Halloween Special

Famous Writers’ Favorite Stories of the Supernatural, Dark Fantasy and Horror

 

Over the years, I’ve collected lists of ghost stories for Halloween reading, and thought I would throw them up on the net, as a public service to humanity.

I include primarily stories mentioned specifically, though occasionally I will mention an author or a collection when a specific story mention is not available. I will try to keep the lists to under thirty authors per list, but I will list runner-ups by the same authors. The lists are roughly in order, that is, the best stories come first. Note: though I work from sources, many of which I list, often I had to use educated guesswork to construct a list.

It is hard to draw an exact line of demarcation between long short stories and short novels, but I include stories under 30,000 words. So “Carmilla” at 28,000 words and “The Beckoning Fair One” at about 25,000 words are included, but this means I also include “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (at about 25,000 words) and “The Great God Pan” (at about 21,000 words), though they are sometimes regarded as novels.

I am not a specialist on any of these authors. Readers who can suggest additions or changes are welcome. My address is toddmagos at yahoo dot com.

What is the value of the story of the supernatural? Aside from often being great stories as stories (with convincing characters, beginnings, middles and ends, and narrative momentum) and a lot of fun—a basic necessity for any serious literary aesthetic—my particular lens for viewing all literature is ethical, so I see many great ghost stories—such as Edith Wharton’s “Afterward,” Kipling’s “The Phantom ‘Rickshaw,” De La Mare’s “Seaton’s Aunt” or Le Fanu’s “The Familiar”—as dealing with sin, guilt, and sometimes healing. But that’s another essay entirely.

Stephen King

I start with King simply because he is the single horror writer who has had the most impact in our time. His friend and collaborator, Peter Straub, calls him the Dickens of our generation. King’s definition of the genre is expansive. He includes classic supernatural gothic works, as well as science-fictional horror (with a scientific rather than supernatural rationale for monsters) and psychological horror (again, non-supernatural) as often found in the stories of Robert Bloch. He values the more restrained and subtle “terror” (as in “The Monkey’s Paw”) alongside the more visual “horror.”

His list includes many classics of the genre, but also introduces stories from contemporary American writers such as Bloch, Matheson, Grant and Bradbury.

My sources for this list are: “Stephen King’s 10 Favorite Horror Books or Short Stories” in The Book of Lists #3 (1983); a list of three greatest horror stories in King’s introduction to Charles L. Grant’s Tales From The Nightside (1981); King’s contribution to Mike Baker and Martin Harry Greenberg’s My Favorite Horror Story (2000); a list of ten favorite fantasy-horror short stories (published after 1940), with seven runner-ups, in J. N. Williamson, How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (1987); King’s overview of horror fiction and cinema, Danse Macabre (1979), which has a list of fiction as an appendix; various interviews with King; speeches and essays by King; and secondary works such as George Beahm, Stephen King from A to Z: an Encyclopedia of his Life and Work (1998).

1.                   Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

2.                  Robert Bloch, “Sweets to the Sweet”
“I Kiss Your Shadow”
“That Hell-Bound Train”

3.                  Arthur Machen, “The Great God Pan”

4.                  M. R. James, “Casting the Runes”

5.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Colour out of Space”
“At the Mountains of Madness”
“The Dunwich Horror”
“The Rats in the Walls”
“Pickman’s Model”

6.                  Ray Bradbury, “The Emissary”
“Mars is Heaven”
“The Small Assassin”
“The Crowd”
“The Jar”
Dark Carnival

7.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

8.                  W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

9.                  F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

10.               Richard Matheson, “Prey”
“Duel”
“The Likeness of Julie”
“Born of Man and Woman”

11.               Ramsey Campbell, “The Companion”

12.               Charles L. Grant, “Home”

13.               Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

14.               Lord Dunsany, “Two Bottles of Relish”

15.               Frtiz Leiber, “You’re All Alone”

16.               Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”
The Lottery and Other Stories

17.               Harlan Ellison, “Croatoan”
Strange Wine

18.               Robert R. MacCammon, “Nightcrawlers”

19.               T. E. D. Klein, “Children of the Kingdom”

20.              Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities”
The Books of Blood

21.               Joseph Payne Brennan, “Slime”
“Canavan’s Back Yard”

22.              Bram Stoker, “The Squaw”
“The Judge’s House”

23.              Robert Howard, “Pigeons from Hell”

24.              Rudyard Kipling, “The Mark of the Beast”

25.              Charles Beaumont, “‘The Magic Man”
“Night Ride”

26.              Robert Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”

27.              Jack Finney, “The Third Level”

 

M. R. James

We now turn to M. R. James, whose “Casting the Runes” was selected by King as possibly the greatest short horror story ever written. However, James’s genre, the English antiquarian ghost story, seems somewhat removed from King’s over-the-top American horror fiction, almost a different school entirely. James and King share only one story: Crawford’s “The Upper Berth.”

My sources are James’s essays on the ghost story and introductions to various books, especially “Some Remarks on Ghost Stories” (1929), “Ghosts—Treat Them Gently” (1931) and “M.R. James on J.S. Le Fanu” (1923) in Ghosts & Scholars 7.

