Scary Stories To Tell

Red Ribbon

The Red Ribbon is a short scary story for kids about a girl who wears something around her neck that she refuses to take off. It is also known as The Red Satin Ribbon, The Velvet Ribbon and The Yellow Ribbon. A version of this story appeared in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Red Ribbon

Bill whistled as he strolled through the park. He was on his way to meet his girlfriend, Sally. He could smell spring in the air. He jingled the engagement ring in his pocket and thought about asking Sally to marry him.

Sally sat down on a park bench and Bill kneeled down in front of her.

“Sally,” Bill said, “you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. I love you and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?”

Sally laughed and said, “Yes! I will marry you.”

As Bill gazed lovingly at his bride-to-be, his eyes lingered on the red velvet ribbon Sally always wore around her neck.

“Why do you always wear that red ribbon?” Bill asked.

Sally said, “Bill, I must never take off my red ribbon!”

Bill smiled at Sally and left the ribbon alone.

Bill and Sally were married that June. Bill found a lovely little house in a nice neighborhood and they moved in.

Bill bought Sally many party dresses. But Sally always wore her red ribbon with each outfit. Bill thought this was odd.

Sally just smiled and said, “I must never take off my red ribbon.”

After a few years, Sally found out she was going to have a baby. This news delighted Bill.

Sally talked with her friends who had babies. Bill talked with his buddies who had children.

They talked together late into the night about what they had learned from everyone.

When the big day came, Sally said, “Please tell the doctor I must not take off my red ribbon!”

Bill was frustrated. But he promised Sally that he would tell the doctor.

After the baby was born, Bill gave Sally flowers.

“Thank you for the flowers, Bill,” Sally said. “And thank you for telling the doctor I must not take off my red ribbon.”

Bill did not understand why the red ribbon was so important.

“Do you want to hold little Billy?” Sally asked.

Bill, Sally, and little Billy lived happily for many years in the small, lovely house in the nice neighborhood.

When little Billy was a baby, he would sometimes reach for the red ribbon around his mother’s neck. Sally would gently take his little hands in hers and coo at him, saying, “Mommy must never ever take off her red ribbon!”

The red ribbon had frustrated Bill for a long time. He loved Sally with all of his heart, but did not understand her need to wear the red ribbon.

After many years, Bill had an idea. “Our anniversary is coming up. I will buy Sally a beautiful necklace. She will take off that old red ribbon so she can wear the beautiful necklace!”

Their anniversary came. Bill took Sally to a fancy restaurant overlooking Central Park. They had a delicious meal.

Then Bill gave Sally a velvet box with a beautiful diamond necklace in it. She opened it, smiled, and tears came to her eyes. Bill put the necklace around her neck and started to take off the red ribbon.

Sally stopped him. She said, “I must never take off my red ribbon!” Bill sat back in his seat with a huff. He looked at Sally and shook his head.

“I may never understand,” Bill said.

Sally gently placed the diamond necklace back in the velvet box and closed the lid. “It is lovely, Bill. I will treasure it always,” she said. “But I must never take off my red ribbon.”

“Why?” Bill asked, as he had for so many years.

Sally smiled sadly and shook her head. She did not answer him.

Late that night Bill was still awake. “I’ve loved Sally for more than twenty years. But she insists on wearing that horrible red ribbon around her neck. I think it’s about time I found out why.”

Bill got out of bed and walked around to Sally’s side. Bill carefully pinched the ends of the bow on the ribbon. He began to slowly pull on the ribbon.

The bow became smaller and smaller. The loops of the bow pulled through and only a half-knot was left.

Bill slid his finger under the half-knot and tugged.

ZIP! The red ribbon gave way.

POP! Sally’s head came off. It rolled right to the floor, bouncing in the moonlight!

One large tear fell from Sally’s eye.

“I warned you!” she said.


  • I really like the thought of Sally’s death being the catalyst for the reveal. It leaves it completely unexplained how she could possibly be alive without, y’know, a head. The bouncing, sentient head is pretty damn goofy.

    The version of the tale from the (amazing) children’s collection of stories called “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories” really messed me up as kid. It was bizarre, tragic, deeply unsettling. In that version the girl got sick and died in her bed, finally telling the long-perplexed husband that he could finally untie the ribbon.

    It was the fact of the story’s uncanny nature that made it so much creepier for me; the unexplained, BIZARRE nature of the story’s uninterest in providing any answers—something I’ll call the “casually supernatural”—that’s the kind of thing that stuck me right in the ribs as a kid. It still does, actually. It hits in all those wonderfully weird, haunting ways. ” To know a thing’s nature is to take the mystery – and in my opinion, often the fear factor – out of that thing.

    That was (and is) my opinion, anyway.

  • Do any of you guys remember a variation of this story but of it being about a little girl at camp? I remember reading it in a book and now my friend and I are hunting it down.

  • i used to hear this story all the time in kindergarden and it seemed so scary but it is not. :(

  • I read a variant of this in 2nd grade, the Green Ribbon. They don’t have a child or anything in that story, though.
    I don’t remember anything like this being in “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”… huh.

