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The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time

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The stories that comprise this collection will surprise the reader even after numerous readings. They reflect innermost fears and head for spaces where reality is blurred by imagination, where insanity and madness are shrouded in mystery and where humanity is haunted by repressed passion and obsession.


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The stories that comprise this collection will surprise the reader even after numerous readings. They reflect innermost fears and head for spaces where reality is blurred by imagination, where insanity and madness are shrouded in mystery and where humanity is haunted by repressed passion and obsession.

30 review for The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    These really are some of the best horror stories of all time. This is a collection of classic horror tales, the kind of stories that get into your head. These stories don’t have to use the shock factor or blood and gore. These stories creep and crawl and slither across your bedroom floor. They are truly haunting tales. The Table of Contents speaks for itself: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe Green Tea by J. Sheridan Le Fanu The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Bottle Imp by These really are some of the best horror stories of all time. This is a collection of classic horror tales, the kind of stories that get into your head. These stories don’t have to use the shock factor or blood and gore. These stories creep and crawl and slither across your bedroom floor. They are truly haunting tales. The Table of Contents speaks for itself: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe Green Tea by J. Sheridan Le Fanu The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs Oh, Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M.R. James The Country Of The Blind by H.G. Wells The Willows by Algernon Blackwood The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft The Lottery by Shirley Jackson I actually bought this book for “Dracula’s Guest”, as Dracula is one of my favorites. I had read it was supposedly the first chapter in the original Dracula manuscript, but was cut for length. I enjoyed it and wonder about the narrator. I was not familiar with all of these authors (Algernon Blackwood, Oliver Onions) but their stories got in my head. Blackwood’s prose is elegant and enchanting and eerie. Gives me the shivers! “The Monkey’s Paw” is an old favorite of mine. Three wishes is everyone’s dream, right? “The Lottery” has that great build up to the unthinkable. There are many authors in this anthology who I enjoy (Poe, HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson) and love having them in one collection. This collection is excellent. I will get it out often when I want to scare myself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    A lovely collection. I'd read most of them--the only new one was "The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions--but it was nice to sit down and curl up with them. (Would have been slightly better if the M.R. James one was "Lost Hearts", but I realize I am partisan. :) ) The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because five stars means I recommend books to people regardless of their interest in the genre, and this is not a book I would do that with. ...put like that, I am considering revising my A lovely collection. I'd read most of them--the only new one was "The Beckoning Fair One" by Oliver Onions--but it was nice to sit down and curl up with them. (Would have been slightly better if the M.R. James one was "Lost Hearts", but I realize I am partisan. :) ) The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because five stars means I recommend books to people regardless of their interest in the genre, and this is not a book I would do that with. ...put like that, I am considering revising my starring policy. For the record, the table of contents runs: * The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe * Green Tea by J. Sheridan Le Fanu * The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman * The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson * The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen * Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker * The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs * Oh, Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M.R. James * The Country Of The Blind by H.G. Wells * The Willows by Algernon Blackwood * The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions * The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft * The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jien

    I had read three of these stories before (Lottery, Tell Tale Heart, and Monkey's Paw), but the rest were new to me. It was my first sample of Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft. My favorite story of the lot though was "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood, that alone would be enough for me to give this five stars, but really the stories were all well chosen. I had read three of these stories before (Lottery, Tell Tale Heart, and Monkey's Paw), but the rest were new to me. It was my first sample of Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft. My favorite story of the lot though was "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood, that alone would be enough for me to give this five stars, but really the stories were all well chosen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon/ LFrog1386

    Excellent compilation of classic horror stories from the 1800s and early 20th century. I had only read Poe's The Raven before, so finally being able to read the source material that so many future novels or movies were based upon was a real treat. Excellent compilation of classic horror stories from the 1800s and early 20th century. I had only read Poe's The Raven before, so finally being able to read the source material that so many future novels or movies were based upon was a real treat.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Dobill

