6 Spooky Short Stories for Halloween

Colin Bunn, Online Editor

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As a chill creeps into the air and Jack-O-Lanterns begin rising out of the fields, the spookiest time of year returns. It is a time to embrace horror and the things that disturb us the most. In order to get into the mindset of the most frightening time of year, I’ve compiled a list of short horror stories that send chills down people’s spines. Read these after dark when the world is silent and gloomy when something just might be moving in the corner. Let your mind wander in the darkness till a stray sound makes you jump. Embrace the wonderfully horrific time that is Halloween. Here are six short horror stories to do just that.

 

  1. Dagon  http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/d.aspx

 

This story comes from the mind of the renown horror author H.P. Lovecraft. If you have not heard of him before then “Dagon” is a perfect place to start. Like most Lovecraft, and modern horror pieces, the story starts slow. Lovecraft forges the piece with long and winding sentences which heightens the feeling of terror. The existential dread of forbidden knowledge is at the forefront of this short masterpiece. Something that Lovecraft perfects in his later works. “Dagon” makes the list mainly due to its terrific final paragraph. The inescapable fate of a doomed man deeply disturbs me every time I read it. If you don’t mind a slow build, Dagon will certainly make you fear the unknown in a way Lovecraft can only do.

 

  1. The Judge’s House https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/ghost-stories-stoker.html

 

Bram Stoker did not only write Dracula. In The Judge’s House, a new town resident named (and this is for real) Malcolm Malcolmson, moves into the residence of the old sadistic Judge. What follows is a true Victorian styled tale filled with haunting descriptions, a lesson to take heed in the warnings of people, and rats. The most impressive aspect of the writing is the sense of mystery that is mixed in with the horror. This same mystery draws in the reader as it does Malcolm which allows for a greater understanding of the protagonist and a lesson in not following one’s curiosity into dangerous places. The Judge’s House is a great ghost story that holds up more than a hundred years later. This is Stocker at his most terrifying.

 

  1. Click-clack the Rattlebag https://rickmanhchs.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/click-clack-the-rattle-bag.pdf

 

A man is leading a small boy up to his room to go to bed. What is so scary about that? Everything. Upon further reading, the author, horror master Neil Geilman, carefully chooses the right words at specific points to manipulate the tension of the novel beautifully. The paranoia this story causes is what makes it great. Click-clack the Rattlebag will stay with you long after your eyes rip from the page and you jump as a slight tapping settles into your ear.

 

  1. Nightcrawlers https://www.robertmccammon.com/fiction/nightcrawlers.html

 

Nightcrawlers is half horror and half a very nuanced look at PTSD. On a dark and stormy night, a group of people sit in a diner talking until a string of murders is brought up. Sometime later a haggard man comes in through the door in the middle of a raging storm. From this point on it’s a game of cat and mouse. With outstanding tension that rivals a classic western, Nightcrawlers is a great example of how to write a horror story with a powerful message.

 

  1. Where are You Going, Where Have You Been? http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2005/pdf/oates.pdf

 

I am at a lack of words when trying to describe this story. For a story released in 1966 its depiction of an all-too-real situation is still as powerful as the day it was written. Connie is a fifteen-year-old girl who is home alone until two men drive up in a car. From there, the driver, a man named Arnold Friend, proceeds to divulge his true motives. I believe that without a doubt this is the creepiest story on the list. It leaves me with a disgusting feeling in my stomach that no other short story has really made me feel. Read this short story to find out what I mean.

 

  1. Call of Cthulhu http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/cc.aspx

 

Lovecraft started this list and now he’s finishing it. I readily admit to being a Lovecraft fanboy but it’s for a good reason. Most types of horror are fleeting. If a monster jumps out or a limb is removed that can be scary, at least, for a time. There comes a point when that type of scare no longer evokes the same fear. In my opinion, great horror is fear that lingers. It sticks to the mind even after leaving the piece. Lovecraft is the master at this style. Over a series of letters and newspaper clippings, the characters in Call of Cthulhu begin unveiling information that they will later wish to stay hidden. It reinforces the theme of our own smallness in a vast universe with forces we cannot possibly understand. To even try and understand would lead to madness. Having a creature that views humans as so insignificant is utterly terrifying. No amount of technology or will can stop the titular monster. There is no safety from Cthulhu. This short story launched an entire literary genre and has impacted thousands of books, movies and any other type of art. If you have not read this seminal story then I beg you to do yourself the favor and hear the call of Cthulhu.