The Girl in The River — a short story for English reading and speaking

This is a creepy ghost story that will delight your students.

This lesson plan comes with a 1000-word short story, a list of reading comprehension questions and then a page of questions for conversation and discussion. This is perfect for any English or ESL class but can also be used in an IELTS speaking or reading class.

I think your students will love this story. Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!



The Girl in The River


It was late and no one outside. Tony decided to make it an early night. He turned the light off on the top of his taxi, turned around in the empty street.

The thought of getting home to his wife and their new-born son, a quick cup of tea and then bed. No point in staying out on a night like this.

Then he saw her.

She stood by the side of the road, her clothes dripping wet. She stared out into space like she was not there.

Without a second thought, Tony pulled the taxi over to the side of the road. He looked out at her. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen. What was she doing out with her clothes all wet?

“Are you okay?” he called out to her.

She turned and her eyes opened wide like she had been woken from a dream.

“What happened? You’re soaking wet.”

The girl shook her head. “I — I fell in the river,” she said, her hand reaching up to tug at her wet hair.

Tony got out of the taxi and approached her.

“Get in my taxi,” he said. “I’ll drive you home.”

“I don’t have any money,” she said. “My bag — my purse. They fell in the river. I don’t even have my keys.”

Tony shook his head. “Don’t worry about money. Get in. You’ll catch your death of cold standing out here like that.”

The girl gave Tony a weak smile and stepped into the back of the taxi. Tony asked her where she lived and she told him. He knew the streets of London by heart. He had been a taxi driver for five years. He had seen some strange things but nothing like this.

“What happened then?” Tony asked her. He thought it would be a good idea to make light of the situation. “You went for a swim?”

He could barely make out the girl’s face in the back of the taxi.

“No. I just fell in. I just fell.”

They arrived at her address and Tony stopped.

“I’ll come to the door with you,” he said. “Make sure you get in okay.”

“No,” said the girl. “My mother is at home. Don’t worry about me.”

Tony shrugged. The girl went to her door and Tony saw her knock on the door. He drove on and assumed she would be all right. But what a state. Who falls into the river? She was lucky nothing terrible happened.

As he drove on, he glanced into the rear-view mirror.

It was then that he saw a pair of women’s shoes. It was her shoes. Left on the seat. A small pool of water gathered beneath them.

Tony pulled the taxi to the side of the road and turned round to look at the shoes. The girl had been in such a daze; it was like she wasn’t even there when he spoke to her. Falling in the river must have given her such a shock. Maybe she had banged her head on something.

He considered just driving off but then his conscience got the better of him. He would just take the shoes back to her house, knock on the door and return them. Then go home. At least he had a funny story to tell his wife in the morning.

He turned the taxi around and went back to the house where he left the girl. He stopped and opened the back door, took the shoes out. Water was all over the seat.

The whole street was empty. No sound at all. The only light was from the street lamps.

The girl had gone to the last house in the terrace so it was easy to remember. Tony trudged up to the door and gently knocked on it. There were two glass panels on the door and no light on inside. The girl had probably gone straight to bed.

Tony peered through the glass but could not make out any movement. He knocked again, this time a little louder.

Then he saw a little light appear at the top of the stairs. He could just make out a figure coming down to the front door.

A quiet voice spoke out: Who is it?

Tony cleared his throat. “You left your shoes in the taxi.”

The door cracked open two inches. Behind the door an old woman’s face. She stared out at Tony with suspicion.

“What do you want?” she said.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Tony. “I thought you were the young girl from before.” He held up the pair of wet shoes. “I think your daughter left her shoes in my taxi.”

He smiled back at her to put her at ease but she just stared back at him with an icy gaze.

“Is this some kind of joke?” she said.

“No,” said Tony. “I picked your daughter up. She was soaking wet. She said she fell in the river.”

The woman shook her head. She made a strange noise from deep in her throat.

“Get out of here,” she said. “Leave me alone.”

Tony’s eyes flicked over the old woman’s face, her wild hair, her cold eyes.

“I’m sorry,” said Tony. “But I saw her come to this house. I just want to return her shoes that’s all.”

“You are very cruel,” said the woman.

Tony placed the shoes on the doorstep. “I’ll just leave them here,” he said.

He went to leave and heard a kind of growl from behind him. He turned and the old woman was leaning against the back of the door. She looked ancient and he could make out the inside of the house, all old and decrepit.

“My daughter drowned in the river twenty years ago,” said the woman. “She died. So what are you talking about? And whose shoes are these?”

Tony edged slowly away from the house. Away from the old woman and away from the old decaying smell that came from inside.



Reading Comprehension Questions


What is Tony’s job? How long had he had this job?

Why did Tony stop working for the night?

Is Tony married? Does he have a family?

Who does he see by the side of the road? Describe this person.

What does he say to her? What offer does he make to her?

How does she respond?

Where does Tony take her? Does he take her to her door? Why/why not?

What does Tony see in the back of his taxi? How does he see them?

What does he consider doing?

What does he decide to do?

When Tony goes back to the house who does he meet there? Describe this person.

What kind of conversation takes place between Tony and the woman in the house?

What does the woman say about her daughter? What does she think Tony is doing?

What does Tony do at the end?


Conversation Questions


What kind of story is this? Do you think it is a true story? Why/why not?

Did you find this story scary? Why/why not?

Are these kinds of stories popular in your country or culture? Why/why not?

This story could be an Urban Myth. What do you think this phrase means?

Are there any urban myths in your city or country? Can you tell the class one of these stories?

Why do people tell these stories? Why do people like them?

If you were Tony in this story and you saw the girl standing by the side of the road soaking wet, would you help her? Why/why not?

Would you help to take her home? Why/why not?

Is there any truth to stories like this? How can they be explained?

How do these stories start? Try to think of a reason how this story of the girl in the river started. What was the process to make this story? How did it evolve?

Do you believe in ghosts? Why/why not?

How do stories like this make you feel?

At what age should young people not read or hear stories like this?

Are these kinds of stories frightening? Or entertaining?

How did your students like this story? Was it engaging for them?

Tell me in the comments below!


Join my mailing list and I will send you this complete lesson plan and others for free – ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here – The Girl in The River/gumroad

2 thoughts on “The Girl in The River — a short story for English reading and speaking”

  1. Hey David I really loved the story it grabbed me at the end and made me think it was more than just a ‘scary’ story. It almost seemed like it could have been real and that ghost stick around and could appear years later because they don’t exist in time and space. Thanks for the story!

    1. Wow, I am so glad to hear that it made a big impression on you, Leona. That is good to hear. I love stories like this and always read them as a child.

Leave a Reply