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Short Stories With a Twist Ending

Howard is an avid short story reader who likes to help others find and understand stories.

It’s hard to beat a twist ending for pure entertainment value.

Even though a twist ending is supposed to give the reader a jolt, the best ones seem inevitable and seamless. Not all the twists in these stories are sudden, but they will all be surprising in some way.

The stories by Jeffrey Archer are available in his first volume of Collected Short Stories, which has many other stories with twist endings and is a fun read.

Here are some great short stories with surprise endings. The endings aren't revealed here, only the set-ups.


1. "The Story of an Hour" | Kate Chopin

A woman gets the news that her husband has been killed in a railroad accident. Over the next hour, she experiences a range of emotions.

Read "The Story of an Hour"

2. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" | Ambrose Bierce

A Confederate sympathizer is condemned to hang from Owl Creek Bridge during the American civil war.

Read "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

3. "A Rose for Emily" | William Faulkner

Miss Emily Grierson dies and, as a town oddity, everyone goes to her funeral. The narrator recounts some episodes from her life, including a tax dispute with the town and when her suitor left her.

This story can be read in the preview of A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% into preview)

4. "The Lottery" | Shirley Jackson

A small town prepares for its annual ritual—a lottery—that is supposed to ensure a good harvest.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories. (10% in)

5. "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen" | O.Henry

An elderly gentleman has treated a local indigent man to a hearty Thanksgiving Day meal for the past nine years. The poor man shows up to their meeting place in a condition that threatens to ruin the gentleman’s tradition.

Read "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen"

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6. "Twin Study" | Stacey Richter

A woman attends a study of identical twins where she sees her sister, whom she hasn’t seen since the last study, four years ago. She struggles with her identity, comparing her life and traits to her sister’s.

Read "Twin Study"

7. "The Necklace" | Guy de Maupassant

A woman borrows an expensive necklace from a friend, but she loses it and works to set things right.

Read "The Necklace"

8. "The Last Leaf" | O.Henry

A woman with pneumonia can see an ivy vine through her sickbed window. She counts down the leaves as they fall and tells her roommate that when the last one falls, the pneumonia will kill her.

Read "The Last Leaf"

9. "Wish You Were Here" | Frank Jones

A woman’s garden gnome is stolen. She begins receiving postcards that are signed from the gnome.

10. "Roman Fever" | Edith Wharton

Two middle aged women visit Rome with their unmarried daughters. In their youths, the women were romantic rivals. The women talk about their lives and daughters.

Read "Roman Fever"

11. "A Retrieved Reformation" | O.Henry

A reformed safecracker faces a problem that could reveal his culpability in several robberies.

Read "A Retrieved Reformation"

12. "Man From the South" | Roald Dahl

An elderly man bets a young man that he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row. If it fails to light on any of the ten attempts, the young man loses the pinky finger of his left hand; if all ten attempts are successful, the young man wins a Cadillac.

Read "Man From the South"

13. "The Lame Shall Enter First" | Flannery O'Connor

A young son mourns the loss of his mother, while his unsympathetic father is preoccupied with helping other people. The father invites a young delinquent into their home, who resists his efforts to help.

14. "Hey, You Down There" | Harold Rolseth

Calvin's well has gone dry. He's trying to dig a new one. It's inconvenient lugging water from his neighbor's well. He presses his wife, Dora, into doing some of the heavy work. So far, it's still dry, although the well is getting deep. They get a surprise from the well.

Read "Hey, You Down There"

15. "Blue Eyes Far Away" | MacKinlay Kantor

Esther Lee is sitting outside her house when neighbors arrive with the news that her husband has been killed in a car accident. The young man responsible is charged. The case against him is weak and he can afford a good lawyer.

16. "Good Country People" | Flannery O'Connor

Mrs. Hopewell runs a farm with her tenants and her daughter, a thirty-two year old with a prosthetic leg. A Bible salesman visits the farm and is invited to stay for dinner.

Read "Good Country People"

17. "The Interlopers" | Saki

Two feuding family heads get trapped in the woods, giving them time to discuss their situation.

Read "The Interlopers"

18. "Reunion" | Arthur C.Clarke

Earth receives a transmission from an approaching alien ship. It says the aliens had originally colonized earth millions of years ago, before a non-fatal disease split the population. The returning aliens now have a cure for any who are still infected.

Read "Reunion"

19. "The Reticence of Lady Anne" | Saki

A man tries to smooth things over with his wife whom he had argued with earlier, but she doesn’t respond to his efforts.

Read "The Reticence of Lady Anne"

20. "A Horseman in the Sky" | Ambrose Bierce

During the American Civil War, a Federal sentry falls asleep at his post, but wakes in time to see a Confederate scout whose report could be deadly.

