Looking for a quick read that’ll send a shiver up your spine? I put together some of the best classic Gothic short stories you can read for free, with stories from beloved authors like Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe.
What is Gothic literature?
Gothic literature, also known as Gothic fiction or Gothic horror, is a genre that centers around dark and spooky elements such as hauntings, creepy settings, and unsettled characters.
Often, there are supernatural works at play, such as ghosts, monsters, or curses – but not always. Gothic stories are also known to play with themes such as isolation and power.
The Gothic genre was the predecessor to the modern horror genre we know today.
Why read short stories?
Our lives are busy. It’s easy to get sidetracked while reading or overwhelmed by doorstop-sized novels. Sometimes, it’s nice to just sit down and read a quick story all the way through.
For times like these, I’ve collected a list of gothic horror short stories perfect for a cold winter night. Some are just slightly chilling, and others may prompt you to double-check that all the doors in your house are locked. Some widely-loved classics are also included.
The best part is: most (if not all) of these classic short stories are in the public domain and can be read online for free! What could be better than that?
Just type the title and author into Google, and you should be able to find a site that has the story published and available to read. Some sources for reading public domain books include Google Books, Authorama, and Fullreads.
Classic Gothic Short Stories
1. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Even if you aren’t a horror fan, you should read this story. It’s one of the most well-known and discussed short stories of all time.
And the less you know going into this classic, the better. Trust me.
2. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
What would you do if you were stuck in a room with nothing to do but stare at the crumbling yellow wallpaper? This Victorian classic, written in 1892, centers around postpartum depression and the lack of independence available for women at the time.
3. The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
Yes, this story is the basis for Alfred Hitchock’s film of the same name. But even if you’ve seen the movie, this is a must-read story.
4. William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe
I could recommend a number of Poe’s stories, because they’re all wonderful: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, The Pit and The Pendulum, etc.
But, I chose to go with a lesser-known work with just as much of a chill factor. This one’s about a man’s reaction to seeing his doppelganger.
5. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
This one is widely known and loved, and for good reason. It’s a tautly executed story with a dash of Southern charm.
6. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
When a horror story is known for being admired by H.P. Lovecraft himself, you know it’s going to be good.
7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
A classic haunted house story about a woman who’s hired to take care of two young children in an old mansion. But soon, the children’s behavior starts to change. Is it them, or could it be the house?
Whichever of these gothic short stories you choose to read, I hope you enjoy them!
Looking for more horror fiction recommendations? Check out this list of 2021 Spooky Horror Books and 21 Spooky Books for Halloween (for Adults).