Some of the best fiction comes in the form of the short story, and well-crafted horror short stories definitely rank high on many lists of best short fiction. It’s not easy to create the perfect creepy story in just a few pages, but some talented authors have mastered the horror short story. Here are a few classics that are guaranteed to keep you up at night long after you finish reading them. Click the images to see more on Goodreads.
“Gabriel-Ernst” (Saki, aka H.H. Munro)
Saki was a master of horror short fiction and “Gabriel-Ernst” (written in 1909) is one of his best. In just a few pages, this very short and very atmospheric story tells the tale of Gabriel, a strange feral boy found in the woods who has a taste for flesh.
“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (Richard Matheson)
A man looks out of the window of a plane and sees a gremlin on the wing, and isn’t sure if it’s real or if he’s losing his mind. If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because the original 1961 short story by horror writer Richard Matheson was adapted by both the old Twilight Zone TV show and the Twilight Zone movie.
“The Langoliers” (Stephen King)
What’s a “best of” horror list without Stephen King? He’s written a lot of short horror, by many fans would choose this novella as one of the best. A group of airplane passengers fly through a “time rip” and are terrorized by a bunch of monsters who eat the past called the Langoliers.
“The Dunwich Horror” (H.P. Lovecraft)
Interested in learning more about the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft? “The Dunwich Horror” is a good place to dive in. A mysterious entity has taken up residence at a Massachusetts farmhouse. With the death of its “keeper”—the unusual Wilbur—the entity breaks free and terrorizes the town of Dunwich.
“Vital Signs” (Emily Walker)
A sociopath named Vlad works for the Russian mob, harvesting and selling human organs on the black market. How does he get his victims? Let’s just say you might want to think twice before calling 911 and getting into an ambulance after you read this story.
“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” (M.R. James)
British author M.R. James was a master of the classic ghost story and this is one of his best. Published in 1904, it tells the tale of a professor who finds an antique whistle in an old ruined building and, of course, blows it, summoning one very terrifying ghost.
“Chivalry” (Neil Gaiman)
The popular novelist Neil Gaiman is also a talented short story writer. “Chivalry” is a fun read, more humorous than horrifying. An old woman just happens to buy the Holy Grail at a thrift shop and is then visited by the spirit of Sir Galaad, a Knight of the Round Table, who wants it back.