As with any genre, writing horror can be challenging. Readers expect a certain kind of frisson when they crack open a horror book, so coming up with ideas that are chilling and fresh can be tricky. This article contains 115 spooky and sinister writing prompts that you can use to inspire your next piece of horror fiction. They’re mostly left-field and weird, because the best way to come up with scary ideas is to think in an unconventional way.
These prompts are split into three sections: general, monster, and traditional. The general section will offer prompts related to the human condition in general and not any one specific trope or theme from horror fiction. The monster section will offer prompts related specifically to monsters as a whole rather than one type of monster like vampires or werewolves. Lastly, the traditional prompt will offer prompts related specifically to conventions from the traditional canon of horror literature.
A fortune teller reveals that you are evil.
A group of friends takes on the zombie apocalypse.
A scary doll comes to life.
A scene from a nightmare comes true the next day.
All the cats in a small town vanish in the middle of the night….and all that remains is a set of big, scary teeth smashed into a car door.
Days go by, and your parents don’t come home.
Every time you wake up, you’re a different person.
Everyone knows the new neighbors are vampires, and the kids invite you over for a sleepover.
Someone follows you home, and it’s your exact double.
Someone is living in your mirror.
Strange things start happening after the grandfather clock starts to speak.
The teacher is a monster, but no one will believe you.
When a local police officer goes to investigate the haunted house down the street, he finds a young girl who died decades ago.
While reading a scary book, you realize that you’re a character in it.
You feel yourself slowly becoming a monster.
You finally meet your child’s imaginary friend. Who turns out to be a serial killer.
You find a diary that tells the future.
You have no reflection in the mirror.
You hypnotize your brother, and you can’t snap him out of it.
You know someone is watching you day and night from the house across the street.
You realize you are shrinking.
You’re inhabited by a ghost that controls you and makes you do crazy things.
You’re lost in the woods, and you don’t know how you got there.
Your friends start to disappear, and no one else notices.
Your parents explain that you are actually an alien from another planet.
A 16-year-old girl wakes up on a stone-cold table surrounded with people in black and white masks. They are chant and start leaning forward. All of them carry carved knives.
A 30-year-old woman learns that a baby with the same name as her died at the local hospital 30 years ago.
A bachelor’s party ends with two dead people in the pool. Both of them are missing their eyes.
A beautiful, but superficial woman promises a demon to give him her virginity in exchange for immortality. Once the demon granted her wish, she refused to fulfill her end of the deal. The demon retaliated by making her immortal, but not eternally youthful.
A black horse carriage stops in front of your house. A hand wearing a black glove make an inviting gesture. Mesmerized, you decide to enter the carriage.
A boy has a very realistic dream about an impending doom, but nobody believes him until during a storm all the birds fall dead on the ground.
A boy hears screaming from his parents’ bedroom. He jumps and hides under his bed. Suddenly, everything becomes quiet. A man wearing army boots enters his room. He drags the boy from under the bed and says: “We’ve been searching for you for 200 years.”
A bride returns to the same bridge for 50 years waiting for her husband-to-be to get out of the water.
A bride-to-be receives a DVD via mail from an unknown sender. She plays the video and disgusted watches a pagan ritual. The people are wearing masks, but she recognizes the voice of her husband-to-be.
A cannibal hunts for pure children’s hearts hoping they will bring him eternal youth.
A chemistry teacher disfigures teenagers who remind him of his childhood bullies. One day, he learns that the new student in his school is the son of his childhood's archenemy.
A child makes her own Halloween mask. She glues a lock of her own hair on her mask. The mask comes to life and threatens to take over the girl’s body.
A delusional man brings his screaming children to a chasm.
A family is on a camping trip. The parents are walking with their two children, a daughter and a son. The little boy trips and falls into a dark river. His father jumps to rescue him. Somehow the boy manages to swim to the surface. The father is nowhere to be found. When the mother gets a hold of the boy, she can’t recognize him. She tries holding him, but the moment she touches his wet body, her hands start burning.
A family of four moves in an old Victorian home. As they restore it, more and more people die suddenly and violently.
A famous conductor imprisons a pianist from the orchestra and makes him play the piano while he tortures other victims, also musicians. Every time the pianist makes a mistake, the conductor cuts of a finger from his victims.
