Who among us doesn’t like the delicious feeling of being thoroughly creeped out by a scary story? I’ve been a fan of short scary stories since I was a kid. They’ve never lost their ability to give me a good shiver and I’ll bet you’re the same. Go ahead, sit down and turn off the lights. Dim your computer screen until you can just barely see to navigate. Let the moonlight or the glow from that streetlight at the end of the block sneak through the closed blinds. Click on one of the stories, close your eyes, and prepare to have your nerves nicely jangled.
Don’t blame me, though, if you can’t get to sleep.
A Trio of Terror Tales from Poe
For classic Halloween creeps, it’s tough to beat Edgar Allen Poe. Put a great voice behind the microphone — say, someone like Christopher Walken, Gabriel Byrne, or Christopher Lee — and the stories come to horrible, shambling life.
H.P. Lovecraft, the Master of Doom
There aren’t many authors who have had as great an influence on modern horror fiction than the strange thin New Englander called H.P. Lovecraft. His universe filled with beings more vast and powerful than any mortal mind can imagine have inspired hundreds of authors. I’ve collected two of my favorite Lovecraft stories here, either of which would make fantastic movies. Any script writers out there willing to take a shot?
Scares from a Scholar
Next up, two from a giant of the gothic horror scene. M. R. James was a one-time Provost of Eton College and an accomplished scholar whose studies gave his stories more weight. Again, you get two of his very creepiest, staged as movies instead of traditional audiobooks. The second, “The Tractate Middoth” was directed and adapted by Mark Gatiss of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame.
Voices to Make You Shiver
Remember in school when you had to read The Scarlet Letter? You may not know that the author of that book also wrote horror tales. Here’s one of his best, “The Minister’s Black Veil” that appeared in his short-story collection Twice-Told Tales. It’s narrated by Sir Basil Rathbone.
You’ve probably never heard of John Kendrick Bangs, but his story “The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall” lives on today thanks to a great reading by Vincent Price on an album of spooky stories called A Hornbook for Witches. I’ve no idea if you can actually become a witch by studying the album. If it works, let me know. And don’t turn me into anything untoward.
Most of us today encounter the voice of Boris Karloff as the narrator of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Before that, though, he was perhaps the finest horror actor in Hollywood and his voice gives our next story, of an album called Tales of the Frightened, Vol. 2 the perfect level of creepiness.
Two More, Just for the Scares.
Ten stories should be enough, don’t you think? No? I happen to agree, so here are two more, just because I like them and think you will too. The first is by Stephen King, and it features a character who played an important role in his story “The Night Flyer” and is narrated by Joe Mantegna. Just so you know, I think King is the best short horror fiction writer we have today. What do you think?
Lastly, a story told by campers, about a horrible encounter. It’s by Algernon Blackwood, whose stories are freely available and highly recommended.
(Photo Credit: final gather on Flickr)