A few days ago, I asked what your favorite horror novels, short stories, collections, etc. were. I quickly realized I could not limit this list to five, so I’m not even going to try. My winners are…
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. See my four-part series on this amazing novel.
Bram Stoker, Dracula. Perhaps the novel that defines the genre of gothic horror genre of the 19th Century, the epistolary tale still tops all its various adaptations.
Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera. More of a mystery, but equally gothic, this underrated pulp novel of the early 20th century is often obscured by its film and stage adaptations.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Ignatius Critical Editions). A great, atmospheric novel about the inward scars of sin.
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes. A perfect Halloween novel about faith and good will overcoming the devouring forces of evil.
Novellas and Short stories
Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. I can hardly think of a ghost story more intriguing and haunting.
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The classic struggle of good and evil in a man’s soul.
Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Possibly the great American ghost story.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” This short story I read first in an English class stayed with me for years.
Richard Middleton, “On the Brighton Road.” Another story I read as a child and has stayed in my mind for almost twenty years.
Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Placing this here is the only way I didn’t take up the above space with a dozen Poe stories.
Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories Treasury (Three Volumes). Marketed to children, these collections of folklore, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Gammell in haunting charcoal sketches, have consistently been a favorite and are probably continually an influence on how I write stories today.
Russell Kirk, Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales. Kirk, a social and political commentator and devout Catholic, wrote what one might call the best collection of theologically astute ghost stories ever assembled. Atmospheric and moody, these are not second-rate chillers by any stretch of the imagination.
(Illustration: a classic painting of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)