The creaking floorboards, clanking chains, and faint screams in the distance can only mean one thing: It’s Halloween. This spooky season, indulge your dark side with some original frights from the vaults of classic horror literature. Revisit the iconic stories that shaped the modern horror genre and provided the blueprints for today’s tales of terror. Whether your preferred poison is ghosts, vampires, werewolves, psychological thrills, or grotesque monsters, sink your teeth into these 10 Creepy Short Stories Every Writer Must Read for Halloween.
- “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (1820) – Set near Tarrytown, New York, the timid schoolmaster Ichabod Crane goes missing after attending a party, the victim of a ghostly headless horseman rumored to haunt the woods surrounding the remote churchyard and bridge.
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (1843) – Tormented by the filmed white eye of an elderly man he lives with, the unstable narrator recounts his elaborate precautions in nightly slaying the old man and dismembering his corpse beneath the floorboards, until he imagines he hears the dead man’s beating heart and confesses his crime to the police.
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) – Confined to an upstairs former nursery after giving birth, a woman suffering depression and forbidden from working descends into madness staring at the room’s wallpaper, imagining a trapped woman inside and eventually believing she herself has become part of the wallpaper’s pattern.
- “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (1902) – Acquiring a dried mummified monkey’s paw purported to grant three wishes, a family experiences tragic consequences, including the mauling death of their son Herbert and his unnatural temporary resurrection as a mutilated corpse.
- “The Mark of the Beast” (1890) by Rudyard Kipling is a 50-word horror story about an Englishman in India who is cursed by a leper priest, causing him to transform into a werewolf. His friend must kill the werewolf to lift the curse.
- Dracula’s Guest (1914) by Bram Stoker – A man finds himself lost in the countryside near Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, where he is then preyed upon by a female vampire.
- A Nightmare (1886) Anton Chekhov– Kunin, a wealthy landowner and member of the Rural Board, invites Father Yakov, the young village priest, to discuss opening a church school. Kunin is shocked by Father Yakov’s shabby appearance and lack of dignity, seeing him as unfit for the priesthood
- The Vampyre (1819) by John William Polidori – One of the earliest works of vampire fiction, this novella tells the story of the aristocratic vampire Lord Ruthven as he unleashes a reign of terror, preying upon young women.
- Minister’s Black Veil (1836) by Nathaniel Hawthorne – A minister in a small Puritan town mysteriously dons a black veil one day, keeping himself metaphorically separated from his congregation and fiancée.
- The Black Cat (1843) by Edgar Allan Poe – A man’s alcoholism fuels his growing perverse violence against his once-beloved pet cat, which escalates into madness and murder.
This Halloween, skip the stale candy and treat yourself to some literary frights courtesy of the masters of classic horror. Their iconic stories have stood the test of time for good reason – they still send that delicious chill up your spine. So lock the doors, light the jack-o-lanterns, and settle in with these 10 creepy classics for a Halloween to remember. Just be warned, you may need to keep a light on when you finally venture to bed after experiencing these original frights. Sweet screams! You can read more of horror stories on our short story site, and you can submit your work. And remember to follow us on twitter @everywriter