A short story is just the right length for a scary tale because it can be read in the span of a night. Written by some of the greats in the genre, these tales that take place on Halloween are not to be missed. So, turn the lights down low, lock your doors, take a breath, and let the screams begin.
The October Game
Author: Ray Bradbury
Mich is getting dressed for his and his wife’s Halloween party. They have all the trappings: candy apples, apple bobbing, punch, carved pumpkins. Unfortunately, their marriage is filled with tension, bitterness, and loathing, and this year Mich has decided he can take no more.
Master of all things Halloween and October, Ray Bradbury weaves a macabre and unsettling tale of a disturbed husband whose hatred has festered and is about to boil over. Mich wants to cause his wife pain that has “duration through imagination,” but this phrase can just as easily apply to the tale itself. The ending makes you think things through, and even then possibilities abound. Well-written and quick to read, this tale is not to be missed this season.
Two other short stories set on Halloween by Bradbury are Heavy-Set and Homecoming (1946).
Author: Al Sarrantonio
The short story Hornets is the very first tale in Al Sarrantonio’s The Orangefield Cycle. All the novels and short stories in the Cycle are set in the small town of Orangefield, NY where in addition to the everyday citizens, the Lord of Death lives.
Al Sarrantonio has written a plethora of well-reviewed and highly regarded stories centered around Halloween. He follows in the tradition of Bradbury but weaves tales uniquely his own. Another big name in the Halloween canon not to be missed.
Conversations in a Dead Language
Author: Thomas Ligotti
“Conversations in a Dead Language” centers on an unnamed mailman’s experience on three subsequent Halloween nights. He is our narrator, and as the reader quickly learns, this man should not be attending to trick-or-treaters.
Ligotti is yet another staple of the horror genre, often crafting horror with philosophical underpinnings. This particular tale mixes the psychological descent of the mailman with the macabre for a truly frightening result.
Author: Norman Partridge
Three Doors is a tale about Johnny, a returned vet with a new prosthetic hand. He paints his new hand black for Halloween, and he has a certainty that it will grant him three magical knocks this evening. Knocks that will render the person on the other side completely under his control.
Norman Partridge is one of the newer and top names when it comes to Halloween fiction, and when it comes to genre fiction in general. His novel Dark Harvest won the Bram Stoker award and is already renowned as a must-read tale for the season.
Long Way Home: A Pine Deep Story
Author: Jonathan Maberry
This short story takes place in the world of Jonathan Maberry’s Pine Deep trilogy. The setting is the town of Pine Deep, which is known as “the spookiest town in America.” This is because of a serial killer’s rampage through the town thirty years earlier. This particular story is about two men meeting again, and their encounter with what their hometown has become.
Jonathan Maberry has established a fantastic trilogy in this tragic Pennsylvania town. His first book of the series won the 2006 Bram Stoker award, and this short story is another slice into that entrancing world he has established.
The Halloween Men
Author: Maria V Synder
Journey into a society where you have to wear a mask every day of the year except for Halloween. The Halloween Men enforce this rule, and our protagonist Nella is making masks that they do not approve of.
New York Time’s best-selling author, Maria V Synder has written well-received and award-winning fantasy and science fiction. You can read an except of The Halloween Men on her official site here.
These short stories are a quick but filling treat that make reading something satisfying easier for the busier of us. If you know of any exceptional short stories that are set on Halloween, please let us know in the comments.
All of these short stories can be found in Paula Guran’s two excellent anthologies Halloween and Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre. There are a lot more great Halloween stories in both. Make sure to check out our companion article Great Novels Set on Halloween.
Enjoy and Happy Halloween!