    Great collection!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Constance

    Ever wonder why the English language has the word Lovecraftian, but not the word Poean? No? Well, start wondering. Or... just read this book. I don't know if these are the best horrors stories of all time, but they are certainly among the most influential, ranging from the first and earliest story in the book, Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), to the last and most modern in this volume, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (1946). If you are looking for modern horror, this is not the place to go. The b Ever wonder why the English language has the word Lovecraftian, but not the word Poean? No? Well, start wondering. Or... just read this book. I don't know if these are the best horrors stories of all time, but they are certainly among the most influential, ranging from the first and earliest story in the book, Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), to the last and most modern in this volume, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (1946). If you are looking for modern horror, this is not the place to go. The bulk of these stories were written between 1890 and 1910. If you are looking for influences on modern horror, though, this might be the ticket, starting with Poe... Poe's themes are generally interior, individualistic, and obsessive. In short, he is kind of the poster child for American individualism gone wrong. Some of this obsessive drive is reflected to a lesser degree in later stories in this volume, but few writers can achieve what Poe does. I would not call "Green Tea" [1869], "The Yellow Wallpaper" [1892], or "The Beckoning Fair One" [1911], Poean (or even Poe-influenced, quite honestly), because, while obsessive in their own ways, they all rely on outside stimuli for the story to progress. Poe has no such problems; his narrator in "The Tell Tale Heart" needs no real motive to commit murder, although he might tell you otherwise. Like most Poe narrators, he acts solely on his own obsessive needs. In short, nothing happens in this story that is not generated entirely by the interior workings of an obsessive mind. There is no plot impetus. I cannot stress this enough, because, trust me, that is very hard to duplicate successfully as a writer. Readers tend to like plots and rational motivation - or at least an acknowledgement when the irrational is broached. Poe not only doesn't give that in "The Tell-Tale Heart," his narrator insists on the complete opposite. That aside, the bulk of stories included in this collection evolve from a folkloric tradition that Poe ignores in "The Tell-Tale Heart." "Dracula's Guest" [Bram Stoker, 1987], of course, would be the most famous of those, arising directly from vampire folk legend; similarly, Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp" [1983] and M. R. James' "The Monkey's Paw" [1902] are fairly straightforward folktales. Beyond that, more than half of the 13 stories here would today fall within the genre of folk horror, some of them in the form of ghost stories ("Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" [1904], "The Beckoning Fair One" [1911]), while others attempt to put a name to evils we cannot explain rationally ("The Great God Pan" [Arthur Machen, 1894], "The Willows" [Algernon Blackwood, 1907]). Universally, within these stories, that which we cannot explain or understand is frightening (and, because we are frail humans, probably also "evil"). Lovecraft, drawing heavily on such fears of the unknown and the unexplained, falls directly in line with this tradition. And then he gives it a face (squidly), adds modern concepts like space travel and alternate dimensions, and sets it down in New England, reminding us that the unknown is all the more frightening when set amongst the mundane, as opposed to, say, a haunted house or a Slovakian castle. (Incidentally, Shirley Jackson will add one more layer, that of tradition, to the folk horror concept in "The Lottery.") Lovecraft's entry here and the second-to-last story in this volume, "The Call of Cthulhu" [1925], is one of the most visual stories from a not-very-visual writer, and certainly one of the single most influential sources for modern folk horror. Maybe that is why we have the word Lovecraftian. Do I read stories/watch movies about obsession and think "Oh, that's so Poean"? No. Few writers can successfully duplicate Poe. (And, to be fair, while not represented in this volume, Poe also wrote mysteries, parodies, poetry, and more traditional horror; his interior stories of obsession, though, are probably his most remembered.) Do I read stories/watch movies about eldritch horrors and think "That's so Lovecraftian"? Yes. Lovecraft didn't invent the word eldritch. (But if you see that word in his work - and you will - you can bet the words abomination and blasphemous will follow.) He just made us think he did.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shayna Ross

