The Fall of the House of Usher / Usher II
The Fall of the House of Usher is a truly bone-chilling short story by the unbeatable master of horror, Edgar Allen Poe. Roughly one hundred years after its original publication, science fiction great Ray Bradbury re-worked the Gothic masterpiece into Usher II, telling the tale of a man obsessed with Roderick Usher, the protagonist of the original narrative. He builds a perfect replica of The House of Usher on Mars, and uses it to ensnare and torture those in Martian society who advocate for the banning of books.
These stories together paint a wonderful and grotesque picture of the development of horror writing, and are not for the faint-hearted.
The Woman In Black
We’ve all seen the Daniel Radcliffe film. However, the book upon which the iconic horror film is based is a fast-paced and unrelenting psychological thriller, written by Susan Hill in 1983. The film does it justice, but the book is full of subtleties that make the narrative vivid and violent, a truly unforgettable piece of writing. The setting of Eel Marsh House is one of the great Gothic landscapes, with the black island, accessible only at low tide, haunted by the ghost of a woman who has lost her child.
This Stephen King epic is an exploration of death and King himself admitted that of all his works, this one ‘genuinely scared him the most.’ It is deeply disturbing both in content and implication, and stuck in my mind for weeks after reading. King was inspired to write the novel when he moved into a house built adjacent to a large motorway, where animals were often struck and killed by cars. His daughter's cat, killed by an oncoming truck, provided the inspiration for Church, the resurrected pet who begins the narrative of death and destruction. Again, this is not a book for the squeamish.
The Yellow Wallpaper
This is perhaps the most important story in the development of female horror narratives. This short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman follows the troubled writings of a woman locked up by her husband, in a room with yellow wallpaper, as a cure for her depression. The story is told in diary form, and as the narrator begins to mentally unravel, the narrative twists and turns into a terrifyingly unhinged tale of claustrophobia. A partially true story, it is achingly sad, and unnervingly scary. For the full effect, read in one sitting.
Image: Carla Jane