10 startling short stories to read this Halloween season

Sometimes the scariest stories are the ones that could be true.

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Sometimes the scariest stories are the ones that could be true.

Jesten Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

Around this time of year there seem to be common trends: horror movie marathons start to take over the movie channels, your friends start brainstorming and discussing possible Halloween costumes, the idea of buying stock in the candy companies starts to become a lot more realistic. Then, there is the renewed interest in the creepy, unusual and supernatural that is what I am choosing to focus on today. Whether you are one of those readers that likes to take your time and analyze everything you read or you are just looking for another post-homework way to spend S.H.I.E.L.D., these 10 horror filled short stories are worth reading.
1. “The Jigsaw Puzzle” by J. B. Stamper- This story has a slowly building intensity. When protagonist Lisa first finds a jigsaw puzzle in an old thrift store, the story does not seem so unusual. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, in fact, until the pieces are lying out on her table and she starts to note resemblances to her own room in them. As the story progresses, your uneasiness will likely grow, as it does for unfortunate Lisa.
2. “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl- This story, like “The Jigsaw Puzzle”, has a building intensity. When protagonist Billy Weaver first stumbles upon an inexpensive bed and breakfast in an unfamiliar section of England, he cannot believe his luck. Aside from its surprisingly low price, there is the fact that it has a pleasant atmosphere and the fact that its hostess is quite warm and welcoming. It seems like a perfect place to spend the night, but unfortunately for Billy, appearances can be deceiving.
3. “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe- Unlike the two aforementioned stories, the horror in this story is a result of the protagonist. As the story progresses, his unstableness and temper turn into madness and violence, causing a chain reaction that ultimately leads to his unraveling.
4. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson- Like “The Black Cat”, this story is largely focused on the effects of madness and the deterioration of the mind. Another strong element in this piece is the idea of male dominance, which can be considered an aspect of horror, and which Mrs. Jarrett will probably applaud you for looking into as you read the unnerving story.
5. “The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen- This story is of the slowly building, uneasiness-provoking type, with protagonist Kathleen Drover returning to her old home, after many war-torn years, to find a letter waiting for her. The letter is from a man she hasn’t seen in around 25 years, and its message troubles her deeply. Mrs. Drover knows that this man wants her, and he will get what he was promised no matter what it takes; there is no escaping her demon lover.
6. “The Faceless Thing” by Edward D. Hoch- This story is simpler than many of others I have mentioned, with it just being the tale of an old man returning to the site of his younger sister’s death, yet there is something about it that caught me. It seemed very heavy in symbolism, and the messages that I interpreted were shocking and definitely made it worthy of the horror genre.
7. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell- This story is full of intensity and increasingly fast-paced. Rainsford, the protagonist, is an extraordinary hunter who feels no regret for his career or sympathy toward the animals he hunts. Through a great twist, however, Rainsford gets a dose of his own medicine; the outcome is both surprising and interesting.
8. “Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudoze- This story is full of suspense and terrifying reality. Instead of ghouls or supernatural entities, the narrator is forced to deal with large, man-eating rats that surround him and his two buddies, causing starkly different outcomes for each of them.
9. “When the Clock Strikes” by Tanith Lee- In this startling reworking of a classic fairytale, the story is told of the unraveling of a kingdom that is prompted by a bitter woman, her loyal daughter and a bewitched prince. This story, though not wholly terrifying, is an unusual rendition of the beloved childhood tale Cinderella that even rivals the Grimm brothers’ original.
10. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates-
This story is deeply disturbing; deeply and terrifyingly disturbing. In the story, 15 year old Connie doesn’t have a care in the world, until a strange man shows up at her house knowing things he should not know and not having any intention to leave without her. If you’ve had Ms. Brooks, you already know the horror that is evoked by this story.
Whether you decide to check out just one or all of these horrific short stories, I hope that you enjoy them and have a great Halloween.