1.                   J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “The Familiar”
“Mr. Justice Harbottle”
“Squire Toby’s Will”
“Carmilla”
“Green Tea”

2.                  Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian, “The White and the Black”
“Cousin Elof’s Dream”
“The Invisible Eye”

3.                  Sir Walter Scott, “Wandering Willie’s Tale”
“The Tapestried Chamber”

4.                  Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”
“The Juryman”

5.                  Mrs. Oliphant, “The Open Door”

6.                  William Makepeace Thackeray, “The Notch in the Axe”

7.                  Prosper Merimeé, “The Venus of Ille”

8.                  F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”
“The Screaming Skull”

9.                  Percival Landon, “Thurnley Abbey”

10.               E. F. Benson

11.               Walter De la Mare

12.               Algernon Blackwood

13.               A. M. Burrage, Some Ghost Stories

14.               H. R. Wakefield, They Return At Evening

15.               Mrs. H. D. Everett, The Death-Mask and Other Ghosts

16.               Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, The Wind in the Rosebush and Other Stories of the Supernatural

 

H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential horror writers in the twentieth century—he made a decisive impact on the young Stephen King, for example. He corresponded with Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch and encouraged them in their early writing. He gave three lists of favorite horror stories, in 1929, 1934 and 1936, and his wide-ranging Supernatural Horror in Literature is another basic source, as are his letters and essays. In his conception of the genre, he demanded that horror be supernatural—horror itself wasn’t enough, it had to be “weird” also. However, he also pioneered a kind of cosmic horror that bordered on science fiction.

1.                   Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”
“The Wendigo”
“Ancient Sorceries”
Incredible Adventures

2.                  Arthur Machen, “The White People”
“The Novel of the White Powder”
“The Novel of the Black Seal”
“The Great God Pan”

3.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
“Ligeia”
“Ms. Found in a Bottle”
“Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”

4.                  Lord Dunsany, “Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller”
“Probable Adventure of the Three Literary Men”
“Bethmoora”
“Poor Old Bill”

5.                  Ambrose Bierce, “The Death of Halpin Frayser”
“The Suitable Surroundings”
“The Damned Thing”
“The Middle Toe of the Right Foot”

6.                  M.R. James, Count Magnus
“The Treasure of Abbot Thomas”
“The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral”
“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You”

7.                  Robert Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”

8.                  M. P. Shiel, “The House of Sounds”
“Xelucha”

9.                  Abraham Merritt, “The Moon Pool,” original novelette

10.               Walter De La Mare, “Seaton’s Aunt”
The Tree”
Out of the Depths”
“A Recluse”
“Mr. Kempe
“All-Hallows

11.               Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Ethan Brand”

12.               Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider”

13.               Clark Ashton Smith, “The Maze of the Enchanter”
“The Double Shadow”
“A Night in Maln
éant”

14.               F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

15.               Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The Haunters and the Haunted”

16.               Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Body Snatchers”
“Markheim”

17.               Rudyard Kipling, “The Mark of the Beast”
“The Phantom Rickshaw”
“The Finest Story in the World”
“The Recrudescence of Imray”

18.               E. F. Benson, “The Man Who Went Too Far”
“Negotiam Perambulans”
“The Horror-Horn”
“The Face”

19.               H. R. Wakefield, “The Red Lodge”
“He Cometh and He Passeth By”
“The Seventeenth Hole at Duncaster”

20.              Mary E. Wilkins, “The Shadows on the Wall”

21.               Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall Paper”

22.              Robert Howard, “The Shadow Kingdom”
“The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune”
“The People of the Black Circle”

23.              C. L. Moore, “Shambleau”
“Black Thirst”

24.              Theophile Gautier, “One of Cleopatra’s Nights”
“Avatar”
“The Foot of the Mummy”
“Clarimonde” (La Morte Amoureuse)

25.              Guy de Maupassant, “The Horla”

26.              Erckmann-Chatrian, “The Invisible Eye”

27.              Lafcadio Hearn, Kwaidan

28.              John Buchan, “The Green Wildebeest”
“The Wind in the Portico”
“Skule Skerry”

29.              John Metcalfe, “The Bad Lands”

30.              Ralph Adams Cram, “The Dead Valley”

31.               Irvin S. Cobb, “Fishhead”

32.              Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”

33.              H.G. Wells, “The Ghost of Fear”

 

Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey Campbell is, with Stephen King, one of the leading writers of horror in our generation. He somewhat combines the American school of Lovecraft and King and the more restrained stories of M. R. James and Robert Aickman.

The sources for Campbell’s list include his entry in Mike Baker and Martin Harry Greenberg’s My Favorite Horror Story (2000); a list of “crucial” horror stories on his website; a list of ten favorite fantasy-horror short stories (published after 1940), in J. N. Williamson, How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (1987); his anthologies, including, Fine Frights, Stories that Scared Me (1988); and his interviews, essays, and introductions.

1.                   M. R. James, “A Warning to the Curious”
“Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”
“The Treasure of Abbot Thomas”
“Count Magnus”
“The Diary of Mr. Poynter”
“Casting the Runes”

2.                  Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost”
“A Bit of the Dark World”
“Dark Wings”
“Gonna Roll the Bones”
“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”
“The Hill and the Hole”

3.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

4.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Colour out of Space”
“The Shadow out of Time”
“The Dunwich Horror”
“The Call of Cthulhu”

5.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

6.                  J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla”

7.                  Arthur Machen, “The White People”
“The Great God Pan”

8.                  W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

9.                  M. John Harrison, “Running Down”
“Anima”

10.               Robert Aickman, “The Hospice”
“Wood”
“Ravissante”

11.               Villy Sørensen, “Child’s Play”

12.               Philip K. Dick, “Upon the Dull Earth”

13.               Thomas Ligotti, “Dream of a Mannikin, or the Third Person”
“The Greater Festival of Masks”
“The Medusa”

14.               Dennis Etchison, “It Only Comes Out at Night”

15.               William Hope Hodgson

16.               Shirley Jackson

17.               Ray Bradbury

18.               T. E. D. Klein, “Petey”

19.               Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities”
“The Departed”

20.              Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life”

21.               David Case, “Among the Wolves”
“The War Is Over”

22.              John Metcalfe, “The Feasting Dead”

23.              Lisa Tuttle, “My Death”
“Replacements”

24.              Mark Samuels, “The White Hands”

25.              Neil Gaiman, “Queen of Knives”

26.              R.A. Lafferty, “Fog in My Throat”

 

Frtiz Leiber

Ramsey Campbell pointed to Fritz Leiber as one of his chief influences. Leiber started out as a Lovecraft follower, but soon found his own distinctive voice, creating a genre of modern urban horror. For sources, we have a list of important authors found in the introduction to Kirby McCauley’s anthology Frights (1977); essays on H. P. Lovecraft (“A Literary Copernicus”) and Stephen King (“Horror Hits a High”); his autobiographical essay in The Ghost Light (1984); Ben J. S. Szumskyj  and S. T. Joshi, eds., Fritz Leiber and H. P. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark (2005).

