Top 5 Scary Short Story Collections for Halloween

24th Oct 2012

Halloween Pumpkins
Halloween is here again! So here's our top five scary short story collections, featuring psychological tales of terror from iconic authors, alongside dark doings by ghosts, vampires and various other nefarious villains.


So if you’re not slapping on the fake blood and facepaint, curl up with one of these spine-tingling scary short story collections and spook yourself silly. But double-lock those doors beforehand. And don’t blame us if you end up cowering under the covers while brandishing a breadknife…

Behind a Mask by Louisa Alcott

Though Little Women is considered a classic (with both Patti Smith and Simone de Beauvoir citing Jo March as an influence), much of Alcott’s other writing has fallen into obscurity. And that includes the tense, gruesome thrillers she wrote for a weekly newspaper years before penning the book that would later make her world famous.

Originally published anonymously or under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard, the four stories compiled in this collection showcase a deliciously dark side to Louisa Alcott. The psychological dramas detailed within revolve around family secrets, fury and revenge, maintaining Alcott’s usual feminist undertones and strong female characters while at the same time sending shivers down your spine. A perfect page-turner for All Hallow’s Eve.

There Once was a Woman who Tried to Kill her Neighbour’s Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

A slim but powerful volume by a Russian national treasure, this rich, macabre collection of eleven short stories features prophecies, poltergeists, underworlds, omens, insanity and amnesia. A tribute to Russian folklore and oral storytelling traditions, the anthology skews familiar fairytale tropes with surrealism, magic and menace, depicting strange, sinister characters in dark, disorientating underworlds. Stand-out stories Hygiene, The New Robinson Crusoes and The Black Coat have given me numerous nightmares, yet remain must-reads.

Miss Marple & Mystery: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Presented for the first time in chronological order, this collection features all the exploits and adventures of St. Mary Mead‘s beloved amateur sleuth, from her first appearance in The Murder at the Vicarage throughout her forty-year crime-fighting career to her final case in Sleeping Murder.

Perfectly plotted and paced by the crime fiction queen, mystery and suspense abound in this omnibus of miniature masterpieces, which includes an additional assortment of other tense tales sure to keep you turning those pages.

While you won't find blood and gore in these taut foreboding tales, you can instead expect rich and atmospheric accounts of unnamed and unexplained terrors. Wormwood by Poppy Z. Brite

Set across a range of exotic and ominous locations, from the back alleys of Calcutta to the swamps of New Orleans via mausoleums, carnivals and deserted highways, this collection spans the career of the cult author responsible for contemporary gothic horrors like Lost Souls, Drawing Blood and Exquisite Corpse.

While I’ve gushed on many an occasion about my obsession with Zillah and his accomplices, Wormwood is just as decadent, dark and disturbing, but in an altogether different way. Classic horror with a distinctive PZB twist, it’d be a compelling introduction to Brite for those yet to be bitten, and a delicious addition to any fanatic’s existing collection.

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Best known for The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton isn’t necessarily the first author you’d think of when searching out your next anthology of supernatural scares. But even so, this collection of eleven spooky stories is elegant and delicate, evoking mystery, dread and menace with typical Wharton skill.

While you won’t find blood and gore in these taut foreboding tales, you can instead expect rich and atmospheric accounts of unnamed and unexplained terrors. Giving a fascinating insight into early twentieth century New England, these stories are elliptical and enigmatic, but will still give you the chills.

What blood-curdlingly scary short story collections have we missed from this list? What reads would you recommend?

(Image via Pedro Ferrer )