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The Best of Gothic Short Stories


3. The Summer People - Shirley Jackson

Symposia : 7.5/10

Goodreads : 3.9/5

‘The Summer People’ revolves around an elderly couple that spends every summer at their cottage north of New York. This summer, they decided to extend their stay as they felt as though they had outgrown the bustle of the city. Everyone that became aware of this told them that “no one stays past Labor Day”. The story commences on a note of optimism unless you are acquainted with Jackson’s writing style and can catch onto her foreboding tone. As the plot ascends, this sense of apprehension becomes more apparent as the couple keeps encountering a disquieting resistance. This short story secures its place in my top three as the elements of horror in it are subtle. Instead of making ‘The Summer People’ evidently frightening, Jackson incessantly foreshadows an upcoming ordeal that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. 

2. The Tell-Tale Heart - Edgar Allen Poe

Symposia : 8.3/10

Goodreads : 4.2/5

Like many pieces of gothic literature, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ encircles a theme of mania. The narrator is recounting an unreasonable murder he recently committed while trying to coerce the reader that by no means is he deranged. Despite the evidence proving that the narrator is unhinged, you begin to believe that perhaps “a madman wouldn’t have been so wise as this” indeed. Edgar Allen Poe is well renowned for his works encompassing macabre and mystery and this short story packs just that. He utilizes symbolism and craft moves to immerse the reader into a short, but highly unsettling storyline. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ seizes the second position as condensing commendable horror into a mere 900 words is no mean feat. 

1. The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde 

Symposia : 8.8/10

Goodreads : 3.9/5

Contrary to ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, this novelette is unlike most works of gothic literature. Rather than being sinister in any way, this short story is pragmatic and peculiarly touching. The plot spotlights the Canterville Chase home which is haunted by the ghost of Sir Simon. An American family decides to move into the house and conjectures that a ghost’s presence will do no harm. Wholly, Wilde cultivated the most ideal setting for a hair-raising story. Nevertheless, it comprises humor, grief and a touch of romance. The writer’s prose surpasses the typical nature of horror and bridges it with comedy; all while staying true to the genre of gothic fiction. ‘The Canterville Ghost’ stood out to me as it communicates an imaginative story while incorporating all the elements of gothic literature.

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