Scary Poems That’ll Send Chills Down Your Spine

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scary poems

Good poetry is capable of evoking any emotion; it can make us ponder, cry, feel loved, sober up, or make us laugh.

If it is horror poetry and you are reading it in the dark, it can scare the bejesus heck out of you.

We all love a poetic piece that has love and joy wrapped in a sheaf of letters, but there are also a few of us who like to read poems that can send shivers down our spines.

So, I’ve made a list of the scariest, most chilling, creepiest, eeriest, and most unsettling poems for you, much like the chilling horror, suspense, crime, magical realism, and supernatural happenings found in Stephen King’s books.”

Let’s get started!

What is Horror Poetry

Simply put, what is horror poetry is just poetry with horror elements. To make that definition more crystal, horror poetry involves using the basic elements of poetry (i.e., rhyme, ballad, sonnet, free verse, et cetera.) to create a dark literary piece, usually with a fictional touch.

The genre was popularized in the early 1700s by a group of writers nicknamed the Graveyard Poets or the Churchyard Poets. The group, whose writing was characterized by meditations on death and the afterlife, included poets like Thomas Parnell and Robert Blair.

Every bit of it is dark and the writer intends to evoke the same feelings and emotions that all other forms of fictional horror arouse.

Horror poetry is no different from any other type of poetry, but with horror poetry, the writer goes darker, creepier, and is only satisfied if the poem can evoke maximum fear and sadness.

The genre was popularized in the early 1700s by a group of writers nicknamed the Graveyard Poets or the Churchyard Poets. The group, whose writing was characterized by meditations on death and the afterlife, included poets like Thomas Parnell and Robert Blair.

a red book with edgar allan poe's name on the cover
A red book with Edgar Allan Poe’s name on the cover.

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the best horror poetry writers of all time. Although Poe wrote humor, satire, science fiction, and other genres, his works are typically considered part of the dark romanticism genre.

12 Scariest Poems

1. Ava (A Collection of Nightmares) by Christina Sng

Ava (A Collection of Nightmares)

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And so she turned—

I kept her grunting and lost

In the guest bathroom

And soon the melody

Of her movements matched

The cacophony of the others

Shifting around outside.

How I longed

To open the door to see her.

But I knew she was no longer

The daughter I loved.

Yet a part of me wondered

If there was any bit of Ava left

In that shell.

If she was aware,

At some level,

Of what she had become.

Every night, I soothed her

With a song — the same one

I sang to her when she was a baby,

Nestled in my arms.

She always stopped her shuffling

And listened. But tonight,

She quietened and cooed,

And for the first time,

She said, “Maa maa,” slowly

And concisely as if she were

Struggling with vocal chords

Which were ripped beyond repair.

I could not help it.

I had to know.

Tears rolling down my face,

I placed my hand on the doorknob.

I took a deep breath and turned.

2. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven

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An excerpt

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

         Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—

         Nameless here for evermore.

3. I felt a Funeral, in My Brain by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in My Brain

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I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

4. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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An excerpt

IT is an ancient Mariner,   

And he stoppeth one of three.      

 ‘By thy long beard and glittering eye,

 Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

 The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,            5

 And I am next of kin; 

 The guests are met, the feast is set:

 May’st hear the merry din.’

 He holds him with his skinny hand,  

 ‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.   10

 ‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’    

 Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

5. Do Not Speak Of the Dead by Cecilia Llompart

An excerpt

I was born among the bodies. I was hurried

forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.

I have shortened my name, and walk with

a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer

them to my children when there is nothing

else. We can not live on cold blood alone.

6. Windigo by Louise Erdrich

For Angela

The Windigo is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice.

You knew I was coming for you, little one,

when the kettle jumped into the fire.

Towels flapped on the hooks,

and the dog crept off, groaning,

to the deepest part of the woods.

In the hackles of dry brush a thin laughter started up.

