10 Horror Classics You Can Read for Free

Dim the lights. Light some candles. Hide under a blanket.

And discover this classic horror reads that can still send chills up several readers' spines, even if some were written over a century ago.

(Note: These titles are under public domain according to U.S. law, but might not be available if you're logging in from outside the United States. Sorry!)

1. the king in yellow
robert w. chambers

This collection of short stories has become one of the most beloved classics in supernatural fiction. It explores the descent of different characters into the unknown while hinting the looming influence of The King in Yellow, a mysterious play that can turn people insane.

Fun fact, the HBO suspense show True Detective references this book during its first season. No better way to add an extra layer of eeriness!

2. carmilla
joseph sheridan le fanu

Count Dracula might be literature's vampire superstar, but he certainly wasn't the first to haunt the readers' dreams.

Meet Carmilla, an enigmatic woman whose beauty will prove both irresistible and lethal. Will young, innocent Laura survive her deadly charms? Will you?

3. the yellow wallpaper
charlotte perkins gilman

One of the most claustrophobic stories ever written, The Yellow Wallpaper puts us in the shoes of a woman dealing with neglect, isolation... and the ghostly presence trapped inside her bedroom walls.

If you're a fan of wallpaper decoration, you might re-think your design choices after reading this blood-chilling tale.

4. the willows
algernon blackwood

Nothing could be more idyllic than a canoe trip down the Danube river. Unless dark forces are at play, ready to spoil your fun in the sun.

This is one of the eeriest, most wonderful stories in horror history, but if you don't trust my judgement, H.P. Lovecraft was one of its biggest fans. Isn't that reason enough to dive right in?

5. the damned thing
ambrose bierce

A trip through the woods becomes deadly when an invisible presence turns two hunters into its prey. And how can they escape the monster's wrath if they cannot even see the damned thing?

One of the oldest examples of Weird Western fiction, this story poses an unnerving question: how far can you trust your senses when facing a menace beyond human understanding? 

6. the shunned house
h.p. lovecraft

Lovecraft is considered one of the best horror writers of all time, and the undeniable master of cosmic horror. His Cthulhu mythos still influences creators today, and some of his stories can spook even the bravest of readers.

One of them is The Shunned House, a unique twist on the haunted house trope that deals with obsession, hallucination, and tons of creepy imagery at its finest.

7. the great god pan
arthur machen

It's never a good idea to mingle with old gods. Then again, you might be defenseless against their seductive power. Add a mad scientist to the mix, and things will head straight for doom.

The Great God Pan caused such a commotion upon release because of its sexual content, which was way ahead of its time. Thankfully, future readers not only forgave its author, but placed him as one of the best writers of Gothic fiction, where he belongs. 

8. ghost stories of an antiquary
m.r. james

No one knew how to write a ghost story as well as M.R. James did. In this collection, he will take you to old ruins, decrepit abbeys, and remote mansions. All of them properly haunted, of course!

Don't blame me if after reading this book your house starts to look, well, a bit less inviting at night.

9. the haunted hotel
wilkie collins

Wilkie Collins is considered one of the masters of suspense, and rightfully so. As one of the fathers of detective fiction, his novels The Woman in White and The Moonstone continue to inspire mystery writers today.

In this story, he takes us to an old venetian palace with a dark past turned into a fancy hotel. Definitely not the best idea, as some of the previous (and deceased) guests are unwilling to stay quiet.

10. the red room
h.g. wells

You might know H.G. Wells from his sci-fi classics The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, or The Invisible Man. But he also has several horror stories under his belt.

Enter The Red Room, one of the best (and spookiest) examples of psychological terror to this day. Be warned, when you get in, it might be trickier to get out....

Hey! i write horror too!

I've enjoyed horror classics since I was a teenager, and they became one of my biggest inspirations as an author. Some of my readers told me my story American Alchemy: Gold reminded them of gothic literature. What an amazing compliment! 

If you're curious about an occult mystery set in the Gold Rush, you can get the book for free.

american alchemy: gold
oliver altair

California, 1849. The call of the Gold Rush is strong. No hostile land or sacrifice will stop Barton Saunders from becoming the man he always wanted to be. Not even the ancient darkness lurking in the shadows of the West.

Will Barton escape the gold fields before his heart drowns forever in them?

Happy (and spooky) reading!

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