The 35 Best Short Horror Stories To Seriously Freak Yourself Out At Night

Photo: getty
35 Best Short Horror Stories To Seriously Freak Yourself Out At Night
Self

I have always loved everything that goes bump in the night. Nothing makes me happier than stuff that's going to scare me so badly that I can't go to sleep at night.

While a lot of people can tell you where they were and what they were wearing during major events in their lives, I can do the same... about the important works of art about horror, and the state I was in when I discovered them all for the very first time.

Horror movies are easy to find — horror novels almost just as easy — but when you want a quick hit of horror to the veins, nothing does it quite the way short horror stories do. But they can be pretty hard to find, and before you've even managed to decide whether or not they're worth it, sometimes the story is over. What a waste!


RELATED: Creepy Details About The 'Dear David' Ghost Story Of A Child Haunting A Man's NY Apartment


Well, waste no longer. We've compiled 35 of the best horror short stories, personally vetted by yours truly to be some of the absolute scariest around! 

1. “The Infamous Bengal Ming" by Rajesh Parameswaran

"Awwww, a story about a tiger who falls in love with the tiger-keeper! How sweet!" is not what you will be saying when you read this short story and discover how, exactly, said tiger express that love. Yikes! 

2. “Snow, Glass, Apples” by Neil Gaiman

If you've always thought Snow White was a little disturbing, so did Neil Gaiman. In this short story, she's a dangerous blood-sucker and her prince is only attracted to dead bodies. How... romantic?

3. “The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

If you're a woman, there's nothing more terrifying than this short story. A woman confined with hysteria begins to think that there are people living in her wallpaper... and that she one of them! A classic, and an important read that's scary in a myriad of ways.

4. “The Monkey’s Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

You can't have a list of horrifying short stories and NOT include this OG. TL;DR version of the story: dude gets a monkey paw, makes some wishes, dude does not think things true and comes to deeply regret his choices. 

5. “The Other Place” by Mary Gaitskill

If you haven't read anything by Mary Gaitskill, what are you even doing with your life? This story will suck you in. It's about a father with dark fantasies about murdering women, who discovers that his son shares his predilections. Your hair will stand on end! 

6. "In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka

Some people think that The Metamorphosis is Kafka's most terrifying work of short prose. Those people have never read this story about convicts who are tortured by a device that effectively punishes them with their own crime. Not for the faint of heart! 

7. “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

It's the 1960s and mankind is done for... except for these four human beings who are being systematically hunted and tortured by an all-powerful and totally evil computer. Technology FTW, I guess? 

8. “Dress of White Silk" by Richard Matheson

If you're a fan of short horror stories and you don't know Richard Matheson, rectify that right now. This story is told from the perspective of a very creepy child who has been locked in her room by her grandmother. It doesn't get much spookier than that! 

9. "Out of Skin" by Emily Carroll

Carroll is brilliant at using the form of comics to create truly sinister stories and this is one of her best. All I will say is that it's about undead women, and that once you're done with it, you won't be able to banish it from your mind. 

10. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

If you thought The Hunger Games was original, you'd best check this story out. Each year a lottery occurs in this tiny town, but the "prize" isn't exactly something anyone would like to win. Read it for yourself and you'll see why! 

11. "The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

No one is master of getting inside a character's guilty conscience like Poe. In this classic, a man kills his mortal enemy only to be tormented by the phantom beating of his victim's heart beneath his floorboards. 

12. "The Road Virus Heads North” by Stephen King

Some people might say that Charles Dickens is the master of the short story, to which I say, maybe he's good, but it's King who's, well... king. This story is essentially just about a painting... much in the way that The Shining is about a hotel. 

13. "The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

While Blackwood's name might not be one you know, he was a favorite of fellow author H.P. Lovecraft. In this tale, a simple boat ride turns into a nightmarish adventure. 

14. “The Screaming Skull” by F. Marion Crawford

This is an oldie but a goodie. A gnarled sea captain finds just part of a human skull. He begins to tell a story and as he does, just how much he really knows about this skull fragment comes into focus in a terrifying way. 

15. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

A lot of people don't know this, but this novel about a man with a low IQ who is given the "gift" of a high IQ actually started off as a short story. IMHO, it's actually better than the novel, and even more upsetting. 

