horror stories scary shadows

5 Classic Horror Stories

Classic horror stories are tales that have survived the test of time and are still appreciated by those who enjoy the thrill of being scared out of their wits. These are stories that play upon our senses to evoke fear and suspense.

A lonely castle nestled in the midst of inaccessible hills.

Mysterious disappearances in the closest village, after rumours of a strange creature seen in the twilight.

An orphaned heiress in the clutches of evil relatives; with greedy suitors also in pursuit.

A chemist who prefers to work behind closed doors and shaded windows. Is he, perhaps, practicing black magic or some other dark art?

A group of strangers marooned on an otherwise un-inhabited island.

All these are the stuff of which horror stories are made. They are ideal reading on a rainy autumn/winter evening when you are nestled in your cozy armchair. With a fleecy throw around your knees and a huge mug of hot chocolate in your hand, these gothic tales can be quite an interesting pastime.

Just as you are getting comfortable, a gust of wind makes a door creak eerily. Branches tapping against the window pane sound like someone knocking; are they just branches, maybe there is someone.

horror stories dracula's castle

These spooky stories can get to you after some time, especially if you are alone. Just make sure you have friends or family within shouting distance. You don’t want a sleepless night to follow, do you?

Classic horror stories that have stood the test of time

If you are brave enough to try some spine-chilling fiction, try some of these classics:

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is perhaps the famous horror story in the English language. It is the tale of a blood sucking vampire who lives in the shape of a European aristocrat by day. Count Dracula lives in a remote castle in Transylvania. He moves to England, taking crypts filled with Transylvanian earth and other vampire necessities with him. What follows is a series of bizarre events as people in Britain try to hunt him down.

horror stories black bat

 

This tale of Dracula written in the early 19th century set the standard for horror stories forevermore. The phenomena of blood sucking creatures, their ability to change shape into other creatures, the strengthening of their powers by night and their weakening when exposed to daylight or to religious relics; all these factoids that have become established “vampire facts” came from Bram Stoker’s fertile imagination.

Dracula continues to inspire authors and readers in the 21st century. Books and movies with a vampire theme are still quite popular.

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Surprising isn’t it that an eighteen year old girl in the early 19th century wrote a horror story that remains a classic to this day ? It might have helped that her father       was anovelist and she married the poet P.B. Shelley, but the story was entirely a figment of her own imagination.

Most people ( who have not read the book ) think that the monster who figures in the story is called Frankenstein. You can correct them (even without reading the book); Victor Frankenstein is the name of the monster’s creator.

horror stories frankenstein

This story is part horror and part science fiction. The monster is really a scientific experiment that goes a little haywire. Victor Frankenstein manages to create a .being that he finds so horrifying that he runs away. This leaves the creature to its own devices.

The monster tries to befriend human beings who find him frightening and repulsive. The misunderstood creature then tries to wreak vengeance on his creator .

 

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

In the 19th century, mental illness was still not well understood. Fears and misconceptions about psychiatric illness led to its confusion with the supernatural.

horror stories house of usher cover

In the story of the Usher family, a brother and sister who are the last of their bloodline suffer strange maladies (a modern psychologist could easily put them under the correct terminology). The story is told by the brother’s friend who quite predictably manages to fall in love with Miss Usher.

What follows is a series of unexplained phenomena. I won’t spoil the story for you by narrating them. Ultimately brother and sister die a dramatic death. What is perhaps even more dramatic is that there family home collapses around them and perishes too.

house of usher quote

The author, Poe, was a sufferer of mental disorders too. This story and several others are a product of very intelligent but afflicted brain. He is also given the credit for the first murder/detective story : The Murders at the Rue Morgue.

 

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Perhaos the earliest horror story (written in 1794  ) now survives mainly as a reference in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland is shown constantly reading this book and imagining horrors in a quiet abbey where she is a guest.

Imagine my excitement when I found a copy of this book. It is the story of young Emily, who on losing her parents, finds herself at the mercy of her unkind aunt.

udolpho

Her aunt marries an evil Count who imprisons Emily in his mysterious castle called Udolpho. Secret passages, cobwebby rooms and plot twists and turns make the novel a rollicking ride of suspense.

 

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Although not my favourite, this is perhaps the most famous story by Agatha Christie. It has been dramatized and adapted on stage, radio, T. V. and film. It has been translated into innumerable languages.

Maybe I was too young when I first read it, but it sent shivers down my spine. Ten people, each having committed a murder and gotten away with it in their past, are stranded on a deserted island. One by one, they mysteriously start to die without a trace of any outsider.

and then there were none.jpg

The end is very neatly explained by Christie who is renowned for unambiguous and ingenous solutions to her mysteries. Written in the early 20th century, it has never gone out of print since.

 

These books, although dismissed as sensational literature in their day, have become classics in their genre. As gripping today as when they were first written, they remain prominent among the innumerable thrillers and horror stories that abound today.

What are your favourite classic horror stories, mystery novels or thrillers? Do let me know in the Comments section below so that I can check them out.

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You might also enjoy :

Halloween and Horror stories

Book Review : A Daughter’s A Daughter, by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

 

 

9 thoughts on “5 Classic Horror Stories

  1. Enjoyed reading your collection and selection of classic horror stories. I am not a fan of the genre per se, but boos which are not labeled as horror, I can and do read. Agatha Christie is one of my faves, and I did try to read Twilight, though not very successfully. Had to skip through the last 2 books of the series ( read it just because I had started watching the movies). “Harry Potter” was mildly scary and I did love them all.

  2. I just saw on the news last night that the University of Toronto has an exhibit on now on the history of horror stories. One of the curators comments on Frankenstein was that it is a cautionary tale on the risks of moving too quickly with technology and he mentioned the current focus on AI as a potential parallel story.

    1. That piece of news is so interesting.
      I have always felt that technology moved too fast for us to appropriately assimilate it into our lives.

      Thank you so much for sharing this.

  3. Poe is my all time favorite author and Tim Burton is my superhero in cinematography. I’m that kind of freak 🙂 Stoker is a deserved classic, although i have been in love with the Interview with the Vampire for as long as I remember myself and Anne Rice is my delight. I tried reading and watching Twighlight, but it’s just not my thing, neither books not movies. Agatha Christie is a Master Detective and Madame Thriller. Although I have a sweet spot for Chesterton 🙂 thanks for your list, made me wanna go dig into old books again!

    1. I agree
      The Twilight series was very disappointing. I could not e enjoyed get through the first book.
      Although I am not a fan of horror stories myself I love detective fiction.
      English country house mysteries are my favourite genre with Agatha Christie at the top of course.

  4. I love reading as well, and though I enjoyed most of the novels you listed, especially Agatha Christie (I actually don’t quite like her writing style, but I love the suspense in her novels), I think western horror stories can’t quite beat Asian horror stories. There is something much more terrifying about a long black haired lady in white standing still in the darkness than any monsters conjured in imagination. I used to be scared out of my wits by True Singapore Ghost Stories book series written by Russell Lee when I was young, perhaps because the stories were so close to home.

    1. I am so glad to meet another book lover.
      Although I am Asian too I have never come across any Asian horror stories.
      I will look for them now.

    1. I know.
      And it’s not just the well researched and neatly solved detective stories but her observations of human nature and her insight into psychology that also make her books so appealing.

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