Spooky Shorts

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Spooky Shorts

Short horror reads: A list of scary stories 100 pages or less

Several years ago, I read that haunted houses are popular in Japan during the summer. One of the reasons being that the shiver which fear can send down your spine is a welcome relief from the extreme heat of summer. The idea was so novel to my way of thinking that it stuck with me. After all, in America, October is the time for haunted houses.

So, in honor of the rising temperatures, here are some scary/creepy/unsettling/terrifying stories that can be read in one day to help keep you cool. Many of these stories are found in larger collections.

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
This is the story of two friends on a canoe trip. Things start innocently enough, but soon the elements of nature take on frightening characteristics. Aspects of nature that we tend to think of as pleasant, such as the sun and wind, quickly turn ominous. The willows move as if alive, then the two start seeing strange things which might or might not be real. They begin to distrust each other…

The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Public service announcement: Intellectual stimulation is important for your mental health. Here, a woman who is shut away with nothing to do slowly loses her clarity.

The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka
A man wakes one morning to discover he has changed overnight into an insect. Being a giant bug makes everyday life difficult at best.

The Turn of the Screw By Henry James
A young governess arrives at her first position where she will watch over two innocent children. She quickly learns things are not as she expects them to be. Sound like the start of every horror movie ever? Where do you think they got the idea? This book was written over 100 years ago, and it is still terrifying.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The members of the Blackwood family have kept to themselves for many years. This isolation began with the mysterious deaths of four family members in the very same castle. One day a new cousin arrives and everything is different. A terrible secret is revealed, there is tragedy, and then the villagers arrive at the house. 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The famous tale of the doctor who attempted to separate his good impulses from his less than pure ones.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
The concept of beings that inhabited our world before we did is unnerving. Questions such as where did they go, why they went there and what they left behind want answers, but we have none. Here the narrator tells the story of the unexplained thing he found in Antarctica and the disasters that befell his expedition.

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
As the story opens, a doctor performs "minor" brain surgery on a young woman in an attempt to open her mind and allow her to experience the spiritual world. The operation is less than successful. Years later a woman is wreaking havoc in the woods of a small town. I wonder if there is a connection.

Sardonicus by Ray Russell
Mr. Sardonicus has a less than pleasant smile permanently affixed to his face. So, he plans to buy a castle, capture a beautiful woman to be his wife and use her to lure a respected doctor to the castle to fix his face. I'm sure everything will work out just fine here.

The Events at Poroth Farm by T.E.D. Klein
A college professor goes on a summer retreat to prepare for the course he'll be teaching in the fall. Initially everything is fine; and then it isn't. It's one of those stories that's quietly creepy, more than outright terrifying. The author establishes what is normal, then changes it enough to make the reader uneasy. As a bonus, the story also looks at the professor's syllabus, so it a good overview of gothic horror.

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions
There is a beautiful old house inhabited by a writer. The house appears to take a liking him, and extends hostilities toward the writer’s female visitor. The writer then appears to take an unnatural interest in the house, and the presence that inhabits it.