16. “Two Houses” by Kelly Link

Telling stories has been a way people have passed the time since the world began. This short story features some folks on a spaceship doing just that... only the spaceship has a mind of her own, and she hasn't decided who gets to live yet. 

17. "A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

Meet the mother-in-law from hell who, in turn, meets the carjackers from hell. It's a terrifying tale, one that really underlines the grim nature of humanity. It's a must-read whether you like scary stuff or not.

18. "The Green Ribbon” by Alvin Schwartz

Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies, says the woman who never takes the ribbon off from around her neck whenever anyone asks her why it's there. What is she hiding?

19. "Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

If the only Hawthorne you've read is The Scarlet Letter, you're missing out. This is a deeply eerie story about a woman who literally turns to poison — and that's just the beginning of what goes wrong. 

20. “Dial Tone” by Benjamin Percy

Nowadays we almost never pick up our phones unless we know the number because we don't want to talk to telemarketers. Telemarketers are the crux of this scary tale that has to be read to be believed. 

21. "The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen

A woman is running late to meet an old boyfriend and she's panicked about it. You would be too if the old boyfriend in question actually happened to be a demon who was out for blood. 


RELATED: Who Is Slender Man? The Evolution Of His Scary 'Creepypasta' Stories Explained


22. “Black Man with a Horn” by T.E.D. Klein

In this haunting tale, an author — and former friend to Lovecraft himself — must come face to face with a demon who he always believed to be his own invention. It gets inside your head and stays there. 

23. “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” by Karen Russell

When a group of bullies finds a doll that looks exactly like a little boy they used to tease, they don't hesitate: they string it up on a tree in the area where they like to play. Little did they know the danger they were inviting into their lives. 

24. “Lukundoo” by Edward Lucas White

Having a skin disorder is upsetting enough, but having a skin disorder where small furious men burst out of your pores? That's an entirely new level of deeply upsetting, and I say that as a fan of Dr. Pimple Popper. 

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

25. “Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier

The author perhaps best known for the novel Rebecca creates another gothic nightmare that will, in turn, enthrall you and leave you utterly terrified. 

26. “He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door” by Robert R. McCammon

This short story takes a while to really crank up the fear juice, but once it's flowing there's no stopping it. Did I mention that it happens to take place on Halloween? Because it totally does. 

27. "Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner

If you loved HBO's first season of True Detective, then you need to check this story about. The "sticks" in question actually served as a major source of inspiration for the crime that is the show's center. The story is perhaps even more frightening. 

28. "The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

This story got me good — a serious case of the chills! It tells the story of a woman who works as a babysitter... through the eyes of the men who watch her, and fantasize about her. Is there anything scarier than an obsession? 

29. “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl

Dahl didn't just write stuff for kids, oh no. In fact, some of his best work was horror stories for adults. In this tale, the tenant of a new apartment learns that his landlady has a horrifying hobby: taxidermy — and not just the usual kind either. 

30. "The Echo of Neighborly Bones” by Daniel Woodrell

The first line of this story is all you need to inspire you to keep going: “Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor, he couldn’t seem to quit killing him.”

31. “Caterpillars” by E.F. Benson

The perfect horror story creeps into your subconscious and preys on your deepest fears, no matter how strange they might seem to others. In this story, the fear exploited is the fear of bugs. I literally can't type more about it without shuddering. 

32. “Le Horla” by Guy de Maupassant

The author of this story was hospitalized for total insanity... weeks after he finished writing this story about a world that is coming completely off the hinges. Will it drive you to madness too? 

33. “Miriam” by Truman Capote

When you think horror, you probably don't think of Capote, but you might want to rethink that. This is a tale about a child who is more than she seems. She's well-dressed, well-spoken and well-near the scariest thing you've ever read. 

34. “The Pelican Bar” by Karen Joy Fowler

What sets this scary story apart from the pack is the fact that it is based on actual events. A young woman is sent to a reform school where no speaking is allowed... and other students start to disappear. 

35. “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter

Carter's beautiful adaptation of the popular Bluebeard will have you thinking twice about marriage. A young bride learns secrets about her husband that lead her to believe that her life may be in danger. 


RELATED: Horrifying New Details About How 'American Horror Story' Inspired A Teen To Murder Her Grandpa


Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.