It seems there is an undeniable connection between horror and the short story. Perhaps the quickened pace combined with pulse-pounding suspense creates the thrilling effect. Or, it is the twist, often ghastly or shocking, that punctuates the horror. Modern master of the horror short story, Stephen King, explained the appeal of the short form; “A short story is a different thing altogether, a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
Let these amazingly creepy stories embrace you in the shadowy night…
“The Doll” by Daphne Du Maurier
Written when Du Maurier was only 20, “The Doll” is a surprisingly adept masterwork. Marked with the gloomy atmosphere and gothic trappings of her later work, “The Doll” is an epistolary short story, a supposed suicide letter left by a man obsessed. It even contains a foreword explaining that the attached writing was found on the bank of a bay, tucked inside a soggy pocketbook. And, yes, the most satisfying piece of this story is the doll himself, Julio, as creepy and disturbing as a reader could hope for.
You can read “The Doll” for free here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/apr/30/the-doll-daphne-du-maurier
“1922” by Stephen King
First appearing in his 2010 short story collection Full Dark, No Stars, “1922” is a delightful departure from King’s modern day tales. Set on a rural farm in Hemingford Home, Nebraska (a town that has appeared in King’s work ranging from It to Children of the Corn) “1922” is a unforgettably bloody murder tale that evokes the guilt and mental anguish of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”. This story’s haunting ending will stay with you, long after you’ve shut the book. Make certain you read “1922” before you watch the movie, coming Oct 20th to Netflix.
“The Pomegranate Seed” by Edith Wharton
Although Wharton is best known for her novels exploring class and morals in nineteenth century New York, like Age of Innocence, she was also a talented writer of ghost stories. “The Pomegranate Seed” first appeared in Ladies Home Journal in 1931 and was later included in Wharton’s story collection The World Over. This tale is an example of a classic ghost story, with subtle, yet effective frights. Told from the perspective of a newlywed watching in horror as her husband receives letters from his late wife, “The Pomegranate Seed” is about the thin line between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe
Though “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” are often required reading, Poe’s slightly lesser known story “The Black Cat”, published in 1845, is one of his most perverse, memorable, and shocking. Told by an unlikable narrator, “The Black Cat” is the story of a character quite common in Poe’s work, a man of dark obsessions who decides to be evil. This choice of course, will lead to consequences, brought about by a mysterious and clever black cat.
You can read “The Black Cat” and other Poe stories for free here: https://poestories.com/read/blackcat
“The Possibility of Evil” by Shirley Jackson
While it is almost guaranteed you read Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” in school, you may have missed her other phenomenal work. The author of such famed horror novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson had a deft touch, particularly in the subgenre of rural horror. In “The Possibility of Evil” the main character, and the true villain of the story is rather unlikely. Mrs. Strangeworth is an elderly resident of a small town who believes she is justified in the vitriolic letters she sends to her neighbors. While this story is more in the quiet and subtle vein of Wharton’s “The Pomegranate Seed” and not as bloody as King’s “1922” it still conveys a creeping, endemic horror that exists in those with small minds.
If you’d like to read “The Possibility of Evil” for free, click here: http://www.wlps.org/view/2542.pdf