1.                   Edgar Allan Poe, “Fall of the House of Usher”

2.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in the Darkness”
“The Dunwich Horror”
“The Colour out of Space”
“The Shadow out of Time”
“The Dreams in the Witch House”

3.                  M. R. James

4.                  J. Sheridan Le Fanu

5.                  Vernon Lee (Violet Paget)

6.                  Ambrose Bierce

7.                  Algernon Blackwood

8.                  Walter de la Mare

9.                  H. Russell Wakefield

10.               Ray Bradbury

11.               Robert Aickman

12.               Arthur Machen, The Three Impostors

13.               Stephen King

14.               Robert Bloch

 

Robert Aickman

The main sources for the list below are the eight volumes of The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1964-1972), with their introductions.

Aickman emerged from the ghost story tradition, and he believed in ghosts, but he called his own stories “strange stories” and they often include no overt ghosts or supernatural elements. But they are full of unsettling, unexplainable happenings. Likewise, in the Fontana anthologies, he included many traditional ghost stories, but he also included “strange stories” with no overt supernatural elements. For example, in the first Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, Aickman referred to L. P. Hartley’s “The Travelling Grave” as “one of the greatest stories in its field” — presumably the field being ghost stories. Yet there is no ghost in the story, though there is an extremely strange and sinister device called a travelling grave. It is almost a science-fiction story.

Unlike many of the authors in these lists, Aickman rejected the genre of “horror,” as he defined it, as well as science fiction. In the introductions to the first and second Fontana books, he wrote, “the ghost story must be distinguished both from the mere horror story and from the scientific extravaganza. . . . The horror story is purely sadistic; it depends entirely upon power to shock.”

After the first three stories, my numbering here represents my rough guesses based on comments in the Fontana introductions.

1.                   Algernon Blackwood, “The Wendigo”

2.                  Robert Hichens, “How Love Came to Professor Guildea”

3.                  Oliver Onions “The Beckoning Fair One”

4.                  L. P. Hartley, “The Traveling Grave”

5.                  Edward Bulwer Lytton, “The Haunters and the Haunted”

6.                  Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”

7.                  Wilkie Collins, “Mad Monkton”

8.                  Alexander Pushkin, “Queen of Spades”

9.                  A. E. Coppard, “Gone Away”

10.               Arthur Quiller-Couch, “The Seventh Man”

11.               Edith Wharton, “Afterward”

12.               Vernon Lee, “Oke of Okehurst”

13.               Anonymous, “The Mysterious Stranger”

14.               Charlotte Riddell, “Old Mrs. Jones”

15.               Joseph Payne Brennan, “Levitation”

16.               Sir Walter Besant and James Rices, “The Case of Mr. Lucraft”

17.               Edgar Allan Poe, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”

18.               Arthur Conan Doyle, “Playing With Fire”

19.               Ivan Tugenev, “Bezhin Lea”

20.              Arthur Machen, “The Great Return”

21.               H. G. Wells, “The Door in the Wall”

22.              Theophile Gautier, “Clarimonde

23.              Vladimir Nabokov, “The Visit To The Museum”

24.              Walter de la Mare, “Seaton’s Aunt”

25.              W. S. Maugham, “The End of the Flight”

 

Edith Wharton

From an early age Edith Wharton was fascinated by ghost stories, and as a mature writer she wrote such masterpieces as “Afterward” and “Pomegranate Seed”; her stories of the supernatural were collected in Ghosts (1937). Her work can be found on the lists of Robert Aickman above and Jorge Luis Borges, Roald Dahl and Lisa Tuttle below. The following list is derived from the preface to Ghosts.

1.                   J. Sheridan Le Fanu

2.                  Fitz James O’Brien, “What Is It?”

3.                  Walter De La Mare

4.                  F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

5.                  Henry James

6.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “Thrawn Janet”
“Markheim”

                                                                  

Jorge Luis Borges

Stephen King dedicated Danse Macabre to six great writers of the macabre who were living, one of whom was Borges. Steve Rasnic Tem (see below) regards him as a major influence. Like the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, Borges often wrote about the strangeness and horror of shifting realities.

When Paul Theroux visited Borges in Argentina, they talked about horror stories, and the first story that Borges mentioned was Kipling’s “They.” Later, an interviewer asked the Argentine what the greatest fantasy story was, and he mentioned Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” In 1967 Borges contributed to an anthology of authors writing about their favorite single short story, and he selected and introduced Hawthorne’s eerie “Wakefield” as his nomination for the single greatest short story ever written. Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas (1979). Un Día en la Vida Legendaria del Escritor: Jorge Luis Borges en Dominguez Hills University (1995), edited by Luz Campana de Watts. El Libro de los Autores (1967).

After these three selections, I turn to the many books Borges edited, especially Book of Fantasy (1989), and the many interviews he took part in, to fill out a top twenty of sorts.

