Written by: Crystal Leflar
You may notice as you read that these stories all have something in common. A slow build, heavy atmosphere and subtle, shocking endings. To me, that’s the ideal story. Slow to form, building dread and anticipation and then a quick drop that leaves your guts behind.
1. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I first read this story from shitty photocopies in my 10th grade creative writing class. Reading the blurred grey lines gave me a headache but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t notice a “feminist theme” or pay any attention to hidden “symbolism”. It was just a story about a woman confined. A woman who lacked the ability to express herself or act independently. A woman haunted. And it terrified me.
2. The Torture of Hope by Villiers de I’Isle-Adam
I found this story mentioned in another book (A romance/haunted house/ mystery, if you must know.) and I had to find it. The excerpt lingered in my mind until I found a copy for myself. I read it in the middle of a sunny afternoon but with increasing dread. I couldn’t breath and the inevitable end brought me to tears.
3. A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
I flipped through a cheap “Collected Works” at a second hand bookstore and“A Rose for Emily” caught my eye. It was the only story I read from that book and I read it repeatedly. I considered it horror from the first and to my confusion, not many others did. This was the kind of story that made me do a “double-take” I read the ending and then had “Wait…what?” reaction and I had to read it again.
4. The Picture in the House by H.P. Lovecraft
This is the first Lovecraft story I read. Short, it still manages the slow build. The immediate sense that something is not right, right up until the subtle but shocking end.
5. The Floor Above by M. L. Humphreys
I read this is “H.P. Lovecraft’s Favorite Weird Tales” and have yet to find anything else from the author. (It’s believed to be a pseudonym.) This story is proof that ghost stories had twists before M. Night Shyamalan.