Only one more week before Halloween, dear readers! Are you as excited about this as I am? I certainly hope so! Halloween is above and beyond my favorite holiday of the year, partially because of the candy (who doesn’t love candy?) but mostly because I *love* all things horror. Haunted mazes and mansions, scary movie marathons, even just people jumping out from behind bushes and screaming “boo.” I love it all!
My absolute favorite, however,is horror stories. There is nothing I like to do better in October than sit down by the fire and read a good horror story. I just get transplanted into that world in a more engaging way than I do when I’m just watching it on a screen, and that, to me, is a lot of fun. So, in honor of there only being one more week until Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of my five all-time favorite horror short stories which you, dear readers, can read right here on your computer/laptop/tablet/space phone.
This is my favorite horror short story, and one of my favorite short stories in general. Joyce Carol Oates is an absolute master writer in painting this bone chilling story of 15-year-old Connie being lured off of her front porch by a smooth-talking charmer named Arnold Friend. Inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and a string of murders in Tucson, Arizona committed by Charles Schmid, aka “The Pied Piper of Tucson,” in the 1960s, I guarantee that you will have shivers running down your spine by the time you get to the end.
A very close second to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” on my list, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is the story of how a family driving from Georgia to Florida for a summer vacation has a run in with an escaped murderer known as The Misfit and his two henchmen when the family’s car flips into a ditch. Needless to say, things don’t turn out all that well for the vacationing family. One of the creepiest and coldest character portrayals you’ll ever read, this short is definitely worth checking out.
What Halloween short story list is complete without the Headless Horseman? An oldie but definitely a goodie, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in 1820 and tells the classic story of how superstitious schoolteacher Ichabod Crane encounters the infamous Headless Horseman, thought to be a Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War whose head was blown off by a cannonball. Ichabod flees for his life for the Old Dutch Burying Ground where he believes he’ll be safe from the ghoul, only to have the Headless Horseman go over the bridge and throw his decapitated head at the schoolteacher. Ichabod is never seen in Sleepy Hollow again. Dun dun duunnnn. The story has been adapted into a number of different films and television shows, the most recent one currently be aired on Fox right now.
One of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read, “The Lottery” tells the tale of small town conformity and group think gone horribly, horribly wrong. In the short story, the residents of a small town of approximately 300 people engage in an annual ritual at the end of June known as “the lottery” in order to ensure a good harvest that year. In “the lottery,” children gather up stones while the heads of families draw slips of paper from a box; whoever draws a black slip of paper has been selected for the lottery. Then, each member of that family draws slips of paper again, and whoever picks the marked slip is stoned to death by the entire village. Good old fashioned community bonding/fun, right? *shudder*
Last but definitely not least, Edgar Allan’s classic will always be near and dear to me because I read it *every single year* in my high school English classes on Halloween. Seriously. Every year. Not sure why they picked this one time and time again considering how many great horror stories Poe wrote, but at least it didn’t get old, right? In typical Poe fashion, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is narrated by a deranged unnamed narrator who kills an old man with a “vulture eye” and then dismembers him and hides the body pieces underneath the floorboards. The narrator’s guilt gets the better of him, though, and when the police come investigating he starts to hear the heart of his victim beating beneath the floor, a sound that the police don’t seem to notice. Believing that the police are toying with him and know about the beating heart and his guilt, the narrator rips up the floorboards and reveals the dismembered old man. Classic Poe character. When will they ever learn to not hide dead bodies underneath floors or in walls? It never ends well for them.
What horror stories are you reading this Halloween, dear readers? Any that I didn’t include in this list? Write me and let me know!