1.                   Rudyard Kipling, “They”
“The Return of Imray”

2.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”
“The Descent into the Maelstrom”
“The Man of the Crowd”

3.                  Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Wakefield”
“Earth’s Holocaust”

4.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
“Markheim”
“Thrawn Janet”
“The Isle of Voices”
“The Bottle Imp”

5.                  Henry James, “The Friends of the Friends”

6.                  Leopoldo Lugones, “The Statue of Salt”

7.                  Gustav Meyrink, “Cardinal Napellus”

8.                  Pu Songling, “The Tiger Guest”

9.                  Manuel Mujica Láinez, “The Coach”

10.               Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, “The Friend of Death”

11.               Julio Cortázar, “House Taken Over”

12.               Lord Dunsany, “Idle Days on the Yann”

13.               Arthur Machen, “The Shining Pyramid”

14.               Wilkie Collins

15.               H. G. Wells, “The Door in the Wall”

16.               Lafcadio Hearn, Kwaidan

17.               W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

18.               Guy de Maupassant, “Who Knows?”

19.               Edith Wharton, “Pomegranate Seed”

20.              Saki, “The Music on the Hill”

 

T. E. D. Klein

T. E. D. Klein is known for his seminal novel The Ceremonies, as well as for a series of path-breaking novellas. His stories can be been found on the lists of Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell above. My main source for him is a list of “13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories,” with runner-ups that he published while editor of the magazine Twilight Zone, in the July-August 1983 issue. He wrote the entries on Arthur Machen, Robert Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, John Metcalfe, Jack London, Henry Kuttner, W. F. Harvey and John Collier in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Jack Sullivan (1986). Klein also wrote about Machen in Horror: The 100 Best Books, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (1988).

Given the profound influence Machen had on Klein (he said that The Ceremonies was influenced mainly by Machen’s “The White People”), it’s surprising that M. R. James heads his list. Science fiction, as in “Who Goes There” “Stay Off the Moon,” and “Autopsy,” is given a substantial place in Klein’s canon. “To Build a Fire” is a unique choice, as it is non-supernatural, entirely separated from the usual definition of the genre.

1.                   M. R. James, “Casting the Runes”
“Count Magnus”
“The Ash-Tree”
“The Treasure of Abbott Thomas”

2.                  Arthur Machen, “The Novel of the Black Seal”
“The White People”
“Out of the Picture”

3.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

4.                  H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror”
“The Call of Cthulhu”

5.                  John Collier, “Bird of Prey”
“Thus I Refute Beelzy”
“The Lady on the Grey”

6.                  John W. Campbell, “Who Goes There?”

7.                  Anthony Boucher, “They Bite”

8.                  Raymond F. Jones, “Stay Off the Moon!”

9.                  George Bamber, “Ottmar Balleau X 2”

10.               Richard Matheson, “First Anniversary”
“Prey”

11.               Michael Shea, “The Autopsy”

12.               Ramsey Campbell, “The Trick”
“Cold Print”
“The Interloper”
“The End of a Summer’s Day”

13.               Jack London, “To Build a Fire”
“Planchette”

14.               Charles Beaumont, “Fritschen”

15.               Donald A. Wollheim, “Mimic”

16.               Fritz Leiber, “A Bit of the Dark World”

17.               John Metcalfe, “The Smoking Leg”
“Mortmain”
“Brenner’s Boy”
“Paper Windmills”

18.               William Hope Hodgson, “The Voice in the Night”

19.               W. F. Harvey, “The Beast with Five Fingers”
“The Follower”
“August Heat”

20.              Robert Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”
“The Messenger”

21.               Henry Kuttner, “The Dark Angel”
“Call Him Demon”

 

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is certainly one of the great writers of fantasy of our generation, and much of his fantasy leans toward the horrific.

I’ve constructed the following list mostly from Gaiman’s interviews. See also Horror: The 100 Best Books, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (1988), in which Neil writes about Anthony Boucher; Neil’s anthology Unnatural Creatures (2013); and the essay, “Some Strangeness in the Proportion: The Exquisite Beauties of Edgar Allan Poe,” on his website. Gaiman, in this list, and in his own writing, definitely leans toward the dark fantasy view of the genre.

1.                   Robert Aickman

2.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia”
“The Masque of Red Death”
“The Tell-Tale Heart”
“The Cask of Amontillado”
“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”
“Hop-frog”

3.                  Anthony Boucher, “The Compleat Werewolf” 
“They Bite”
“We Print the Truth”
“Mr Lupescu”

4.                  Jonathan Carroll, The Panic Hand

5.                  Ray Bradbury, The October Country
“Usher II”

6.                  Shirley Jackson, The Lottery And Other Stories

7.                  John Collier, “Thus We Refute Beelzy”
Fancies and Goodnights

8.                  Harlan Ellison, Essential Ellison

9.                  Angela Carter

10.               Gene Wolfe

11.               Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen

12.               Saki, “Gabriel-Ernest”

13.               M. John Harrison

14.               Fritz Leiber

15.               Ramsey Campbell

16.               Lisa Tuttle

17.               Stephen King

18.               Joe Hill

19.               Peter S. Beagle, “Come Lady Death”

20.              Clive Barker

21.               Susanna Clark, “Mr Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower”

 

Lisa Tuttle

Ramsey Campbell and Neil Gaiman have recommended Lisa Tuttle, as we have seen. Gaiman has written, “Lisa Tuttle has quietly been writing remarkable, chilling short stories and powerful, haunting novels for many years now, and doing it so easily and so well that one almost takes it, and her, for granted. This would be as big a mistake as not reading Lisa Tuttle.” She has written outstanding science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her first short story collection, A Nest of Nightmares (1986), was selected by Robert Holdstock for inclusion in Horror: The 100 Best Books, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (1988).

The main source for this list is “Ten Favorite Scary Short Stories” from The Book of Lists: Horror (2008), edited by Amy Wallace and Del Howison and Scott Bradley. Tuttle’s interviews have also been helpful. She generously offers us not one, but three number one stories, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “The Gentleman from Down Under” and “The Fog Horn.”

