Gothic Short Stories + PDF

Gothic Short Stories American Southern Gothic PDF
Gothic Short Stories

Death and elements of horror feature prominently in gothic short stories. They often contain decayed settings, human psychology, and strong evocations of nature. They are scary but usually not as graphic as horror stories, although there is definite overlap between the two, and this page also includes some regular horror stories. Some of the other mainstays of gothicism include young maidens, clergy and other religious figures, castles, monasteries, night-time journeys, insanity, and violence. The gothic short stories with PDF links are in a separate section a little ways down. See also:

My favorite anthology of this type is The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories (Amazon). It’s light on traditional gothic short stories. No Poe, Hawthorne or Pushkin. But it’s full of mysterious occurrences and seldom seen pulp stories. It’s also where I first read “The Summer People”, “Sandkings”, and “The Long Sheet”, so I’ll always appreciate it. And it’s absolutely huge. Another large, standout anthology is The Complete Masters of Darkness.

Gothic Short Stories

“A Casual Encounter” by Quinn Fern

A young woman targets older men on a forum. They’re easy to catch because they’re bored and lonely. She agrees to meet a professor at a motel in two hours.

“A Casual Encounter” can be read in the Amazon preview of Howls From Hell: A Horror Anthology(26% into preview)

“The Handler” by Ray Bradbury

Mr. Benedict is the mortician of a small town. He’s built up a good business over the years. Despite his success, he feels inferior to others and is the butt of many jokes. He looks forward to the time he can spend in his mortuary with the bodies. He likes the power reversal his work affords. (Summary)

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs

The Whites live in an out-of-the-way place, and the weather is bad. Despite this, they receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, who tells them interesting stories. Mr. White urges him to tell the story of something he had only mentioned before, a monkey’s paw. The visitor is hesitant, but he tells it.

This story can be read in the preview of The Monkey’s Paw and Other Tales. (40% into preview)

“A Vine on a House” by Ambrose Bierce

An old house in Missouri has been unoccupied for years and will probably stay that way—it has an evil reputation. It’s decayed and overrun by a large vine. The Hardings lived there along with the wife’s sister. In 1884 the husband said his wife had gone to visit her mother. (Summary)

Read “A Vine on a House”

“Duel” by Richard Matheson

Mann is driving to San Francisco for an appointment. He passes a semi pulling a trailer. Shortly after, the semi roars past and abruptly cuts in front of him. He’s not sure what to make of it. He has to slow down a bit. He doesn’t have any spare time. Mann decides to pass again.

This is the first story in the preview of Duel: Terror Stories(7% into preview)

“Vanishers” by Josh Allen

Jacob and Jakob, sixth graders, live next door to each other and are best friends. They do everything together and don’t want other friends. Jakob has to write a story for class. They collaborate on what it could be about.

This story can be read in the Amazon preview of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe(40% into preview, For younger readers)

“The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce

A man who lives in the wilderness prepares his wife’s body for burial. There is an incident that night, which the narrator claims explains the mystery of why his cabin had a boarded window. (Summary)

This story can be read in the preview of 100 Great American Short Stories(80% into preview)

“The Heart” by Theodore Sturgeon

A writer is accosted by a disheveled woman on the street. She has a story for him. She got to know a thin, sickly man. They spent time together and she started to really like him.

This story can be read in the Amazon preview of The Ultimate Egoist Volume 1: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon. (37% into preview)

“Welcome to the Club” by R. L. Stine

JJ is working the night-shift at the restaurant. He goes outside for a five minute break even though the owner, Florian, doesn’t like it. He sees some kids from his high school hanging out in the parking lot. JJ’s the new kid in town and he doesn’t know the group. A little before closing time, the kids from the parking lot come in. They have a favor to ask.

“Welcome to the Club” is the first story in the Amazon preview of Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror. (22% into preview)

“The Terrible Old Man” by H. P. Lovecraft

Three thieves decide to visit the Terrible Old Man, known for being rich and feeble. There are many rumors about him in Kingsport and people usually stay away. The three thieves aren’t from Kingsport, so they see him only as a target.

This story can be read in the preview of Complete Lovecraft(select in table of contents)

“The Colomber” by Dino Buzzati

When Stefano turns twelve his father takes him aboard his ship. While they’re out sailing, Stefano spots something mysterious. His father turns pale when he sees what it is—a colomber, which is bad news for Stefano. (Summary)

Read “The Colomber”

“Born of Man and Woman” by Richard Matheson

An unidentified narrator, a child, tells their story through diary entries. The child is chained up in the basement, and has to keep out of sight or be beaten.

