The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
A classic story of an English village haunted by a vengeful spirit, The Woman in Black is one of the best haunted house stories for those who like a Gothic sensibility to their horror.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Arguably Henry James’ most well-known story, this short novel is a masterpiece of subtle psychological horror. A century after its first printing in 1898 readers still debate the nature of the “ghosts” in the tale: are they supernatural or psychological in nature? Check it out and decide for yourself.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Stoker’s account of Victorians desperately fighting against forces unexplainable by their rational worldviews has arguably defined the vampire archetype our modern audiences. While the work has been adapted into a multitude of plays, movies and videogames, the book still holds blood chilling episodes that never made the jump from page to screen. One frightening scene in the novel features a sailor struggling to survive Dracula’s predations while trapped at sea, and in another a tame wolf unexpectedly lashes out at bystanders as it comes under the vampire’s control.
The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein
T.E.D Klein’s masterpiece of rural horror is long out of print, but it remains a must read for those who like stories of ancient entities wreaking havoc on the modern world. Klein takes his time as he relates the story of a farmhouse beset by an evil force, building slowly toward a savage climax that takes place in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.
The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All by Laird Barron
One of the most popular contemporary writers of weird fiction, Barron writes stories that mix the action of Jack London with the cosmic horror of Lovecraft. This is the third collection Barron has released and it contains some of his best work. Two standouts are “The Men from Porlock,” a tale about a group of loggers disturbing mysterious creatures hidden away in a redwood forest, and “Hand of Glory,” which mixes prohibition-era noir with black magic.
Tales by H.P. Lovecraft
Perhaps no other writer has had as much influence on the modern horror story as Lovecraft, and this Library of America collection of his works ably shows why this early-twentieth century writer continues to be read today. Be sure to check out “The Colour out of Space” and At the Mountains of Madness, two of Lovecraft’s works where the environment is just as terrifying as the strange creatures at the center of the stories.
Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen
Fascinated by the folklore of his homeland of Wales and rituals of Celtic Christianity, Machen’s stories offer his own perspective on Britain’s bloody pagan past. Many of his tales, like The Great God Pan and “The White People,” cleverly use of mythical motifs to create an atmosphere of ancient evil.
Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James
Considered one of the “masters of the weird tale” by Lovecraft, M.R. James’ stories include more than just typical ghosts: cursed binoculars, warlocks, animated paintings and spider-like demons also appear as antagonists in his works. James believed that the best ghost stories featured everyday settings and locations, lending his stories an air of realism not found in similar storytellers.
Best Ghost Stories by J.S. LeFanu
Often called the “Irish Poe,” LeFanu was praised by authors like James and Stoker and called one of the best writers of English supernatural fiction. Many of LeFanu’s best works, like “Green Tea,” “The Familiar” and “Schalken the Painter,” use mundane items as a conduit for vengeful spirits.
Best Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood
An outdoorsman, journalist, world-traveler and occultist, Blackwood might be one of the few authors that truly “lived out” his writings. Blackwood was fascinated by the natural world, and he used his stories to examine the mysterious and awe-inspiring forces that caused environmental phenomena. His greatest story, “The Willows,” is an account of two men trapped on an island in the Danube River by a strange force.