It is time again for my yearly dose of creepy and classic horror stories for some chilling Halloween reading! You can also read my previous editions: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and my 2010 post on the true story of the “Lady of the Lake“. (Hopefully the older links still work!)
Casting the Runes, M.R. James. Perhaps the best story about a supernatural curse, written by one of the best authors of the supernatural of all time! When the Secretary of an academic association, Mr. Dunning, rejects a paper by the notorious warlock Karswell, the latter sets in motion an unnatural revenge of a bizarre and terrifying nature.
Caterpillars, E.F. Benson. When a man stays in the old Italian home Villa Cascana, he witnesses a shocking and inhuman haunting that has fatal consequences.
The Colour Out of Space, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is the father of the genre of “cosmic horror,” in which humanity is insignificant in the face of utterly monstrous and indifferent forces in an cold and deadly universe. Nowhere does Lovecraft convey a sense of utter alienness than in this story of what happens when a creature beyond human comprehension lands near a New England farm.
The Yellow Sign, Robert W. Chambers. “Have you found the Yellow Sign?” A painter finds his work disrupted by the persistent lurking of a puffy, pale, churchyard worker in the area around his home. As he encounters hints and eerie premonitions of doom, the painter comes across a copy of The King in Yellow, a stage play about the doom that befalls the people of the city of Carcosa, on the shores of Lake Hali — a play that is said to be deadly to those who read it.
Carmilla, J. Sheridan LeFanu. This is one of the original vampire horror stories, predating Dracula! Carmilla is a vampire quite unlike any other, and the story reads as both modern and ancient at the same time.
Who Goes There?, J.W. Campbell. Both science fiction and horror at once, this is the original story that inspired The Thing From Another World (1951) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). The story is much more akin to the latter movie, describing an isolated group of Antarctic researchers who realize that they have been infiltrated by a perfect alien shapeshifter. Failure to uncover the impostor will result in not only the loss of their own lives and identities, but the whole of humanity.
UPDATE: Had to add one more story that I’ve been looking for online for years, but just found today:
Waxwork, A.M. Burrage. When a journalist spends the night in the Chamber of Horrors in Marriner’s Waxworks for an article, he gets more than he bargained for. What better place for a killer to hide than in plain sight as his own wax figure?
(After you’ve read the story, check out this illustration of it that first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery (1962), which is nearly perfect.)