Read “Born of Man and Woman” (first story in Amazon preview, 34% in)

“Autopsy Room Four” by Stephen King

Howard has been in the dark for a while, and has the sensation of movement. He hears a squeaky wheel and feels contact on his body. There are voices. Now he’s being moved. He thinks he’s in a hospital. He can’t move or speak. Everything feels too real to be a dream.

This story can be read in the preview of Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales(27% in)

“The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles” by Margaret St. Clair

Mortensen, a rope salesman, prepares to call on the gnoles. They have a bad reputation, but he figures they must have need of rope, and a big sale would help him reach his quota. He reviews his sales manual and then sets out for the house of the gnoles.

This is the seventh story in the preview of The Big Book of Modern Fantasy(54% in)

“The Queen of Spades” by Alexander Pushkin

Hermann is an engineer in the Russian army. Tomsky tells him a story about his grandmother, a countess, who won a large sum playing cards because she knows a three card secret. The countess is still alive, so Hermann schemes to learn the secret from her.

This is the first story in the preview of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida(35% in)

“Oil of Dog” by Ambrose Bierce

The narrator tells the story of his parents. His father manufactured dog oil and his mother disposed of unwanted babies. The narrator would assist his father by procuring neighborhood dogs and his mother by carrying away the remains of her work. One day, he inadvertently improves his parents’ businesses. (Summary)

Read “Oil of Dog”

“In at the Birth” by William Trevor

Miss Efoss is elderly but spry, and has lived a full life. One day, she’s contacted by Mr. Dutt. He and his wife are looking for a babysitter. Miss Efoss visits to talk about it. The Dutts assure her that Mickey won’t give her any trouble at all. He’ll sleep the whole time, and they’ll leave contact information in case there’s any problem.

This story can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories(84% into Kindle preview)

“The Wedding-Knell” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The narrator recounts the story of an unusual wedding between a man and woman in their sixties. Rather than being introduced by uplifting music, the wedding was introduced with a funeral knell instead.

This story can be read in the preview of Twice Told Tales.

“Cargo” by E. Michael Lewis

Tech Sergeant Davis, a Loadmaster, is assigned to a crew headed for Jonestown to evacuate Americans. They’ll be taking a C-141 StarLifter, the largest freighter and troop carrier in the military. As Loadmaster, his job is to secure the cargo. There’s a last-minute change of plans—the Med crew won’t be accompanying them. When they arrive at the airport, there are rows of coffins.

This story can be read in the preview of Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales(30% into preview)

“Dry” by Brady Golden

Cashell is on Lake Tanner in a motorboat. It’s a drought year, and the water is low. Earlier, a ski boat was punctured by something and got hung up. His customers had to be brought in by the park ranger. Cashell gets out a mallet and crowbar to break it free. He bangs his hand against the underwater object and suffers an odd injury.

This is the first story in the preview of Fearful Fathoms II: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror(25% into preview)

“The Hanged Man” by Edward Bryant

Rockaway is hanging upside down from a tree branch, a tight nylon rope around his ankles. Owen refuses to cut him down. They talk while Rockaway suffers.

This story can be read in the preview of Among the Dead and Other Events Leading to the Apocalypse(24% into preview)

“Rise, My Love, Rise” by Heinrich Böll

The narrator stands at a deteriorated grave, crying. He asks his love to rise. He becomes aware of a shadow behind him and hurries away. He puts some distance between himself and the grave. He can’t see or hear anyone, but he still senses the shadow.

This story can be read in the preview of The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll. (26% in)

“Trapped” by Yukari Kousaka

Alarms ring on a vessel doing deep sea research. The divers haven’t come back.

This story can be read in the preview of The Deep: An Anthology of Dark Microfiction(82% in)

“The Case of Lady Sannox” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Douglas Stone was one of the most famous surgeons in England, and an all-round talented person. He had a lot of money and spent lavishly. He was infatuated with Lady Sannox, a very beautiful married woman. His pursuit of her was interrupted one evening by a visit from a stranger, Hamil Ali, from Smyrna. His wife had suffered an accident, and he persuaded Dr. Stone to come operate on her immediately.

This story can be read in the preview of Capital Crimes: London Mysteries(15% in)

“Marmalade Wine” by Joan Aiken

Blacker, a writer, leaves his country house for a walk in the woods. Before he’s gone far, he’s surprised to see a dead pheasant on the path. He thinks about how to turn the incident into a poem. With his thoughts distracted, he almost walks on another dead pheasant. He’s curious to know what’s happening to them.

This story can be read in the preview of Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen and the Criminally Insane(75% in)

“The Green Letter” by Steven Hall

A research and analysis team have studied the green letters extensively. They always arrive within the same two-minute window. Most unusual of all is that the letters aren’t delivered by anyone—CCTV footage shows no one near the sites when the letters appear. Everything about the letters is the same, including the envelopes, what’s written on them and the contents.

