Up all night to get spooky: 5 underrated horror stories

Credit: Universal Pictures
  • Beth Leishman

Get ready to be lured into aworld of horror which few have delved into before

As we approach Halloween, trust me when I say that these picks are guaranteed to give you nightmares this October. Ranging from a short story coming in at 1,557 words to an epic 706-page novel, and with the publishing dates ranging from 1895 to 2016, there should be something for everyone.


  • The Time Machine, by HG Wells (1895)


Although this story is over 120 years old, it continues to thrill and terrify its readers due in large part to its focus on the very modern concept of time travel. In fact, HG Wells—a heavyweight of the gothic literary canon—is often credited with creating the ongoing fascination with time travel and for inspiring later science fiction writers. The Time Machine tells the story of an unnamed man, referred to simply as “the time traveller”, who can transport himself forwards and backwards in time and in the process discovers haunting truths about the future of mankind. This novella was light-years ahead of its time and is a must read for any fans of science-fiction horror. Think 19th Century literature meets Doctor Who.


  • The Rats in the Walls, by HP Lovecraft (1924)


This pioneer of the American short story has gained significant popularity since his death in 1937, but within his lifetime he was practically unknown as a writer. Although he only lived to the age of 46, Lovecraft successfully penned over 100 short horror stories and is renowned for his distinctive style. The Rats in the Walls is a chilling tale of a man who revisits his English ancestral home, only to make terrifying discoveries about what exists beneath the foundations of the building. Containing supernatural and cannibalistic themes, this unsettling story demonstrates Lovecraft’s skillful command of horror fiction and explains why his writing continues to permeate popular culture: the Arkham Asylum in Batman is named after HP’s fictional city of the same name, and the rock band Black Sabbath named their Behind the Wall of Sleep after another of his stories.


  • The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter (1979)


The Bloody Chamber is a collection of reimagined folk-tales by English author Angela Carter. They place particular emphasis on strong female protagonists as a challenge to the weak and passive way that women are often depicted in traditional gothic stories. Carter takes well-known fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast and reinvents them to explore the constraints that love and marriage place on women’s sexual freedom and the agency which they assert over their own lives. Despite the collection’s concentration on the female experience, Carter famously claimed that her tales may “affect men much more than women”, since from her point of view, women are already conscious of literature’s tendency to “mythologise” them.


  • House of Leaves, by Mark Z Danielewski (2000)


Coming in at over 700 pages and composed of three interlinked storylines presented in seriously experimental form, Danielewski’s epic novel House of Leaves is one of the most challenging and eccentric recommended reads on the list. Featuring footnotes, upside down text and handwritten pages, this novel challenges the constraints and bounds of a traditional linear narrative and offers its readers an immersive and psychologically challenging horror experience. The main thread of the story is narrated by an elderly man, Zampano, who became fascinated by a home video, known as “The Navidson Record”, in which a young family discovers a structurally inexplicable 10-foot hallway in their new house that intermittently repositions itself. Danielewski’s ambitious debut novel abandons tradition to offer a unique, multi-layered story of terror and intrigue.


  • Jade, Blood, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2016)


Jade, Blood is probably the most accessible of these five recommendations, on account of its modern language and economic length. With the story taking under 10 minutes to read, Moreno-Garcia successfully takes on the difficult task of generating suspense and horror in only a matter of pages. She creates a compelling sense of atmosphere through her descriptions of the religious convent in Merida, Mexico, in which the story unfolds. The force that traditional Mayan culture plays on the narrative, alongside the religious tone of the plot, fiercely enriches the storyline of Jade, Blood, as it is bound up in long-established ideologies that provide context and detail that the text cannot afford to cover. The story has also been read as a commentary on the tendency of European Christianity to appropriate and colonise marginalised cultures, which is in keeping with Moreno-Garcia’s advocacy for the increased publication of indigenous writers. A quick read that combines ancient tradition with contemporary issues of representation, this story will definitely leave you with chills.


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