Looking for some atmospheric horror stories to enjoy this Halloween? Here’s a few I think fit the bill. Several of these can be found for free online.
1. “Feet Foremost” by L.P. Hartley (1948) – A group assembles at newly-renovated Low Threshold Hall for a housewarming. There they encounter the malicious ghost of an ill-treated former mistress. Legend says she arrives at the front doors looking like a normal, flesh and blood woman and asks to be carried inside across the threshold. If someone agrees, she possesses and eventually kills them. Once dead, she must leave the hall inside the body, carried out feet first. She is a particularly malevolent entity who shows no mercy towards her victims in this great haunted house story. http://donaldcorrell.com/hartley/ffeet.html?vm=r
2. “The Sweeper” by A.M. Burrage (1931) – A young lady takes a job working as an attendant to a rich, older woman. The elderly woman is viewed by most as difficult but shows a propensity to give generously to beggars. After some time, the younger lady befriends her boss. The older woman grows nervous when the season changes to fall, telling her she believes she will die during the fall season, either that year or one soon after. She’s more disturbed when she hears someone sweeping the leaves on a path near her house. It’s peculiar because of the lateness of the hour and the fact that none of the servants admit to doing it. When the attendant goes to see who is sweeping the path the next evening, she encounters a gaunt, semi-transparent man with a malicious stare.
3. “Apples” by Ramsey Campbell (1984) – A group of kids become the target of something unliving around Halloween after they cause a cantankerous old man to have a heart attack. The old man was upset the kids were stealing apples from his trees.
4. “The Ash Tree” by M.R. James (1904) – The curse of a woman, executed as witch years before, kills any lord of the manor of the man she blamed for it. Something nasty seems to be coming from a nearby tree to exact her vengeance from beyond the grave.
5. “Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard (1934/ published 1938) – Two men traveling through the South from New England spend the night in a moldering old plantation manor. That night they hear someone whistling upstairs. One of the men goes toinvestigate only to return with a mortal head wound and a hatchet in his hand. This sends the other racing from the house where he is met by a police officer. He tells him the story, and they return to the house to investigate. The history of the house is a dark one, tainted by voodoo. This is an eerie story with some effectively creepy scenes.
6. “The Screaming Skull” by F. Marion Crawford (1911) – A retired sea captain is haunted by the vengeful skull of a woman, whose murder he may have inadvertently had a hand in. Afterwards, the husband who committed the murder died under mysterious circumstances. The skull screams when it is not respected and always returns by rolling back into the house if thrown away.
7. “The Hound” by H.P. Lovecraft (1924) – A pair of grave robbers embark on a mission to exhume the corpse of a legendary grave robber from years past. Upon doing so, they find a strange amulet around the neck of his remarkably preserved body. They take it and return home to add to their secret ‘museum’ of grave stolen items. Unfortunately for them, a relentless creature begins to pursue them. – http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/library/stacks/literature/lovecraft/stories/hound.htm?vm=r
8. “All Souls’” Edith Wharton (1937) – Sara Clayburn encounters a woman she doesn’t recognize walking towards her house one cold October evening. When she asks the woman what she wants, the lady says, “Only to see one of the girls.” Shortly afterwards, Sara injures her ankle in a fall and is confined to her bed. The next morning none of her servants attend her. She is forced to walk on her damaged ankle through the house in search of assistance, but finds the place deserted. Time drags on with no one around and no clue to their whereabouts. A year later she again encounters the strange woman and begins to piece together the meaning of the strange days of solitude endured in the house.
9. “Up Under the Roof” by Manly Wade Wellman (1938) – A boy hears something dragging itself about in the area above his bedroom. It sounds like something large and amoeboid. He begins to suspect it’s aware of him and has evil intentions. No one else hears it.
10. “The Yellow Sign” Robert W. Chambers (1895) – This wonderfully creepy tale revolves around a painter who is falling in love with his young model Tessie. He becomes distracted by an odd watchman who patrols the churchyard near his house. When the watchman looks up and meets the artist’s gaze, the artist is repelled, saying he reminds him of a “coffin worm”. When he returns to his painting, he finds he has somehow ruined the image of Tessie. In the painting, her arm has taken on an unhealthy look which spreads the more he tries to fix it. From then on things become much worse for the couple. http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/YellSign.shtml?vm=r
The art featured above is by Steve Gilberts. His work is awesome. Check out more at his site. http://stevengilberts.com/