Hector Hugh Munro (Dec 18, 1870 – Nov 14, 1916) was a British writer who published under the pen name Saki and H.H. Munro. He published 138 short stories, five plays, two novels, and dozens of sketches, political satires and essays. His stories are witty, mischievous, often pitiless and hard-edged, and constantly satirize the pretensions of the middle and upper classes and hypocrisy of conventional Edwardian society and culture.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (June 24, 1842 – circa 1914) was an American Civil War soldier, editorialist, journalist, short story writer and satirist. His literary reputation is based primarily on his short stories about the Civil War and the supernatural. He is best known for his short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and his satirical lexicon, ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’, which was named as one of “The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature” by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration.
Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809- October 7, 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. He is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the modern detective story, an innovator in the science fiction genre and America’s first great literary critic and theoretician. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, first published in 1843, is one of Poe’s best-known works and also one of his shortest stories. It is a profound investigation of a man’s paranoia, one of the most powerful examples of the capacity of the human mind to deceive itself and then to speculate on the nature of its own destruction.
William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 –January 28, 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Apart from writing some of the greatest English-language poems of the 20th century, he also wrote occult fiction. “The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows” is his famous short story based on the true events of Sir Frederick Hamilton’s murdering rampage and burning of Sligo Abbey in 1642.
Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton (October 30, 1857 – June 14, 1948) was an American novelist, short story writer and an early feminist. She wrote more than 40 novels as well as many nonfiction works. Many of her works consider themes related to the West, social ideas, feminism, politics, and war.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) was an American writer, humorist, publisher and lecturer who published under the pen name, Mark Twain. He is noted for his classic American novels, ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (1885) and ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ (1876). Often regarded as America’s greatest humorist, Mark Twain was also called ‘the father of American literature’ by William Faulkner.
John Kendrick Bangs (May 27, 1862 – January 21, 1922) was an American author, humorist, editor and satirist. Through his books ‘A Houseboat on the Styx’ (1896), ‘The Pursuit of the House-Boat’ (1897) and the sequel ‘The Enchanted Type-Writer’ (1899), he reached bestseller status for creating the genre of ‘Bangsian Fantasy’, in which various familiar characters from different periods of history meet in an afterlife scenario. His supernatural fictions are based on humorous rather than terrifying ghosts.
Algernon Henry Blackwood (March 14, 1869 –December 10, 1951) was an English writer and the central figure in the British supernatural literature of the twentieth century. Referred as ‘one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere,’ he is one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories and supernatural fiction in the history of the genre. He wrote children’s fiction, plays, novels and more than 200 short stories out of which ‘The Willows’ is his most powerful one.
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (May 22, 1859 –July 7, 1930) was a Scottish physician and writer, renowned all over the world as the creator of one of the most famous fictional characters in English literature, the master detective Sherlock Holmes. He was a prolific writer and a man of many talents. Apart from detective stories, science fiction, historical and social romances, poetry, political essays and letters, he also has a number of notable horror tales to his credit. His most notable tales include ‘Lot 249’, ‘Me Captain of the Polestar’, ‘Me Leadier Funnel’ and ‘J. Hababuk Jephson’s Statement.’ His horror stories are carefully crafted, compelling and believable.
William Wymark Jacobs (September 8, 1863 –September 1, 1943) was a prominent English writer of horror and crime, playwright and humorist, famous for his masterpiece, ‘The Monkey’s Paw.’ Originally published in 1902 in the collection ‘The Lady of the Barge’, this classic horror story is elegant, emotional, and disturbing. It centers on a dried, shrunken monkey’s paw that is said to have the power to grant its possessor three wishes.
Ralph Adams Cram (December 16, 1863 – September 22, 1942) one of the leading and most influential American architect of his day, known especially for his Gothic Revival buildings. His literary fame is based entirely on a collection of six tales, ‘Black Spirits and White: A Book of Ghost Stories.’ Published in 1895, the book has been called ‘one of the undeniable classics of weird fiction.’
Charles Dickens (February 7, 1812 –June 9, 1870) was an English writer who created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters such as Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and many more. He is often labeled as a literary genius and the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, greatly influential in establishing the popularity of horror genre during that period. He is believed to have keen interest in supernatural phenomena and ‘a hankering after ghosts’. Charles has managed to inject characteristically grotesque comedy in his chilling tales. His most celebrated work is ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843).
Rudyard Kipling (December 30, 1865 – January 18, 1936) was an English novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist. He was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize for literature (1907) and its youngest recipient to date. Although he is more famous for children’s books, especially ‘The Jungle Book’ (1894), he also wrote fantasy and supernatural stories of ghosts, Gods and reincarnation with an Indian background. His most famous horror story is ‘The Mark of the Beast’, originally published in July 1890. The richness of Indian religious beliefs and traditions, allied to the unusual occurrences in the plot, makes it a well-crafted transformative horror story.
Edith Nesbit (August 15, 1858 – May 4, 1924) was an English author and poet, credited with more than 60 books of children’s literature. She has also established her reputation as the writer of some of the English language’s most powerful supernatural horror. Her stories are rife with terror, dread, violence, supernatural aggression, unstoppable premonitions, predatory spirits and intimate horror. Her writing is absolutely crisp and evocative, and her stories are emotionally wringing, cruel, and richly ironic with a bit of tenderness at times. Her most famous horror story, ‘Man-Size in Marble’ depicts an emotionally charged tableau of Nesbit’s grim universe.
Bram Stoker (November 8, 1847 – April 20, 1912) was an Irish writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror tale ‘Dracula’, one of the most famous horror novels of all time. He also wrote superlative short tales and is regarded as a genius at creating horror within the confines of a short story. ‘The Secret of the Growing Gold’, is one such short story in which Bram Stoker used fair hair as an unusual tool of marital revenge. It was first published in the January 23, 1892 issue of the newspaper Black and White: A Weekly Illustrated Record and Review, London.
Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797 – February 1, 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist and biographer, significant for her literary achievement and her political voice as a woman and a liberal. Her best-known work is the gothic novel ‘Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus’ (1818).
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (July 3, 1860 – August 17, 1935) was a prominent American novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. She was a utopian feminist and social reformer. She is best remembered for her semi-autobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, originally published in The New England Magazine in January 1892. It is a Gothic horror fictionalized account of a woman’s descent into madness after being confined to her bedroom, hallucinating as she stares at the patterns on the wall. It was based on her own experience of a deteriorating marriage and her resulting mental breakdown.
Montague Rhodes James (August 1, 1862 – June 12, 1936) who published under the name M. R. James was an English storyteller and writer, widely regarded as the father of the modern ghost story. His most important achievement was to redefine the ghost story by using more realistic contemporary settings instead of the formal Gothic trappings of his predecessors. His tales leave a lot to the reader’s imagination and are amongst the finest in English literature, having influenced horror writers from H. P. Lovecraft to Stephen King.
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (August 28, 1814 –February 7, 1873) was an Irish writer who wrote for many genres but remains best known for his mystery and gothic horror fiction. He was among the first practitioners of the psychological ghost story, credited with turning the Gothic’s focus from the external sources of horror to the inward effects of terror. ‘The House by the Churchyard’ (1863), ‘Uncle Silas’ (1864), ‘Carmilla’ (1872), The Purcell Papers (1880), and The Evil Guest (1895) are his best-known works which made him a leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century.
When I was asked to compile a collection of the most famous horror short stories of all times, I began with the masters of the English ghost stories mentioned above. Their more popular novellas and lengthier short stories have not been included in this collection but the ones that are selected are based on their meritorious contribution to the genre of horror. Here is a link to the book: