The short story was my first love. I remember when I was eight and nine years old, reading short stories from sci-fi anthologies my parents had on the bookshelf in the living room. I read Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and Wells. When I was around ten or eleven years old, I read The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (which contains the story The Veldt). I don’t know if that was the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a writer (it may have been a little later when I read my first Stephen King novel), but I was already writing short stories on notebook paper, trying to imitate my favorite authors.

I’ve always loved short stories, and this Halloween season (like the two previous ones) I created a list of the 50 best horror short stories. As with my other two lists (The best horror films and the 100 best horror novels – both lists can be found in the archives of this blog), this is not a list of my favorite stories, but a consensus of the best stories gathered from many different lists I found on the internet and from well-known authors’ favorites.

And this time I decided to add a list of my own at the end – a list of some of my personal favorite short stories I’ve read throughout the years.

But first a few rules. As with the 100 best horror novels, I wanted to cap the amount of stories an author could have on this list to only three stories. Some of the prolific writers of short stories like King, Poe, Lovecraft, Bradbury, and Barker could easily have had dozens of their stories in a best-of list. Also, I didn’t list these stories chronologically like I did with the 100 greatest horror novels; instead, I listed them in order of popularity according to the different sources I found. Another rule was that I didn’t include some of the stories mentioned in several lists because they could also be called novellas or short novels, and I had already included them in my 100 greatest horror novels, so I didn’t want any overlap here. So if you don’t see great works like At the Mountains of Madness, The Turn of the Screw, The Great God Pan, The Hellbound Heart, and others, that’s the reason.

After completing the list of the 50 best horror short stories, I discovered that I had read only twenty-six of them. But I plan on reading the rest in the near future, just like I have pledged to read as many of the novels on my 100 greatest list. Just for a progress report, here are the novels from my previous list that I’ve read since last Halloween: The Terror by Dan Simmons, The Rising by Brian Keene, Summer of Night by Dan Simmons, The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, The Cellar by Richard Laymon, The Totem by David Morell, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, and Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon.

Well, on to the list. If you feel I have left out any great horror stories from this list of the 50 best, or even my own list of personal favorites, please feel free to comment. I love discovering great new stories.


  1. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  2. The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
  3. The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
  4. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
  5. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
  6. The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens
  7. Sticks by Karl Edward Wagner
  8. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  9. An Occurrence at Owl Creek by Ambrose Bierce
  10. The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet
  11. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
  12. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
  13. Children of the Corn by Stephen King
  14. Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been by Joyce Carol Oates
  15. The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft
  16. The Open Window by Saki
  17. Pigeons from Hell by Robert E. Howard
  18. A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
  19. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  20. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  21. Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier
  22. The Mist by Stephen King
  23. The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft
  24. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
  25. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  26. Royal Jelly by Roald Dahl
  27. The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
  28. A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
  29. Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You by M.R. James
  30. The Box by Richard Matheson
  31. A Collapse of Horses by Brian Everson
  32. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
  33. The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Cramford
  34. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner
  35. Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker
  36. The Vampyre by John Polidori
  37. The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
  38. The Autopsy by Michael Shea
  39. The Doll by Daphne du Maurier
  40. The Road Virus Heads North by Stephen King
  41. The Jar by Ray Bradbury
  42. The Dark Country by Dennis Etchison
  43. In the Hills, the Cities by Clive Barker
  44. The Girl with the Hungry Eyes by Fritz Lieber
  45. Casting the Runes by M.R. James
  46. The Sea was Wet as Wet Can Be by Gahan Wilson
  47. In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka
  48. Guts by Chuck Palahniuk
  49. The Landlady by Roald Dahl
  50. He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door by Robert McCammon

So there is the list. And since there were so many great stories I found on so many lists on the internet, I wanted to include twelve more stories that almost (or possibly could have) made it on the list.


  1. The Pear-Shaped Man by George R.R. Martin
  2. The Green Ribbon by Alvin Schwartz
  3. Petey by T.E.D. Klein
  4. The Box by Jack Ketchum
  5. Being by Richard Matheson
  6. The Screwfly Solution by James Triptree Jr.
  7. Nightcrawlers by Robert McCammon
  8. Survivor Type by Stephen King
  9. A Study of Emerald by Neil Gaiman
  10. The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker
  11. Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity by David Morrell
  12. The Juniper Tree by Peter Straub

As I said before, this isn’t a list of my personal favorites, but a list of stories mentioned most on lists on the internet and from other sources. I wanted to add a list of my own favorite stories throughout the years of reading. To make things easier, I just created my own list so there are some stories from the best-of list included in my favorites. Once again, it’s difficult to choose only a few stories from some of the great short story writers like King and Bradbury (I didn’t want to make this list too long), but I whittled it down to forty of them.

So here are some of my favorite horror and dark sci-fi stories in no particular order:

  1. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  2. The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
  3. The Mist by Stephen King
  4. Being by Richard Matheson
  5. Gone Fishing by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  6. Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity by David Morrell
  7. Harvey’s Dream by Stephen King
  8. Peekaboo by Bill Pronzini
  9. The Horsehair Trunk by Davis Grubb
  10. In the Hills, the Cities by Clive Barker
  11. Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff by Peter Straub
  12. The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin
  13. It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby
  14. Guts by Chuck Palahniuk
  15. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oats
  16. The Sea Was Wet as Wet Can Be by Gahan Wilson
  17. The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
  18. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
  19. The Raft by Stephen King
  20. A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
  21. The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet
  22. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
  23. Blood Music by Greg Bear
  24. The Legend of Joe Lee by John D. MacDonald
  25. By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet
  26. Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave by Brian Kirk
  27. The Gingerbread Girl by Stephen King
  28. Lonely Train A’ Comin’ by William F. Nolan
  29. The Washingtonians by Bentley Little
  30. In the Bag by Tim Curran
  31. White Chapel by Douglas Clegg
  32. The Master of the Hounds by Algis Burdrys
  33. Psyche by D.F. Noble
  34. The Body by Stephen King
  35. One Possible Shape of Things to Come by Brian Hodge
  36. Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
  37. Blue World by Robert McCammon
  38. The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke
  39. Gray Matter by Stephen King
  40. Yellowjacket Summer by Robert McCammon

There are forty of my favorites. There are so many more that I could list – but I had to stop somewhere.

Until next Halloween . . .