    4.5 Stars - Loved almost every single story in here, such incredible writing. Even the stories I didn't love for the content, I still appreciate the time and energy put into language. Classic horror stories don't get enough love and I'm here to tell you to read more classic horror! If you are looking for more scary stuff but are tired of the same ol' dead white men, check out "Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction." My top five from this collection are: "The Ye 4.5 Stars - Loved almost every single story in here, such incredible writing. Even the stories I didn't love for the content, I still appreciate the time and energy put into language. Classic horror stories don't get enough love and I'm here to tell you to read more classic horror! If you are looking for more scary stuff but are tired of the same ol' dead white men, check out "Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction." My top five from this collection are: "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman "The Great God Pan" by Arthur Machen "Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karl Arney

    Obviously the title is an exageration here - aside from the subjectivity of such a statement, the collection includes nothing longer than short novella-length, and nothing from the 1950's onward. As a collection of Golden Age short horror, however, it is quite excellent. It covers a fair amount of ground despite the fact that you can easily match up thematically-like stories into categories (dementia, extra-dimensional forces, "be careful what you wish for" fables, "stranger in a strange land" ta Obviously the title is an exageration here - aside from the subjectivity of such a statement, the collection includes nothing longer than short novella-length, and nothing from the 1950's onward. As a collection of Golden Age short horror, however, it is quite excellent. It covers a fair amount of ground despite the fact that you can easily match up thematically-like stories into categories (dementia, extra-dimensional forces, "be careful what you wish for" fables, "stranger in a strange land" tales). A solid handful of it is stuff that may be familiar from high school reading lists, but if you haven't read the stories of your own volition or since school, they're worth revisiting. I know, for example, that I couldn't be bothered with "The Yellow Wallpaper" when it was assigned to me back in school, but I now found it to be an impressive multi-tasker, serving as both an aces ghost story and a seething, harrowing look at contemporary women's treatment by society. The less-known material is a main delight here - I was already a well-versed Lovecraft fan coming in, but "The Willows" and "The Great God Pan", both sort of proto-Lovecraft in a few senses, were new to me and all the more interesting placed next to their more famous successor's most famed work. Similarly, while I was obviously familiar with H.G. Wells the hi-concept sci-fi titan, I was hardly expecting the claustrophobic injection of creeping, powerless dread into a old cliche that he gives us in "The Country of the Blind". The collection isn't perfect - it's easy enough to cherry pick little criticisms out of many of the stories. There's the fluidity of the language barrier in "Dracula's Guest", to say nothing of its titular fiend's absence; the Swede's excessive insight into the goings-on in "The Willows"; "The Great God Pan"'s merciless flogging of coincidence, etc. But there's not a story here that doesn't have some sense of genuinely affecting horror. If they're not THE 13 best, they're no less essential for that.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    1. "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843) - 4 Stars First read this very short tale many years ago, possibly in high school, and it has always stayed with me. Wonderfully written, creepy, taunting, maddening. Wouldn't mind if it were a bit longer, a little more drawn out. The only Poe I've read... so far. 2. “Green Tea” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1869) – 1 Star First half dragged on too slowly and I had difficulty following this author’s style of writing. Didn’t like this story at all. 3. “The 1. "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843) - 4 Stars First read this very short tale many years ago, possibly in high school, and it has always stayed with me. Wonderfully written, creepy, taunting, maddening. Wouldn't mind if it were a bit longer, a little more drawn out. The only Poe I've read... so far. 2. “Green Tea” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1869) – 1 Star First half dragged on too slowly and I had difficulty following this author’s style of writing. Didn’t like this story at all. 3. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) – 3 Stars Well-written short story slowly builds to a creepy finale. 4. “The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1893) – 3.5 Stars Told like a folktale, a dark twist on the “genie in the bottle” tales. 5. “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen (1894) – 3.5 Stars A horror/fantasy novella which has influenced the work of other horror writers such as Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. 6. “Dracula’s Guest” by Bram Stoker (1897) – 2.5 Stars A bit slow and uneventful for me. Cut from the original story of Dracula, published as a separate short story. 7. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs (1902) – 3.5 Stars Another dark, disturbing twist on the “three wishes” tales. 8. “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad” by M. R. James (1904) – 1.5 Stars Couldn’t get into this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Overall, this is a solid representation of some great and classic horror authors. They have Lovecraft, Machen, Stevenson, Stoker, Poe, Le Fanu, Blackwood, and others. Classics like The Call of Cthulhu, The Great God Pan, and The Willows are perfectly chosen for this collection but then they throw away opportunities for great stories from other authors by offered in up The Bottle Imp by Stevenson which seems much less interesting in terms of horror than The Body Snatcher among others. Green Tea b Overall, this is a solid representation of some great and classic horror authors. They have Lovecraft, Machen, Stevenson, Stoker, Poe, Le Fanu, Blackwood, and others. Classics like The Call of Cthulhu, The Great God Pan, and The Willows are perfectly chosen for this collection but then they throw away opportunities for great stories from other authors by offered in up The Bottle Imp by Stevenson which seems much less interesting in terms of horror than The Body Snatcher among others. Green Tea by Le Fanu was also much less enthralling than Camilla. However, if you want a solid introduction to some of the great horror writers in the 19th and early 20th century, this is a great place to start. If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other reviews and writings at By Any Other Nerd /

