Stories for HALLOWEEN That You Can Read Online

Happy 1st of October, horror fans!

As the chill wind blows and the spirits creep forth, it’s important to have an arsenal of spooky tales to spin by the fireside. For the first section of October recommendations, I’ve assembled a collection of short stories that ooze the autumn atmosphere and send shivers up the spine – all in the public domain, and easily accessible online. So cozy up by the fire, lock your doors, and settle in with these STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN.

  1. THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW

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You can’t go through October without indulging in Washington Irving’s lush, warm world of Tarrytown. This is a story for the senses – Irving describes the scent of the air, the texture of the autumn foods, and even the quality of light with relish. Combine that with a terrifically fun and creepy myth, and you’ve got the perfect (family-friendly) Halloween yarn. Purely for the sensory delights, this one is a must.

2. YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN

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What’s autumn without some late-night Sabbaths? Trauma from high school lit class aside, Nathaniel Hawthorne is worth celebrating for this richly atmospheric and disturbing story. This is one of my favorite depictions of the devil, and, like the best Hawthorne, it raises nasty concerns about Puritan values. Without spoiling the fantastic ending, I’ll just say this tale is the perfect witchy spookfest – and also makes us question what we know about our neighbors.

3. THE YELLOW WALLPAPER

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Got to have a good old Gothic breakdown on this list. Charlotte Perkins Gilman weaves a simple but utterly nightmarish world in which the female narrator, confined to a single room with hideous wallpaper by a husband who thinks she’s insane, becomes convinced that there are women in the walls, trying to escape. Psychologically and visually, this story is beyond disturbing. But its fabulous Grand Guignol house setting makes it a perfect tale for October.

4. THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

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You can’t have a Halloween list without a bit of Poe. While there are many stories to choose from, this one has always been my favorite. It reads like an archaic fable, beautifully described and slowly mounting in tension, before a climax of shock and violence. This is a costume party gone horribly wrong. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to you this season, but regardless, this creepy morality tale is ideal at the stroke of midnight.

5. THE DUNWICH HORROR

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Again, an author often cited. But H.P. Lovecraft outdoes himself with this cosmically frightening story of netherworld beasts and their human servants. Like Washington Irving, Lovecraft evokes his town of Dunwich with perfect attention to atmosphere, and it serves as a flawless setting for the horrors that commence. Full of unhallowed rituals and nightmarish creatures, this story captures the sentiment of Halloween exquisitely. And, to boot, it’s terrifying.

6. COUNT MAGNUS

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Most of M.R. James’s stories were designed for dark winter nights, but I find this classic is better suited for October. Like all of James’s work, it begins with a benevolent protagonist who uncovers a hidden mystery – but the horrors extend beyond simple spectres, because the titular phantom is so malevolent. Graveyards, knotted woods, and dust-filled halls abound in this story; all lorded over by the presence of Count Magnus. Much darker than most of the stories on this list, this one will chill you long into the night.

7. THE YELLOW SIGN

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Robert Chambers has gotten a lot of attention after his works were cited as influencing “True Detective.” His Carcosa saga is definitely worth visiting, and this one is the best of them all. A deformed church employee, a forbidden book that drives people mad, a cosmic lord waiting to be born again – all of these elements, along with a tensely thick Gothic atmosphere, make this story perfect for October.

So, light your fire and don’t look out the window – these stories should keep you chilled this autumn. Stay tuned for a list of contemporary tales that evoke the same atmosphere.

(No photos/artwork used is my property – credit goes to the individual creators.)

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