6 Short Story Collections That Are Appropriately Eerie for Halloween

6 Short Story Collections That Are Appropriately Eerie for Halloween

Monday, 26 October, 2020

There’s something irresistible about being told a story, connecting one human to another in a way that stretches back through time. When it’s a spooky tale that oozes atmosphere, with surprising twists and thrilling suspense, well, that’s even better.

Whether you read quietly to yourself or decide to read to your near and dear by candlelight (spine-tingling!), you’re sure to find something to suit you among these recommendations. We’ve included a few favorite audiobooks with performances that will suck you right into the stories, as well as Gothic tales from Scotland, a YA take on vampire lore, a collection that’s beautifully written and super-unsettling, classics from Edgar Allan Poe, and dark stories from the English countryside.

Proceed if you dare.

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Things We Say in the Dark - Kirsty Logan

Things We Say in the Dark
> Kirsty Logan

Some things — wriggling, sticky, unjust, and bleak things — cannot be addressed in the revealing light of day. But at night, when it’s dark and quiet, the unspoken becomes story, and our deepest fears can be shared. The stories in this collection scream in a night-time whisper.

Author Kirsty Logan’s prose is simultaneously poetic and blatantly, sometimes painfully, raw. Her characters admit to us things that (perhaps) should not, but must be, shared. The tales are an alluring, chilling knot to pick and tug and try to unravel; there’s an irresistible temptation to know more and to go further with the characters. It’s a nifty trick of Logan’s writing that we never want to turn away from her narrators. Instead, we want to walk with them and understand them.

The stories focus on insidious fears, especially of women: bodily danger (external and internal), the frailty and ferocity of motherhood, desperate love, expectations. The narrators are often slippery, frequently leaving us to puzzle out their real experiences and motivations. The gleefully sinister ‘Girls are Always Hungry When all the Men are Bite-Size’ recounts the happenings at a seance with a point-of-view that alternates between the medium, a young girl at odds with her mother, and her attractive mark. In another, a young woman is forced to reconcile memories of her father with the reality of their lives. The gap, both slender and yawning that occurs between perception and real life, is a recurring theme that threads through the book. {more}

The dollhouse sat nicely on her shoulders — not too heavy, but reassuringly weighty. She piled her hair up and pinned it on top of her head so it filled the attic, holding the house steady. Her eyes lined up perfectly with the upstairs windows, the house only restricting her vision as much as a pair of spectacles. And if she wanted to speak, she could just open the front door. — Kirsty Logan, ‘Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights’

 

Vampires Never Get Old - Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker

Vampires Never Get Old
> Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker

There’s a nest of new vampires in town, and they’re going to seduce you with big feels, high drama, life-and-death decisions, and sexy hijinks. Grab your garlic and holy water!

Edited with a sharp bite by Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker, this collection of 11 thrilling stories includes new works from bestselling YA authors, including Julie Murphy (Dumplin’) and Victoria ‘V.E.’ Schwab (City of Ghosts).

The authors pick up what Bram Stoker was laying down, threading love (both platonic and romantic), social commentary, and moral dilemmas through stories. They explore the emotional conundrum of becoming undead and build their tales around LGBTQ+ storylines and unconventional heroes and heroines. It’s a Gothic collection with a modern sensibility — fresh, smart, entertaining, and moving.

In between the stories, the editors chime in with commentary on the vampire lore explored in the narratives, like a diabolical Greek chorus, adding context and humor. They also invite us into the stories by ending each interjection with a question: ‘If you had the choice, would you want to live forever?’

It’s to the authors’ and editors’ credit that none of the stories lurch into a ‘very special episode’ territory. Instead, they’re exuberant and always entertaining. {more}

I wondered what it would be like to walk this street alone and still be unafraid. No keys pressed through my fingers like brass knuckles, no heightened pulse, and if somebody called me a dyke, I could flip them off no worries — or better, rip out their goddamn throat. — Tessa Gratton, ‘Seven Nights for Dying’

 

Help the Witch - Tom Cox

Help the Witch
> Tom Cox

Everything Tom Cox writes has an urgency about it — as if the words flow unbidden and uninterrupted. But the details are so telling, the observation so shrewd, the words cannot be accidental. When he describes a tree, a hill, a storm, or a bracing swim in the ocean, you feel the tree bark, the grass, the wind, and the chill.