Read "A Horseman in the Sky"

21. "Taste" | Roald Dahl

A dinner host and a wine expert make a bet. If the expert can identify the wine being served, he gets to marry the host's daughter; if he can't, he forfeits both his houses.

22. "Charles" | Shirley Jackson

A boy who just started kindergarten, Laurie, comes home everyday with stories of a classmate, Charles, who's disruptive, disobedient, and violent. Laurie's parents are concerned that Charles is a bad influence on their son.

Read "Charles"

23. "The Gift of the Magi" | O.Henry

A young couple with a low income try to find a way to get each other nice Christmas presents.

Read "The Gift of the Magi"

24. "The Landlady" | Roald Dahl

A young man stays at an eerily quiet but seemingly perfect bed and breakfast.

Read "The Landlady"

25. "The Mouse" | Saki

While riding in a train carriage with a woman, a man feels a mouse in his clothes and struggles to solve the problem discreetly.

Read "The Mouse"

26. "Bella Fleace Gave a Party" | Evelyn Waugh

A highborn but poor elderly woman comes into some money and throws a party, carefully choosing whom she will invite and whom she will snub.

Read "Bella Fleace Gave a Party"

27. "Beware of Dog" | Roald Dahl

A WWII pilot with serious injuries bails out of his plane. He wakes up in a hospital in Brighton (in his home country of England), with his injuries treated.

Read "Beware of Dog"

28. "The Sniper" | Liam O'Flaherty

A sniper on a rooftop gives away his position by lighting a cigarette. He exchanges fire with another sniper, and he knows he has to get off the roof before he's surrounded.

Read "The Sniper"

29. "Dear Marsha" | Judie Angell

During summer vacation, Marsha starts corresponding with a pen pal, Anne Marie. They talk about their difficulties and have a lot in common.

30. "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts" | Shirley Jackson

Mr. Johnson walks around the city handing out candy, peanuts, and helping people wherever he can.

Read "One Ordinary Day with Peanuts"

31. "Clean Sweep Ignatius" | Jeffrey Archer

Ignatius is the new Financial Minister of Nigeria. He is dedicated to ending corruption, and does such an impressive job that the President gives him a special assignment— rooting out Nigerians with secret Swiss accounts.

Read "Clean Sweep Ignatius" (Page 9)

32. "Appointment with Love" | Sulamith Ish Kishor

A returning lieutenant arrives at Grand Central Station to meet up with a woman he has never seen. They have been corresponding for 13 months during his tour of duty, and her letters have been a source of strength and encouragement. He feels he is in love with her, but he is also anxious to find out what she looks like.

Read "Appointment with Love"

33. "The Open Window" | Saki

A young girl tells a story of family tragedy to a visitor.

Read "The Open Window"

34. "The Hounds of Fate" | Saki

A wanderer approaches a house for a little relief, but is greeted as if he’s the returning owner.

Read "The Hounds of Fate"

35. "Harvey's Dream" | Stephen King

An older man relates his previous night’s dream to his wife.

Read "Harvey's Dream"

36. "Lamb to the Slaughter" | Roald Dahl

A woman kills her husband with a piece of frozen lamb, and then plots to conceal her guilt.

Read "Lamb to the Slaughter"

37. "Gold-Mounted Guns" | F. R. Buckley

Pecos Tommy is an outlaw known for his gold-mounted guns. When a young man decides to start a life of crime, he finds Tommy and asks if he can ride with him. He even has an easy job lined up to get their partnership started.

38. "A Man Who Had No Eyes" | Mackinlay Kantor

A blind beggar comes down the street as Mr. Parsons comes out of his hotel. He feels pity for blind creatures and reflects on his own success. The man speaks to Parsons, and takes out an item that he’d like to sell.

Read "A Man Who Had No Eyes"

39. "Zoo" | Edward Hoch

Professor Hugo's Interplanetary Zoo visits earth every August. Everyone looks forward to the strange creatures they will see this time.

Read "Zoo"

40. "The Painted Door" | Sinclair Ross

John walks five miles from his farm to his father’s to help him with chores. His wife Ann doesn’t want him to go because they’re expecting a storm and she wants his company at home. He asks their neighbor Steven to drop in to play cards while he’s gone. Ann decides to do some painting to pass the time. After a while the weather turns bad.

Read “The Painted Door”

41. "The Dowry" | Guy de Maupassant

Simon and Jeanne are newly married. Simon plans to use Jeanne's large dowry to buy a legal practice. They take a trip to Paris to enjoy each others company and to make the purchase.

Read "The Dowry"

42. "The Wife's Story" | Ursula K. Le Guin

A wife tells the story of her husband. He was a good husband and father, well-liked and respected. Something happened that she can't believe. Everyone says it was because of the moon and the blood.