  • Sally: I warned you!
    Bill: No you didn’t!
    Sally: Yes I did! I told you I must never take off my red ribbon!
    Bill: You never told me that your head would fall off! If you did, I would have never messed with it!
    Sally: Good point.
    Lol. 10/10 Red Ribbons!!! 😂

  • WOW if I was Bill I would just ask Sally to tell me not just take it off cuz its not right like what did Bill get from Sally

  • I was little surprised by this ending. Was she a Robot or android? And if her head is still functional, Bill can try to place it back with that ribbon or maybe super glue or stuff like that. Seriously saying. No jokes.

  • I knew she only wore the ribbon because her head would fall off if she didn’t wear the ribbon.

  • wait but if her head can come off that easily then Bill could put it back on just as easily right? I mean i get that he’ll have to live with the fact that his wife needs a ribbon to keep her head on but it’s better than living with a headless wife

  • I remember a manhwa (korean comics) that involves a girl with a red string on her neck and a boy who was the only one who could see the string… Then he pulled the string out of curiosity and the girl collapsed… It turns out that the girl is a doll made by a certain person… i forgot the title btw. xD

    Scaryforkids says: The Red String by Dong Bi. It’s not a horror story though, its a romance. :)

  • I’ve read this one before! Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been a big part of my childhood, standing as the first scary story compilation I’ve ever read (when I was about seven/eight, I believe) and this story has always intrigued me! While it makes little-to-no sense that a thin, satin ribbon would be able to keep an ENTIRE head up, it’s still interesting. This story isn’t really scary, per se, but creepy enough, I guess. It never really gave me a fright. The illustration is well done.

  • I will never understand how a thin red ribbon could keep her head attached to her body…

  • I like this story a lot, but the first version I read was that on her deathbed she held his hand and he asked “Why do you wear that red ribbon?” with tears in his eyes. Sally was very sick and in extreme pain at all times. “Please. Take it off of me. It hurts….” She said, tears falling from her cheeks as she squeezed his hands. He nodded and started to untie it. Just as it was about to come loose, she rasped “I love you. Know that… It’s not your fault…” with that, the ribbon came loose and her head tilted to the side and rolled onto a second pillow, staining it the same red as her beloved ribbon. The man dropped to his knees and let the ribbon drift to the ground, as he stared at the face of his loving wife. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was molded into a happy smile.

    He shortly went insane, saying he missed his love and wanted her back more than anything, and he could not go on without her. One night, he strangled his own son to death in a drunken stupor. Realizing his terrible mistake, he ran to his deceased wife’s room. Falling to his knees, he looked desperately for the red ribbon and the ground and crawled under the deathbed of his wife to search for it. Finding it, he grasped the terrible blood red cloth like string, his face twisting into a horrible thing between a devilish grin and a miserable grimace.

    The next day, the police burst into the house after receiving a report of terrible screams of a young boy coming from inside the house. They were greeted by a terrible smell and accompanying sight. They saw the young boy lying in a bloody heap on the kitchen floor. He was beat almost to death then choked and strangled. One police officer threw up right then and there. The others decided to leave him there to recooperate before he could continue on. The three remaining officers followed a trail of bloody footprints, the smell becoming stronger as they unknowingly stepped into Sally’s room. There, hanging from a ceiling fan, was a red ribbon. As they followed it with their eyes, don the red string, they saw a disgusting sight. There, hanging from the red ribbon was none other than the husband of the deceased Sally. Wrapped in a tight grip was his wife’s head, still somehow dripping blood.

    An autopsy was soon performed on the man’s dead body. The time of death was exactly midnight. The same time as his son. And, of course, his beloved Sally.

  • I don’t know why but I despise curious people like respect people privacy please like omg. 😒

  • Once I had to read books to a kindergarten class weekly until everyone had a chance to have their favorite read. I was only halfway through the class when I was asked to read this story by a little girl. The children all loved it, but I was never invited back by the teacher again.

  • I kNEW IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i knew it would end like that, for some reason, i can’t be surprised when reading a book, i’ve read so many that many things don’t surprise me. i was all, GO BACK TO BEEEEED, IDIOTTTT

  • It’s a great story, but it should have ended on the “One large tear fell from Sally’s eye”
    It could also have an alternate ending. Like maybe Sally could do something to him… something totally evil or even demonic. Oh yeeeeeeaaaaahhhhhhhh.

  • I know a different version:
    Jack and Jill have known each other since childhood. One day, Jack asked Jill to marry him. She said yes. Though ever since they were kids Jack always asked Jill why she wore her green scarf. This is what she said,”One day I will tell you.”
    When they’re like in their 70’s Jill gets sick. And she tells Jack,”This is why I always wear my scarf.” She takes off her scarf and her head rolls right off.

  • I love these things.. This i have heard ALOT but you know i never can get Enough Of it:DD i love these Scary stories :)

  • I honestly saw that coming but I also imagined the reason was to hide her adam’s apple . Scarier ending .

  • nukekubi…. is she NUKEKUBI!?!!??!??! go to japanese mythology and take a look at the woman with a long neck to get what i mean.

  • this story is cool and kind of creepy that sallys heads falls of just because bill took of her red ribbon

  • this is one of my fave stories ever. filled with mystery and excitment. then when you get to end you feel so happy that you finally found our why she couldnt take off the red ribbon.

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