This story can be read in the preview of Dead Letters Anthology(32% in)

“A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf

All through the night, there are doors shutting and a ghostly couple walks hand in hand through the house, looking for something. If the couple living there get up to look, the house will be empty.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Works. (71% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC)

“Click-Clack the Rattlebag” by Neil Gaiman

A young boy asks a visitor, his sister’s boyfriend, to tell him a bedtime story. They start the long walk upstairs. The boy talks about Click-Clack the Rattlebag. The boyfriend isn’t familiar with this and asks him a bit about it. (Summary)

“The Torturer’s Apprentice” by John Biguenet

Alain becomes apprenticed to a torturer who’s devoted to his work. Alain learns the trade and bonds with his master. After a while, an accusation is made against Alain.

Gothic Short Stories on PDF

The following gothic short stories have PDF links for easy reading.

“The Wife’s Story” by Ursula K. Le Guin

A wife tells the story of her husband. He was a good husband and father, a hard worker, well liked and respected. Something happened that she can’t believe. She saw it happen with her own eyes and still can’t believe it. Everyone says it was because of the moon and the blood. (Summary)

Read “The Wife’s Story”

“The Feather Pillow” by Horacio Quiroga

A newly-married couple live happily, but with some distance between them, for about three months. The wife, Alicia, gets thin and sick. The illness hangs on, so doctors are called and Alicia is bedridden. (Summary)

Read here

“Luella Miller” by Mary Wilkins Freeman

Lydia Anderson, a woman in her eighties, tells the story of Luella Miller, a woman who had an unusual knack for getting people to care for her. The people who helped Luella seemed to lose their power and deteriorate.

Read here

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A doctor claims to have water from the legendary Fountain of Youth. He invites four elderly acquaintances over for an experiment. He offers them a drink of the special water.

Read here

“The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving

Gottfried is a contemplative young man who goes to France. He feels there is some kind of evil presence hanging over him and is preoccupied with dark things. He spends his time in libraries, devouring decayed literature. As he walks the streets one night, he meets up with a woman on the steps of the guillotine.

Read here

“The Anatomy of Desire” by John L’Heureux

Hanley, a soldier, is in a veteran’s hospital after being flayed by the enemy. He’s attended to by a nurse known as the saint. Hanley wants to be possessed and loved.

Read “The Anatomy of Desire”

“The Dead Valley” by Ralph Adams Cram

A man tells a story from his childhood when he and his friend Nils found the Dead Valley. At the market they found a little dog for sale. They got the money together to buy it but didn’t want to wait until the next week. They walked to Hallsberg to get it. The next day, after staying over night with Nils’s aunt, they set out for home. They left a bit later than planned and ended up still out after dark.

Read “The Dead Valley”

More Gothic Short Stories

“The Boogeyman” by Stephen King

Lester goes to Dr. Billings, a psychiatrist, to talk about his three children, who have all died. He claims to be responsible for their deaths. Before starting, Lester wants to see the inside of the closet. Satisfied that it’s a normal closet, he begins. Lester claims a bogeyman from the closet killed his three children.

“The Road Virus Heads North” by Stephen King

Richard Kinnell, a horror writer, stops at a yard sale on the way home from a writer’s conference. He spots a picture and is immediately struck by it. It’s of a man with sharp teeth driving a car over a bridge at sunset. He has to have it. The woman running the sale, Judy, recognizes him from his work. She tells him the story of the painting. It was done by a local man who killed himself at twenty-three. Before ending his life, he burned all of his work except for this painting.

“The Lame Priest” by S. Carleton

As the narrator is walking back to his cabin, he sees a priest hurrying to the village. Later, the narrator’s friend warns him that a dangerous wolf is in the woods, and when he encounters the priest again, he gives a similar warning.

Read “The Lame Priest”

“A Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Schalken is in love with Rose. His proposal is rejected by her guardian who has matched her with a rich and mysterious older man. When he arrives they are shocked by him, but the marriage has already been agreed to.

Read here

“Ethan Brand” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ethan arrives at a lime kiln that he used to use. He tells the lime-burner, Bartram, that he left the kiln to look for the “unpardonable sin”, which he claims he has found in himself. The townspeople are told that Ethan has returned.

Read “Ethan Brand”

“The Body Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson

While Fettes is drinking with some friends, Dr. Wolfe McFarlane arrives; Fettes angrily confronts him. The narrator uncovers the story: Fettes and McFarlane went to medical school together. They used to receive and pay for cadavers for dissection. One delivery makes Fettes suspicious of his associate.

