12 Spooky and Terror-Filled Short Story Collections to Read with the Lights On

Posted on October 9, 2018

by April S

Surprisingly, I didn’t really get into short stories until college. For college students, time is scarce to say the least. They’re often bogged down with reading textbooks, conducting research, writing papers and cramming for exams. So, reading an entire novel for fun can be challenging (especially if you also have a job). The great thing about short story collections is that they offer a lot of variety. You’ll find everything from mystery to science fiction to strange tales. And depending on how long each story happens to be, you might even have time to read or listen to a handful of them while grabbing lunch.

What comes to mind when you think of spooky tales? Most likely Edgar Allan Poe, because his name is synonymous with scary stories. In fact, even though most of his works were published more than 100 years ago, they remain popular to this day. Poe is simply one of those figures that’s forever ingrained in pop culture. And yes, I know horror, suspense and scary tales go far beyond Poe. However, it’s well worth noting that his works continue to inspire adaptations and writers. After all, he was simply a great storyteller.

One of the creepiest, incredibly haunting and memorable tales by Poe is the short story “The Tell Tale Heart,” published in 1843. It’s the story of a man who seems to be losing his mind, murders his elderly housemate and afterwards believes his beating heart is haunting him from beyond the grave. It’s an incredibly creepy psychological horror tale. And who can forget Poe’s infamous poem “The Raven,” published in 1845? It’s undeniable, Poe definitely had a way with words. “The Raven” is lyrical, suspenseful and simply timeless. If you’re a Simpsons fan, you may remember this homage to “The Raven” narrated by James Earl Jones, which aired in 1990 during the second season. It was part of the very first “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween special (the 30th is scheduled to air on October 21, 2018).

Spooky Tales on Audio

Check out these great classic horror tales on audio – they’ll send chills down your spine.

The Best of Edgar Allan Poe - electronic Audiobook (includes
The Raven and selected short stories by Edgar Allan Poe - electronic Audiobook
In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914
Great Radio Horror - electronic Audiobook

We hope you enjoy the selections in this blog post, but if you’re just not into scary stories – let us know where your interests lie. Tell us what you’ve enjoyed reading, watching or listening to in the past. Based on the information you provide, one of our expert librarians on staff will send you at least three personalized recommendations as part of our Give 3 Get 3 service!

Haunting and Terror-Filled Short Stories

1. The Classic Horror Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

The Classic Horror Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was a reclusive scribbler of horror stories for the American pulp magazines that specialized in Gothic and science fiction in the interwar years. He often published in Weird Tales and has since become the key figure in the slippery genre of “weird fiction.” Lovecraft developed an extraordinary vision of feeble men driven to the edge of sanity by glimpses of malign beings that have survived from human prehistory or by malevolent extra-terrestrial visitations. The ornate language of his stories builds towards grotesque moments of revelation, quite unlike any other writer.

2. The Dollmaster and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates

Six terrifying tales to chill the blood from the unique imagination of Joyce Carol Oates. A young boy plays with dolls instead of action figures. But as he grows older, his passion takes on a darker edge…A white man shoots dead a black boy creating a media frenzy. But could it be that it was self-defense as he claims? A nervous woman tries to escape her husband. He says he loves her, but she’s convinced he wants to kill her…These quietly lethal stories reveal the horrors that dwell within us all.

Also available in eBook.

3. The October Country: Stories by Ray Bradbury

The October Country : Stories by Ray Bradbury

Welcome to a land Ray Bradbury calls “the Undiscovered Country” of his imagination—that vast territory of ideas, concepts, notions and conceits where the stories you now hold were born. America’s premier living author of short fiction, Bradbury has spent many lifetimes in this remarkable place—strolling through empty, shadow-washed fields at midnight; exploring long-forgotten rooms gathering dust behind doors bolted years ago to keep strangers locked out.. and secrets locked in. The nights are longer in this country. The cold hours of darkness move like autumn mists deeper and deeper toward winter. But the moonlight reveals great magic here—and a breathtaking vista.

Also available in eBook.

4. Night Music by John Connolly

Night Music by John Connolly - Nocturnes, volume 2

A decade after “Nocturnes” first charmed and frightened readers, the author offers a second volume of tales of the supernatural.

Also available in eBook.

5. Pretty Monsters : Stories by Kelly Link

Pretty Monsters : Stories by Kelly Link

Weirdly wonderful and a touch macabre, the nine short stories take readers into worlds with elements of reality but also supply a fantastic twist.

6. The Merry Spinster : Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster : Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

Adapted from the author’s “Children Stories Made Horrific” series, a collection of darkly whimsical stories based on classic fairy tales updates familiar favorites with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity and feminist mischief.

Also available in eBook.

7. Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods : Stories by Emily Carroll

Discover a terrifying world in the woods in this collection of five hauntingly beautiful graphic stories.

Also available in eBook.

8. Nightmares : A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

Nightmares : A New Decade of Modern Horror - edited by Ellen Datlow

An acclaimed horror editor presents 24 terrifying tales from such authors as Garth Nix, Livia Llewellyn, Richard Kadrey, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, Margo Lanagan and Gene Wolfe that remind us that evil is all around us.

9. Ghostly : A Collection of Ghost Stories edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger

Ghostly : A Collection of Ghost Stories edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger

A collection of the best ghost stories of all time surveys the evolution of the ghost story genre from the eighteenth century to the modern era and includes works from Edgar Allen Poe, Kelly Link, M.R. James, and Neil Gaiman.

10. Magic for Unlucky Girls by A.A. Balaskovits

Magic for Unlucky Girls by A.A. Balaskovits

The fourteen fantastical stories in Magic For Unlucky Girls take the familiar tropes of fairytales and twist them into new and surprising shapes. These unlucky girls, struggling against a society that all too often oppresses them, are forced to navigate strange worlds as they try to survive. From carnivorous husbands to a bath of lemons to whirling basements that drive people mad, these stories are about the demons that lurk in the corners and the women who refuse to submit to them, instead fighting back sometimes with their wit, sometimes with their beauty, and sometimes with shotguns in the dead of night.

11. Alone with the Horrors : the Great Short Fiction of Ramsey Campbell, 1961-1991

Alone with the Horrors : the Great Short Fiction of Ramsey Campbell, 1961-1991

Ramsey Campbell is perhaps the world’s most honored author of horror fiction. He has won four World Fantasy Awards, ten British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, and the Horror Writers’ Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Three decades into his career, Campbell paused to review his body of short fiction and selected the stories that were, to his mind, the very best of his works. Alone With the Horrors collects nearly forty tales from the first thirty years of Campbell’s writing, including several award-winners.

12. The People in the Castle : Selected Strange Stories by Joan Aiken

The People in the Castle : Selected Strange Stories by Joan Aiken

Here is the whisper in the night, the dog whose loyalty outlasted death, the creak upstairs, that half-remembered ghost story that won’t let you sleep, the sound that raises gooseflesh, the wish you’d checked the lock on the door before dark fell. Here are tales of suspense and the supernatural that will chill, amuse, and exhilarate.

Also available in eBook.

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