LK’s Horror Short Story Short Challenge


The goal of this challenge is to give eager readers an easy way to discover new authors, new genres, and the delights of the short story.

Here’s how it works: Below are my picks for Top 10 Horror Short Stories (in no particular order). I use the term “horror” broadly: This list actually encompasses not only true horror stories, but also classics, gothic, science-fiction, and the macabre. Simply pick one that you vow to read sometime during October. (Some even have links to full online text.) This was a difficult list to compile, and by no means is it complete! These are some ones that jolted me enough to leave their mark, even after many years.

Let me know which pick you choose by leaving a comment. Also, let me and other readers know which stories you like that don’t appear on my list. Or leave me a link to a post of your own Top 10. I will post the list of Readers’ Choice mid-October.

I’d also like to know what you thought of any story. You can email comments to me at writerlylife at yahoo dot com.

Happy reading, everybody!

LK’s Horror Short Story List

(Some stories are available as podcasts at Classic Tales. Thanks, Verbivore!)

1. W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw. Straightforward but unforgettable horror classic. Be careful what you wish for…

2. Edgar Allen Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher. I was torn between this story and The Cask of Almontillado, which actually is (to me) scarier. But The Fall of the House of Usher is perhaps the first short gothic tale and one of Poe’s great works of craft, characterized by many as a story wherein each and every detail is relevant.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rappacini’s Daughter. This story is the stewpot of horror tales: smatterings of fantasy mixed with dashes of gothic, simmering with sexual undertones. Toss in a Faustian father and season with plenty of symbology. (Hey, what about a Rappacini’s Daughter Bed & Breakfast?) Bon appetit!

4. Shirley Jackson, The Lottery. Often anthologized, this story is considered a masterpiece of the literary short story genre. And it happens to be authentically creepy.

5. Jerome Bixby, It’s a Good Life! I read this in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s anthologies when I was a kid, and I never forgot it. (Too bad Haley Joel Osment is all grown up. He would have made a perfect Anthony!)

6. Philip K. Dick, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. This tale gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” (The film Total Recall was based on this work.) I’m not a sci-fi buff, but Philip K. Dick is a master storyteller, particularly in the difficult arena of short science fiction. This particular story is sometimes categorized as a novella, rather than a short story – I’m including it here nevertheless because Dick simply must be read.

7. Guy de Maupassant, The Horla. For the truly twisted, check out this author, who has written a whole slew of fantastic and often macabre tales. This one happens to be a psychological tour-de-force about madness.

8. Isak Dinesen, The Monkey. This peculiar yet brilliant story of a prioress matchmaker is a study on the nature of change. From the collection Seven Gothic Tales. Here’s a quote from the story: “beware … of people who have in the course of their lives neither taken part in an orgy nor gone through the experience of childbirth, for they are dangerous people…” Now, how can you NOT read this?

9. Daphne du Maurier, The Blue Lenses. I read this as a child, and it really got to me. Simple, well-crafted, utterly terrifying and quite satisfying story about the recuperation of a woman who has had eye surgery. This story is included in a 1959 paperback called The Breaking Point (republished in 1970). I couldn’t find text online, so I will mention another du Maurier story that you might be able to find more easily. It’s called Don’t Look Now, and although I haven’t read it, Danielle of A Work in Progress raved over it, so I’m sure by her recommendation, it’s a fine example of du Maurier’s work.

10. Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I confess, I have a weakness for this descriptive, atmospheric story and its beleaguered hero, Ichabod Crane. More folktale than horror story, this really captures the essence of early America, with its tug-o-war between civilization and wilderness.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to LK’s Horror Short Story Short Challenge

  1. iliana says:

    What a great idea of a challenge! I remember being totally freaked out by The Monkey’s Paw when I read that in sixth grade. I need to think about which story I want to read so I’ll post back.


  2. verbivore says:

    Count me in – this is a great idea! I just found that the Classic Tales Podcast has many of these short stories for free download. I listened to the first half of Rapuccini’s Daughter on Friday and can’t wait to finish it today!


  3. This great!! I’m posting about horrors during my Short Story Monday posts and none of the ones I’ve picked are on this list! I’ll definitely post about this next monday!!


  4. danielle says:

    This is a great list. I’m not sure which I will read (may read more than one), but I’d like to find that Du Maurier story–and Don’t Look Back is great, too!