1.                   Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

2.                  L. P. Hartley, “A Visitor from Down Under”

3.                  Gertrude Atherton, “The Fog Horn”

4.                  Robert Aickman, “The School Friend”
Painted Devils

5.                  M. R. James, “The Mezzotint”

6.                  W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

7.                  Edith Wharton, “Afterwards”

8.                  Marghanita Laski, “The Victorian Chaise Longue” (may be closer to a novel than a short story)

9.                  Elizabeth Bowen, “The Demon Lover”

10.               M. R. James, “Casting the Runes”

11.               Arthur Machen, “The White People”

12.               George R. R . Martin, “The Pear-Shaped Man”

13.               Shirley Jackson

 

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl wrote mystery, suspense stories, and classic fantasy novels for children—many of them, such as The BFG and The Witches, having a distinctly dark cast. My source is Dahl’s anthology Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories (1983), with its introduction. The first fourteen stories are the contents of the book; the rest of the stories are runner-ups of various sorts.

1.                   L. P. Hartley, “W. S.”

2.                  Rosemary Timperley, “Harry”

3.                  Cynthia Asquith, “The Corner Shop”

4.                  E. F. Benson, “In the Tube”

5.                  Rosemary Timperley, “Christmas Meeting”

6.                  Jonas Lie, “Elias and the Draug”

7.                  A. M. Burrage, “Playmates”

8.                  Robert Aickman, “Ringing the Changes”

9.                  Mary Treadgold, “The Telephone”

10.               J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Authentic Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand”

11.               A. M. Burrage, “The Sweeper”

12.               Edith Wharton, “Afterward”

13.               Richard Middleton, “On the Brighton Road”

14.               F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

15.               Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”

16.               E. F. Benson, “The Hanging of Alfred Wadham”

17.               Cynthia Asquith, “God Grante that She Lye Stille”

18.               John Collier, “Evening Primrose”

19.               Clemence Dane, “Spinsters’ Rest”

20.              Charles Dickens, “The Signal-man”

21.               Amelia B. Edwards, “The Four-Fifteen Express”

22.              Margaret Oliphant, “The Open Door”

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There is a strong connection between the “mystery” story (in which there is a murder and the detective must find who committed it, and why it took place) and the ghost story (in which ghosts return, and the protagonist must find out why, the reason often being a murder). Doyle, one of the great storytellers in English literature, wrote many tales of the supernatural, and he appears on the lists of Aickman above and Gahan Wilson below.

The main source for this list is Doyle’s delightful book, Through the Magic Door (1907), which has a section on short stories.

1.                   Edgar Allan Poe, “The Facts in the Case of Monsieur Valdemar”

2.                  Guy de Maupassant, “The Horla”

3.                  Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The Haunted and the Haunters”

4.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

5.                  Sir Walter Scott, “Wandering Willie’s Tale”

6.                  Rudyard Kipling, “The Man who Would be King”

7.                  Robert McNish, “Metempsychosis”

8.                  Ambrose Bierce, In the Midst of Life

9.                  H. G. Wells

10.               Arthur Quiller-Couch, “Old Aeson”

 

August Derleth

August Derleth, a friend of Lovecraft, and the founder of the small press Arkham House, created a list of ten favorite horror stories, published by Bertrand Hart in a column called The Sideshow, in the Providence Journal on November 23, 1929. This list is very much in the Lovecraft tradition.

11.               Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

12.               Ambrose Bierce, “The Inhabitant of Carcosa”

13.               Robert W. Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”

14.               F. Marion Crawford , “The Upper Berth”

15.               W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

16.               M. R. James, “A View from a Hill”

17.               Walter De la Mare, “Seaton’s Aunt”

18.               M. P. Shiel, “The House of Sounds”

19.               H. G. Wells, “A Dream of Armageddon”

20.              Mary Wilkins Freeman, “The Shadows on the Wall”

 

Frank Belknap Long

Long, another writer in the Weird Tales school, and a close friend and protégé of Lovecraft, created a list of 28 favorite horror stories, which also appeared in the November 23, 1929 Sideshow column in the Providence Journal. While the list is obviously deeply influenced by Lovecraft, the inclusion of “Lazarus” at number one is noteworthy.

1.                   Leonid Andreyev, “Lazarus”

2.                  E. F. Benson, “Negotium Perambulans”

3.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”
“The Wendigo”

4.                  John Buchan, “Skule Skerry”

5.                  Ambrose Bierce, “The Death of Halpin Frayser”

6.                  Robert W. Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”

7.                  F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

8.                  Lord Dunsany, “Bethmoora”

9.                  W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

10.               M. R. James, “Count Magnus”
“The Treasure of Abbot Thomas”
“An Episode of Cathedral History”

11.               Arthur Machen, “The White People”
“The White Powder”
“The Great God Pan”
“The Black Seal”

12.               Guy De Maupassant, “The Horla”

13.               John Metcalfe, “The Bad Lands”

14.               Edgar Allan Poe, “Metzengerstein”
“Ligeia”
“The Fall of the House Of Usher”
“The Masque of the Red Death”
“Manuscript Found in a Bottle”

15.               M. P. Shiel, “The House of Sounds”

16.               H. R. Wakefield, “He Cometh and He Passeth By”
“The 17th Hole at Duncaster”

 

Clark Ashton Smith

The poet Clark Ashton Smith was another friend and correspondent of Lovecraft—with Lovecraft and Robert Howard, he was one of the “big three” of the Weird Tales school. His stories appear on the lists of Lovecraft above and Gahan Wilson below. “The Favorite Weird Stories of Clark Ashton Smith,” by H. Koenig, appeared in The Fantasy Fan (December 1934).