A frightened man is trying to lead a werewolf into a trap and kill him with the last silver bullet.
A genius scientist tries to extract his wife’s consciousness from her lifeless body and insert it into an imprisoned woman who looks just like his wife.
A girl starts digging tiny holes in her backyard. When her mother asks her what she is doing, the girl answers: “Mr. Phantom told me to bury my dolls tonight. Tomorrow night I am going to bury our dog. And then, you, mother.”
A girl wakes up in her dorm and sees that everybody sleepwalks in the same direction. She acts as if she has the same condition and follows them to an underground black pool where everybody jumps.
A group of 10 friends decide to rent an old English castle for the weekend. The ghosts are disturbed and seek their pound of flesh.
A group of extremists ambush the vehicle in which a head of a terrorist cell is transported and rescue him. They go after anybody who was involved in his incarceration.
A group of friends play truth or dare. Suddenly, all the lights go out and in those ten seconds of darkness, one of the group is killed.
A hitman is hired to kill a potential heart donor.
A house finds a way to kill every visitor on its premises.
A husband and his wife move to a new apartment. After a week, both of them kill themselves. They leave a note saying: “Never again.”
A husband and his wife regain consciousness only to see each other tied to chairs, facing each other. A voice on the radio tells them to kill the other, otherwise, they would kill their children.
A kidnapper makes his victims torture each other for his sheer pleasure.
A killer is willing to pay a large sum of money to the family of a volunteering victim. A cancer patient contacts the killer. The killer ends up dead.
A literature professor discovers an old manuscript in the college library. He opens it in his study and suddenly a black raven flies through the window.
A little girl’s sister lives with a monster in the closet. She exits the closet on her sister's birthday.
A magician needs a volunteer from the audience in order to demonstrate a trick involving sawing a person in half. A beautiful woman steps on the stage. The magician makes her fall asleep, and then he performs the trick. In the end, he disappears. People in the audience start panicking when they notice the blood dripping from the table. The magician is nowhere to be found. The woman is dead.
A man commits murders at night and relives the agony of his victims during the day.
A man encounters death on his way to work. He can ask three questions before he dies. He makes a quick decision.
A man hires unethical doctors to help him experience clinical death and then bring him back to life after a minute. Little does he know that one minute of death feels like an eternity full of horrors.
A man is attacked by the neighbor’s dog while trying to bury his wife alive.
A man is kidnapped from his apartment on midnight and brought on a large private estate. He is told that he will be a human pray and that ten hunters with guns will go after him. He is given a 5-minute head start.
A man is trying to open a time portal so that he could kill his parents before he is ever conceived.
A man opens his eyes in the middle of his autopsy while the coroner is holding his heart.
A man signs a document with his blood to relinquish his body to a sect.
A man turns himself to the police although he hasn’t broken the law. He begs them to put him in prison because he had a premonition that he would become a serial killer.
A man’s DNA was found on a horrible crime scene and he has been charged with murder in the first degree. He adamantly negates any involvement in the crime that has been committed. What he doesn’t know is that he had a twin brother who died at birth.
A man’s mind is locked into an immovable body. This person is being tortured by a psychopath who kills his family members in front of him, knowing that he is in agony and can’t do anything to save them.
A most prominent member of a sect goes to animal shelters to find food for the dark forces.
A mother discovers that her bright son is not human.
A mother goes in the nursery to check up on the baby and discovers that the baby is missing and, in her place, there is a baby doll.
A mother-to-be starts feeling severe pain in her stomach every time she touches a Bible. Despite the fear for her own life, she starts reading the New Testament out loud.
A mysterious altruist gives a kidney to a young man, who has potential to become a leading neuroscientist. After a year, the altruist kills the young man because he proves to be an unworthy organ recipient. The following year, the mysterious altruist is a bone marrow donor.
A mysterious bug creeps under people’s skins and turns them into the worst version of themselves.
A mysterious child psychiatrist promises parents to cure their children if they give him a vile of their blood.
A mysterious stranger with a glass eye and a cane commissions a portrait. When the portrait is finished, the painter turns into stone.
A mysterious woman moves into your apartment building. One by one, all of the tenants start hallucinating that monsters chase them and jump into their own deaths.
A nomad meets a fakir who tells him that he would bring agony to dozens of people unless he kills himself before he transforms into a monster.
