50 Days of Halloween: 5 public domain short stories sure to creep you out

I am a sucker for short stories, especially of the macabre variety. Every year, I dig through lists and libraries of horror tales to quench my literary thirst. Every year, I find a few that I hadn’t read up to that point and fall in love with them. It never fails.

The small collection featured today include all sorts of nefarious activities and mental breakdowns. You will find links to each short story below, as well. Happy reading!

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The House on the Borderlands, by William Hope Hodgson

Written in 1908, this is the story of a decrepit home in the Irish countryside that seemingly stutters between our dimension and the next. What’s in the other dimension, you ask? “Swine-things”, for one – and they are just as terrifying as they sound. Pig-like humanoids that creep out from under the home. One of the weirdest, creepiest haunted house stories you will ever read.

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

What makes this story so unsettling is the fact that it is so deeply rooted in social commentary and actual cases of horrendous treatment in health institutions across the country during the 19th century. Gilman weaves a series of journal entries from the perspective of a woman who is “suffering from a temporary nervous depression”, which was a catch-all ‘diagnosis’ for everything from pre-menstrual syndrome to being outspoken. The story is considered one of the most important works of literature in American history, particularly the feminist movement.

The Story of William Wilson, by Edgar Allan Poe

Of course Poe makes the list. The real challenge was not just rattling off five of Poe’s best short stories. This one, though, takes the cake for the sake of this list. A man meets his own doppelganger. If you are familiar with the superstitions surrounding doppelgangers, you know that meeting your own is a sure sign of bad things to come. Poe was so proud of this story that he sent it to Washington Irving! Stephen King acknowledged that this short inspired his novelĀ The Outsider.

The Damned Thing, by Ambrose Bierce

The only thing more mysterious and weird than Bierce’s real-life disappearance is his collection of short stories. This one is about a group of men who have gathered in a cabin to figure out what exactly happened to a man who is nothing more than a beaten up corpse at this point. What exactly killed the man? Perhaps it was… the damned thing.

The Body Snatcher, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The man most famous for his novel about a well-mannered doctor and his psychotic alter ego delivers a grimy short story based on true events. Medical students will do just about anything to obtain a body for their classes in this tale, loosely based on the Burke and Hare murders (Google this term immediately if you don’t know what I’m referring to!). Selling corpses to doctors for the sake of dissection is about as macabre as it gets, don’t you think?

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