Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Finally, October is here. Time to break out the fake cobwebs and candy corn. Time to brace yourself once again for humanity’s greatest calendar holiday—yes, Halloween.

Ineptly carved jack-o-lantern?


Collector’s edition Cannibal Holocaust DVD?


All the pieces are in place. You are ready.

But wait, let me make a radical suggestion—creepy short stories. Yes, like the kind you read.

No, wait, hear me out.

These stories are creepy as fuck. They’re weird and unsettling. Some will even make you think. They’re worth your time, I promise.

And guess what else. They’re totally free, online.

No, this isn’t a trick—it’s a treat, dipshit.

Yes, simply scroll down and click away to descend into hitherto unknown states of fear and psychological terror blah blah blah.

1. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The oldest story of the list is also one of the scariest. You’ll be shocked to learn this nightmare-prose was first published in 1892. Often labeled as a work of early feminist-horror, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the first-person account of a woman’s confinement to a small room covered with the eponymous wallpaper. Strap in for some Victorian-era 
mental collapse and hallucinatory mayhem. 

Great for Fans of…
-Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters
-The writings of Brian Evenson

2. “The Night School” by Thomas Ligotti

Thanks to his influence on True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, Thomas Ligotti is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity. And for good reason. His writing is utterly unnerving. Derranged messianic figures, macabre cults, degenerative illnesses, and deteriorating realities are among the horrors you’re liable to find in his creepfest writing. Loose plotting and bizarre dialogue make the experience of reading his stories feel like a genuine nightmare. “The Night School” is among the most potent of that variety. Get ready for some cold sweats.

Great for Fans of…
-True Detective
-The works of David Lynch
-Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

3. Nyarlathotep by HP Lovecraft

One of the most overlooked pieces of the Lovecraftian universe, Nyarlathotep” measures in at only 1,149 words. It’s one of Lovecraft's shortest stories but, damn, does it pack a punch.

The narrative, a feverish tale of the charismatic demagogue figure Nyarlathotep leading humanity to its obliteration, seems more relevant than ever—*cough cough donaldtrump*

Seriously, take a look at the start of the story…

The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night.”

Great for fans of…
-HP Lovecraft
-The coming apocalypse

4. “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict

Okay, now things are gonna get weird—like, really fuckin’ weird. This story's title offers a vague sense of what’s coming down the pike, but the devil is truly in the details with this one, the how and why of it all. Not to mention the specifics of just how the Bug Man earned his name. This is one of those rare stories that will leave a thick, long-lasting residue of dread on you. You’ll need a hot shower after reading it.

Oh, and I should also mention that my first exposure to this story was through Richard Thomas’s stellar anthology, The Lineup. Check it out here.

Great for fans of…
Andrzej Żuławski's Possession 
-David Cronenberg’s films
-"Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

5. “Monstro” by Junot Díaz

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Junot Díaz. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a phenomenal writer, I’m just not super into his particular brand of character-driven literature. But “Monstro”—yep, I’m into viruses that turn people into shrieking humanoid fungus-trees. I’m into sci-fi monster mayhem with righteous social commentaries, yeah.

Great for fans of…
-Fresh takes on zombie shit
-Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya
-Righteous social commentaries

6. “Windeye” by Brian Evenson

There are at least two things you can expect with Brian Evanson’s writing. First, his stories are packed with subtle, creeping surrealism. Second, he will scar you, emotionally. “Windeye” is no joke on these fronts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Great for fans of…
-Subtle, atmospheric horror
-Emotional trauma
-Not feeling well

7. “Salvador” by Lucius Shepard

Nobody seems to talk about Lucius Shepard anymore, and I have no idea why. My friend, author Rachel Cassidy, turned me on to Shepard’s work a few years ago—specifically, his short story collection The Jaguar Hunter. I was blown away. Shepard’s short fiction is as creepy and weird as it is prophetic. Even today, almost thirty years after the book’s release, none of the stories feel dated.

Anyway, “Salvador” is Shepard’s dystopian-futuristic rumination on the horrors of US “intervention” in El Salvador. (In case you don’t know already, the US government dumped a lot of money and resources into essentially devastating the country and its people back in the 1980s.) “Salvador” speaks not only to the history of US military rampages in Central America, but also to current ones underway in the Middle East and Asia.

Great for fans of…
Oliver Stone's Salvador 
-Dark magic realism
-Full Metal Jacket

8. “Bloodchild” by Octavia E. Butler

Yeah, okay, this one is more sci-fi than horror—but it’s still pretty damn creepy.

Come on, alien insectoids consensually using human bodies for the incubation of their young? To me, that that’s body horror, straight up. Sure, I consider “Bloodchild” to be foremost a story about love and the limits of consent, but it does also disturb me in a deeply visceral way. I think it’ll do the same for you.

Great for fans of…
-Alien, Aliens, etc.
-Body horror
-Hard-hitting social commentary

9. “Graveyard Shift” by Stephen King

One of my all time favorites. We’ve got an amazing protagonist working a filthy graveyard shift job; an asshole-boss character; a dingy sub-basement full of mutant, flesh-hungry rats.

Come on, what more could you possibly want?

I still maintain that, with the exceptions of maybe “N.” and The Running Man, this story is Stephen King’s peak accomplishment. Do yourself a favor and revisit this short gem by literature's Master of Horror.

Great for fans of…
-Stephen King
-Brutal poetic justice

10. “No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer

It’s something like Naked Lunch meets Phantasm meets Hieronymus Bosch triptychs.


Really, it’s beyond accurate comparison to anything. It’s frenetic, weird, hallucinatory, beautiful, ugly, gore-filled, epic, and profound.

I haven’t a clue what VanderMeer’s intent was with this one, but I take this story as an metaphor for the contemporary world, how it’s overrun with human-made chaos and violence—how most of us are subject, daily, to the machinations of individuals and forces well beyond our control or comprehension. It’s truly nightmarish and completely disorienting. It’s also emotive and deeply moving.

"No Breather" is, in my opinion, a literary masterpiece. And it’s also creepy as hell.

Great for fans of…
-Naked Lunch
-Hieronymus Bosch

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