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    I read this book in honor of Halloween. Not a big fiction reader I thought it was time to delve into the realm of terror for a little aversion from my typical non-fiction fare. This collection of 13 kind of scary stories came from an earlier era mostly in the 1800's. You will find some well known authors among them such as Poe, Well, and Stevenson. I was disappointed in the majority of them as they could get somewhat boring with the heavy style associated with the classic era of writers. However I read this book in honor of Halloween. Not a big fiction reader I thought it was time to delve into the realm of terror for a little aversion from my typical non-fiction fare. This collection of 13 kind of scary stories came from an earlier era mostly in the 1800's. You will find some well known authors among them such as Poe, Well, and Stevenson. I was disappointed in the majority of them as they could get somewhat boring with the heavy style associated with the classic era of writers. However there are some gems here, my favorites being Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp", Well's "The Country of the Blind," excellent, and the closer Shirley Jackson's. "The Lottery."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Blaine

    I checked out this collection primarily because I wanted to read The Call Of Cthulhu and The Great God Pan, which Stephen King cited as the inspiration for his novella "N." in Just After Sunset. Both stories are very good, though I agree with some other reviewers that they are not so much scary as 'interesting in a college lit class sort of way.' I also re-read a few of the shorter stories I had read before (The Tell-Tale Heart, The Monkey's Paw, and The Lottery). But at that point, I stopped. T I checked out this collection primarily because I wanted to read The Call Of Cthulhu and The Great God Pan, which Stephen King cited as the inspiration for his novella "N." in Just After Sunset. Both stories are very good, though I agree with some other reviewers that they are not so much scary as 'interesting in a college lit class sort of way.' I also re-read a few of the shorter stories I had read before (The Tell-Tale Heart, The Monkey's Paw, and The Lottery). But at that point, I stopped. These stories may have passed as scary horror 100 years ago, and they are still well-written, but they're not scary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Spanning roughly 100 years, this collection starts with Poe's famous "The Tell Tale Heart" (1843) and ends with Jackson's "The Lottery" (1948). While I wasn't wild about every story, there are some real gems among them. "The Monkey's Paw", The Bottle Imp", "The Country Of the Blind", "The Willows" and of course "The Call Of Cthulhu". In an age when graphic horror has become the norm, it's nice to get a pleasant chill from these genuinely creepy rather than gory tales. Spanning roughly 100 years, this collection starts with Poe's famous "The Tell Tale Heart" (1843) and ends with Jackson's "The Lottery" (1948). While I wasn't wild about every story, there are some real gems among them. "The Monkey's Paw", The Bottle Imp", "The Country Of the Blind", "The Willows" and of course "The Call Of Cthulhu". In an age when graphic horror has become the norm, it's nice to get a pleasant chill from these genuinely creepy rather than gory tales.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I picked up this book on a whim. It was a very interesting read. Most of the stories are not typical horror stories that you would find in an anthology today. Think of them as representing proto horror stories. When you read this book you are going back in time to see the foundations of modern horror work. My favorite story in the collection was probably "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. It had a great otherworld feel. I will definitely remember it the next time I'm out canoeing. I picked up this book on a whim. It was a very interesting read. Most of the stories are not typical horror stories that you would find in an anthology today. Think of them as representing proto horror stories. When you read this book you are going back in time to see the foundations of modern horror work. My favorite story in the collection was probably "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. It had a great otherworld feel. I will definitely remember it the next time I'm out canoeing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

