Classic horror stories are tales that have survived the test of time and are still appreciated by those who enjoy the thrill of being scared out of their wits. These are stories that play upon our senses to evoke fear and suspense.
A lonely castle nestled in the midst of inaccessible hills.
Mysterious disappearances in the closest village, after rumours of a strange creature seen in the twilight.
An orphaned heiress in the clutches of evil relatives; with greedy suitors also in pursuit.
A chemist who prefers to work behind closed doors and shaded windows. Is he, perhaps, practicing black magic or some other dark art?
A group of strangers marooned on an otherwise un-inhabited island.
All these are the stuff of which horror stories are made. They are ideal reading on a rainy autumn/winter evening when you are nestled in your cozy armchair. With a fleecy throw around your knees and a huge mug of hot chocolate in your hand, these gothic tales can be quite an interesting pastime.
Just as you are getting comfortable, a gust of wind makes a door creak eerily. Branches tapping against the window pane sound like someone knocking; are they just branches, maybe there is someone.
These spooky stories can get to you after some time, especially if you are alone. Just make sure you have friends or family within shouting distance. You don’t want a sleepless night to follow, do you?
Classic horror stories that have stood the test of time
If you are brave enough to try some spine-chilling fiction, try some of these classics:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
This is perhaps the famous horror story in the English language. It is the tale of a blood sucking vampire who lives in the shape of a European aristocrat by day. Count Dracula lives in a remote castle in Transylvania. He moves to England, taking crypts filled with Transylvanian earth and other vampire necessities with him. What follows is a series of bizarre events as people in Britain try to hunt him down.
This tale of Dracula written in the early 19th century set the standard for horror stories forevermore. The phenomena of blood sucking creatures, their ability to change shape into other creatures, the strengthening of their powers by night and their weakening when exposed to daylight or to religious relics; all these factoids that have become established “vampire facts” came from Bram Stoker’s fertile imagination.
Dracula continues to inspire authors and readers in the 21st century. Books and movies with a vampire theme are still quite popular.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Surprising isn’t it that an eighteen year old girl in the early 19th century wrote a horror story that remains a classic to this day ? It might have helped that her father was anovelist and she married the poet P.B. Shelley, but the story was entirely a figment of her own imagination.
Most people ( who have not read the book ) think that the monster who figures in the story is called Frankenstein. You can correct them (even without reading the book); Victor Frankenstein is the name of the monster’s creator.
This story is part horror and part science fiction. The monster is really a scientific experiment that goes a little haywire. Victor Frankenstein manages to create a .being that he finds so horrifying that he runs away. This leaves the creature to its own devices.
The monster tries to befriend human beings who find him frightening and repulsive. The misunderstood creature then tries to wreak vengeance on his creator .
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
In the 19th century, mental illness was still not well understood. Fears and misconceptions about psychiatric illness led to its confusion with the supernatural.
In the story of the Usher family, a brother and sister who are the last of their bloodline suffer strange maladies (a modern psychologist could easily put them under the correct terminology). The story is told by the brother’s friend who quite predictably manages to fall in love with Miss Usher.
What follows is a series of unexplained phenomena. I won’t spoil the story for you by narrating them. Ultimately brother and sister die a dramatic death. What is perhaps even more dramatic is that there family home collapses around them and perishes too.
The author, Poe, was a sufferer of mental disorders too. This story and several others are a product of very intelligent but afflicted brain. He is also given the credit for the first murder/detective story : The Murders at the Rue Morgue.
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Perhaos the earliest horror story (written in 1794 ) now survives mainly as a reference in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland is shown constantly reading this book and imagining horrors in a quiet abbey where she is a guest.
Imagine my excitement when I found a copy of this book. It is the story of young Emily, who on losing her parents, finds herself at the mercy of her unkind aunt.
Her aunt marries an evil Count who imprisons Emily in his mysterious castle called Udolpho. Secret passages, cobwebby rooms and plot twists and turns make the novel a rollicking ride of suspense.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Although not my favourite, this is perhaps the most famous story by Agatha Christie. It has been dramatized and adapted on stage, radio, T. V. and film. It has been translated into innumerable languages.
Maybe I was too young when I first read it, but it sent shivers down my spine. Ten people, each having committed a murder and gotten away with it in their past, are stranded on a deserted island. One by one, they mysteriously start to die without a trace of any outsider.
The end is very neatly explained by Christie who is renowned for unambiguous and ingenous solutions to her mysteries. Written in the early 20th century, it has never gone out of print since.
These books, although dismissed as sensational literature in their day, have become classics in their genre. As gripping today as when they were first written, they remain prominent among the innumerable thrillers and horror stories that abound today.
What are your favourite classic horror stories, mystery novels or thrillers? Do let me know in the Comments section below so that I can check them out.
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