Happy October! We are now well into the month of my favorite holiday: Halloween. I’m hoping to get everyone into the holiday spirit with this list of spooky short stories. Please keep in mind that these stories are recommended for high school students and up, and are not appropriate for young kids. Please check out our blog about Halloween books coming out next week if you have little ones. Stay spooky and keep it creepy!
1. “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: Emily Grierson, a rich, elderly woman, has died, and her funeral is the obligation of her small Southern town. No one but Emily has been allowed into her house in years, and there is a terrible smell coming from upstairs… This slow-burning tale ends with the ultimate twist.
2. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs: A classic among spooky short stories, this one has been adapted for the screen numerous times. Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son, Herbert, are sitting by the fire one evening when a family friend comes by for dinner and shows them a mummified monkey’s paw. A spell was placed on the paw so that it would grant three wishes, but the wishes turn out to have terrible consequences as punishment for tampering with fate.
3. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates: Connie, a beautiful 15-year-old girl, spends most of her evenings hanging out with boys, and one evening captures the attention of a stranger in a gold convertible. The next day when Connie is home alone, two men pull up outside. Connie is initially charmed by the smooth-talking, charismatic stranger, but Connie slowly realizes that he is not who he says he is.
4. “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne: The story begins at dusk in Salem Village as young Goodman Brown leaves Faith, his new wife, for an unknown errand deep in the woods. As he travels the forest path, he meets a man who looks eerily similar to himself, and who carries a black serpent-shaped staff. Deeper in the woods, Brown starts to hear voices among the trees, and what he finds in the clearing will change his life and faith forever.
5. “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence: This story focuses on the economic anxiety of a young English family, so much so that the children claim they can hear the house whispering, “There must be more money.” The young son, Paul, develops a mysterious ability to correctly predict winners of their local horse races, and starts making the family a significant amount of money. But the boy’s newfound skill is mysteriously tied to his health, and Paul falls deeply ill. Lawrence’s commentary on longevity and economics is invaluable.
6. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor: In this slow-burning short story, a seemingly ordinary (and irritating) family goes on a road trip, driving from Georgia to Florida. When their car ends up upside down in a ditch, the family are in need of help, and a car appears with three men. It soon becomes clear that the men are not there to help, however, and the family’s situation goes from bad to worse.
7. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe: What list of spooky short stories would be complete without an Edgar Allen Poe tale? In this story, one nobleman lures another into a wine-tasting excursion in the catacombs. His real motives are far more sinister, however: the night will end with one of them entombed alive.
8. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: This is perhaps my favorite of all the spooky short stories on this list. It is written from the point of view of a woman whose physician husband has put her on strict bed rest, a common treatment for “hysteria” not so long ago. The narrator describes in detail her hatred for the wallpaper in her room – its “sickly” color, its “yellow” smell, its missing patches, and the way it leaves yellow smears on the skin and clothing of anyone who touches it. The longer she stays in the bedroom, the more the wallpaper appears to mutate, especially in the moonlight…
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