5 Short Horror Stories to Read Before Halloween

'Tis the season to be spooky; may the movies be terrifying and the novels unsettling. In addition to that, may all the scary short stories come out of the woodwork, too. 

  1. 1. "Out of Skin", Emily Carroll

    More akin to a comic than a traditional short story, one of the most striking features in "Out of Skin" is Carroll's artwork (cartoony enough to not be graphic, but hardly cute either). The protagonist is an old woman who, after a rainstorm, discovers the corpses of several girls in her yard. The girls soon consume her life, not giving her any rest until they're able to get revenge on the man who killed them. While "His Face All Red" might be Carroll's better-known work, I chose "Out of Skin" for its unique, striking imagery and (pardon the pun) its more fleshed-out story. 

  2. 2. "Snow, Glass, Apples", Neil Gaiman

    As well as being a distinguished novelist, Gaiman has also written some awesome short stories (I was torn between "Snow, Glass, Apples" and "A Study in Emerald" for this spot). "Snow, Glass, Apples" is a gruesome retelling of Snow White from the evil queen's perspective. In this one, she's a desperate ruler trying to protect her kingdom from her cold, ruthless, vampiric stepdaughter. It was also translated into a graphic novel, however the graphic novel contains much more explicit portrayals of sensitive material. 

  3. 3. "Room For One More", Alvin Schwartz 

    A bit lighter, but also not really, you might remember this one from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. As a kid I overlooked it, but as an adult it absolutely freaks me out. A man is told by a hearse driver that he has "room for one more", then later gets told the same thing by a group of people in an elevator. Thank God he refuses the offer. I'm almost certain this story is why I'm afraid of falling elevators, no matter how rare they might be. 

  4. 4. "Verse Chorus Verse", Leigh Bardugo

    Another author known better for their novels, Bardugo's short story was published in the anthology Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke (if you read one horror anthology by contemporary authors in your life, I recommend it be this one). In "Verse Chorus Verse", a teenaged pop starlet is sent to rehab while her mother ruminates over the past, only the hospital is home to a monster that "feeds" on patients. Jaycee comes back changed, to say the least. 

  5. 5. "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", Harlan Ellison

    I saved the bleakest for last. It's also my favorite on this list, which probably says something horrible about me. Part sci-fi, part straight horror, Ellison's story illustrates a miserable future in which a rogue AI has eliminated most life on earth, save for the few protagonists, who he has tortured and experimented on. It's very icky, but beyond being icky, the scariness lay in the antagonist's utter inhumanity and the protagonists' feebleness.  

This is barely a pinch of all that is out there, but if I hadn't set a limit of five, this list could've easily gone on forever. Happy October, spooky people!