Mother scolded the food warm and smooth in the pot

and called you to eat.

But I spoke in the cold trees:

New one, I have come for you, child hide and lie still.

The sumac pushed sour red cones through the air.

Copper burned in the raw wood.

You saw me drag toward you.

Oh touch me, I murmured, and licked the soles of your feet.

You dug your hands into my pale, melting fur.

I stole you off, a huge thing in my bristling armor.

Steam rolled from my wintry arms, each leaf shivered

from the bushes we passed

until they stood, naked, spread like the cleaned spines of fish.

Then your warm hands hummed over and shoveled themselves full

of the ice and the snow. I would darken and spill

all night running, until at last morning broke the cold earth

and I carried you home,

a river shaking in the sun.

6 other Scary Poems

  • The City In The Sea by Edgar Allan Poe
  • La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats
  • Her Strong Enchantments Failing by A.E. Housman
  • The Darkness by Lord Byron
  • The King of Owls by Louise Erdrich
  • Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfello

How to Write a Scary Poem

1. Conjure the darkness

Gather dark thoughts, creepy feelings, nightmarish stories, or any other thing dark that’s lingering in your head.

After imagining those feelings and emotions, try to through which the thoughts can be fictionalized. Now you have a horror aspect around which the poem will be crafted.

You might not want to write the poem, but the idea is to generate terms, words, or backstories that are dark, elements that will be the core ingredients of your next horror poem.

Write your ideas down in a notebook, on sticky notes, on your phone, or anywhere you can store them.  

a terrifying silhouette of a person.
A terrifying silhouette of a person.

2. Freewrite

You have the idea written down, now you have to build upon it. The poem doesn’t have to rhyme, there is no need to count syllables; all you need to do is explore your thoughts and write free-form.

However, you still may need to infix some similes, metaphors, or personification for the piece to become more poetic.

It’s horror, so take a moment to explore every dark twist that comes to mind. Go ahead and scratch words and entire phrases out if you think they aren’t scary enough or if you want to make changes that will add depth to the poem.

3. Use sensory language to scare your readers

You have captured the images and thoughts in your mind, you have free-written some lines, considering what you think about the theme. Now, you have to grab your reader’s attention.

To do this, use any sensory language, but don’t tell them what to feel. Instead of telling them what to experience to the very end, try to subtly explore your audience’s inner fears, find a fear that might linger within your readers, and bring it to the surface.

When it comes to producing good poetry of any genre, one of the most important tasks is to use appropriate imagery.

Some words make descriptions seem a bit creepier or unpleasant; for example, words like spattered, dark, foggy, murky, streaky, and blotted work best when describing sight. Likewise,

  • Sticky, wet, spiky, soft, and thorny for touch.
  • Rotten, old, pungent, and foul for describing smell.
  • Crunchy, creaky, whisper, boom for sound.

4.  be creative with connotations

The aim of creating poetry is to blend practical themes with abstract ideas, a goal mostly achieved by using words that have other implications beyond their literal meanings.

Connotations make poetry commodious, because, with poetry, you don’t have word limits as high as other forms of fiction affords.

In poetry, connotations are used to influence mood and tone, as well as influence a reader’s perception of a person, place, thing, or concept.

Certain words have negative connotations, whereas others have positive connotations.

So, as a horror poet, you can use negative connotations to set a negative mood or tone or make the reader have a negative perception of something.

Tips for adding suspense to your writing.

Final Words on Scary Poems

Although not as hyped as long-form horror fiction, horror poetry is only for those who are eager to see and hear things that will scare them.

Scary poems tell tales of horrors that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and send a shiver down your spine.

As soft as poetry is considered, horror poetry isn’t for the faint-hearted but for those that are thrill-seekers.

The best scary poems blur the lines between monster and narrator, neighbor and the undead, and haunted houses and comfortable homes.

Go find yourself a collection of scary poems and haunt and torment yourself to death!

Photo of author


Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.