Cox is probably best known for writing books about cats that are not really about cats. His nonfiction narratives tackle the big stuff of life — love, death, magic, fear, history, family — by introducing us to all-too-human and feline characters and taking us into their day-to-day adventures.

These stories will transport you directly to the heart of central England’s Peak District. He draws on his affection for folklore, and he uses the tools of nature writing to explore the shadowy depths of this house and just what might be under that tree. The stories are gauzy and shimmery and all-together affecting. The title story is a first-person account that places us in the room with the narrator, who finds himself in a very scary situation indeed. {more}

The energy crash is finally happening. Last night, I saw the pepper mill move eight inches, all of its own volition. I could barely eat the mushroom risotto I made for myself without falling face first into it. Afterwards, I yanked my top half into bed, my legs following several yards afterwards, and heard the ghost cat make a new noise… — Tom Cox, ‘Help the Witch’

 

Haunted Voices - Rebecca Wojturska

Haunted Voices
> Rebecca Wojturska

This enthralling collection of gothic tales celebrates Scotland’s rich tradition of oral storytelling. It’s available in print, ebook, and audio from the publisher — and we 100-percent advocate for the audiobook. It features both archival recordings and new performances that will cause delicious little tingles up the back of your neck.

Soulmates, told by Gavin Inglis, is a bittersweet story about a goth couple who frequent the paths of Greyfriars Kirkyard (a historical cemetery in Edinburgh) and a love that will not die.

When you listen to the The Stolen Winding Sheet by Fran Flett Hollinrake, you will feel the wind and rain of the storm on your face. And when the just-at-the-end twist comes in I Live Alone by Conner McAleese, you may find yourself furtively glancing over your shoulder.

Throughout the 27 stories, you’ll encounter shadowy demons, ephemeral ghosts, mysterious shapes in the darkness, undying love, wry humor, dramatic weather, poor decisions, well-deserved comeuppances, and the other elements that make Gothic stories so jubilantly dark and unsettling. {more}

How to buy: This story collection is available as an audiobook, ebook, and paperback from Haunt Publishing. We recommend the audiobook for its legit storytelling experience.

He was sitting in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard at sunrise, watching mud creep up the cover of Descartes’ Passions of the Soul and wondering if it would be too much of a cliché to throw himself off North Bridge. She came past in clumpy boots and a velvet skirt, took her headphones out and yelled at him for letting a library book get stained. After that they were friends. — Gavin Inglis, ‘Soulmates’

 

The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection - Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems are almost synonymous with Halloween. Thick with dread and foreboding, his works explore the unspeakable thoughts that haunt our minds. In Poe’s realm, the rooms are gloomy, the windows are drafty, the floors are squeaky, and the hearts are barren.

Although his prose is irresistibly creepy on the page, Poe’s output is practically an argument for audiobooks: He did like his sentences to go on (and on). In this atmospheric audiobook, his dark visions are interpreted by the veteran stage and screen actors Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price. The actors’ deliveries celebrate the melodramatic content of Poe’s works, and their vocal timbre makes his language dip and soar like a leaf caught in the wind.

Basil Rathbone first gained fame on the U.K. stage as a Shakespearean actor. He eventually appeared in more than 70 movies — costume dramas, swashbucklers, horror films. Vincent Price was an American actor most beloved for his roles in horror films, including iconic performances in Poe adaptations like House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Masque of the Red Death.

All of those tales and more are found in this collection of 20 stories and poems. {more}

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story. — Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

 

The Raven: Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven
> Edgar Allan Poe

Perhaps you’d like to read Poe’s stories aloud yourself! This collection was edited by filmmaker and horror aficionado Guillermo del Toro, and it includes all of the usual suspects: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Mask of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, and The Fall of the House of Usher, as well as uncanny and desperately melancholy poems, including Annabel Lee, The Raven, and Lenore.

The Fall of the House of Usher is one of our favorites because the house itself is the hero — or, more accurately — the villain of the story. From the first page of Poe’s masterful Gothic tale, it’s clear that the house is a character to be reckoned with: ‘I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.’

The plot is simple: An unnamed, first-person narrator visits his lifelong friend Roderick Usher and finds him a diminished, haunted man. The narrator also encounters Roddy’s twin sister — the ethereal lady Madeline — drifting about in the background. Our narrator frequently describes his sense of oppression, and we feel it, too, as the house and family line reach their inexorable demise. {more}

Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all. — Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’

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Do you have a favorite spooky short story? Tell us in comments!

Top image courtesy of Everett Collection/Shutterstock.

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