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.
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!!! 😂
5.7/10 lollipops. kind of boring… :/
Oh I know this one, my mum told me about it before 9 out of ten grief seeds.
I’d be too afraid lol
I knew this story! It’s all over the internet!
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 knew it haha :o and it made me laugh
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’ve heard this story before
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
WTF?? WHAT WAS THAT? ITS A RIBBON!!!!!!!!!!!! GEEZ… STORYS…