By kel Joseph
There is something nice about being scared: telling ghost stories around a bonfire or reading a scary novel with a torch. Terrifying films, TV shows, books and even video games continue to permeate our culture.
When Gothic fiction first emerged in the late eighteenth century (with Horace Walpole's Otranto Castle), the movement was defined as a kind of pleasant terror. The elements of Gothic fiction expanded in the centuries following Walpole's classic novel and the appearance of the fairy tale in particular gave rise to countless chilling tales.
Below are ten (no spoilers!) Terrifying tales to read. To make this list, the story must be less than sixty pages long and exemplify the pleasant terror associated with the Gothic genre. Everyone can and should be read in one sitting.
10) "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (1820)
When Ichabod Crane, a strange capitalist, threatens the idyllic and peaceful existence of Sleepy Hollow, the Gothic emerges.
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" begins with a love triangle between the superstitious Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones. As the two men compete for Katrina's love, the risks increase and the supernatural elements become increasingly evident.
Since the story was published in the 1820s, Headless Horseman has taken an almost mythological stance in American culture, and Irving's classic story uses ambiguity and ingenuity to come to an effective conclusion.
Although "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" does not have the melancholic atmosphere of the following stories, its cultural relevance is still incomparable.
9) "Mars is heaven" by Ray Bradbury (1948)
history of Mars
This supernatural science fiction story follows the first flight to Mars. The crew is shocked to find a suburban town for families full of deceased members of their friends and family. At first glance, the crew believe they have discovered Paradise and hurry to embrace the white fences of this nostalgic and seemingly perfect world.
It's easy to get carried away by romantic writing, but Bradbury's excellent prose and expert rhythm indicate that something much darker is hidden under the facade. This terrifying story has an unforgettable resolution and the story is surprisingly well.
8) "Don't look now" by Daphne du Maurier (1971)
don't look at history
At the beginning of this intriguing story (and the longest on this list), a couple is on vacation in Venice. It is clear that her trip is carried out under the doctor's orders to calm the afflicted Laura, who recently lost her daughter to meningitis. The tension is almost immediate.
During the opening scene in a restaurant, the psychic twins tell Laura that they can see the deceased daughter sitting at a nearby table. Du Maurier is able to weave numerous points of the plot in such a way that the reader constantly wonders if a real external or internal threat is the real culprit.
Likewise, the spiral and twisted canals of Venice add restlessness and the landscape becomes a character in itself. Fans of the classic du Maurier Rebecca novel will find much to love here. Both stories show the author at his best.
7) "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1835)
Hawthorne offers a fascinating look at Puritan New England in "Young Goodman Brown". In this dark story, Goodman Brown sneaks into the woods at night, where he observes and participates in ceremonial witchcraft. There is a dreamy and surreal quality in the work, which increases the intrigue.
Like many of the stories on this list, the actual events are confusing and the reader must speculate whether they have occurred or not. The whole story takes place over a short period of time, right up to the final paragraph, which describes the rest of Goodman Brown's life. The ending is particularly bleak, providing the consequences of the loss of faith and God's favor in a religiously binding society.
6) "The Monkey's Leg" by W. W. Jacobs (1902)
history of the monkey paw
Three magical desires: what can go wrong? We have all seen this trope play repeatedly in literature and popular culture. But the creepy and enduring story of W. W. Jacobs puts the reader on the brink of the forefront and the feeling of terror rarely disappears. When the Bianca family takes the leg of a cursed monkey, they can't help trying it.
What begins as an innocent and skeptical desire of two hundred pounds turns into something macabre and irreversible. The story is very suggestive and takes place with an almost inevitable tension. "The Monkey's Paw" is a classic horror story full of a sense of loss and a sinister presentiment. This comes highly recommended.
5) "The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson (1950)
fascinating home story
Shirley Jackson is a supernatural teacher. "The Lovely House" (sometimes anthologized as "A Visit") is easily the thinnest story on this list and may not even be considered supernatural until a second reading.
On the surface, the protagonist, Margaret, spends her summer holidays in a villa with her friend, Carla Montague. The story has a disconcerting tone, especially when Margaret's mother is around; the mother constantly works on the numerous tapestries that line the corridors of the villa and seems particularly cold and distant.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that there is something far more complicated than transcending ordinary events, suggesting persistent entrapment within the confines of the dwelling. Fans of "The Lovely House" should also try Jackson's effective Gothic novel, The Haunting of Hill House (1959).
4) "Prey" by Richard Matheson (1969)
history of prey
What Shirley Jackson shows through finesse, Richard Matheson proves it through absolute terror. At the beginning of this story, the protagonist, Amelia, brings home a Zuni fetish doll as a gift for her boyfriend. "Prey" is an unstoppable story in which the heroine is molested by a possessed doll named He Who Kills.
Unlike the ghosts of the previous stories, Matheson takes a tangible object, brings it to life and unleashes terror on the young and trapped Amelia. "Dam" was adopted for the final segment of the 1975 television movie, Trilogy of Terror. While the film sometimes seems dated (containing an inevitable atmosphere of the 70s), the story remains timeless.
3) "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood (1907)
In this subtle story, two travelers travel the Danube by canoe. They get tired and dock on an island to rest for a day or two. Blackwood immediately creates a sense of unease by embodying nature.
The willows surrounding the island seem to live and breathe, and Blackwood's prose indicates that something sinister is working. While travelers camp, they are tormented by strange and even stranger noises, willows seem to move on their own.
The story begins when the two characters begin to distrust each other and the tension continually increases. Blackwood also introduces science fiction elements when travelers speculate on the nature of the supernatural. "The Willows" has it all, and it's still a dark and layered plot.
2) "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
Here is a story that shows that the ghosts of the mind are often more terrifying than any supernatural manifestation. Like numerous Poe stories, Gilman uses an unreliable narrator to generate tension.
In this creepy story, the narrator suffers from hysteria after the birth of her son (a modern postpartum depression). As previously believed, she is forced to stay in bed to cure her depression, and her isolated time only increases her sense of paranoia.
The following is a frightening descent into madness, while the protagonist notices the yellow wallpaper that covers the walls of his room. The final image is extremely disturbing and persists in the imagination. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is also known for its role as the first feminist work, which criticizes the harsh attitudes of the nineteenth century towards women's mental health.
1) "The Fall of the Usher House" by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)
When "The Fall of Usher's House" was first published in 1839, Poe showed that Gothic fiction could thrive on a very short fiction. Unlike the long and long Gothic novels that preceded Poe, "The Fall of Usher's House" achieves the same melancholic atmosphere and effective resolution in just fifteen pages.
The story begins when the narrator approaches his friend, Roderick's state of decomposition. He learns that Roderick and his twin sister suffer from double illnesses and endless melancholy.
When Roderick's sister Madeline dies, the story takes a dark and unexpected turn, culminating in an incredibly tense climax. "The Fall of the Usher House" is simply a fictional masterpiece and a must-read for anyone looking for a terrifying tale.
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