I know, it’s not Halloween and my October horror novel fest is still nine whole months away. But–I just started reading a quite-crazy horror book called The Pilo Family Circus and now I’m thinking about how little has changed in the horror genre over the last couple of centuries. Things are more explicit, sure, and gore too often takes center stage, but the truly frightening stories, in my opinion, are those that convey a sense of dread. Edgar Allan Poe was doing that very thing a long time ago. And I still think that, when he was on, he did it as well or better than anyone ever has. So today I’m going to toss out a couple of what I consider to be the best Edgar Allan Poe Short Stories.
Feel free to chime in and add to my list. Or disagree and cry into your pillow.
The Black Cat
This is my personal favorite. I think it’s the scariest thing he ever wrote, and it doesn’t get enough love. Lots of Poe fans don’t even seem to know that it exists.
The Cask of Amontillado
I recently watched the movie Buried. If I had never read Amontillado, I might have needed that movie to tell me that being buried alive is a terrible fate. But Poe beat them to it. I read this in an English class as a sophomore in High School and it was one of my few pleasant memories of that class, which was full of students who hated to read.
Insane Dwarf-Jester exacts a terrible revenge after a few losers decide to humiliate his little pal. This is one of the best horror stories out there. The build-up is perfect and the ending is just too good.
The Pit and The Pendulum
Just in case you cling to the notion that the Spanish Inquisition was all about tea parties and cozy theological conversations. One of the most striking things about this story is that it is able to reverse the writer’s dictum of “show, don’t tell.” The story takes place almost completely in darkness, so there’s nothing to show.
Now, as I read this list, it looks like I’m just like everyone else who admires Poe’s short fiction. There really aren’t any surprises here and I probably named exactly what you’d expect. Although I’m still not a huge fan of The Raven. And I know I’ve left a couple of very obvious choices out of my list, which hopefully will appear in the discussion down below.
Okay, let’s play fill in the blanks and Name your Favorite. Any under-appreciated Poe stories out there?
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