    This book was full of classing horror stories. Taking it for what is is (classic stories), it's a pretty good selection of stories. Don't plan on being scared, plan on feeling like your back in your college English Lit class. Some of the stories were good, but not scary by any means. Maybe we are desensitized and things that were scary in the early 1900's aren't scary today...who knows. I found that with my book club, who just finished reviewing this book, you either love it or you don't. This book was full of classing horror stories. Taking it for what is is (classic stories), it's a pretty good selection of stories. Don't plan on being scared, plan on feeling like your back in your college English Lit class. Some of the stories were good, but not scary by any means. Maybe we are desensitized and things that were scary in the early 1900's aren't scary today...who knows. I found that with my book club, who just finished reviewing this book, you either love it or you don't.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather Brock

    I honestly don't have much to say about this book. I did enjoy it, but what can you really say about a collection of stories? There were the classic tales like "The Tell Tale Heart" and "The Monkey's Paw". There were also some new stories I had never read before. I especially enjoyed "Green Tea". I wouldn't call these tales especially "horrifying", but it was a decent collection nonetheless. I honestly don't have much to say about this book. I did enjoy it, but what can you really say about a collection of stories? There were the classic tales like "The Tell Tale Heart" and "The Monkey's Paw". There were also some new stories I had never read before. I especially enjoyed "Green Tea". I wouldn't call these tales especially "horrifying", but it was a decent collection nonetheless.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    This collection is really pretty scary! Eleven of the stories got me good, and I'd even read 3 of them before! But two tales (The Willows and The Beckoning Fair One) not only were not scary to me, they were not even good stories, in my opinion. Take 'em out, and this is a 5 star collection all the way! This collection is really pretty scary! Eleven of the stories got me good, and I'd even read 3 of them before! But two tales (The Willows and The Beckoning Fair One) not only were not scary to me, they were not even good stories, in my opinion. Take 'em out, and this is a 5 star collection all the way!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Great picks. We could quibble, but if you only get to choose thirteen stories in English, I think these would be on everyone's top twenty. Between this and the coolth and the rain, it's starting to feel like fall. Great picks. We could quibble, but if you only get to choose thirteen stories in English, I think these would be on everyone's top twenty. Between this and the coolth and the rain, it's starting to feel like fall.

  19. 4 out of 5

    frogfairie

    Such a great mix of stories I'd read long ago, some I'd been meaning to, and even ones I'd never heard of before. Such a great mix of stories I'd read long ago, some I'd been meaning to, and even ones I'd never heard of before.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    I only read 'The Great God Pan' by Arthur Machen, but it was really good. I'd highly recommend it if you like Lovecraft. I only read 'The Great God Pan' by Arthur Machen, but it was really good. I'd highly recommend it if you like Lovecraft.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allen

    The stories that really interested me are The Tell-Tale Heart and The Lottery. Some of the other stories seemed to go on a bit too long for short stories.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason Sauer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  24. 4 out of 5

    MISS AL WATERS

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian Moreau

  27. 5 out of 5

    linda martinez

  28. 4 out of 5

    April

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Murphy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh Dowd

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