Best Short Horror Stories
You are stranded on a lighthouse with two other friends…you look and see a ship that is crashing and you wait for any survivors to swim towards the lighthouse when suddenly you see…not humans….but RATS!!!! Thousands and thousands of rats headed for the lighthouse that you are sharing with two other people. These rats have already killed the passengers of the ship and are now headed towards you. What would you do? If you would like to read this story it’s called Three Skeleton Key by George G. Toulouze. There are many horror stories to sift through…I have taken countless hours to read countless stories (many of them very boring) and I have compiled a list of the best horror or scary stories for you!
Best Short Stories Horror: The Cask of Amontillado
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe is a chilling story where a man named Monstressor has decided to seek revenge against a man named Fortunado for committing some type of wrong against him. He entices the man with a cask of amontillado to come to his home during Mardi Gras (all people are masked) to try this new-fine-wine. The man never able to turn down wine follows him all the way down to the cellar where Monstressor locks him in a small brick cell and paves the hole closed leaving Fortunado to die a slow and agonizing death.
Best Short Stories Horror: The Landlady
The Landlady by Roald Dahl is a short story that begins with a man entering a motel for the evening. He signs in and he recognizes two names in the registry but at first cannot place how he knows the names. He comes to remember that the two young men in the registry both went missing. It is at this point that we, the audience realize that he is in grave danger. He is sipping tea that has been provided to him by the landlady when he notices some stuffed animals, a parrot and a dog. The woman mentions that she stuffs all her pets that die. It sounds like it is quite a regular act and she mentions that the two young men from the registry are still upstairs. The end fades out with him getting tipsy from the tea. The landlady states “yes, I think you have had enough”.
Best Short Stories Horror: Lamb to the Slaughter
Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl is a short story that opens with a pregnant woman fussing over her husband and his supper. He is cranky and clearly annoyed by her. He then tells her that he is leaving her for another woman. The pregnant wife goes and grabs the frozen leg of lamb she intended to serve to her husband and hits him over the head with it instead. He dies a quick death. She then goes to the grocery store to set up her alibi, back to her home, and calls the police to claim she found her husband dead. In the meantime, she puts the lamb in the oven which she later serves to the police officers who are working hard to find the weapon that killed her husband…the leg of lamb.
Best Short Stories Horror: The Pit and the Pendulum
The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe is a short story in which we find ourselves during the time period of the Spanish Inquisition. The story opens with a man placed in a small cell. He keeps himself sane by exercising and marking the days that slowly pass by. He falls asleep only to find himself awakening to a death-torture-chamber where he is tied down to the floor next to a deep pit, while a pendulum swings over his head, slowly moving toward him. He has to make a decision for what to do-get killed by the pendulum or free himself and fall into the pit. He is able to free himself just in time before being struck by the pendulum, and rolls to the opposite side of where the pit is. Oh and by the way, there are rats preparing to eat him-dead or alive. In the end he is saved by the opposing side of the Spanish Inquisition but we are unsure whether or not they will themselves take the prisoner-prisoner.
Best Short Stories Horror: The Elevator
The Elevator by Willliam Sleator is a short story about a young boy who continues to run into a large woman in his building elevator. She is in there every time and she is really starting to creep him out. He has anxiety and can’t breathe. His dad is no help for when he expresses his anxiety about the elevator his dad makes fun of him and tells him to be a man. There is no actual end to the story except that we know that the young boy enters the elevator and standing there is the “fat lady”. This is a great one to have students practice writing narrative skills. I have them write their own ending to the story.
Best Short Stories Horror: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
The Monsters are Due on Maple Street is a short story about how humans get paranoid, can’t see clear, and start turning on each other. Several unexplainable things happen on Maple Street and the inhabitants begin to blame each other. Soon they are turning on each other while pointing fingers and people are getting killed. At the end of the short story aliens sit and talk about how they perform this experiment on humans and invariably humans do the same thing every time.
Best Short Stories Horror: The Monkey’s Paw
The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs is a short story about a family gathered together with friends and one of them is an old military vet. He has a monkey’s paw, which he said gives a person three wishes. He is convinced to leave the paw behind which he does so with a warning. The family wishes for three lbs. The three lbs. comes in the form of crushing the son in machinery while at work. The mom is struck by grief and orders her husband to order her son be brought to life. The son walks two miles from the cemetery and begins to bang on the door. The woman is frazzled and trying to open the door while the husband finds the monkey’s paw and wishes the son away right before the woman opens the door. Does this story sound familiar? This is certainly where the idea of the pet cemetery comes from.
Best Short Stories: The Masque of the Red Death
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe is about a pandemic in which everyone is dying. Prince Prospero decides to turn it into a celebration so he invites all of his friends into his castle which they lock from the inside and the outside. The celebration is in full swing when an uninvited masked guest comes walking slowly into the main ballroom from the “red” room. Each room has a color resonating from it but no one goes into the red room. The Prince runs at the masked man and dies instantly. All other guests perish, and the pandemic is escaped by no one.
Best Short Stories: The Veldt
The Veldt by Ray Bradbury is a cautionary tale about the overuse of technology. Two parents have their home set up virtually and the nursery is included. The two children grow older and older while becoming very close to lions which live on the screen in their room. The nursery has a large canvas of Africa playing on the wall. The parents become nervous about the lions and decide to shut down the nursery. The children are furious and do not know how they will survive without the animals from Africa. They ensure the lions get to the parents prior to shutting it down. The children choose the lions as their parents over their actual parents.
Best Short Stories: The Most Dangerous Game
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell a group of hunters are on a ship headed for Africa so they can hunt big game. The main character, Rainsford falls into the water during the night and swims toward an island. He arrives on the island hungry and exhausted where he at first finds himself to be in good company. Zaroff, the man who welcomes Rainsford into his home is hospitable at first offering Rainsford shelter, food, and sleep. Zaroff is also a big game hunter and Rainsford soon learns that Zaroff hunts humans. Zaroff turns out to be a cold blooded killer who is planning to hunt Rainsford in the morning. The alternative is to be mauled by his guard, Ivan. Invariably all men choose to be hunted where they may stand a chance.
Best Short Stories: The Lottery
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a story that is reminiscent of “The Hunger Games”. The lottery is a way of taking numbers and killing off the population while everyone is watching. In the lottery it is a woman who is selected and begs for her life as others prepare to stone her to death.
Best Short Stories: The Tell Tale Heart
The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is a story about a man who has moved into the realm of paranoia. He is the care-taker of an elderly man who has an eye full of cataracts. The paranoid man thinks that the old man is starring at him with his eye when in fact the man cannot even see out of the eye. He decides he is going to kill the man which he does and buries him beneath the floorboards. When the police come, he screams out a confession because he now believes he can hear the beating of the old man’s heart.
Best Short Stories: The Hitchhiker
The Hitchhiker is a spooky short story about a man who picks up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be a serial killer. The man continues to run into his victims as he travels and cannot escape the hitchhiker’s kills.
Best Short Stories: The Yellow Wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story about a woman who is held up in a bedroom out in the country for a long period of time. She loses her mind during her stay while suffering a serious bout of depression and she starts to peel the yellow wallpaper off the wall because in her mind it is moving and speaking to her. She believes the paper is alive.
Have horror stories you teach in your classroom? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
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