I am not, as a rule, a big fan of holidays—especially the ones with stuff. The thought of having to get things down from the attic and out of boxes and put them all around my house and then put them back in the boxes and take them back up to the attic in short order does not excite me, to say the least. It’s enough of a daily challenge to get out and put away the things I actually need. The thought of making more work for myself, for reasons that don’t even come close to aesthetic, doesn’t really appeal.
On the other hand, I have no objection if other people want to get out their holiday stuff. Which is why I kind of like Halloween—it’s good-natured and usually a bit goofy, and doesn’t take itself seriously as, say, Christmas (which has every right to take itself seriously, don’t get me wrong). And Halloween has a great tradition of literature—it’s a holiday that lends itself to storytelling in a way that the others just don’t. Christmas and Easter have the one big story apiece, with everything else paling in their wakes; Thanksgiving, New Year’s, the Fourth of July have limited narratives as well. And who—even the most genre-deficient among us—doesn’t love a good ghost story?
I realize I’ve been leaning a bit heavily on Flavorwire in my very sparse posting mode lately. But they’re pretty good pickers, and I’ve been short on time to do much picking of my own. So without much in the way of regrets I offer you Flavorwire’s collection of 50 of the Scariest Short Stories of All Time. They range from good old classic tales like Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which creeped me out when I read it in grade school, to Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” which creeped me out in high school (Flavorwire’s link is no good—try this one), to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which creeped me out in my 20s, to Karen Russell’s “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” which creeped me out when I read it last year, to Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter,” which I read last night and almost wish I hadn’t.
That’s a whole lot of creepiness to last you through Halloween night itself when you’re sitting home, waiting for little kids dressed as zombies and Batmen and Minions, and trying to distract yourself from eating all those individually wrapped chocolate bars because you’re never going to give them all away anyway. Might as well immerse yourself in some good scary fare, so that when the doorbell finally does ring you jump about a foot and answer the door a little sweaty and out of breath, and none of the parents in the neighborhood let their kids come to your house next year, which means more individually wrapped chocolate bars for you. Win-win.
In the meantime, read these babies with the lights on.