Halloween Countdown: Ready for Gothic Tales of Terror?
Looking for something else to do this Halloween that’s spooky and fun? How about reading a few Gothic horror stories?
You’re probably familiar with stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. And you may have heard of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” (published in 1892), which has been described as feminist Gothic.
Why is Gothic fiction so deliciously creepy? Could it be the setting? The oppressive mood? The time period in which the tales were written? Many of the classic stories were published at a time when most (if not all) people were still using gaslight and candles for lighting. It’s easy to imagine, when the light is poor and fog presses against the windows, that the shadows in the corner aren’t shadows after all …
For this Halloween, I’m recommending a few lesser known Gothic short stories. You may recognize a few of the authors. The list is in chronological order according to the year the stories were first published. These tales are among my favorites. One of them is relatively new (written in the 1970s).
The stories can be found in many anthologies. Some might even be available for free on the internet.
Read them in bed late at night, or during a wet afternoon when the clouds are low and the wind sends the autumn leaves spiraling to the ground.
No matter when or where you read them, they’re sure to bring a chill. Enjoy, bwahahahaha …
1. ‘The Signal-Man’ by Charles Dickens (first published in 1866)
A railway signalman is haunted by a spirit that appears whenever a disaster is about to occur.
Dickens was an amazingly prolific writer, penning not only novels, but also short stories, plays and even nonfiction. His ghosts didn’t come out only at Christmas. If you like trains, tunnels and bleak landscapes, you’ll love this atmospheric story.
2. ‘The Upper Berth’ by F. Marion Crawford (1886)
A well-seasoned traveler finds himself in a haunted cabin while on a voyage across the Atlantic.
3. ‘By Word of Mouth’ by Rudyard Kipling (1887)
A man receives a message from his dead wife.
Kipling is best known for his stories set in India, including The Jungle Book. When ‘By Word of Mouth’ was published, the story was so realistic that many readers believed it to be true.
4. ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W.W. Jacobs (1902)
A man acquires a mummified monkey’s paw with the power to grant three wishes. Unfortunately, the wishes come with grave consequences.
This is one of the more famous stories in my list. “The Monkey’s Paw” has been adapted countless times for television, plays and movies. It also has served as a basis for numerous other stories. You should read it if you haven’t. I especially love the ending.
5. ‘Luella Miller’ by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1902)
A pretty woman has a strange effect on the people around her. A re-imagining of the vampiric lore.
6. ‘August Heat’ by W.F. Harvey (1910)
An artist is presented with an omen of his death on a hot August day. Another story with a great ending.
7. ‘Casting the Runes’ by M.R. James (1911)
A museum researcher finds an occultist has used runes to curse him.
James, a scholar of medieval history and the former vice chancellor of Cambridge University, is well known to any lover of Gothic tales. James intended many of his ghost stories to be read aloud to family and friends at Christmas Eve.
8. ‘Mrs. Amworth’ by E.F. Benson (1923)
A newcomer to an idyllic English village may be the cause of a mysterious ailment befalling the other villagers. A classic vampire story.
9. ‘Feet Foremost’ by L.P. Hartley (1938)
A wealthy man buys a long-vacant manor that is rumored to be haunted by a teenage woman who was abused and murdered by her husband. He invites guests to his new home. Unfortunately, the ghost takes a fancy to one of the guests.
10. ‘The Companion’ by Joan Aiken (1978)
An unwanted house guest is unhappy when she is evicted.
I’ve long loved Aiken’s writing and stories, starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase book series.
If you like horror reads, check out “The Chase.” It's a short story from my Joss Paper collection.
A haunted island. A botched exorcism. A horrific legacy. East meets West in this collection of seven short horror stories set in the United States and Southeast Asia.
$0.99 on Amazon or free on Kindle Unlimited.