When we think of scary stories, we turn to authors like Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft. A well-balanced list might include Shirley Jackson or Mary Shelley – as it should. They aren’t the only ladies to write a story so chilling that it sends shivers up your spine, however.
The list of scary stories that follows is a mix of both classic and contemporary short fiction written by women. They are each haunting in its own way. I discovered them in recent weeks, while looking for something short to read before I went to sleep at night. They haven’t brought on nightmares, but I have to admit that I’ve felt the need to tuck myself in a little tighter.
“Patient Zero” by Tananarive Due
This story is told through journal entries written by a little boy in the hospital for reasons he cannot quite understand. The vibe is similar to that of The Girl With All the Gifts, and I can’t help but wonder if Due’s story served as some vague inspiration for that book. Not in a “I’m going to steal your idea” way, but in a “This is so cool! What if…?” way. Reading it now, with talk of Ebola everywhere, is particularly chilling.
“The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton
Maybe it’s wrong of me, but when I read this story, I kept imagining it as taking place at Downton Abbey. They’ve had their share of darkness there, after all. It takes place in the English countryside, and an aristocratic hunting party. The host of the party’s best friend and neighbor has gone missing, and he finds himself searching for him in the night. What’s creepier than the English countryside at night?
“That Baby” by Lindsay Hunter
I’m not a mother. Most days, I think I’d like to be, but then I read stories like this one and “The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury, and I wonder if that’s the path to me. This is a story about a baby that doesn’t quite fit the cute, cuddly mold. He’s…creepy. There’s not much more to say than that.
“The Vacant Lot” by Mary Wilkins Freeman
No list of scary stories would be complete without at least one story about an old, creepy house. In this case, the story is about the house and the creepy vacant lot next door. I am not sure I would have kept my family living in that house as long as they did. I do know that I would have used their experiences as an excuse to never do the laundry again.
“The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link
A creepy house with an unusual number of chimneys, a locked attic, twin girls that are more than a little obsessed with death, and a babysitter that may or may not be dead. That’s what you get in “The Specialists Hat” by Kelly Link. It’s the perfect scary story, complete with ambiguous ending. Did I mention the creepy rhymes?
When you’re dead, the grass is greener
Over your grave. The wind is keener.
Your eyes sink in, your flesh decays. You
Grow accustomed to slowness; expect delays.
Know of any stories that would make good additions to the list? ‘Tis the season, after all.