Read here

“The Mummy’s Foot” by Theophile Gautier

A man goes to a curiosity shop looking for a paperweight. He buys a mummified foot that is supposedly the four-thousand-year-old foot of Egyptian princess Hermonthis. Later that night he has a strange episode.

Read here

“The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft

The narrator lives in a castle and has never seen sunlight or had contact with others. His only company and knowledge of the world is from antique books. He decides to free himself from his prison and explore the outside world.

Read here

“The Artist” by Joyce Carol Oates

A painter relates his career path which began with stills, mostly eggplants and then moving on to a variety of vegetables. The family’s garden started to shrivel and eventually vanished. Next, he turns his attention to the family’s pet parrot, Sheba.

“August Heat” by W. F. Harvey

James Whithencroft records the events of the most remarkable day of his life while it’s still fresh in his mind. He works all thru a hot August day on a sketch of an enormous man who was just sentenced by a judge for some crime. He then takes a walk, happy with his artistic output, conscious only of the oppressive heat.

Read “August Heat”

“The Coffin-Maker” by Alexander Pushkin

Adrian Prokhoroff attends an anniversary party where there is a lot of drinking. The men poke some fun at his profession of coffin making. His agitated state leads to an unusual incident.

“Mister Taylor” by Augusto Monterroso

Mr. Taylor, an American, lives in the Amazon jungle with a local tribe. He is poor and miserable. One day he is accosted by an Indian man offering to sell him a human head.

“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Markheim goes to a shop under the guise of looking for a present for someone. He really has murder on his mind, so he can then steal the dealer’s money and goods.

Read “Markheim”

“White Rabbits” by Leonora Carrington

The narrator lives on Pest street across from a creepy looking house. She doesn’t see any activity there until one day when a woman comes out on the balcony and empties a dish of bones for a raven. The woman tells the narrator she would appreciate her bringing over any bad meat she has.

Read “White Rabbits”

“The Doctor’s Heroism” by Villiers De L’isle Adam

Doctor Hallidonhill is a renowned lung specialist with a steady stream of patients. One day a man in terrible condition comes to see him. He is tall, has enlarged pupils, is emaciated, and he’s looking for help.

“The Tarn” by Hugh Walpole

Foster has visited Fenwick to “put things right”—he heard Fenwick had some kind of grudge against him. Fenwick hates Foster but assures him everything is fine. Making conversation with him increases his irritation until he has to act.

Read “The Tarn”

“The Hospice” by Robert Aickman

While taking an unfamiliar route home, Maybury gets lost and runs out of gas. He comes across a hospice offering food and accommodation. It’s an unusual place, but desperation makes him stop for help.

“The Voice” by Silvina Ocampo

The narrator, a young woman, goes to her boyfriend’s house with her new cat. She doesn’t want to marry Romirio. She can’t stand his voice.

“The Fall River Axe Murders” by Angela Carter

The Bordens are a prosperous family who live in a small, comfortless house. Mr. Borden is a miser. Mrs. Borden is a joyless glutton. The weather is intolerably hot. Lizzie Borden murders her parents one morning.

“The Bookbinder’s Apprentice” by Martin Edwards

Joly, a visitor in Venice, is reading when he is approached by an older man, Sanborn, who admires the book. He invites Joly for a drink where he is introduced to another man, Zuichini, a skilled bookbinder. Joly is leery of his companions but accepts their hospitality.

“The Desire to Be a Man” by Auguste Villiers de I’Isle-Adam

It’s midnight in Paris in October. Everything is closing to meet the curfew—martial law is in effect. While the crowd rushes off, one man—tall, sad-looking, and oblivious—arrives and stands before a café mirror. He suddenly looks older. He knows he’ll have to retire from acting.

Read “The Desire to Be a Man”

“The Hand” by Guy de Maupassant

A judge relates an inexplicable incident from his past. An Englishman moved to a villa in France with a servant. Rumors spread about the man, so the judge found a way to get to know him. One evening the man shows the judge into his parlor, which contains an interesting item.

“The Secret of City Cemetery” by Patrick Bone

Fourteen-year-old Willard disappeared one Halloween night, and his body was never found. He was a bully. One of his favorite pranks was to hide in open graves and scare kids who were out playing.

“Third Wind” by Richard Christian Matheson

Andy is running on a country road. He’s done over 25 miles. His goal is 50, and today is the day he’ll make it. He loves to push himself and always reaches his goals. He’ll be the head of his law firm in a few years. Running puts him in the right frame of mind for success.

Read “Third Wind”

“The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen

Mrs. Drover goes to her shut-up house to get some things. It has been abandoned because of WWII. It’s dusty and cracked from the bombings. She’s surprised to see a letter for her on the hall table. She takes it upstairs to read.

Read “The Demon Lover”

I’ll keep adding gothic short stories as I find more.