There is no real order here. Whenever someone asks me, “What’s your favorite horror story?” it’s one of these ten.
“The Ash Tree” by M. R. James
Horror, like comedy, ages rapidly–what was scary not long ago is silly now.
This oldie about a witch’s curse is still creepy.
“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I read this as an adult, ready to appreciate it as a nice little quaint ‘spooky’ story. It’s actually a deft analysis of innocence plunged into a horror he could not have suspected when he saw his nice neighbors walking the streets of town.
“In the Hills, the Cities” by Clive Barker
Many of Barker’s ‘transgressive’ stories are about various forms of bodily mutilation and bent sexuality. He feints in this direction with this story of two gay men on vacation, then takes ‘body horror’ in a startling direction. The concept of the cities is cool enough, but he’s able to describe it so you actually FEEL what it must be like to be part of one of these horrible creations.
“The Distributor” by Richard Matheson
A man comes to a peaceful neighborhood, and the neighborhood changes.
I have to go with F. Paul Wilson, who said he loved many stories as a young writer, but this one made him think he could never write something this good. It’s a great introduction to Matheson, because it shows how his careful writing pays off by getting some crazy ideas into your head.
“The Rats in the Walls” by H.P. Lovecraft
I came to Lovecraft late, long after my teen horror-reading years. It had a lot to live up to; it did. Lovecraft gets a touch of awe into a story of what’s underneath an ancestral home.
“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner, because he was awesome
“The Dead Line” by Dennis Etchison, because it has the single most horrifying first line I’ve ever read
“The Events at Poroth Farm” by T.E.D. Klein
Part 2, Saturday