If you want a scary story, you need Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, critic and editor. He is best remembered for his mysterious, dark short stories. What more would he have left us if he’d lived longer than his short forty years?
You’ve probably experienced Poe at some point in your life. Stonehearst Asylum, starring Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess was based on one of his short stories. You may have studies his famous poem The Raven at school. Poe really knew how to get under our skins. Just because it’s always nice to have a list, here are some of Poe’s scariest books. Make sure you leave a comment if you think there’s another tale that should be on the list.
Berenice is a wickedly creepy story. It’s a classic example of Poe in that it deals with the theme of obsession, one of his favourites.
Berenice is the best of the best. It’s definitely disturbing. It will disgust and horrify you, making you linger to look at your own teeth on your next trip to the bathroom. I’ve known people to say that it’s the best horror story they’ve read. I can see why.
Related: Short Story Saturday: Flock
Read Berenice for free here.
The Pit and The Pendulum was adapted to film in 1961 by Roger Corman and stars Vincent Price and Barbara Steele. During editing, Corman deleted every other frame showing the blade, making it seem to move at twice the speed.
This story is super dark and a great start to get you addicted if you’re new to Poe. It’s creepy. It’s wonderfully morbid. It’s sick and twisted. You will feel the fear of starving to death, of being consumed by rats, and you’ll feel the fear of the pit itself.
Read The Pit and The Pendulum for free here.
Hop-Frog seems to be less well-known than many of Poe’s stories. It could be described as heart-warming. I believe it was one of the last Poe tales to be published and the theme deals with the revenge of dwarfs. It’s pretty violent.
Revenge is sweet! Hop-Frog is an intriguing read and provides non-stop entertainment. I challenge you not to cheer Hop-Frog on as he embarks on his devious plot.
Read Hop-Frog for free here.
This story is perhaps not the greatest for animal lovers (like myself), but it is a very scary one. It’s freaky. The Black Cat is one of Poe’s shorter tales and it’s reasonably violent. Don’t let your kids read it, unless you want to be woken up by nightmare induced screams every night.
The Black Cat is dark and disturbing. For extra disturbance, have Christopher Lee read it to you in the dark:
Again, maybe avoid if you love cats. But then again, it is many people’s favourite Poe story, so you decide. It’s certainly a big tale in a little package.
Read The Black Cat for free here.
Before Poirot and Holmes, Poe was the go to man for a great detective story. The Murders in The Rue Morgue is one of three stories in a trilogy often called by the same name. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes, you must try this. It’s well worth the read. The Murders in The Rue Morgue was also adapted to film by Robert Florey in 1932, starring Bela Lugosi and Sidney Fox.
The other two stories in the trilogy are The Murder of Marie Roget and The Purloined Letter. Together, they mark the true beginning of the crime detective genre. Read it!
Read The Murders in The Rue Morgue for free here.
Like The Raven, many people will remember reading The Cask of Amontillado for school or college. Set amongst catacombs, this story has a vivid atmosphere throughout. It’s a terrifying tale of being buried alive, a theme which captivates all who have a morbid slant. A much-loved Poe piece. A favourite for many.
The Cask of Amontillado is one of the best examples of just how good a writer Poe was. It’s eerie, disturbing and it captures Poe’s cynical side. You will be on the edge of your seat until the end.
Read The Cask of Amontillado for free here.
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I'm interested in all things odd, strange and unusual.
I also work over at strangebooks.com and I'm an artist and teacher.