Dreadtime Stories: 7 terrifying tales to tell in the dark

As bedding experts, we enjoy bedtime stories more than most adults our age. Even more enjoyable than bedtime stories, however, are creepy fairy tales that hype us up for Halloween. During Halloween week, we sent seven spooky short stories from around the world to send shivers up your spine. If you missed it, or just wanted to revisit these spine-tingling stories, we’ve compiled them all for you right here on SNOOZE. So snuggle up under your sheets, hold your furry friends close, and read on for all seven Dreadtime Stories.

Los Angeles, CA - United States: the Cecil Hotel

We begin our terrifying trek around the globe right here in Los Angeles, home of yours truly. The Cecil Hotel has been the subject of horror films and TV shows such as American Horror Story: Hotel and Dark Water. It gained its nightmarish reputation during a string of mysterious suicides and murders in the mid-1900s. Some of the most infamous guests included the Black Dahlia and the Night Stalker. It wasn’t until 2013, though, that the hotel would become the subject of one the greatest modern mysteries of the century.

A young exchange student named Elisa Lam was seen on tape acting erratically around the hallways and elevators. She seemed to be running from something unseen, or even playing a game with it, and disappeared shortly after. Weeks later, when hotel guests complained that their water tasted and smelled strange, maintenance staff finally discovered Elisa’s body in one of the water tanks on the roof.

With no roof key and no ladder to reach the extremely heavy tank door, no one has been able to explain how she met her untimely end. Some believe that Elisa was being haunted or influenced by the hundreds of unsettled spirits who fell victim to the dark forces that surround the now-closed hotel. We may never know what happened to Elisa and why the building seems to draw in such violence and horror, but the events that took place in and around the Cecil Hotel remind us that even the City of Angels is not invulnerable to some demons.

Scandinavia: the Nisse

In the U.S., gnomes are generally considered harmless purveyors of holiday cheer and garden aesthetic. But over in the Nordic countries, the nisse represent something far more sinister. The legend of the nisse derives from Christmas folklore, as they’re described as older, short men with large beards with bright red caps -- sound familiar? They’re in charge of caring for the household and the farm, and typically take care of the barn animals in peace. Some say that a clean home signifies that a nisse has been around recently.

The nisse demand respect, however. They require very little from the humans they serve and do not ask for much -- except when it comes to their payment: porridge. They consider porridge and butter their dues, and when they aren’t properly compensated for their work, the farmers they serve are due to suffer. Legend has it that a servant girl once hid her nisse’s butter at the bottom of his porridge bowl. In retaliation, the nisse murdered the family’s farm animals. Once he ate the porridge and discovered the butter was at the bottom, he murdered the neighbor’s farm animals to apologize.

Yeah. He murdered their cows as an apology. How’s that for a Christmas story?

Next time you’re decorating your garden, consider putting out a bowl of porridge for your favorite figurines. Just don’t forget the butter.

Denmark: the Little Mermaid

One of the most beloved fairy tales is The Little Mermaid. The animated Disney movie remains an icon of female empowerment and musical genius even decades after its theatrical release. But the real story of the Little Mermaid doesn’t feature thingamabobs or adorable singing flounders. Instead, it’s a tragedy that rivals even the most gruesome Shakespearean works.

The real fairy tale speaks of a young mermaid who is forced to sit through a torturous coming-of-age ritual that involves clamping oysters on her tail. Her sisters spend their free time luring handsome sailors to their deaths, and since they’re soulless creatures who live up to 300 years, free time is certainly not hard to find. When the young girl trades her fins for a legs, she’s asked to find true love or permanently turn into sea foam.

Her legs are painful to walk on, let alone to dance on, yet when her prince chooses another woman over her, our heroine is forced to entertain him at his wedding. When she’s about to dissolve into sea foam, she’s given the choice of murdering the love of her life to save her own. Instead, she chooses to sacrifice herself so he can live, and is send to live in purgatory for another 300 years.

We have a feeling Disneyland would be a very different place if Walt hadn’t made some creative changes.

Germany: the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage

We would be remiss not to include at least one Brothers Grimm fairy tale during our Halloween story series. While some of their more famous works include the gruesome Hansel and Gretel and the ever-classic Cinderella, one of their lesser-known stories happens to be simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. The story of the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage is a dark parable about staying in your lane and maintaining the status quo.

