Books

20 Creepy Short Stories That You Can Read For Free Right Now

Featuring work from Tananarive Due, Stephen Graham Jones, and more.

Magician June McComb reads a book on witchcraft.
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Look, everyone loves Halloween, what with all the pumpkins and the ghosties and the sheer terror lying in wait around ever corner. But why limit that feeling to one measly month out of the calendar year? Why can’t everyone enjoy constant scares year-round? After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and the internet is vast and full of horror stories — horror stories that you can read online, for free, right now.

These aren’t just creepypasta tales from the depths of Reddit, either. Some of the finest horror authors around have their terrifying short stories available online for your reading pleasure, should you dare to delve in. You’ll find tales of creepy dolls and unsettling wigs, of doppelgängers and and bodies found in bogs. The works listed below range from classic horror stories that have haunted multiple generations to new, supremely uncanny creations written expressly for the internet.

Here are just a few of the most chilling, hair-raising stories that you can read online, from your very own phone, computer, or haunted looking glass. They’re sure to send a shiver down your spine — just don't blame me when you have trouble sleeping tonight (or ever again).

1

“Patient Zero” by Tananarive Due

"Patient Zero" starts off innocently enough, with its narrator — a little boy — confined to his hospital room. Surely, a hospital is a place of healing, not a setting for a sinister story. But as Due's expertly-paced plot unfolds, we come to understand who this boy truly is, and what's happening to the world around him.

From Lightspeed

2

“Click-clack the Rattlebag” by Neil Gaiman

You know that feeling you get when you walk up the stairs alone in an old, dark house? And you know that you shouldn't be afraid of the dark, but you can't help but feel like something is following in your footsteps, lurking just behind you? Neil Gaiman distills that feeling into a story with "Click-clack the Rattlebag" — a tale as short and simple as it is bone-chilling.

From The Telegraph

3

“The Spindly Man” by Stephen Graham Jones

In Stephen Graham Jones’ “The Spindly Man,” a book club’s discussion of a Stephen King story lures an uninvited guest with a bone to pick.

From The Dark Magazine

4

“His Face All Red” by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll is the reigning queen of creepy, interactive horror comics, and "His Face All Red" is one of her best. If you like fairy tales that twist around and make you feel a little queasy, this one is for you.

From the Author’s Website

5

“Hello, Moto” by Nnedi Okorafor

You probably know Nnedi Okorafor from her fantasy writing, but she’s proven herself a master of the horror genre as well. Just try to make it through the strange, wig-based story of "Hello, Moto" without shuddering — or disappearing in a flash of green light.

From Tor.com

6

“Bog Girl” by Karen Russell

You know how people sometimes sometimes come across perfectly preserved, ancient bodies in bogs? “Bog Girl” is about one of those who’s found, and the boy who loves her. At times, this creepy story borders on sweet. But sadly, romance with a bog girl isn’t simple.

From The New Yorker

7

“How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar

At first, the kids in "How to Get Back to the Forest" seem like any other children at summer camp: homesick and loud and obsessed with ghoulish rumors. But it slowly becomes clear that this is not any old camp — and that these kids are never, ever going home.

From Lightspeed

8

“The Third Bear” by Jeff Vandermeer

If you only think of bears as cuddly stuffed animals or lovable carton goofs, Jeff Vandermeer’s "The Third Bear" will set you straight. The bear in question is not cuddly or lovable, to say the least. Be warned: The word "intestines" features at least once.

From Clarkesworld

9

“The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire” by Poppy Z. Brite

Poppy Z. Brite is known for weaving together horror and magic and love to create stories like "The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire." So if you're looking to read about steamy romance and half-rotted corpses in the very same story, this is the one for you.

From Nightmare

10

“Séance” by Donyae Coles

In Donyae Coles’ “Séance,” a fake medium who makes her living hustling wealthy believers has her own, inexplicable brush with the supernatural.

From PseudoPod

11

“Premium Harmony” by Stephen King

Really, you can’t go wrong with a Stephen King horror story; even the mildest of his tales will give you nightmares for a solid week, and “Premium Harmony” is not mild. This story takes readers back to the fictional town of Castle Rock (as seen in the Hulu show), where domestic disputes unravel into grotesque horror.

From The New Yorker

12

“Nightcrawlers” by Robert McCammon

A storm rages outside a diner window, and the Nightcrawlers are coming. To find out exactly what the Nightcrawlers are, you'll just have to read Robert McCammon’s "Nightcrawlers," a vivid, tense story.

From Nightmare

13

“Bongcheon-Dong Ghost” by Horang

Ten years after its original release, South Korean comic artist Horang’s “Bongcheon-Dong Ghost” is still scaring the pants off of unsuspecting readers. Enhanced by sound and animation — and some wicked jump-scares — this is one story you’ll want to read with the lights on.

From Webtoons

14

“Abraham’s Boys” by Joe Hill

Yes, Joe Hill just so happens to be the son of the one and only Stephen King, but he's also a great horror writer in his own right. "Abraham's Boys," for example, captures the existential fear of being locked in a basement and left to die right in the first paragraph, and just keeps going from there.

From Fifty-Two Stories

15

“The Doll” by Daphne du Maurier

Creepy doll. CREEPY DOLL! Surely, the creepy doll story is the highest level of creepy story. And "The Doll," a story of obsession and violins and dolls with blank, staring eyes, is one of the ultimate classics.

From The Guardian

16

“With Her Diamond Teeth” by Pear Nuallak

In Pear Nuallak’s retelling of the Thai legend of Kraithong, “With Her Diamond Teeth,” a man rescues a young girl from the clutches of a monstrous crocodile, and her older sister is promised to him in gratitude. But has something changed with the girl he brought back?

From The Dark

17

“Sunbleached” by Nathan Ballingrud

What’s a collection of horror stories without at least one vampire? "Sunbleached" introduces a most uncomfortable bloodsucker, hidden in a crawlspace to avoid the sun. What follows is less of a sultry, Twilight-style tale and more of a horrific, blood-spattered story. Be sure to read in the shade.

From Nightmare

18

“What Sisters Take” by Kelly Sandoval

Three sets of twins, three girls destined to die — but determined to live. Kelly Sandoval’s “What Sisters Take” balances evil and tenderness in its depiction of sisterhood.

From Apex Magazine

19

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is not an especially long or complicated story: a guy called Arnold Friend drives up to a girl's house, and asks her to come with him on a ride. That's it. And yet, this is perhaps the most chilling story of them all, because the longer readers spend with Arnold Friend, the more they start to fear him.

From Celestial Timepiece: A Joyce Carol Oates Patchwork

20

“The Child-Feast of Harridan Sack” by Kaitlyn Zivanovich

Turning Hansel and Gretel on its ear, Kaitlyn Zivanovich’s “The Child-Feast of Harridan Sack” centers on a mother who, after her 12-year-old daughter goes missing, finds herself living a nightmare straight out of a storybook.

From PseudoPod