21 Scary Short Stories You Can Read Online Right Now
'Tis the season for creepy-crawlies up your spine, so I've picked out 21 spooky stories you can read online right now on your phone to get you in the mood for Halloween. Most of these spooky stories aren't the kind of gory mess-fests that slasher fans — like yours truly — adore, but there's more than one you'll want to read with the lights on.
I hate horror movies, but I love scary stories. There's just something about curling up in the blankets with a creepy book that makes my blood run deliciously cold, no matter what time of year it is. Now, with Halloween season finally kicking into high gear, I'm super excited to share some of my favorite dark and grisly stories with you.
As I said before, most of the stories on this list trend toward suspense and spookiness, rather than all-out horror. Most of them have a supernatural element, but some are just unsettling glimpses into the human psyche. What's important for you to know is that each of them was composed by a wickedly talented author, and is available for you to read, for free, right now.
Check out the 21 spooky stories I've picked out for you below:
"The Lady of the House of Love" by Angela Carter
From the renowned author of twisted fairy-stories, Angela Carter's "The Lady of the House of Love" follows the last encounter of a young, predatory vampire queen with an unsuspecting human man.
"The Weight of a Thousand Needles" by Isabel Cañas
In this dark fairytale, an orphaned girl named Soraya risks her life to save a panther pinned to the earth with long needles, only to find that she has been tricked into a life of misery and servitude.
"The Skin of a Teenage Boy Is Not Alive" by Senaa Ahmad
High school besties Parveen and Aisha couldn't be less alike, but when the popular Aisha joins the "demon cult kids," Parveen tags along as her guest to séances and other rituals. The teens' interest in the occult is far from harmless, and at least one of them is going to get possessed. Parveen hopes it's her.
"All Along the Wall" by Emily Carroll
Bored at a Christmas party, a young girl named Lottie wanders through her host's home, where she happens upon Rebecca, the daughter of the homeowners. Lottie asks for a scary story, unaware of just how well Rebecca can deliver.
"Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep" by Nidebita Sen
Told through the journals of a whaling captain, Nidebita Sen's "Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep" tracks the strange events that occur after a member of the crew invents a way to mimic whalesong using the organs of their quarry.
"Under the Sea of Stars" by Seanan McGuire
From Middlegame author Seanan McGuire comes this short story about a family's eerie connection to the Bolton Strid — deadly English waterway that passes itself off as a charming creek.
"The House at the End of the Lane Is Dreaming" by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor
Told in second-person, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor's "The House at the End of the Lane Is Dreaming" tells the story of the same horrific day, over and over again, as You, Alex, the protagonist, try to survive.
"The Old Women Who Were Skinned" by Carmen Maria Machado
From Her Body and Other Parties author Carmen Maria Machado comes this haunting story about two elderly sisters who pursue youth — with dreadful results.
"What's Coming to You" by Joanna Parypinski
Stuck in a bad marriage, and living a life still marked by an unhappy childhood, Maddy jumps at the chance to claim a questionable inheritance from a stranger who appears on her porch one stormy night.
"A Cup of Salt Tears" by Isabel Yap
Makino's husband is dying, and the days she must inevitably spend without him haunt her. Tension and hope come in equal measure when she meets a dangerous creature, a kappa, who professes its love for her in the bathhouse.
"The Anatomist's Mnemonic" by Priya Sharma
A man with a hand fetish searches for his perfect mate in this creepy, slow burn of a story from Shirley Jackson Award-winner Priya Sharma.
"Skinner Box" by Carole Johnstone
On a mission to circle Jupiter and return home, a married researcher takes her crewmates as lovers, and conspires with them to murder her abusive husband, who is also aboard the ship.
"Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" by Alyssa Wong
A woman who can read the thoughts that float above other people's heads goes on a date with a man who intends to murder and mutilate her. What he doesn't know is that she is far more dangerous than he could ever hope to be.
"Please, Momma" by Chesya Burke
After Momma begins abusing her eldest daughter, her sister takes the family to visit a psychic healer, who discovers why Momma has undergone such a vicious change.
"Jade, Blood" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Gods of Jade and Shadow author Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Jade, Blood" follows a nun-in-training as explores the mysteries and dangers of a nearby cenote in the jungle.
"A Forest, or A Tree" by Tegan Moore
A hiking trip takes a turn for the worse when, after a night of sharing spooky stories, one of the four campers becomes immobilized by a strange illness. Forced to seek help, her friends depart, but finding aid proves to be more difficult than they could have realized.
"The Pigeon Summer" by Lee Mandelo
After the death of hir best friend, J., the enby protagonist of Lee Mandelo's "The Pigeon Summer," begins writing notes to the ghost that si believes lives in hir apartment.
"The Low, Dark Edge of Life" by Livia Llewellyn
Livia Llewellyn's "The Low, Dark Edge of Life" tracks the cataclysmic end of a European city through the journal fragments that survived its downfall.
"Wish You Were Here" by Nadia Bulkin
A group of tourists in Bali ask their guides and carers for ghost stories, but one of them, Rose, yearns for a real ghostly encounter — to make contact with her dead son.
"Excerpts from a Film (1942-1967)" by A.C. Wise
In this novelette, an aspiring Hollywood star finds herself growing increasingly obsessed with other young ingenues who died in pursuit of their dreams — and soon becomes the same kind of muse for a succession of creatives.
"Don't Turn On the Lights" by Cassandra Khaw
A take on the creepy urban legend of a dormitory murder, Cassandra Khaw's "Don't Turn On the Lights" twists the old tale into something much more sinister.