In the story, the titular characters live together and each have assigned roles in the kitchen. The Bird brings home wood from the forest; the Mouse delivers water, makes the fires, and sets the table; and the Sausage cooks the food. When the Bird asks to switch roles for a day to prove that he does most of the work, the other two roommates reluctantly agree. The Sausage goes to gather wood in the morning but is hunted down and eaten by a stray dog. The Mouse sets out to cook, and imitates what the Sausage usually does - getting into the pot to season the food. Being a Mouse, he instead is burned to death. While the Bird is gathering water, he falls into the wall and drowns.

While chore charts and rotating responsibilities are usually a pretty effective way to keep household duties entertaining and fair, we can’t help but feel that some things are better left to the experts. Remember that next time you pick up a new hobby.

Scotland: Kelpies

Many fairy tales offer some variation of the same important life lesson: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid are just a few of the most famous examples of this. In Scotland, the legend of the kelpie offers a similar sentiment, but with far darker consequences.

The kelpies are a type of faerie that take the form of water horses. Sometimes they appear as gorgeous women dressed in green who lure drunken, lusty men to their watery grave. Kelpies appear alone, bridled, and saddled - the perfect setup for a worn-down traveler or unsuspecting equestrian. If you touch them, your skin melds to theirs, forcing you towards whatever evil fate they choose to serve you. But if you capture their bridle, you become their master. Usually, though, a kelpie encounter ends in tragedy.

Kelpies are highly regarded and respected, and represent the consequences of falling for a beautiful facade without hesitation. We’re all guilty of making impulse decisions, particularly if that decision involves purchasing something shiny. But if the legend of the kelpies is any indication, we may just sit on our hands next time we reach for our wallets.

Japan: Rokurokubi

There are many different types of horror stories, and they each shock and scare us in a unique way. Some make us feel suspicious of everyone around us, some remind us of life lessons easily forgotten, and others simply make our skin crawl. Tonight’s tale falls into that last category. The legend of the rokurokubi, or the long-necked woman, tells of a humanoid monster with - you guessed it - a long neck. In some depictions, rokurokubi are playful and pleasant creatures, but others show a very different side to the story.

Rokurokubi are typically female, and appear during the daytime as almost completely normal except for stretch marks on their necks. At night, however, they extend their necks to become as long as snakes and take pleasure in frightening people and knocking over oil lamps to drink the oil inside. Legend has it that humans who witness rokurokubi in person receive the same curse, unless you can chop off their heads and defeat them. If violence isn’t your style, hiding her body so her head can never find it again is another way to defeat the rokurokubi.

Similar legends appear in other parts of the world, which makes this story even creepier. Rokurokubi-like monsters have been documented in stories from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and South America. They’re occasionally featured in movies and TV shows as bright-eyed, smiley young women, but we’ll probably still get nervous every time we see someone wearing a scarf.

Germany (again): Hans My Hedgehog

Okay, okay. Maybe it’s cheating to feature another Grimm’s fairy tale. But we know how much our fans love cute animals, and we wanted to close out this series with a happy ending, so we picked a story that had both. The story of Hans the Hedgehog, like most fairy tales, has been changed over time so as not to terrify young children. But in true Brothers Grimm fashion, the original story of Hans My Hedgehog is both disturbing and downright odd.

The story goes that a rich man wishes for a child. He’ll take anything at this point, even a hedgehog. So when his wife eventually gives birth to a half-human, half-hedgehog chimera named Hans, his is obviously overjoyed. Years later, Hans leaves to seek a fortune for himself and care for his animals in the forest. A lost king discovers him in the woods and Hans agrees to help him find his way home if he agrees to sign over whatever comes to greet him first upon his arrival. The king assumes Hans is illiterate, being that he is half-hedgehog, and has him sign a contract that actually gives Hans nothing.

However, when they arrive at the kingdom, the king’s daughter greets the king first. He tells her about the deal they made in the forest and admits he tricked Hans, who calmly returns to the forest. Years later, Hans returns to the king to collect what he was promised. In retaliation for tricking him, Hans attacks the princess with his hedgehog spines and runs off, eventually shedding and burning his hedgehog skin to avoid identification from the kingdom. With his new fully-human body, he brings his father to the kingdom to live happily ever after.

Some versions of the story tell of a second lost king who agrees to Hans’ terms, and he eventually marries the second king’s daughter in order to break his hedgehog curse. Others simply end with Hans using his hedgehog features to attack and kill everyone in the first  kingdom. However you choose to tell it, we’ll probably still power-walk past the “small pet” section of Petco from now on.

Sweet dreams!