Short Horror Stories: Scary, Gothic Fiction Online
This page compiles short gothic horror stories. They aren't very gory or graphic. Most of the stories here are more about mood and atmosphere, or creating a foreboding doom.
If you're looking for slasher stories or ones with vivid descriptions of brutality, these aren't for you. I hope you find something scary here.
Links are provided for easy reading.
1. "A Vine on a House"
2. "Luella Miller"
4. "The Cask of Amontillado"
5. "Click-clack the Rattlebag"
6. "The Terrible Old Man"
7. "Time and Again"
8. "The Summer People"
9. "The Masque of the Red Death"
10. "The Parricide Punished"
11. "The Damned Thing"
12. "The Outsider"
13. "Royal Jelly"
14. "Strawberry Spring"
15. "The Bus"
16. "Cool Air"
17. "Where There's a Will"
1. "A Vine on a House" | Ambrose Bierce
An old house in Missouri has been unoccupied for years and will probably stay that way—it has an evil reputation. It's decayed and overrun by a large vine. The Hardings lived there along with the wife's sister. In 1884 the husband said his wife had gone to visit her mother.
2. "Luella Miller" | Mary Wilkins Freeman
Luella Miller has been dead for years and her house is still empty. The only person in town who knew her relates her story. She married Erastus; he deteriorated and died soon after. As a teacher she didn't do much work. One of her students, Lottie, did most of the teaching for her. Lottie slowly faded and died.
3. "Paranoia" | Shirley Jackson
Mr. Beresford is headed home after a day's work. He's pleased with himself for remembering his wife's birthday. He has candy for her and plans to take her out for supper. While trying to hail a cab, a man in a light hat unsettles him. Changing his mind, he tries to board a bus, but the man in the light hat shows up again.
He had reached out his hand to take the rail inside the bus door when he was roughly elbowed aside and the ugly customer in the light hat shoved on ahead of him.— Shirley Jackson
4. "The Cask of Amontillado" | Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator relates how he carried out his vow of revenge against Fortunato. He tells Fortunato he's going to ask a rival wine connoisseur for his opinion on a new purchase. Fortunato won't hear of it and insists on going immediately to the narrator's vaults.
5. "Click-clack the Rattlebag" | Neil Gaiman
A child asks his sister's boyfriend to tell him a story before going to bed. It's a very big house and he's a bit scared. He says the best stories are about Click-clack the Rattlebag. The boyfriend has never heard of these stories. The child tells him about them.
6. "The Terrible Old Man" | H. P. Lovecraft
Angelo, Joe, and Manuel are hoodlums from out of town. They've heard of a rich and feeble old man in Kingsport. The locals know to keep their distance. The three men plan on visiting him and persuading him to give up his hidden fortune.
...and they saw in the Terrible Old Man merely a tottering, almost helpless grey-beard, who could not walk without the aid of his knotted cane, and whose thin, weak hands shook pitifully.— H. P. Lovecraft
7. "Time and Again" | Breece D'J Pancake
The narrator lives alone—his wife died and his son ran off. He drives a snow plow on the mountain road near his farm. He wants to rest and watch his hogs get old and die. He gets called out to plow the road. He picks up a hitchhiker.
8. "The Summer People" | Shirley Jackson
The Allisons love their summer cottage. They've stayed there every summer for seventeen years. It has no modern conveniences. They always leave right after Labor Day. This year they decide to stay another month. When Mrs. Allison tells the grocer, he says no one has ever stayed past Labor Day.
Read "The Summer People" (Ctrl + F the title)
9. "The Masque of the Red Death" | Edgar Allan Poe
The "Red Death" has killed half the population. Prince Prospero summons a thousand of his friends to join him in the safety of an abbey. It's full of provisions and entertainments. The doors are sealed. They plan on waiting out the scourge. The Prince throws a magnificent masked ball.
No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution.— Edgar Allan Poe
10. "The Parricide Punished" | Anonymous
Mr. de Vildac has gotten married. After the festivities, the narrator retires to a chamber in the owner's castle. He's awakened by the noise of chains dragging the floor and footsteps approaching his door. An old man with a white beard enters his room.
11. "The Damned Thing" | Ambrose Bierce
A group of men, including a coroner, are seated around a table with a dead man on it. They're conducting an inquest into his death. They're joined by a young man from the city. He's a reporter who has investigated the man's death and was with him when he died. He's questioned about the day's events.
12. "Royal Jelly" | Roald Dahl
Mabel Taylor is worried to death over her baby. After six weeks the baby weighs more than two pounds less than when it was born. It won't feed. The doctor's say not to worry about it. Albert Taylor, who's obsessed with bees, agrees at first. After reading about the incredible nourishing power of royal jelly, he has an idea.
Read "Royal Jelly" (PDF pg 51)
In fact, everything had gone pretty well for Albert until this strange little baby girl came along and started frightening them out of their wits by refusing to eat properly and losing weight every day.— Roald Dahl
13. "The Outsider" | H. P. Lovecraft
The narrator can only remember the old and horrible castle he's always lived in. He's only seen light from candles and doesn't remember interacting with any people. He's experienced the outside world through old books. His longing to escape his solitude builds. He decides to climb the dilapidated stairs and then climb the tower.
14. "Strawberry Spring" | Stephen King
The morning paper reminds the narrator of eight years ago. At college a young woman was killed by someone who came to be called Springheel Jack. Her boyfriend was arrested for the crime. While he was in custody another body was found.
15. "The Bus" | Shirley Jackson
Miss Harper is headed home on a wet, nasty night. She's upset about having to ride a dirty little bus. She plans on writing a letter of complaint to the bus company. Settling into her seat, she hopes to get some rest on the bus ride home. Her thoughts are on a hot bath and a cup of tea.
Don’t panic, Miss Harper told herself, almost whispering, don’t panic; it’s all right, it’s all right, you’ll see that it’s all right, don’t be frightened.— Shirley Jackson
16. "Cool Air" | H. P. Lovecraft
The narrator explains why he's afraid of cool air. He lived in a New York boardinghouse. Above him lived Dr. Muñoz, a recluse. One day while writing, the narrator had a heart attack. He struggled to make it to the doctor's door. When it opened, he was hit by a rush of cool air.
17. "Where There's a Will" | Richard Matheson & Richard Christian Matheson
A man wakes up—it's dark, cold and silent. Trying to sit up, he hits his head. He feels around, finding a mattress under him and padded walls above and on the sides. He can feel that he's fully dressed. He reaches into his pocket and finds a lighter. The flame catches, and he's able to check out his surroundings.
Read "Where There's a Will" (scroll down)