  5. LK says:

    Iliana, can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I hope you sneak in a recommendation or two of scary tales…Verbivore, hey, great idea! Podcasts of scary stories, I love it. Sort of takes you back to the days of spooky stories shared at the campfire.OBG, looking forward to your post!Danielle, I wish I could have found the text or had time to type it in. I am still hunting down a copy of Don’t Look Back…


  6. L.B. says:

    Well, I’d have to say that The Fall of the House of Usher is my favorite. But it’s sortof a given because it’s the only one on the list I’ve read. The Fall was the very first work I read of Poe’s. It was assigned to me last year in an English class and I absolutely fell in love with Poe’s uncanny ability to create emotions in his readers.Reading Poe’s work has become a very wonderful (and exciting) part of my literary life. Thank you for putting up this title. I’ll have to check out the other story of his that you mentioned.Hugs DuckyL.B.


  7. stefanie says:

    I’m already planning to read Fall of the House of Usher for RIP so can I count that for this too?


  8. LK says:

    LB, definitely take a look at Cask of Almontillado, if you haven’t read it. It is one of my favorite Poe stories. Stefanie, oh, absolutely! I can’t wait to hear your comments about it.


  9. Eva says:

    I’ll definitely be reading the Dinesen, since Seven Gothic Tales is one of my R.I.P. II picks. I’ve already read the Jackson. I think I’m going to go with “The Monkey’s Paw,” since I’ve heard of it before. And as a bonus, I’ll probably read the Poe since I’ve been meaning to read some of him.What a fun challenge-I’ll be mentioning it in my next blog post. 🙂


  10. Smithereens says:

    Your challenge is the perfect proof that people actually read short stories for the fun! I indeed join the challenge, and must include some story by Sheridan Le Fanu… will post my own list in a few days!


  11. Eloise says:

    This is a wonderful challenge, some great stories are in the list. ‘The Horla’ is one of my favourites. For the challenge I’m going to read ‘We can remember it for you wholesale’; you’re absolutely right, Dick must be read!I have posted my top ten stories, but I’m afraid I have no idea how to put a link into a comment, here it is in full: think Blogger lost my first attempt at a comment – so apologies if this appears twice, I’m having a bad day with technology!


  12. Melanie says:

    I shiver at the very words “The Monkey’s Paw”… that story is so creepy! I’m going to try to find the Du Maurier ones; I haven’t read her short fiction. I’ll have to think about some of the other ‘horror’ shorts I’ve read and post about them.


  13. Erin says:

    I want to read a lot of those and may. I think I’ll read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow first.


  14. Litlove says:

    Oh I love Le Horla!! I’ll happily write on that as it’s a favourite short story of mine. Great challenge, LK!


  15. Kate S. says:

    What fun! I’m going to go with “The Horla” as I’ve long been planning to read more Guy de Maupassant. And my favourite creepy tale to add to the list is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I reread it this time last year to compare it with <>The Victorian Chaise-Longue<> (one of my picks for the first RIP challenge), and I think perhaps I’ll reread both this year.


  16. Reed says:

    Hello, thank you for asking me over.I shall read ‘The Horla’. I have been meaning to for a while and look! It’s in one of the story collections I bought last week! SO this is <>meant<> to be. (Spooky).My favourite horror stories are those of MR James. I think I need to write a post about MR James. Bother. That’ll involve actually thinking.


  17. Nicola says:

    Great list of stories! I’ve read several of them. I used to love those Alfred Hitchcock anthologies when I was a kid too!


  18. Eva says:

    I have my list of horror short stories up < HREF="" REL="nofollow">here<>. 🙂


  19. Rob says:

    <>Don’t Look Now<> was turned into a very creepy film, too.


  20. Deborah says:

    Both Don’t Look Now and The Blue Lens are collected in the anthology Echoes from the Macabre by DuMaurier, along with several other chilly tales. Don’t Look Now is definitely one of my favorites. An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White was the basis for an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. It’s a creepy English Country House thriller. How about The Jolly Corner by Henry James? And would you consider The Turn of the Screw a story or a novel? Anyway, there’s my picks.


  21. Shannon says:

    Count me in, this sounds like fun.


  22. patricia says:

    Great fun! I read ‘The Lottery’ online. Very disturbing. My husband had raved about this story for years, but could never remember who wrote it.I would recommend…’The Way Up to Heaven’ by Roald Dahl, but really any of his adult short stories are deliciously wicked. And ‘The Pond’ by Patricia Highsmith.


  23. Anonymous says:

    You should include Ambrose Bierce as well.He has written countless stories in the horror genre. The best is one called “That Damned Thing”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s