Horror Stories: A Literary Tradition

In order to welcome Halloween, here are a few classic horror short stories worth exploring. These Victorian writers are particularly interesting, and their work is old. However, many of the stories these men wrote paved the way for the modern horror we see in bookstores this time of year.

The first of these writers is M.R. James. James attended King’s College in Cambridge, England in 1882. After graduating, James became Provost. He enjoyed writing ghost stories purely for entertainment, and at Christmas time, James would invite students up to his study to listen. The students would nestle down around a fire with hot drinks, and eagerly listen to James relay his stories. This tradition continued for years, and his first compilation was published in 1904. M.R. James’s best ghost stories include:

  • “Lost Hearts”
  • “The Ash-Tree”
  • “Number 13”
  • “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”
  • “The Rose Garden”

In addition, H.P. Lovecraft, a contemporary of James, used similar writing techniques. Both of these stimulating writers engage each of the senses, causing the reader to literally cringe over certain descriptions. Lovecraft strikes fear in his readers by showing them the horror of the unknown. People are only afraid of what they cannot understand, and Lovecraft reminds you of this buried fear. Some of Lovecraft’s best tales are:

Both James and Lovecraft played major roles in bringing the ghost story tradition to life in the 20th Century. They inspired famous horror writers of our time, such as Stephen King, and BBC still airs cinematic versions of James’s stories in December.  We should remember their tradition whenever Halloween costumes plague the racks at Wal-Mart or when Paranormal Activity -15 comes out in theaters. Let’s make this Halloween a classy one, and remember a couple of the writers who inspired the modern horror story tradition.

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One thought on “Horror Stories: A Literary Tradition

  1. Pingback: The Mezzotint « frogfish.com

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