The Best Horror Short Stories of All Time

The Best Horror Short StoriesWhen it comes to horror stories, quality varies widely from one story to the next. There are thousands of writers in the horror genre, from amateur and self-published bloggers scribbling creepy tales online to HP Lovecraft stories and the writings of other acknowledged horror masters. Trying to figure out the best horror short stories of all time can be a frustrating experience; everyone’s taste is different, and there are so many horror stories in print that selecting just a handful of stories to represent the entire genre is a mind-boggling task.

It would be easy, for example, to include any number of Stephen King horror stories, but thanks to the prejudices of some horror genre fans, anything King touches isn’t really horror, is too popular for inclusion on the list, or is just too easy of a choice.

On the other hand, including one of the stories of Edgar Allen Poe may seem like a no-brainer, since he’s considered one of the first and greatest American horror story writers. But the horror genre has grown up since the days of Poe’s creepy tales, and Poe’s stories just don’t hold the appeal they once did, especially for young horror fans used to Hollywood special effects and instant gratification.

With all that in mind, here’s a quick look at three great horror short stories. Are these the best horror short stories of all time? That’s up to you. We’re sure you’ll find at least one truly great horror story on this short list.

1. Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Often overlooked as a great example of short horror fiction in favor of its place in the pantheon of feminist fiction, Perkins-Gilman’s tale of a woman’s descent into madness is a truly creepy goosebump-creating piece of short fiction. If you feel yourself drawn into the mad world of the story’s protagonist, you’re not alone.

2. HP Lovecraft, “Shadow Over Innsmouth”

All of the features of Lovecraft’s best writing can be found in this creepy little novella, just five chapters long but stuffed to the gills (pun intended) with pitch-perfect horror writing. The story tells of an investigation into strange happenings in a small New England town. The final chapter is one of the great pieces of American horror writing ever.

3. Peter Straub, “A Short Guide to the City”


Straub’s story is difficult to pin down: part experimental fiction (blending two different genres into one) and part horror story, “A Short Guide to the City” is one of the great modern horror stories. Published in 1990, Straub’s story hints at horror fiction’s Gothic past and it’s hypertextual Web-based future.