Here is a list of ten tales, these I feel are some of the best short horror stories ever written, definite personal favorites, and perfect for a dark chilly October night. In order of publication:
1. The Black Seal by Arthur Machen: A folk tale that delves deep into secret cults, strange survivals, and what the dark woods may hide. A slow burn that definitely delivers. Up there with The Great God Pan in terms of Machen's best works.
2. The Room in the Tower by E. F. Benson: A surprisingly horrific tale for the time period. A wonderful mix of the ghost story and the vampire tale. A definite highlight in what many would consider to be the golden age of horror fiction. Its power to unnerve remains unblemished.
3. The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft: One of the master's best works. A tale of a strange town and the creeping darkness that engulfs a mad violinist and his seemingly innocent yet maybe not-so-innocent visitor. A work that shows Lovecraft's best work usually fell outside his vaunted Cthulhu mythos stories. Up there with The Hound and The Festival for his best works.
4. Skeleton by Ray Bradbury: Almost a basic primer for what would become body horror. With dark carnival atmospheres and creepy doctor's offices, this story shows Bradbury in his horrific prime. Equal parts black comedy and grotesque horror, a tale that dares to reveal what your skin tries to hide.
5. Passengers by Robert Silverberg: Proto-scifi horror. A gloomy tale of an alien invasion that has already been won. People try to go on with their lives, but a shadowy alien menace hovers over all. The invaders not only took over people's nations and communities, but their bodies too. Perverse and heartbreaking.
6. The Brood by Ramsey Campbell: A chilling tale of streetlight-lit bodies cast in deep shadow. Mysterious dark streets and long-abandoned houses hide weird and disturbing nighttime happenings. And then this story hits you with an ending that should not be read before bed if you need to actually sleep that night. Only Campbell can mix body horror and creeping dread like this. Nightmarish.
7. The Troubles of Dr. Thoss by Thomas Ligotti: One of the most disturbing stories ever written. Strange beings who visit at night and local rumors mix in this delirious blend of surreal horror. After many rereads it's still hard to pinpoint why this story is so disturbing, but it never fails at its mission.
8. The Road of Pins by Caitlin Kiernan: A master storyteller at the peak of their craft, The Road of Pins is just astonishing in its effectiveness. With sensuous prose mixed with superbly realized characters, you just want to drown in Kiernan's fiction. Strange films, fairy tales, and a monstrous killer merge in this delicious yet disturbing tale.
9. Born Stillborn by Brian Evenson: Mind fuckery at its finest. A man is seeing a psychiatrist during the day, yet a different psychiatrist may also be visiting him at night. Or are they the same person? A masterwork of delirium and confusion.
10. The Tangible Universe by Jeffrey Thomas: One of the masterpieces of the current era. A perfect mix of the abject and the beautiful. This is one of those rare stories where you really don't know how you should feel after reading it. Should you go scrub yourself clean in the shower or pick up the story and read it again, this time just allowing yourself to completely let yourself fall deeply under its subversive and corrupting spell. Absolutely unique and absolutely unforgettable.
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