Every year, since the beginning of this blog, I’ve posted a selection of classic horror and ghost stories for Halloween, as “treats” for my readers! I was originally inspired to do this after I saw Miriam Burstein, who runs The Little Professor, do it first. In a brief exchange on twitter, we talked about how many of the original links to stories we used over the years have broken; I thought that, this year, I would largely focus on tweeting new links and summaries to some of my favorite stories!
For those interested in looking back, you can read the old editions here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and my 2010 post on the true story of the “Lady of the Lake“.
Let me add some of my greatest hits!
The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford (1886). Simply one of the best ghost stories ever written. A narrator describes his experiences in a seemingly haunted ship’s cabin. The ending sentences are some of my favorite in horror fiction.
Waxwork, A.M. Burrage (1927). For a story, a journalist volunteers to spend the night alone in a wax museum’s chamber of horrors, filled with replicas of some of the worst murderers in history. But he finds that he may not be the only thing alive in the museum. (This story introduces one of the best serial killers in horror fiction, btw.)
Who Goes There, John W. Campbell (1938, pdf link). This is the original short story that inspired John Carpenter’s classic movie The Thing! It’s back on my mind due to the fact that it has been announced that an expanded novel length version of the short story has been found and will be printed. When scientific researchers at a remote Antarctic research station discover a frozen alien spacecraft, they in fact release something that might not only kill them, but end all life on Earth.
The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe (1842). One of my favorite horror stories of all time! While the horrible Red Death plagues the countryside, Prince Prospero throws a lavish and decadent party within his sealed castle. No amount of wealth can truly stave off death’s grasp, however. This story has one of the greatest closing lines in all of horror fiction.
His Face All Red, Emily Carroll (2010). Emily Carroll almost instantly became an recognized master of horror with His Face All Red, a story that starts with an incredible twist and builds an almost unbearable level of dread. Carroll’s illustrations, and use of the flexibility of the web page, make it a true work of art.
Lukundoo, Edward Lucas White (1927). A casual conversation about the supernatural leads to a man recounting one of his experiences in Africa, when he came to the aid of a colleague in trouble. But the colleague was much more than ill: he was suffering from a particularly pernicious curse, inspired by a hatred whose origin was almost unfathomable.
The Derelict, William Hope Hodgson (1912). Hodgson is one of the relatively neglected grandmasters of horror fiction, with a massive œuvre of weird fiction. Many of his tales match his joint loves of horror and the ocean, and The Derelict is a prime example. A crew of sailors happen upon an abandoned ship that holds a monstrous and terrible secret.
The Shadows on the Wall, Mary Wilkins Freeman (1903). A story of domestic horror. A family struggling to recover from a terrible tragedy finds their efforts hindered, and haunted, by the presence of a shadow on the wall without a source.
“Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”, M.R. James (1905). One of the best stories by perhaps the greatest ghost story author of all time — no Halloween post would feel right without him! A man finds an ancient whistle whilst walking a beach in England. When he blows it on a whim, he awakens a particularly bizarre and unconventional horror.
Hope you enjoy these classic stories! Happy Halloween!