories. What is that dark, menacing figure riding behind him on a horse? And what does it have in its hands? And why wasn't schoolteacher Crane ever seen in Sleepy Hollow again?
- Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
(1949) streaming on Disney+, G
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
This spooky addition to Alvin Schwartz's popular books on American folklore is filled with tales of eerie horror and dark revenge that will make you jump with fright.
There is a story here for everyone—skeletons with torn and tangled flesh who roam the earth; a ghost who takes revenge on her murderer; and a haunted house where every night a bloody head falls down the chimney.
Stephen Gammell's splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozen scary stories—and even scary songs—all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark.
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
(2019) streaming on Hulu, PG-13
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and most dreadfully—and for Kipps most tragically—The Woman In Black
- The Woman in Black
(2012) streaming on Hulu, PG-13
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
- Haunting of Hill House
(1963) streaming on Amazon Prime, G
- Haunting of Hill House
(1999) streaming on Hulu, PG-13
- Haunting of Hill House
(2018) series streaming on Netflix, TV-MA
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.
One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…
- Practical Magic
(1998) streaming on HBO Max, PG-13
Whether you are reading, watching, or both this spooky season, we hope you enjoy our recommendations! Did we miss some of your favorites? Tell us in the comments below. Happy Haunting!
BONUS: Have your students compare the book vs the movie in this spooky Venn diagram!
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