Read "The Wife's Story"

43. "After Twenty Years" | O. Henry

A policeman makes his rounds, checking that the shop doors are secured for the night, when he sees a man waiting in an entrance way. The man explains that he and a friend made arrangements twenty years ago to meet there that night.

Read "After Twenty Years"

44. "Broken Routine" | Jeffrey Archer

Septimus is a claims adjuster at an insurance company. He maintains a strict daily routine in his work and home life. One day he is asked to stay a little late, which turns out to be very disruptive for him.

Read "Broken Routine"

45. "To Serve Man" | Damon Knight

Earth is visited by an alien race, the Kanamit, who look like a cross between pigs and people. They have brought valuable knowledge for producing power, increasing food supply, and other things, at no charge. Some question the purity of their motives, so the Kanamit are subjected to a lie-detector test.

Read "To Serve Man"

46. "Ruthless" | William de Mille

Judson and Mabel Webb are preparing to leave their mountain cottage for the winter to return to the city. When they left last winter, someone broke in and stole some of Judson's liquor. He expects the thief to return, so he prepares a surprise.

Read "Ruthless"

47. "Button, Button" | Richard Matheson

A hand addressed package is left at the door of Arthur and Norma Lewis. Inside is a contraption with a button on it, and a note saying that Mr. Steward will call on them at 8 PM. After assuring them that he isn't selling anything, Mr. Steward makes them a shocking proposition.

Read "Button, Button"

48. "Marjorie Daw" | Thomas Bailey Aldrich

John Flemming has slipped and broken his leg, leaving him confined to his couch. His friend Edward Delaney begins corresponding with him to pass the time. Delaney describes the family who live across from him, including their mansion and beautiful young daughter.

Read "Marjorie Daw"

49. "The Woman at the Store" | Katherine Mansfield

The female narrator, her brother Jo, and their acquaintance Jim are traveling in the heat, looking forward to stopping for refreshment at a place Jim knows. He says the man of the place is generous with his whisky, and the woman is attractive and welcoming. They arrive at a lonely establishment and are greeted by a disheveled woman with a rifle.

Read “The Woman at the Store”

50. "The Memento" | John Collier

Eric is out walking in the country when he is called over by a neighbor, an old man. They make conversation about their community, which includes a resident known for being a ladies man. The old man shows Eric his museum, a collection of items that all have something in common.

Read "The Memento" (Ctrl + F the title, it's near the top)

51. "The Cog" | Charles E. Fritch

A crowd has been waiting on the lawn for hours. They're gathered to see a space ship take off. Maxwell regrets not pursuing a career as an astronaut. He had chosen a more sensible profession. Everyone was a cog in the machine.

52. "Third from the Sun" | Richard Matheson

With the impending threat of a major war, a family and their neighbors decide to sneak away to safety on a spaceship. The father will use his position as chief test pilot to gain access to the vessel.

Read “Third from the Sun”

53. "Brothers Beyond the Void" | Paul W. Fairman

Marcusson is preparing for a space voyage to Mars. He and his friend Conrad talk about whom he will meet. Conrad explains that people are the same everywhere. Marcusson takes comfort from this but also feels some fear over his upcoming trip.

Read "Brothers Beyond the Void"

54. "Four O'Clock" | Price Day

Mr. Crangle is at home at 3:47 in the afternoon. Three weeks ago he realized he had the power to mark all evil people in some way. He would be the judge, and he had no moral qualms about using his ability. He sets 4:00 in the afternoon as the time when he will execute his judgment.

Read "Four O'Clock"

55. "He-y, Come On Ou-t" | Shinichi Hoshi

In a certain village, after a big storm, the people discover a hole in the ground. It's about a meter wide, but they can't figure out how deep it is. It seems to have no bottom. They think about what should be done with it.

Read "He-y, Come On Ou-t"

56. "The Weapon" | Fredric Brown

Dr. Graham, a scientist on an important project, is relaxing at home in the evening. His fifteen-year-old intellectually disabled son is looking through a picture book in his room. His doorbell rings. A Mr. Niemand is at the door. He wants to talk about Dr. Graham's project.

Read "The Weapon"

57. "Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet" | O. Henry

Jeff Peters recounts an incident he had while posing as a medicine man. After being shut down by the constable, he meets Andy, a man with a similar trade. They want to go in on something together. Jeff gets an emergency summons from the mayor; he is sick and the local doctor is out of town.

Read “Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet”

58. "The Lottery" | Marjorie Barnard

Ted Bilborough is on his way home from work when he finds out his wife won a lottery. His acquaintances tease him a bit and ask what he will do with the money. He thinks about that as well, and also wonders where his wife got the money for the ticket.

Read "The Lottery"

59. "Desiree’s Baby" | Kate Chopin

Desiree had been adopted as a toddler. She is now an adult with a baby of her own. She and her husband, Armand, are very happy. After a while, there are some whispers about the baby.

