I didn’t want to put typical stories on this list. I wanted some little known, out of the way stories, that wouldn’t be difficult to get access to. These are stories that scared the bejeebus out of me, and I just want to share the frights.
Prey – Richard Matheson
Written by Richard Matheson, this short story was made into a short film that aired in the movie Trilogy of Terror and starred Karen Black, who was one of the hottest screamers in the 70s. I saw the movie before i read the story and the movie is very very faithful to the original, and genuinely terrifying, while, at the same time, seeming utterly hilarious ,as this big woman (Ms. Black was very bodacious) s chased around her apartment by a tiny, screaming killer doll, named He Who Hunts.
That’s it! That’s the whole story. But what’s so terrifying about this doll is fast it moves (this ain’t Chucky), how intelligent it is. It thinks, and schemes, can open doors, is very stealthy. There’s a list of killer doll movies, and He Who Hunts is definitely at the top of it.
Trilogy of Terror is available on Youtube, and the story is available in The Best of Richard Matheson.
The Sun Dog – Stephen King
This is more accurately a novella rather than a short story, but for me this is one of the most terrifying Steepen King stories. A young man named Kevin gets a Polaroid camera for his birthday that only takes pictures of one thing, a dog that is slowly approaching the camera, and whoever is holding it in that other world. Kevin becomes convinced that the dog intends to get out.
I found this story terrifying because I had a Polaroid camera just like it. I got it for my 15th, or 16th birthday, long before I read the story, but it all came back to me when I read this. The feel and use of the camera along with what King perfectly describes as the “squidgy little whine” it made when you pressed the shutter.
This story is available in the King anthology titled, Four Past Midnight.
Shay Corsham Worsted – Garth Nix
For some reason, this story scared the bejeebus out of me, not necessarily because of anything that happens in it, about the story of an old man who goes missing in the streets of London, and needs to be carefully corralled, but because of the manner in which it was written. The ending is absolutely perfect!
This story is available in the Fantasy anthology, Fearful Symmetries.
Nightcrawlers – Robert R. McCammon
I love this story, not just because its scary, but because of its elements of pathos. In any other person’s hands, this could become a superhero origin story, but in the hands of one of my all-time favorite writers, Robert McCammon, the author of Swan Song, it becomes a tragic statement about the Vietnam War, and the psychological damage of the men who fought in it.
This short aired in the 90s version of The Twilight Zone, and is also available on Youtube. The story is available in Robert McCammon’s anthology titled Blue World, which has a lot of great stories in it, especially the story, Something Passed By ,a bout an Earth that has undergone a radical change after something in space passed by.
Hunter Killer – Stephen Gallagher
This isn’t like the above stories because this is one is a slow burn. Something crashed into an office building, killing everyone inside, and then everyone who came in after. The building has since been cordoned off from the public, but one young man thinks there are riches to be found inside. Much of the story is the tension of him wandering around an unknown environment , where anything could be lurking. I don’t want to give too much away though. You gotta read this one for yourself.
Hunter Killer can be found in the book of short stories by Stephen Gallagher, Plots and Misadventures.