1.                   Robert W. Chambers, “The Yellow Sign”

2.                  M. P. Shiel, “The House of Sounds”

3.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

4.                  M. R. James, “A View from a Hill”

5.                  Ambrose Bierce, “The Death of Halpin Fraser”

6.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

7.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”

8.                  Arthur Machen, “The White Powder”

9.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

10.               H. P. Lovecraft, “The Colour Out of Space”

 

Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang, a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, advised him not to write “Jekyll and Hyde” because the story of the double had already been done by Poe in “William Wilson.” Fortunately, Stevenson ignored this advice! Lang, an all-around man of letters, essayist, historian, and translator, commented on his favorite short stories in various books and essays, such as Adventures Among Books (1905), which has an essay “The Supernatural in Fiction”; and Historical Mysteries (1905), with its chapter on “Saint-Germain the Deathless,” on whom, Lang thought, Bulwer-Lytton’s “The Haunters and the Haunted” was based. Lang also wrote a book on “true” ghosts, The Book of Dreams and Ghosts (1897).

1.                   Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The Haunters and the Haunted”

2.                  William Makepeace Thackeray, “The Notch in the Axe”

3.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
“Thrawn Janet”

4.                  Sir Walter Scott, “Wandering Willie’s Tale”
“The Tapestried Chamber.”
“My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror”

5.                  J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla”

6.                  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Christabel” (poem)
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (poem)

7.                  Mrs. Oliphant

8.                  Phlegon, “The Dead Bride,” from De Mirabilibus

9.                  Théophile Gautier, “Clarimonde” (aka “The Dead Leman”) (La Morte Amoureuse) (see a translation by Lang)

10.               Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”
“The Fall of the House of Usher”

11.               Countess D’Aulnoy, “The Yellow Dwarf,” in Lang, Blue Fairy Book

 

Gahan Wilson

Robert Aickman felt that humor was an integral part of the weird tale, and no one understands that combination better than the great macabre cartoonist, Gahan Wilson. The source for this list is Wilson’s anthology, Gahan Wilson’s Favorite Tales of Horror (1976). His story “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be” appears here and also in the list of Steve Rasnic Tem below.

1.                   Charles Birkin, “Kitty Fischer”

2.                  Clark Ashton Smith, “The Treader of the Dust”

3.                  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Horror of the Heights”

4.                  William Hope Hodgson, “The Stone Ship”

5.                  Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be”

6.                  Mary Wilkins Freeman, “Luella Miller”

7.                  Sir Frederick Treves, “The Idol With Hands of Clay”

8.                  Ambrose Bierce, “My Favorite Murder”

9.                  William Fryer Harvey, “The Clock”

10.               Robert W. Chambers, “The Harbor-Master”

11.               M. R. James, “Rats”

 

Peter Penzoldt

I created the following list from Penzoldt’s The Supernatural in Fiction (1952), a sometimes Freudian view of supernatural literature that Robert Aickman praised highly. Penzoldt had corresponded with Algernon Blackwood, and dedicated the book to him.

1.                   Algernon Blackwood, “The Wendigo”
John Silence
“The Damned”

2.                  J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Green Tea”
“The Haunting of the Tiled House”
“Madame Crowl’s Ghost”
“Squire Toby’s Will”
“The Familiar”
“Justice Harbottle”

3.                  Edgar Allan Poe

4.                  Walter De La Mare, “Out of the Deep”
“Seaton’s Aunt; “
“A Recluse”
“Mr. Kempe”

5.                  Rudyard Kipling, “They”
“The Phantom Rickshaw”
“The House Surgeon”

6.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “Markheim”
“Olalla”
“The Bottle Imp”
“Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
“The Beach of Falesa”

7.                  L. P. Hartley, “The Traveling Grave”

8.                  Sir Walter Scott, “Wandering Willie’s Tale”
“The Tapestried Chamber”

9.                  Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The Haunters and the Haunted”

10.               Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”
“The Trial for Murder”

11.               F. Marion Crawford, “The Dead Smile”
“The Screaming Skull”
“The Upper Berth”

12.               H. P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow out of Time”
“The Call of Cthulhu”
“Pickman’s Model”

13.               Arthur Machen, “The Novel of the White Powder”
“The Great God Pan”
“The Shining Pyramid”

14.               E. F. Benson, “Caterpillars”
“The Room in the Tower”
“The Face”
“Mrs. Amsworth”

15.               M. R James, “The Diary of Mr. Poynter”

16.               Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”

17.               Oliver Onions, “The Beckoning Fair One”

18.               W. F. Harvey, “Sambo”
“The Clock”

 

Peter Straub

Peter Straub is very much the American writer of horror, as he was influenced by Hawthorne and Henry James, as well as by his friend Stephen King. However, the list below starts with two English writers. My source for this list is Straub’s contribution to Mike Baker and Martin Harry Greenberg’s My Favorite Horror Story (2000), his Library of America anthology American Fantastical Tales: Terror and the Uncanny, Vols 1-2 (2009), and interviews. He gave a valuable interview about editing American Fantastical Tales.

1.                   Robert Aickman, “The Inner Room” 
“The Trains”
“Into the Wood”
“Ravissante”
“Ringing the Changes”
“The View”

2.                  Arthur Machen, “The Great God Pan”

3.                  Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”

4.                  Henry James, “The Jolly Corner”

5.                  Stephen King, “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French”

6.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Thing on the Doorstep”

7.                  Kelly Link, “Stone Animals”

8.                  T. E. D. Klein, “The Events at Poroth Farm”

9.                  Thomas Ligotti, “The Last Feast of Harlequin”

10.               Julian Hawthorne, “Absolute Evil”

11.               Edgar Allan Poe, “Berenice”

12.               Shirley Jackson, “The Daemon Lover”

13.               Conrad Aiken, “Mr. Arcularis”

14.               Robert E. Howard, “The Black Stone”

15.               Robert Bloch, “The Cloak”

16.               John Crowley, “Novelty”

17.               George Saunders, “Sea Oak”

18.               M. Rickert, “The Chambered Fruit”

 

Steve Rasnic Tem

Steve Rasnic Tem has won the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. He was also a finalist for the Philip K. Dick, Shirley Jackson, and Theodore Sturgeon awards. Joe Lansdale, whom he recommends below, has said, “Steve Rasnic Tem is a school of writing unto himself.”