Read "Desiree's Baby"

60. "Cheap at Half the Price" | Jeffrey Archer

Consuela, a former model, is married to her third husband, Victor, a rich American banker. They have flown to London for Victor to close a big deal and for Consuela to look for a birthday present for herself. Consuela searches the usual high-end stores without success. She finds a new shop with an exquisite item, but the price is steep even for her husband.

Read "Cheap at Half the Price" (Ctrl + F the title)

61. "Everyone Talks" | Lee Child

A new detective goes to the hospital to write up a report on a gunshot wound. The victim is sedated so she can't talk to him. His passport says his name is Jack Reacher. The detective returns after her shift to get his story.

Read "Everyone Talks"

62. "Dear Amanda" | Linnah Gary

Amanda sits in her room. She's unhappy. She gets up to close her desk drawer then remembers the package of letters. She chooses one and starts reading.

63. "The Bookbinder's Apprentice" | Martin Edwards

Joly, a visitor in Venice, finishes reading when he is approached by an older man, Sanborn, who admires his book. He invites Joly for a drink where he is introduced to another man, Zuichini, a skilled bookbinder. Joly is suspicious of his new acquaintances but accepts their hospitality.

Read "The Bookbinder's Apprentice" (scroll down over halfway)

64. "Calling the Shots" | Karen Dionne

Jason is working in the woods alone. He just had an argument with his girlfriend. He told her he couldn't go through with the marriage even though she's pregnant. Their families aren't on good terms. He starts up his chain saw and begins cutting the trees.

Read "Calling the Shots"

65. "Clockwork" | Howard Breslin

It's war time in London. A jeweler has his display set up for the day. A man with a limp, Gebhardt, get off a bus and looks in the shop window. He goes in and tells the jeweler that his watch has stopped. He wants it fixed and asks for a new strap.

Read "Clockwork"

66. "The Chef" | Andy Weir

Doris wakes up in a hospital. Her doctor tries to find out what she can remember. She knows there was an explosion, and that she had been visiting her father, but is hazy on the other details. She can remember that she's a professional chef, and she tells the doctor about her work.

Read "The Chef"

67. "The Human Chair" | Edogawa Rampo

Oshiko is a popular writer. Every day she receives letters from admirers and amateur writers looking for feedback. She takes the time to read them all. She starts reading a manuscript, but it begins with "Dear Madam"—perhaps it's a letter instead. A man, a chair-maker, says he has to confess a terrible crime. He's been in hiding for months, but a change in his thinking impels him to reveal his secret.

Read "The Human Chair"

68. "Mars is Heaven!" | Ray Bradbury

A space ship with a crew of seventeen lands on Mars. To everyone's surprise, Mars looks like small-town America in the 1920's. Captain John Black is hesitant to leave the ship, but after confirming the atmosphere is breathable, he allows a small party to disembark. The ship's navigator and the archaeologist offer theories to explain what they see. They approach a house.

Read "Mars is Heaven!"

69. "Perchance to Dream" | Charles Beaumont

Philip Hall goes to a psychiatrist. He's thirty-one, and hasn't been able to sleep for 72 hours. He's afraid if he goes to sleep, he'll never wake up. He explains how his problem started when he discovered the power of his mind.

Read "Perchance to Dream"


Howard Allen (author) on May 31, 2020:


The main character in this story doesn't think he's growing again so I don't think it's the one.

Fred H Lobb on May 30, 2020:

Adrienne, I believe you're referring to "The Dwarf" by Ray Bradbury.

Adrienne Astrophel on March 02, 2020:

I read a short story, a long time ago, about a little person who performed in a show or circus, who thought he was experiencing second growth. I don't know who wrote it. I'd love to find it again.

Lol on April 18, 2019:

I love these

Howard Allen (author) on April 16, 2019:

Thanks for mentioning "The Star". It's a good one.

NoeticSkeptic on April 16, 2019:

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" is a short story with a special twist. A Jesuit Priest is on a space voyage. The spacecraft comes across a sun that has gone supernova in the past. Circling the defunct sun is a planet that had a fantastic civilization of beauty and knowledge that was destroyed when the star went supernova. It is great story with a surprising twist.

thingy 101 on April 30, 2018:

great sight it helped me with my school project

bbhgfg on April 30, 2018:

hey this is a great sight hope to see it update with new stories

Howard Allen (author) on August 22, 2017:


Invisible Cities is a novel, so it doesn't fit on this page. Numbers in the Dark is a great story. Something is revealed at the end, but I don't consider it a twist ending. I haven't read much Calvino but I've made a note to check out more of his stories. Thanks for the suggestions. on August 22, 2017:

Italo Calvino should be included - Invisible Cities, Numbers in the Dark etc are wonderful

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