A nuclear blast turns animals into blood-thirsty monsters.
A patient with a multiple-personality disorder tells you that you are one of six characters.
A philosopher is trying to outwit Death in order to be granted immortality. He doesn’t know that Death already knows the outcome of this conversation.
A photographer travels to an Indian reservation for his next project. He starts taking photos, but there are only shadows in the places where people should have been.
A politician hides his weird sister in the attic. She’s had her supernatural powers after their family home burned to the ground.
A popular French chef is invited by a mysterious Japanese sushi master for dinner. A powerful potion makes the French chef fall asleep. He wakes up horrified to learn that he is kept on a human farm, in a cage.
A priest is trying to punish God for the death of his sister. He is getting ready to burn down the church, when supernatural forces start to torture him.
A psychopath is drugging his wife, pushing her to commit a suicide so that he could collect the life insurance.
A renowned book editor receives a manuscript elegantly written by hand. The title grabs her attention and she continues reading page after page. When she finishes, the manuscript spontaneously starts burning, and the editor is cursed forever.
A severed head is hanging from a bridge with a message written in the victim’s blood.
A small-town cop becomes obsessed with a cold case from 1978. Three girls went missing after school, and nobody has seen them since. Then one day, in 2008, three girls with the same names as those in 1978 go missing. The case is reopened.
A strange religious group starts performing a ritual on a playground. The children’s hearts stop beating.
A strange woman in labor is admitted in the local hospital. Nobody seems to recognize her. She screams in agony. A black smoke fills in the entire hospital. After that, nobody is the same. A dark lord is born.
A tall, dark, and handsome stranger invites a blind woman for a romantic date in his botanical garden. The garden is full of black roses in which women’s souls have been trapped. He tells her that she will stay forever with him in his garden.
A teenager is determined to escape his kidnapper by manipulating him into drinking poison. He doesn’t stop there.
A ticking noise wakes her up. It’s a bomb, and she has only four minutes to do something about it.
A vampire donates his blood so that a child with special brain powers can receive it.
A vampire prefers albino children.
A voice in your head tells you to stop listening to the other voices. They were not real.
A voice starts chanting spells every time somebody wears the gold necklace from Damask.
A woman disappears from her home without a trace. He husband reports her missing. The police start to suspect the husband when they retrieve some deleted messages.
A woman discovers that her niece has done some horrible crimes, so she decides to poison her. Both of them take the poison, but only the aunt dies.
A woman enters a sacred cave in India and disappears for good.
A woman gets trapped in a parallel universe where every day she dies horribly in different ways.
A woman is admitted to a hospital after a car crash. She wakes up after three months in a coma, but when she tries to speak, she can’t utter a sound. When the nurse sees that she is awake, she calls a doctor. The last thing the woman remembers is hearing the doctor say: “Today is your lucky day,” right before four men in black robes take her out.
A woman loses her eyesight overnight. Instead, she starts having premonitions.
A woman puts a lipstick on in the bathroom when she hears a demonic voice saying to her: “Can’t you see?”
A woman starts watching a movie late at night. The movie seems all too familiar. Finally, she realizes that it is a movie about her own life and that she might be already dead.
A woman steps out of her house only to find four of her neighbors dead at her doorstep. Little does she know that she isn't supposed to call the police.
A woman wants to quit smoking, so she visits a therapist who is supposed to help her with the use of hypnosis. She goes under and when she wakes up, she feels like a born killer.
A woman who has just given birth at her home is told that the baby is predestined to become the leader of the greatest demonic order in the country.
A world-famous violinist virtuoso uses music to summon dark forces.
A young girl finds her grandmother’s gold in a chest in the attic, although she isn’t allowed to go there by herself. She touches the gold and she starts seeing horrible visions involving her grandmother when she was younger.
A young girl goes missing in a nearby forest. The whole town is searching for her. Her parents find her sitting and smiling in a cave. Her eyes are completely white.
A young man becomes obsessed with an old man living opposite his building. The young man is convinced that the old man is the embodiment of the devil, and starts planning the murder.
A young married couple decide to renovate an abandoned psychiatric hospital and turn it into a hotel. Everything is going well until their first guest arrives.
A young woman wearing a black dress is holding a knife in her hand and threatening to kill a frightened man. She is terrified because she does not want to kill anybody, but her body refuses to obey her mind.