In The Book of Lists: Horror (2008), edited by Amy Wallace and Del Howison and Scott Bradley, Tem supplied his “30 Most Memorable Horror Short-Story Reads.” In addition Tem’s interviews have been helpful. Having Kafka lead off the list shows how far we’ve come from the gothic trappings of the supernatural tale, and into the realm of the “strange tale” or simply “the Weird.”

1.                   Franz Kafka, “A Country Doctor”

2.                  Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”

3.                  Oliver Onions, “The Beckoning Fair One”

4.                  John Collier, “Evening Primrose”

5.                  Ray Bradbury, “The Jar”

6.                  Robert Aickman, “The Hospice”

7.                  Charles Beaumont, “The Howling Man”

8.                  Karl Edward Wagner, “Sticks”

9.                  Dennis Etchison, “The Dark Country”

10.               Ramsey Campbell, “Mackintosh Willy”

11.               Michael Shea, “The Autopsy”

12.               Stephen King, “The Body”

13.               Elizabeth Massie, “Stephen”

14.               Glen Hirshberg, “Mr. Dark’s Carnival”

15.               Thomas Ligotti, “The Last Feast of the Harlequin”

16.               Edgar Allan Poe, “William Wilson”

17.               Peter Straub, “Pork Pie Hat”

18.               Joe Lansdale, “The Night They Missed the Horror Show”

19.               Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities”

20.              Arthur Machen, “The White Peope”

21.               Villy Sorensen, “Child’s Play”

22.              M. R. James, “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad...”

23.              Lucy Clifford, “The New Mother”

24.              Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

25.              Harlan Ellison, “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs”

26.              Bob Leman, “Feesters in the Lake”

27.              Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet as Wet Can Be”

28.              Charles L. Grant, “Confess the Seasons”

29.              Fritz Leiber, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”

30.              Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen”

31.               Neil Gaiman

32.              Caitlin Kiernan

33.              Adam Nevill

34.              Italo Calvino, t-zero (Time and the Hunter)

35.              Jorges Luis Borges

36.              Donald Barthleme

37.              A. W. Burrage

38.              Thomas Disch

 

Italo Calvino

Following on the advocacy of Stephen Rasnic Tem, we present the contents of Calvino’s superb book of fantasy, Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday (1997), published in Italian in two volumes as Racconti Fantastici Dell’Ottocento (1983). Many of the stories definitely shade toward the dark side.

This list is in chronological order.

I. The Visionary Fantastic of the Nineteenth Century

1.                   Jan Potocki, “The Story of the Demoniac Pacheco”

2.                  Joseph von Eichendorff, “Autumn Sorcery”

3.                  E. T. A. Hoffmann, “The Sandman”

4.                  Sir Walter Scott, “Wandering Willie’s Tale”

5.                  Honoré de Balzac, “The Elixir of Life”

6.                  Philarète Chasles, “The Eye with No Lid”

7.                  Gérard de Nerval, “The Enchanted Hand”

8.                  Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown”

9.                  Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, “The Nose”

10.               Théophile Gautier, “The Beautiful Vampire”

11.               Prosper Mérimée, “The Venus of Ille”

12.               J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “The Ghost and the Bonesetter”

II. The Everyday Fantastic of the Nineteenth Century

13.               Edgar Allan Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

14.               Hans Christian Anderson, “The Shadow”

15.               Charles Dickens, “The Signal-Man”

16.               Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, “The Dream”

17.               Nicolai Semyonovich Leskov, “A Shameless Rascal”

18.               Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, “The Very Image”

19.               Guy de Maupassant, “Night: A Nightmare”

20.              Vernon Lee, “A Lasting Love”

21.               Ambrose Bierce, “Chickamauga”

22.              Jean Lorrain, “The Holes in the Mask”

23.              Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Bottle Imp”

24.              Henry James, “The Friends of the Friends”

25.              Rudyard Kipling, “The Bridge-Builders”

26.              H. G. Wells, “The Country of the Blind”

 

R. S. Hadji (Robert Knowlton)

R. S. Hadji (Robert Knowlton) is a prominent critic and book collector in the genre of fantasy and horror. His “The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories” appeared in the magazine Twilight Zone, in the July-August 1983 issue.

1.                   Gertrude Atherton, “The Striding Place”

2.                  E. F. Benson, “Negotium Perambulans”

3.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”

4.                  Ray Bradbury, “The Jar”

5.                  Ramsey Campbell, “In the Bag”

6.                  F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

7.                  Lafcadio Hearn, “Mujina”

8.                  Robert E. Howard, “Pigeons from Hell”

9.                  M.R. James, “The Ash-Tree”

10.               David Keller, “The Thing in the Cellar”

11.               Henry Kuttner, “The Graveyard Rats”

12.               H. P. Lovecraft, “The Haunter of the Dark”

13.               H. Russell Wakefield, “The Frontier Guards”

 

Otto Penzler

Otto Penzler, specialist in mystery anthologies, recently published an anthology of ghost stories, The Big Book of Ghost Stories (2012). He shared his selection of “The 14 Scariest Ghost Stories” with the Huffington Post website on October 26, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/otto-penzler/ghost-stories-scary_b_2025628.html

1.                   Paul Ernst, “Death’s Warm Fireside”

2.                  William Fryer Harvey, “August Heat”

3.                  Lafcadio Hearn, “The Story of Ming-Y and Yuki-Onna”

4.                  W. W.  Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

5.                  M. R. James, “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”

6.                  Andrew  Klavan, “The Advent Reunion”

7.                  Perceval  Landon, “Thurnley Abbey”

8.                  O. Henry, “The Furnished Room”

9.                  Vincent O’Sullivan, “The Burned House”

10.               Victor  Rosseau, “The Angel of the Marne”

11.               Saki, “The Open Window”

12.               Mark Twain, “A Ghost’s Tale”

13.               Donald E. Westlake, “In at the Death”

14.               Oscar Wilde, “The Canterville Ghost”

 

Stewart M. Ellis

Ellis was a literary critic specializing in the Victorian era. The source for this list is Ellis’s “The Ghost Story and its Exponents” (1923), collected in his book Mainly Victorian (1924). The list is more or less chronological.

