Just in time for Halloween, we’re sharing some truly twisted, super spooky, and ultra unsettling short stories from five total-badass women writers. Step aside Edgar Allan Poe. Watch out HP Lovecraft. This time, it’s the ladies that are giving us the chills and totally freaking us out.
1. “The Bloody Chamber“by Angela Carter
This story originally appeared in Carter’s 1979 book of short stories of the same name. All the stories in the collection are based on fairytales, but also explore deep-feminist themes. Specifically, “The Bloody Chamber” looks at “desire and its destruction, the self-immolation of women, and how women collude and connive with their condition of enslavement.” It’s about a teenage girl who marries an older, wealthy French Marquis who she does not love, and she ends up finding out some rather disturbing things about him and his past. This story is not only creepy as hell, it’s also by a feminist badass.
2. “The Lame Shall Enter First” by Flannery O’Connor
The mother of Southern Gothic style, Flannery O’Connor is known for her grotesque characters and examination of morality and ethics. You’ve probably read some of her most famous short stories like “A Good Man is Hard to Find” or “Good Country People” in English class, and I bet you thought they were totally F-ed up. Well here’s another one of her stories to creep you out. “The Lame Shall Enter First,” was published in 1965 in O’Connor’s last collection Everything That Rises Must Converge. O’Connor actually died in 1964, before its release. The main character Sheppard is unsympathetic with the grief of his young son, Norton, over the death of his mother. When Sheppard invites Rufus Johnson, a 14-year-old juvenile delinquent, to live with them against Norton’s wishes, things go kind of whacko and end with a super disturbing twist.
3. “The Shadows on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman
Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman was known for her short stories that combined domestic realism with the supernatural. Her best-known work was written in the 1880s and 90s, and she became an influential writer in the supernatural genre. “The Shadows on the Wall” is often regarded as her most terrifying tale. It’s about a family that is recovering from a rather mysterious death of a loved one when a distorted shadow, with no apparent source, appears on the wall. Spooky.
4. “The Witch” by Shirley Jackson
You’re probably familiar with Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.” “The Witch” deals with the same subject as “The Lottery,” but in a very different way. Though “The Witch” isn’t exactly outright scary, it leaves you feeling unsettled after a boy and his mother have an odd encounter on a train. Shirley Jackson wrote “The Witch” in 1949 while she was living in Vermont with her husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. I also encourage you to read some of Jackson’s longer works like The Haunting of Hill House, which according to the The Wall Street Journal, is “now widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written.”
5. “Kerfol” by Edith Wharton
“Kefol” first appeared in the March 1916 issue of Scribner’s Magazine, and was also included in the collection Xingu and Other Stories later that year. The story was praised for its novel use of spooky ghost dogs instead of the ghosts of people. In much of her writing, Wharton utilizes her insider’s view of America’s privileged classes (fun fact: the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” is about her father’s family). She also used a brilliant, natural wit to examine the social and psychological aspects of human life in her short stories. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930, so she’s pretty much an expert on creep.