1.                   James Grant, “The Phantom Regiment”

2.                  Sir Walter Scott, “The Tapestried Chamber”
“Wandering Willie’s Tale”

3.                  J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Green Tea”
“Carmilla”
“The Familiar”
“An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”
“Squire Toby’s Will”

4.                  Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”

5.                  Amelia B. Edwards, “The Phantom Coach”

6.                  anonymous “Ghost Story”

7.                  Rosa Mulholland, “The Haunted Organist of Hurly Burly”

8.                  Charlotte Riddell, “The Haunted River”

9.                  Oscar Wilde, “The Canterville Ghost”

10.               F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

11.               Thomas Hardy, “The Withered Arm”

12.               M. R. James

13.               Blackwood, Algernon “A Case of Eavesdropping”
“The Listener”
“Secret Worship”

14.               E. F. Benson, “The House with the Brick-Kiln”

 

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones is probably the foremost living anthologist of weird fiction; with Ramsey Campbell, he has edited the yearly Best New Horror series since 1990. On November 22, 2013, the This is Horror website pinned him down and extracted from him his ten favorite horror tales. Don’t miss his commentary on this list at http://www.thisishorror.co.uk/top-10-horror-stories-stephen-jones/.

1.                   M. R. James, “A Warning to the Curious”

2.                  H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

3.                  Robert Bloch, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”

4.                  Karl Edward Wagner, “Sticks”

5.                  Ramsey Campbell, “The Chimney”

6.                  Stephen King, “One for the Road”

7.                  Dennis Etchison, “The Dark Country”

8.                  Richard Matheson, “Dance of the Dead”

9.                  Michael Marshall Smith, “The Man Who Drew Cats”

10.               Ray Bradbury, “Homecoming”
“The October People”
“Uncle Einar’

 

Michael Cox

Michael Cox, a novelist and editor for Oxford University Press, wrote a biography of M. R. James, M.R.James: An Informal Portrait (1983), and edited a number of ghost story anthologies for Oxford, such as The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (1987) and The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (1991), both with R.A. Gilbert, and The Oxford Book Of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories (1996). My main source for the list below is a short overview of supernatural fiction at http://www.jrank.org/literature/pages/19658/Supernatural-Michael-Cox.html.

1.                   J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Schalken the Painter”
“The Familiar”
“Green Tea”
“Carmilla”
“An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”
“Squire Toby’s Will”

2.                  W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”
“Jerry Bundler”

3.                  M. R. James, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”
“Casting the Runes”
“The Diary of Mr Poynter”
“Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book”

4.                  Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”
“The Body Snatchers”

5.                  Arthur Machen,”The Great God Pan
The Three Imposters

6.                  Blackwood, “The Willows”

7.                  H. R. Wakefield, “Blind Man’s Buff”

8.                  W. F. Harvey, “The Clock”
“The Beast with Five Fingers”

9.                  Robert Aickman, “The Cicerones”
“Ringing the Changes”

10.               H. P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror and Others
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

11.               Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

12.               Walter De La Mare, “Seaton’s Aunt”

 

S. T. Joshi

S. T. Joshi is a prolific scholar on H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Lord Dunsany, and the history of atheism. He wrote the definitive biography of Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1996)), and his two-volume Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction (2012) is a monumentally detailed history of the genre. In a web interview, he shared his favorite horror stories. https://www.reddit.com/r/horrorlit/comments/27qs57/ask_st_joshi_a_question/  In an email to me, he added entries by Arthur Machen. Joshi”s selection is solidly in the H. P. Lovecraft school, but has a useful section on contemporary fiction, Campbell, Klein, Ligotti and Kiernan.

1.                   H. P. Lovecraft, “At the Mountains of Madness”
“The Colour out of Space”
“The Shadow out of Time”
“The Shadow over Innsmouth”

2.                  Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia”
“The Fall of the House of Usher”
“Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”

3.                  Ambrose Bierce, “The Death of Halpin Frayser”

4.                  Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,”
“The Wendigo,”
“Sand”
“A Descent into Egypt”

5.                  Arthur Machen, “The White People
The Three Imposters

6.                  Ray Bradbury, “The Jar”

7.                  Ramsey Campbell, “The Man in the Underpass”
“The Chimney”
“Mackintosh Willy”

8.                  T. E. D. Klein, “The Events at Poroth Farm”
“Children of the Kingdom”

9.                  Thomas Ligotti, “Vastarien”
“The Last Feast of Harlequin”

10.               Caitlín R. Kiernan, “In the Water Works”
“The Ammonite Violin”

Algernon Blackwood

In T.P.’s & Cassell’s Weekly (December 8, 1923), the writer gave this response to the question, “What is Your Favorite Ghost?”

My favourite ghost story is what I believe to be also the shortest:

    “Do you believe in ghosts?” said Jones.
    “No,” said Smith.
    “I do,” said Jones—and vanished.

Its authorship I do not know. It may be a chestnut too. Next to this, I place Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, for its majestic horror; and “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs, for it cumulative horror and its inevitableness.

(See http://wormwoodiana.blogspot.com/search/label/Algernon%20Blackwood.)

Thus we at least have one recommended short story from the man who is arguably the greatest of all writers of dark fantasy.

1.                   W. W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”